Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Poems’

In spite of the recent rain I looked forward to tromping through the woods with Dad.  I hadn’t visited for three weeks due to a wall mural I’m working on.  When I arrived I found him wide awake and reading the newspaper.  Hooray!  I had expected to find him asleep in his chair as I usually do.  We began our day together with big hugs and smiles.

Our departure to the woods was delayed for about an hour and a half due to a plumbing issue.  While attempting to find solutions to the issue, I heard myself ask Dad a question I stopped asking many months ago, “What have you been up to lately?”  Without hesitation he answered …..

“Well, I’ve just been trying to keep track of who I am and where I am going.”

During our delay, I gave Dad a drawing lesson.

Dad’s drawings of his string ties

The concept of a contour drawing had been lost along with everything else he had learned about drawing what you see and not what you think you see.

Dad’s Landscape Jasper String Tie

I drew an example for him in green ink.  While Dad attempted a few more contour drawings, I filled my drawing in with markers to make it look more real for him.  The example hadn’t helped, so I drew him another one of a coiled string tie this time so he could clearly see that I was not simply drawing an outline.

Coiled String Tie

I realize that the concept of a contour drawing is not that easy.  However, Dad had done a few remarkable contour drawings about six months ago without a problem.  He asked why we were drawing.  I explained that in the past, drawing had made it easier for him to find words to write in his book and that it was great brain exercise.  To prove my point, I asked him to write something about string ties.

String ties

and square dancing

were common to the night

and swayed with the music.

String ties

first were worn

during square dancing.

All the men

wore string ties.

No two were alike.

Some had stones

Others were only metal

All were decorative.

Dad’s poem and drawing

At the bottom of the page Dad drew a great contour drawing of the metal tip at the end of his string tie.  Maybe writing helps his drawing just as drawing helps his writing.

With the plumbing issue resolved, we left for Lord Stirling Park.

Columbine in the herb garden

Dad tried to smell the aromatic herbs, but his sniffer wasn’t working, not even for the strongest of the herbs.  We sat in the gazebo, surrounded by gorgeous Columbine and Blue False Indigo eating our peanut butter and jam sandwiches.

Lost in the beauty of the flowers

Dad took a long time eating his lunch.  He stared out into the garden as if he had forgotten that he was eating and forgotten where he was.  While Dad stared and munched, I drew the Blue False Indigo.

Blue False Indigo with one pressed blossom

When he finished, I handed him paper and a pencil.  I’d left his green sketchbook in his room.

Dad writing after lunch

The walk of the day

Is the best part.

But to walk

I should first write.

Wright?

Right!

‘Tis a wonderful day in May

as anyone should be prone to say

(a walker, while roaming the woods,

Waved with a smile,

as she went strolling by)

The flowers and leaves in the trees

Wave in the gently blowing breeze

while Chris, with camera in hand

Snaps pictures of wonders she sees.

Dad’s hands

Words were written and it was time to walk.  As expected, the trails were wet, extremely wet.  In no time at all, our feet were soaked and our shoes coated with mud.  We decided to do only the short loop and head back to play cards.

It was Dad’s choice to play Crazy Eights instead of Rummy 500Rummy 500 would have been the better choice. The rules to the game had vanished along with the understanding of contour drawings.  When it was Dad’s turn, he often picked up the card I had just played instead of playing a card by following suit or number.

“Are there any wild cards in this game?”

“Eights, Dad….. that’s why they call it Crazy Eights.”

“Oh, well, that makes sense.”

When his turn came round again, which happens very quickly in the game of Crazy Eights, Dad asked, “Are there any wild cards in this game?  Are two’s wild?”

“No Dad, I think if they were, they would call the game Crazy Two’s.

“Oh, okay.”

With each play, I explained that only the eights were wild.  We played the best two out of three hands.  Naturally …. Dad won!

Read Full Post »

Our walks together have changed dramatically in the last couple of months.  Rather than adventures, our walks have taken the form of explorations.  Moving at a slower pace through the woods allows us to observe the plants and creatures of the woods more carefully.

To backtrack a bit, I want to include photos from the walk we took a couple of weeks ago when Lou and Dave were visiting from Seattle.  Lou, Dave, Jane, Dad and I walked the trail to the Hofheimer Grotto.

Dad and his sweetie, Jane

Louise at Hofheimer Grotto

Dave at Hofheimer Grotto

Louise and I playing photo tag

Artsy Fartsy photo of old egg vending shack

“Where are we?”

A good time was had by all …. even if it isn’t remembered.

After returning from a week of painting in Maryland, I took Dad to the Leonard J. Buck Garden in Far Hills, NJ.  The gardens were spectacular, flowers in bloom and a few trees still heavy with blossoms.

Stopped dead in his tracks

Dad’s fascination with the Primula Japonica “Candelabra Primrose’ made it difficult to move past the variegated pink flowers.

Taking another look at the perfect geometry of the primrose

“A near perfect one here ……..  And look at the variety of colors!”

Perfect Geometry

Dad marveled at the shape of the clustered blossoms. “Look at the geometry! …… the perfect spheres!”

Every few steps he would find another half dozen of perfect spheres.

“Look at that geometry!”

When Dad finally lifted his head to look up rather than down at the perfect little spheres, he found he was dwarfed by a Metasequoia glyptostroboides Taxodiaceae, “Dawn Redwood”

Dad dwarfed by the Dawn Redwood

His next delightful discovery was each and every white azalea bush that we passed.

“What’s this, Chris?”

“It’s a white azalea bush, Dad.”

“Wow …. it’s beautiful.”

We walked a few steps further to another white azalea bush.

“What’s this, Chris?” ………….

There are dozens of white azalea bushes bordering the Helen R. Buck trail that winds its way through the hilly part of the garden.  Each one we passed was a new discovery and joy for Dad.

When I’m not totally in the moment with Dad, this repetition of comments and questions can get pretty annoying.  However, when I let go and allow myself to enjoy his ability to experience something over and over again as if for the first time, I find it pretty remarkable.  Watching the expression on a child’s face when something is seen for the very first time is a unique moment that can never be repeated….. snow, the ocean, an elephant ……. With Dad, I get to experience an instant replay of that unique moment of discovery, over and over again.  I think that’s pretty cool …. most of the time.

Marveling at the construction of the bridge railing

the twisted vine

Dad lost his balance making his way to this tree with the twisted vine.  The path was steep with shallow steps.  I watched from below as he teetered, then tottered, then teetered again before catching his balance and reaching the tree.  Whew…

I am now confronted with becoming alert to a new level of dangers.

Relatively safe walking terrain.

Level, gravel walking trails are still pretty worry free.

High Risk Danger Zone

A beautiful set of stone steps such as these are hazardous.  Dad allows me to hold his hand while making our way up or down any sort of steps along the path.

High Altitude trail

When the trail has a steep drop off one side, Dad walks on the inside and I walk on the outside between Dad and the drop off.  He loses his balance more frequently when there is a significant change in the spacial relationship of the ground.  Fortunately, Dad doesn’t object to any of my less than ladylike suggestions that go against his ingrained rules of manners such as “A man always walks on the outside to protect the woman.”

A pause to write a poem

We stopped to rest on a bench at the top of the hill.  Time to write a poem.

Many colors

Are sprinkled throughout.

But the greens of the woods

Predominate the view.

The steady sound of traffic

From distant highways

Beyond the hills

Engulf the silent trees.

Not a breath of air

Even wiggles a leaf.

The peacefulness of the forest

Dominates the scene

5/3/2012

Buck Garden

An odd feeder

Along the trail we found this peculiar feeder.  Neither one of us could figure out how the bird gets to the food. It reminds me of Dad’s squirrel-proof bird feeder that hung from the beech tree outside the living room window.

Dad’s stamina was good and we were able to walk all of the trails.  The weather was perfect.  We inhaled the beauty with each cautious step.

Before leaving the garden we stopped at the restrooms.  I didn’t have to worry about Dad not flushing the toilet.

Composting Toilet

What I did worry about is whether or not he would be confused by the toilet in spite of the directions posted on the wall.

Rules for using the composting toilet

“Dad, what did you think about that composting toilet?”

“What composting toilet?”

Maybe things were different in the men’s room.

We drove down the street to the restaurant in the old Far Hills Train Station.

“Dad, what do you remember about your life?”  I thought it an odd question to ask, but friends of mine who had recently lost a relative to Alzheimer’s had regretted that they didn’t ask that question and urged me ask it.  Dad and I spent the next two hours sipping coffee and talking about fragmented memories.

Things Dad remembers:

Building the house – laying the bricks – mixing a batch of mortar every night

The old car that looked like a Model A but it was a Pontiac (Lou, he said it was a Pontiac this time around and he insisted that it was when I questioned it.)

Applying for the job at Johns-Manville.  They showed him Spring Run and he picked out the lot.  He doesn’t remember if he picked it out with or without Mom.

“We hired the man who lived upstairs from us on North Bridge street to dig the hole and lay the concrete.”

Dad remembers his sister Ruth Jane ….. and being close to her.

“Hmmmmmmmm …. Let me see if I can remember anything more about my sister or about my mother and father…….. that’s odd …… I don’t remember anything more about them.”

“I vaguely remember when Louise was born.”

“Do you remember where was she born, Dad?”

“Sure I do ….. Somerset Hospital.”  (Louise, Anna and I were all  born at Home Hospital in West Lafayette, Indiana. David was born at Somerset Hospital in New Jersey.)

“I remember graduating from Yale as 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Air Corp.  Dad pinned his gold bars on my shoulder.  He was a 2nd Lieutenant, too.” (Eventually Dad said that he wasn’t sure his father attended the graduation and he thinks that someone else pinned his father’s bars on his shoulder.)

Near the end of our remembering game Dad said “I do remember going through this with my mother and she was doing the same thing I am doing.”

On the way back to Chelsea Dad started tapping on his thighs.

“Are you thinking of a song, Dad?”

Sweetheart of Sigma Chi.  I can’t get it out of my head.”  Dad sang the song to me.

The sweetest girl in all the land

of all the girls I know

Is the sweet coed with the rainbow trail

born on the 4th of July

The blue of her eyes and the gold of her hair

are a blend of the western sky.

the moonlight beams on the girl of my dreams

She’s the sweetheart of Sigma Chi.

Dad learned it in High School.  (Not quite the lyrics I found online, but close.)

“We had quite a nice glee club in high school.  I sang baritone.  I sang in a quartet, too.”

He went on to tell me a story about the quartet that he sang in, but made sure I put my notebook away first.

“I don’t want you to write this one down.”

Dad is cooperative about almost everything.  I felt I had to respect his wishes and not tell the whole world about his High School Quartet.  Sorry folks.

I am so grateful for the trees, the flowers, and the blue, blue sky.  Dad awakens to the sounds and sights and smells of nature.  His heart opens and he embraces the magic and mystery of all living things.  Dad is always so happy to be alive.

Read Full Post »

Dad and I had a fabulous day!

Be forewarned ….. this is a long post.

I got out of bed at 3:30 am.  By 10:00 I’d already accomplished a great deal.  My sense of satisfaction gave me a totally optimistic attitude about the day.  I made two giant sandwiches, grabbed two bright yellow napkins, two water bottles and the blue suede sketchbook that I’d given Dad to use at Chelsea … but he never did. I had one page left in my black ‘Walks with Dad’ sketchbook and I had a feeling I would need to start Book II.

I called Dad to remind him to make his bed and to let him know I was on my way.  Today was the day for Dad and I to walk the complete trail at Lord Stirling Park.  For one reason or another, we never made it to Boondocks Boardwalk.  In another week we might be battling with thousands of inchworms hanging from the trees and mosquitoes eating us alive.

Dad hadn’t made his bed and he had shaved only half his face.  I was delighted to see him anyway.  We both were in excellent spirits.  Together we made the bed, Dad shaved the rest of his face, grabbed a sweater, checked his pocket for his key and his neck for his alarm.  I grabbed the week’s newspapers to recycle …. and we were off.

The fragrance garden at Lord Stirling Park

It was a bit early for lunch, but it made sense to visit the herb garden first, eat lunch, then set out for Boondocks Boardwalk.  I reminded Dad to rub the leaves gently, then smell the fragrance on his fingertips.  He proceeded to mutilate the plants without the reward of the pleasant fragrance.

“As my Dad used to say, I don’t smell so good anymore.”

I handed Dad his green sketchbook and asked him to write a few words before we ate lunch.  I’m such a dreadful taskmaster.  I’m surprised he puts up with me.

The columbine are just beginning to bloom.  It was just about this time last year when I began to chronicle our walks together.

Virginia Blue Bells, Lord Stirling Park, NJ

As Dad wrote, I made a quick sketch of a blooming Virginia Blue Bell.

Enjoying the Day 4/19/12

Sitting in the sun

In New Jersey

Enjoying the day

With Chris

Solid blue

is the sky

Comfortable temperature, —

If wearing a sweater.

Silent breeze

Moves the leaves

This is the moment

We can cease (seize).

A bird flies over

Emitting a raucous caw

Is he, or she, claiming territory

Or just enjoying the day

…. Dad with Chris …

The sketchbooks were traded for two giant sandwiches.

“I made us something much better than the open-faced banana sandwiches we had a couple of weeks ago.”

“Mmmmmmmmmmmm.”

“What kind of sandwich do you think it is, Dad?”

“Well, it’s not tuna fish ….. but it is some sort of fish.”

“No”

“Is it turkey?”

“No”

“Is it chicken””

“Yes.  It’s curried chicken salad with cucumber and baby arugula on incredibly delicious whole grain bread. I guess you could say you don’t taste so good either.”

“Why? Because I didn’t compliment you on your sandwich?”

“No, Dad …. because you thought it was fish!”

“When?”

I don’t know if I will ever really get used to Dad losing track of the conversation so quickly.

I was without mercy.  Before heading out on the trail I handed Dad his green sketchbook again and asked him to write a few words about lunch.

About my Lunch

One half of a sandwich

Was ample it seems

It is now time to consider

Walking the woods and streams

Some say rhyming doesn’t matter

“It’s really not that important”

In fact it can often be

Quite distracting

We headed to the far end of the swamp, Boondocks Boardwalk!

The trail to Boondocks Boardwalk

We entered another dimension, somewhere between a sci-fi movie and the land of faerie folk. A blanket of Spring Beauties covered the ground.

Spring Beauties

Occasionally there were flecks of purple from the wild violets.

Violets among the Spring Beauties

A shaggy barked tree loomed over us as if to warn us that we were not in Kansas anymore.

Shaggy Barked Tree

We then came upon a beech tree that one might see in a Faerie Tale, the home of little creatures.

Storybook Beech Tree

Dad followed me off the trail toward the peculiar beech tree.  He then continued on into the woods away from the trail.

“Dad, that’s not the path!”

“What is?”

“It’s over here.”

We continued on our way through a bizarre grove of mutated trees, mostly beech.  I really need to investigate how trees manage to mingle with one another and even growing back into themselves.  I noticed the first two trees because they looked as if they were waltzing together.  I didn’t realize how attached they had become.

Waltzing trees

Two trees grown together

Limb growing back into another branch of the same tree

Branch growing into trunk of another species

And there were more mutations in every direction.

Growing together

A fashionable flare

Dramatic angles

We left the odd trees behind and ventured deeper into the woods.  We found an old car that apparently veered off the trail many years ago.  Dad thought it might be an old Studebaker from the shape of it.

Car wreck... Did it hit a tree?

The woods changed, the blanket of wildflowers became denser and a sweet fragrance filled the air.

Faerieland

“This truly is like a faerieland, Dad.”

“Much of the world is like a faerieland” was his response.

At one point the trail left the woods and led us around a meadow.

Lenape Meadow

“The south-side is better.” Dad announced.  I hadn’t a clue as to what he was talking about.

“The brambles are all reaching south to the sun.  I’m having to dodge thorn bushes because I’m walking on the north-side of the the trail and you’re walking on the south-side of the trail.”

The blue, blue sky and a long, long trail.

As soon as the trail widened Dad stopped to admire the sky.  I told him that if I were ever to make a sculpture of him, I would carve him in the position he takes when admiring the sky.

“I wasn’t really thinking about the sky…. ”  He started singing a song:

There’s a long, long trail a winding

unto the land of my dreams,

Where the Nightingales are singing

And the moonlight gleams.

He went on to explain ….

” I was thinking what a long, long trail this is and the words to the song just followed that thought.”

“Are you tired, Dad?”

“I’m fine.”

I told him I hoped we would make it to the far side of the swamp.

“That’s pretty ambitious.  I hope you can carry me back.”

“If you can’t make it back, I think I’ll just leave you there.”

“It’s a good way to go.”

“There are certainly worse ways.”

A little further up the trail, the boardwalk began.

The boardwalk through the swamp

We walked ….

More boardwalk

And we walked ….

Quickening his pace

And we walked …..

Path to nowhere

“I guess we won’t go that way, Chris.” Dad pointed to the boards that led to nowhere.

And we walked some more ….

Approaching The Dance Floor

Until we came to The Dance Floor, an observation deck above the swamp.

Almost at our destination

We climbed the stairs to the observation deck and rested.  I sketched Dad as he wrote in his book.

Dad writing while resting on the observation deck

The Woods

With a stream running through

With the trees reaching

For the clear, clear blue sky

With their branches’ new sprouts

Announcing that summer is near

And that shade will soon appear.

The floating white clouds

Glide silently over our heads.

Their reflections gleam in the stream.

While Chris and I write

I hope our lines will reflect

some of the beauty here seen and felt.

Dad 4/19/12

We continued on, passing through a “Gateway to Somewhere.

The Gateway to Somewhere

And finally we arrived at our destination, the Boondocks Boardwalk, a roller coaster of a boardwalk.

Boondocks Boardwalk

The slant of the boards was so extreme at some points that I insisted on holding Dad’s hand.  It seems inevitable that I lead him into danger on our weekly walks.  When he moved too close to the edge I mentioned that he had stepped off the edge of the dam a couple of weeks ago and cracked his head on some rocks.

“I remember looking at the ground up close.”

Sometimes Dad’s memory works!

We reached the far end of the swamp and circled back.  Along the way we rested.

Bench Number One

Bench Number Two

Between Bench Number One and Bench Number Two I found a snake on the trail.

Snake

“I think you better move it off the path, Chris.  We wouldn’t want it to get stepped on.”

I carefully lifted the stiff, already dead snake, off the path.

Dad was weary and his feet shuffled a bit along the trail.  But his eyes were bright and he wore a smile.  He had done it.  He had walked to the far end of the swamp and back.  I was relieved.  I really didn’t want to leave him to sleep on the topsy-turvy planks of Boondocks Boardwalk.

We returned to Chelsea.  In the parking lot I handed Dad his green sketchbook one last time.

One last entry for the day.

April 19, 2012

What a great, sunshiny day with Chris!  Not a cloud in the deep, blue sky.  We enjoyed riding in the car, chatting about this and that.  My 88-year old joints ache a wee bit, but walking in the woods is what the joints and the mind need.  I ponder what Louise, Ann and David and families might be doing at his moment.  It’s been 89 great years, working on the 90th! Wow.

Read Full Post »

I received an email from my en plein air group alerting me to the early blooming of the cherry blossoms in Newark, NJ.  the Cherry Blossom Festival is scheduled for two weeks from now.  I’m afraid there won’t be many blossoms left to see.

Cherry Blossoms, Branch Brook Park, Newark, NJ

The drive from Chelsea to Branch Brook Park was uneventful.  Dad sat quietly in the passenger seat, unresponsive to most of the surroundings.  He did, however, comment on an eighteen-wheeler that attracted his attention.

“Bud Light.  Wow….. that’s an awful lot of beer to drink.”

I passed the truck.  A few minutes later it passed me.

“Bud Light.  Wow….. that’s an awful lot of beer to drink.”

I then caught up with the truck and passed it.

“Bud Light.  Wow….. that’s an awful lot of beer to drink.”

This went on for about ten miles.  Shortly before our exit Dad’s attention shifted from drinking beer to the number of wheels on the truck.

“Hmmmm…… sixteen wheels.  That’s a lot of wheels!”

“Dad, it has eighteen wheels.  That’s why they call them eighteen wheelers.”

“That’s only if you count the two front wheels.”

“Why wouldn’t you count the two wheels in the front, Dad?”

“I guess, you’re right.  If one of those two wheels in the front blew out, the driver would really know it.”

I was glad we got off route 78 at the next exit.

Dad eating his sunflower butter sandwich

Without too much difficulty I found the Cherry Blossom Welcome Center at Branch Brook Park.  There were very few parking spots or picnic tables available but we were able to find one of both.  Our lunch conversation was centered around fruit trees. I asked Dad if there were fruit trees on the farm in Indiana.

“We had at least three pear trees in the orchard and one peach tree.  We had an apple tree in the front yard.”

A few minutes later Dad decided that the apple tree was in the orchard and a cherry tree was in the front yard. the orchard was behind the house.  A stock fence stood between the house and the orchard.

Dad pondering over his sketchbook.

I asked Dad to draw a picture of the stock fence.

Stock Fence at Thoaks

This type of wire fence surrounded an orchard at home in Indiana.  Dad kept lambs in the orchard.  They ate the grass enough to keep the grass level down to where there was no need to mow the grass.

As I packed up the picnic, Dad commented on the street lamps.

Street Lamps

“That street lamp reminds me of Karpinki’s lamp.  I think they told me they got it in Philadelphia.”  The Karpinskis were our next door neighbors on Middle Road in Martinsville.

An abundance of pamphlets and flyers

Before walking along the paths to view the cherry trees we stopped in at the Cherry Blossom Welcome Center to use the restrooms.  Before entering the building I mentioned to Dad that we really didn’t need to pick up any of the pamphlets we might find in the center.  For Dad, a table of informative papers is like candy to a child.  Before I could stop him he had carefully folded an application form for an 8th Grade Poster Contest and stashed it in his pocket.  He was reaching for more…

Walking the Cherry Blossom Path

The weather was spectacular.  Spirits were high and the sun drenched the landscape with early spring light.

Ancient Cherry Tree

Cherry Blossom Landscape

We found a bench beneath one of the cherry trees.

Dad writing in his sketchbook

Sitting on the park bench, beneath the

Spreading cherry trees’ blossoms, watching Chris take pictures — is most delightful!

The breeze is gentle, both warm and cool — feels so good!

The cars glide by.  It is almost noiseless.

The sky is blue — almost cloudless.

It is all so beautiful, so peaceful.

The traffic gliding by does make some noises now and then — especially the motorcycles.

Our writing makes no noise, but preserves nice memories!

Wonderful memories!!

If only Dad could remember those memories ……..

Cherry Blossoms in Full Bloom in Newark, NJ

As Dad struggled to find his words I watched his expression.

Dad searching for words among the cherry blossoms.

We strolled a little further.

Gorgeous Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms and Cattails

 

Dad's Composition

Dad often stopped and instructed me on the place to stand to take a nice photo of the cherry trees.  I was happy to do so.

People in the Park

The park was filled will people enjoying the nice day and the beautiful blossoms.  We returned to the car earlier than I had planned.  Dad was weary.  His stamina is not what it used to be.  We were able to beat the rush hour traffic and make it back to Chelsea in time for a musical presentation of Vivaldi’s Spring.

Flowers at Chelsea

We sat outside the activity room on a comfy couch, writing and drawing while excerpts of Vivaldi’s music was played and talked about in the room across from us.

Chelsea Music

As years pass

Reminiscence persists.

Music plays

Words are spoken

What do the old ones think

As the orchestra plays?

Of those days with family so young

Who now have friends of their own?

Of days spent with joy

Knowing all is well, —

Who know what tomorrow will bring?

Only TIME will tell.

So, meanwhile

Enjoy the trip.

Dad with Chris

3/22/12

I treasure the days spent with Dad.  And, when I return home I drink a bottle of wine, hoping that it will soothe my anguish over my father’s dementia.  It doesn’t.  It was difficult to get through the fog to make contact with my father today.  The fog grows thicker each week. He is less aware of his surroundings.  I walk at a slower pace, but not slow enough.  He often stopped and looked around for me when I was standing by his side.  For the first time, he had difficulty reading to me the words he had written.

Next week, weather permitting, we will go to Natirar.  We will walk further, rest more often, and breath the fresh air, enjoying one another, even in silence.  The stream will soothe our souls ….. I hope.

Read Full Post »

I arrived at Chelsea in time to reserve a table with a perfect view of Chef Mike making fresh pasta, plain, spinach and tomato.

Table setting

The tables were set beautifully, a plate of dipping oil at the center of each.  Bright red and white striped napkins and plastic forks added to the festive spirit of the luncheon event, back by popular demand.  An invitation had been extended to residents of the neighboring community.  A lovely lady named Barbara joined Jane, Dad and me at our table for four.

Prior to Jane and Barbara joining us, Dad and I had plenty of time to write and draw.  I pulled our sketchbooks out of my backpack and handed the green one to Dad.

“You’re not going to let me look back, are you, Chris?”

“No, Dad, I’m not.”  I was a bit stunned that Dad remembered the comments I had made on previous visits.

Dad resists writing.  He will do just about anything that works as a legitimate distraction to put off searching for words that fit together in his brain to write on the blank pages of his green sketchbook.  As more pages become filled, he has more to review allowing him to delay the current day’s writing task.

2/16/1012

at Chelsea

With Chris

In the dining room

More than a dozen people

Almost all talking at once

It seems

It’s pleasant

People seem content

Chris sketches

I write

Whereas Dad usually considers his punctuation carefully, he omitted it completely this time.  He did cross out the word “almost” and write “more than” above it, correcting his count of the people in the room.  During the past month I have noticed Dad’s focus on counting things, whatever things come into focus in any sort of multiples such as lug nuts, clouds, trees, chairs and people.

Chef Mike gave a wonderful presentation.  I am grateful that Chelsea has so many pleasant, committed employees who truly reach out to connect with the residents and make them feel as if they are home.

Chef Mike making pasta dough

At the far end of his table, piles of fresh dough, red, green and white lay stacked and ready to put through the press.  Mike had been making the dough since early in the morning.  Serving more than fifty people fresh pasta is quite an undertaking.  Each of us were offered three servings of the delicious fettuccine with either Alfredo Sauce or Oil and Garlic Sauce.  Red and white wine, water and soda were also served.

The pasta drying rack

Fun was had by all.  Smiles and laughter filled the room.  Anna took over cranking the dough through the pasta press while Chef Mike headed to the kitchen with his first giant batch of fettuccine.  No one left the room hungry.

The weather was dismal, a few snowflakes mixed in with a drizzling rain.  After last week’s adventure, I wanted a bit of dry ground to walk on rather than the swampy paths of the local parks.  After kissing Jane good bye, Dad and I agreed to play cards.

“What would you like to play, Dad?”

“Oh, I don’t know.  What would you like to play, Chris?”

“I’d like you to choose.”

“Oh.  I guess the usual.”

“What is the usual, Dad?”  I wasn’t trying to be testy, I just wanted Dad to wake up a few brain cells if possible.

“You know, Chris, the game we usually play.”  Dad is so good at getting the answers out of someone else, or at least trying to get away without really having to search for an answer.

“And what do we usually play?”

Dad scowled at me.

“Dad….. I’m not trying to be difficult.  I know what we usually play.  I’m just hoping that we can work together to wake up some of those brain cells of yours that appear to be getting a little lazy.”

Dad smiled.  “Well, okay.  It’s that rummy game…. gin rummy?”

“Great!  It’s Rummy 500.  I’ll deal the cards.”

After two games I had to leave.  I was meeting a friend in Clinton.  We were heading to Princeton to hear the Gorilla Girls talk. (It was fabulous.)

Before I left, I showed Dad the poem he had written and the drawings I had done during the Pasta Luncheon.

Chef Mike making fresh pasta

“Looks like we had fun, Chris.”

“Yes, Dad, we did.  We had a wonderful time.  I love you.”

Read Full Post »

Off to a difficult start.  I shouldn’t have stayed out til 3 am painting musicians at the Raven’s Nest Blues Jam! But how could I resist?

Rob Fraser playing guitar at Blues Jam

I set the alarm for 6:45, hoping I wouldn’t fall back to sleep.  Of course, I did.  Luckily I awoke at 7:21, just in time to shower, call Dad and get on the road. Dad and I had a 9 am appointment at Bank of America with a locksmith to drill open Dad’s Safety Deposit Box.

Alas ….. I found myself behind a school bus, then a salt spreader, then a well digger truck. I arrived at Chelsea to find Dad in the dining room having just finished his breakfast.  I introduced myself to the woman sitting at his table whom I’d seen before, but not met.  Apologizing for being a whirlwind, I told Dad we had to leave immediately.  On the way to his room, I asked the woman’s name.

“I don’t know.”

“Don’t you talk to her, Dad?”

“Hmmmm….. I think so.”

We arrived at the bank with three minutes to spare.  While waiting for the locksmith I encouraged Dad to write giving him a few hints at what had already happened that morning.

February 9, 2012.  9 a.m.

Bank of America, Martinsville

Ate breakfast with C…… F…..

Black ice in the parking lot.

We are waiting for the locksmith.

Dad thought I said “Black-eyed peas”, not “black ice” and wondered why he had black-eyed peas for breakfast.

The locksmith arrived and drilled the lock.  The technique reminded me of opening a bottle of wine and took about the same amount of time.  Much to my surprise, the box was not empty.  It contained Grandmother Carter’s death certificate and several envelopes filled with folded documents.  I reached into the long, thin, narrow box to see if there was anything else.  Feeling something hard and perhaps furry, I stifled a scream and withdrew my hand while shivers ran down my spine.  I could understand mice finding their way into the drawers of my oak card catalog where I store art supplies, but I didn’t understand how one could get into a bank safety deposit box.  Before alarming the dignified bank attendant who was acting as witness to the opening of the box, I tipped the box and peered into the darkness.  That didn’t help.  Gently, I tipped the box forward.  A small, well-worn, suede pouch slid into view.  Inside was my Great Grandfather’s pocket watch.

Whew….

After a typical bank ordeal of no one knowing how to handle a situation that didn’t fall neatly into place, Dad and I returned to the car.  While the experience was fresh, I asked Dad to write a few words in his green sketchbook.

Searching for thoughts

Dad didn’t have any idea why we had gone to the bank.  I took the pocket watch out of my bag to jog his memory.

The Pocket Watch Rodent

The watch belonged to my grandfather

My father’s father

Whom I never met

I think he died

When I was a baby – about 1925

Dad seemed to have fond memories

Of his father.

I have very fond memories

Of his mother, —

My Grandmother Carter.

My cousin Dick Davison

Called her “Nin”.

She lived with The Davisons

In West Lafayette – on Evergreen Street

Until her death.

I roomed there during my Freshman

And Sophomore years at Purdue.

Our next stop was Dr. Frisoli’s office for Dad’s monthly B12 shot.  They took a blood sample to re-evaluate the frequency of his B12 shots.

Contour Drawing Demo for Dad while waiting for his B12 shot

With our two appointments out of the way, Dad and I were free to spend the rest of the day as we liked. I was famished, having dashed off without breakfast.  We headed to Benny’s for coffee and a fried egg sandwich.

Dad and Benny

Before leaving, Dad noticed the framed sign on the wall, one that he had printed and framed himself several years ago.

The Culture Center

He wondered how many other people stop to read the notice of the morning gathering of men commonly referred to by the members as The Culture Club.

Sufficiently fed and filled with caffeine, we drove to Wagner’s Farm where Dad and I volunteer in the Community Gardens.  I didn’t expect anyone to be there, but I thought it might be a good spot to test the sogginess of the ground and to begin our day’s adventure in nature.

Heading up the road toward the farm, I pulled into the parking lot of Trinity United Church on King George Road.  I wanted to jot down a few notes before they slipped from my mind.  Mind-slipping feels contagious when I’m with Dad.

Fence Patterns

I couldn’t resist a quick sketch of the fence we faced while sitting in the K-car.  I handed Dad his green sketchbook.

Pencil to paper

Eyes to the sky

All is so quiet, —

Even Chris and I.

But silence is fine,

It gives us time to reflect

Upon the many fine walks and rides, —

that together we have spent.

Feb. 9, 2012

The fence with cast shadows

After reading me what he wrote, I asked him to write a few descriptive words inspired by the fence.

The Fence draws attention

Why?

It scans one fifth of the view

And is flooded with sunlight

Its plainNESS dominates

Its grayness defines it.

The day was improving by the minute…. I started the car and turned out of the parking lot, the blue sky above and smiles on our faces.

Wood Chips from trees damaged in snow storm

Looks like we have plenty of wood chips for the gardens!  I reminded Dad that we are volunteers and we would be working in the garden again in the spring.  He was pleased.  Knowing that the trail bridge crossing the river to the Glen Hurst Open Space had been washed out I left the Farm and drove a quarter mile up the road to the main entrance of Glen Hurst.

Decades Later

From the vantage point of a small gazebo, Dad and I gazed at the open field, now home to small cedar trees.  I stood on the same spot where I made out with my boyfriend in the late 60’s.  Dad’s thoughts were on teeing off from that same spot when playing golf with Gary Kidd, probably in the 60’s.

“Looks like it’s been a while since anyone collected green fees.”

We left our memories behind, so to speak, and chose a trail.

Heading across the overgrown golf course

The trail, surprisingly dry, led us through diverse terrain.

Through sun speckled woods

Walks with Dad always include stopping to marvel at the blue, blue sky!

Breathing in the beauty of the sky

At one point the trail opened up to a cleared path for high tension wires, inspiring comments on electricity, wiring and the enormous size of the towers.

High Tension Towers

We walked about a mile when we came to a fork in the trail.  Dad chose to go to the right rather than to curve back around to the car. His stamina was excellent and it was clear he was not ready for the adventure to end.  Perhaps he would have chosen differently had he foreseen the challenges ahead.  Most likely, he would have made the same choice.

Warning signs?

We noticed metal signs facing a trail to the right.

Stop

Maybe the sign registered somewhere in Dad’s brain as a warning.  He didn’t change course, but the foggy thought must have stayed with him.  The trail led deeper into the woods, giant trees uprooted everywhere, having fallen into the river, across the path, taking several other trees down with them as they fell, reminders of the damage from the late autumn snow storm.

Storm damage

“Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, Chris.”

“Why not?”

“Well …… this might lead to …… the North Pole.”

The tone of concern in his voice alarmed me.  It didn’t sound as if he were joking.  Before I could respond, he continued.

“….. or, it might lead somewhere  like ….. maybe California!”

“I think we’ll be alright, Dad.  I’m sure I can find the way back.”

“Okay, let’s go.”

Riverside Trail

Soon enough, a paper sign reassured us that we weren’t on our way to the North Pole or California.  The beauty of reflections in the river chased away Dad’s fears.

Abstract designs in the river

Distracted by the patterns and textures of the river and trees, Dad and I followed the trail and took photos from the bridge that crossed the river.  Eventually the trail curved back around and we found ourselves headed back in the direction of the car.  We had walked about a mile and a half.  The trail vanished beneath a section of mud and swamp.  We could see the trail emerge again about fifty feet ahead.  I didn’t want to turn around and retrace our steps.  It appeared that we might be able to cross without sinking to our knees in puddles.

“Are you ready to cross the swamp, Dad?”

“Just wait til I put my swimming trunks on.”

After stepping on what I thought to be solid ground I sank to my ankle in soft mud.  I chose a better route and we made our way across the mud flats.  Ahead, a bit to the right, I could see the barns and silos at Wagner Farm.  I remembered we had crossed the river earlier and that we were now on the wrong side of the river. I also knew the bridge ahead was washed out.  Last time we crossed the marshy fields that led to Wagner Farm, Dad had fallen face first into a giant marsh mound. To the right was a field of marshy mounds, behind us were the mud flats.  Looking to the left I saw a giant tree fallen across the river and decided it might be a better option.  Dad was growing tired and I didn’t want to push my luck.  I pushed it anyway, but not by turning back.

“Are you up for it, Dad?  Are you up for crossing the river on that fallen tree?”

“Sure.”

Already I knew that I had stepped into the realm of foolhardiness.  Already I decided not to take a photo of the tree were were about to use as a bridge.  I didn’t want to be disowned by my siblings for endangering our father.

The first three feet of tree was surrounded in brambles, giant thorns along thin, bouncy branches.  I took almost five minutes carefully separating the brambles, securing them on either side of the fallen trunk to allow us clear passage.  I led the way to test the footing.  After two steps along the trunk I stepped down to a pile of leaves that covered a somewhat stable mound of dirt and branches that had washed up near the bank and were held captive by the fallen tree. I turned to give Dad a hand to balance as he stepped onto the trunk and over two small branches that crossed the main trunk.

One foot over…. excellent.  The second foot was in the air when some of the brambles let loose, caught his jacket and threw him off balance.  He was headed into the river on the far side of the tree trunk.  I had hold of one hand and grabbed his jacket with the other, pulling him toward me, redirecting his fall.  More brambles let loose, slapping my face and driving thorns into my cheek. S-l-o-w-l-y he finished his fall and lay safely on top of me, my back resting on the tree trunk.  Not a great time for a photo shoot.

“Are you okay, Dad?”

“Yup …. how about you?”

That was the worst of it.  We made our way across the river safely, climbed up the bank and found the trail that ran along the river on the other side where the car was parked.

“I’m glad you’re not a wuss, Dad.”  I had to explain what a wuss is.

Trailside Bench

We saw a bench ahead on the trail and felt we deserved a bit of a rest.  I wish I could say I wont’ take chances like that again.  The truth is, I probably will.

Around a curve, a couple hundred yards further, I discovered that the washed out bridge is not the only bridge that ties Wagner Farm to Glen Hurst Open Space.

An easier way to cross the river

Back at the car, we took a few minutes to write and draw.

Glen Hurst Open Space Trail Head

Time passed and I asked Dad how he was doing with his writing.  Turns out he had copied everything written on the signs tacked to the Trail Head boards.

“Dad…. after our huge adventure of crossing the river isn’t there something you can think to say about it?”

We crossed the river

By walking carefully on a fallen tree.

We slogged through the marsh

Knees were kept dry.  I didn’t fall,

For I leaned on Chris’s shoulder.

She “saved the day”

The sky is still quite clear.

We are seated in the front seat of her parked car

Both doors are WIDE OPEN.

there is may a sound and no clouds.

No clouds

Sh – Sh.

Sh.

Our muddy footprints back at Chelsea

Read Full Post »

Fortunately the mercury rose enough for Dad and I to bundle up and explore another nature trail in Warren Township. The ground crunched as we crushed the frozen leaves beneath our feet.

Dad with his walking stick

We stopped at a fallen tree for Dad to fashion himself a walking stick. He used it first as a weapon to smash the beautiful layers of frozen ice that had formed in footprint puddles and to whack at the thorny bushes beside the trail explaining to me that he couldn’t resist the temptation. Later he would find the walking stick helpful to steady himself over difficult terrain.

Trail to Dealaman Pond, Warren Township

The trail often disappeared, blocked by broken and fallen limbs from the heavy snowstorm last month. A bit of bushwhacking put us back on the trail toward the pond.

Startled by a whoosh above us I looked up to see a huge Barred Owl spread its wings and take flight from a tree directly overhead. Dad, concentrating on his footing, missed the barrel chested, furry flier.

Priorities are a funny thing.  Until I began spending my Thursday’s with Dad, benches had not registered on my radar as being of much importance.  After our walk along the trail skirting the reservoir in Martinsville where benches are non-existent and fallen trees are scarce, I realized how important benches are to us.  They provide a place to pause in comfort, to rest, to reflect on our conversation, to write and to draw.  We discovered an abundance of benches along the Dealaman Trails.

Counting the boards on the bench

I watched, curious, as Dad examined the bench.

“Ten 2 x 4’s were used to make this bench” Dad announced before testing it out.

The presence of benches has become as important to us. We have decided to rate the trails with the same spirit we rated the hotels during our Indiana Trips with Alexis, Nicole and Michael.  After today’s walk we decided to begin a notebook rating the trails according to our specific requirements.  During the winter months we will create our criteria for trail ratings, benches being top on the list.

Tree bent and broken by the weight of the heavy snow from the storm last month.

Just past the first bench, and a bit more bushwhacking, we found the pond.  Dad marveled at the tree along the bank, wondering what had caused it to grow in such an extraordinary way.  I reminded him of the severe snowstorm that had broken so many of the trees throughout our area.  The same storm that had brought down the trees that blocked the trail to the pond.

Testing another bench

Dad decided that the ten-board benches were a boy scout project.

Crossing the dam

To continue around the pond we had to either walk along the rim of the dam or cross the small field of rocks adjacent to the dam.  Dad opted to walk the rim.

A redoubt?

On the far side of the pond we found several mounds of earth, possibly redoubts from the revolutionary war?  Perhaps a far fetched idea.  Growing up in Spring Run, it is not so far fetched.  As a child, I played in one of George Washington’s redoubts in the woods behind Spring Run.  The hill in the phot0 above was the largest of the earth mounds we found  along the perimeter of the pond.  The  depressions adjacent to the smaller mounds had been used as dump sites over many decades, chunks of rusted metal exposed, half-buried in dirt.

Fallen trees

The weight of the wet snow of last month’s storm had uprooted trees throughout Norther New Jersey.  The sight of the forest, the trees broken and strewn about, continued to puzzle Dad, having forgotten that the cause was a severe snow storm.  Every few steps we encountered a blocked trail, a fallen tree, a multitude of large, broken limbs.  It was as if each fallen tree we encountered was the first.  I still have a difficult time putting this experience into a context that both Dad and I can accept and move forward from.  The film Ground Hog Day comes to mind.

a two-board banech

On the far side of two huge trees fallen and frozen into the pond, we discovered a two-board bench.

“This one was not part of the boy scout project,” Dad observed before testing it out for comfort and view of the pond.  It was the ninth bench along the trail.

We continued around the pond… or so we thought.  Crossing over streams and bushwhacking through brambles we managed to get lost, ending up in a backyard of a house at the end of a cul de sac.  Rather than take the easy way back to the car by following the road, we headed back into the forest across a marshy clearing covered with thorny brambles.

Young trees

Eventually we came up Raspberry Trail.  It cut along the edge of a young forest, the trees being no larger than four inches in diameter.  Having forgotten to bring the trail guide with me, we circled back around to the far side of the pond rather than circling the pond back to the path leading to the parking lot.  We recognized the giant earth mound we had climbed to the top of earlier in the day.  My first thought was that Dad would have to walk the narrow rim of the dam one more time.

Pipes and Air Vents

Rather than stop to contemplate the blue, blue sky, Dad requested a halt in our walk to observe and appreciate the pipes and air vents on the building to the left as we walked toward the dam.  This is a common thread of the fabric of Dad’s life.  Building materials; plumbing, wiring, and siding are all part of the programming that triggers thoughts and memories.

Re-crossing the dam

I felt mighty irresponsible documenting Dad’s crossing of the dam rather than being right there with him, hand extended to prevent disaster.  I couldn’t help wanted to share the moment.

Bench designs

We counted twelve benches along the path, three different designs.

Nature's Abstract Patterns

I couldn’t resist the gorgeous patterns of ice, rock and grass.

The frozen pond

One last look at the frozen pond before heading back to the car.

Writing at the Muscle Maker Grill

No sooner had Dad written the date and location of our adventure than our lunch arrived.   Though he commented constantly on how much food was on our plates, he managed to eat it all.

Water Brush and Watercolor Palette

Back at Chelsea, I find his water brush, watercolor palette and sketchbook.  It is buried beneath piles of newspapers beside his chair.  I place the three objects on the seat of his chair hoping that maybe this week he will, as he is moving them off the seat of his chair, be inspired to make a mark or two in the book.

Dad's & Jane's watercolor paintings

Propped up on his bookcase are two watercolor paintings, one painted by Dad and the other by Jane during a watercolor class at Chelsea.  Dad’s is the barn, Jane’s is the lighthouse.  Both, I think, are quite good.

Writing

Words are hard to find, today.  I offer help, but Dad is determined to find them on his own.  I pull out my sketchbook, feeling equally as uninspired.

Harry & David's Moose Munch

Chocolate covered caramel popcorn helps a bit to distract me from the veil I am seeing more often, separating my father from the world we share together.

Moose Munch

I finish my sketch and look up to see Dad many miles and years away, pencil poised and eyes focused.  I start to draw again, his hands far more inspiring than the Moose Munch.

My father's hands

January 5, 2012

Chris & Dad after Dealaman Nature Trail and Pond hike – at The Muscle Maker Grill, Warren, NJ …….

Trail and ponds (frozen)

Tree had fallen

Waled around pond

Walked through squishy forest

Found car

Then back to my room

Coffee with Chris

Pencil to paper

Eyes to space

Pencil to paper

My father called it “Thoaks”

The homestead

Where I was born

A two-story, white house was there

And a large front yard

Shaded by huge oak trees.

Hanging from one large, high limb

Was once a dangling rope swing

With a precarious, hard board seat.

Swinging on it high was this boy’s delight

During those very hot, summer days

In the shade of the old oak tree.

Where the swing used to hang

And so ends another Thursday with Dad.

Read Full Post »

I thought Dad might enjoy a trip to see holiday decorations in the nearby town of Morristown.  The weather was warm and I pictured us sitting comfortably side by side on a park bench writing and drawing.  A walk in the woods would have been a better plan.

Morristown Square Christmas Tree

The decorations in the Square were disappointing at best.

Santa's Condo

Santa’s Condo was padlocked closed and the reindeer looked bored.

Caged Nativity

I was distressed by the double layer of wire fencing protecting baby Jesus, while Dad was distressed over the decapitated calf.

Methodist Church

The Methodist Church across from the village square was more festive looking than the unimaginative holiday decorations that were sparsely scattered on the square.  I wondered what I would have told my children when they were small in an effort to make the dreariness brighter.

Dad, of course, has no problem forgetting the pathetic attempts at holiday cheer.

The beautiful sky and flag

“Well, Chris, there’s always the beautiful sky…. and look at that flag!”

Lafayette, Washington and Hamilton

Dad’s curiosity led him to the three statues deep in conversation.

We had a short disagreement over the identity of each of the statues.  After we both had a chance to present the basis of our opinions, we each stuck to our own conclusion.  While closely examining the statues, we noticed they were dressed in identical uniforms, from neck scarf all the way down to their boots.

Identical Ruffles and Jackets

Identical boots

I was surprised that Lafayette was wearing the same uniform as Washington and Hamilton.  Any thoughts on this?

Sitting on a bench and viewing the square seemed like a bad idea.  Everything appeared to be abandoned, not very inspiring.  I thought visiting the large department store on the corner might raise our holiday spirits.  Surely the department store would be decked with glitter and filled with Christmas music……

When I picked Dad up in the morning I noticed his frayed shirt collar.  That provided a perfect reason to do a bit of shopping.  The department store looked no more festive than the Village Square.  There were wreaths on the walls, but no tinsel or glitter or shiny objects to make us smile.  To make it worse, there was no holiday music being played.  We made our way to the Men’s department to find Dad some shirts.

“Which shirt do you like, Dad?”

“Which one do you like, Chris?”

Dad with his new shirts

“What are we doing, Chris?”

“I’m buying you a Christmas present, Dad”

“But what did I buy for you?”

Finally, he picked two shirts that he thought he liked….. as long as I liked them.

The store, the people in the store, the long line we stood in before we were assigned to Cashier Number 12, were all quite confusing to Dad.  He looked lost.  I wished I had taken him to Lord Stirling Park where we could have meditated with the trees and looked up at the clouds every minute or two.

Dad insisted on holding the bag.  As we left the store Dad looked down at the bag and asked, “What do we have in this bag? Did we buy something?”  On the bright side, Dad will be totally surprised when he opens up his gift on Christmas Eve and sees that he has two new shirts!”

Holding the Bag

We headed around the corner to have lunch at The Famished Frog.

The Famished Frog

Hooray!  Finally some festivity, some noise, laughter, decorations, glitter, lights, sparkle!

Poinsettia at the grill

and ….. an over-sized pot of Poinsettia.  I have to say that I think the poinsettia that Jane gave us is far more elegant.

A gift from JaneShe gave us a hanging poinsettia plant that is absolutely spectacular!

Wall Mural

The wall mural immediately raised our spirits and it only got better.

Holiday Reindeer with Skunk

Dad delighted in all the holiday critters and the decorated Christmas trees everywhere.

We each ordered a pint of ale and took out our sketchbooks.

Dad searching for words

My suggestion to write a poem met with serious resistance.

I showed Dad the sketch I’d drawn and the poem he had written last week while we were sitting in Dr. Frisoli’s waiting room:

Dr. Fisoli's Christmas Tree

 Dad’s Poem: December 15, 2011

Sketches or words?

Which will it be?

With pencil put to paper,

We will wait and see.

Pencil to paper

Has wrought much

Most long forgotten

As time passed on.

Thoughts put to paper, salvaged

Some worth remembering

Treasures on bookshelves

Waiting for review.

But this seems

To be going nowhere

Who’s fault is that?

Is it the author’s!

Chaucer or Twain

this author is not.

Putting pencil to paper

Puts him, —– on the spot.

Fortunately no one

Is required to read it

Or to speak it aloud.

So how will I know

If I should be proud,

or

If it’s worthwhile?

Dad buying time

Dad thought he was saved from his task when the food arrived ….  But no.  I was desperate to break through the veil I felt had wrapped around him today.  Our salads looked delicious.  He eyed the shrimp atop his Pecan Asian Salad and I could tell his mouth was watering.

Hungry for words

“Dad, you can’t eat your salad until you’ve written a poem.”

Pencil to paper

Is not enough

But pencil pushed

By thoughts and such

May bring treasures

Or maybe not much.

Food awaits

Brought by a lady

Shrimp and lettuce.

Oh Lord, please bless us!

Dad closed the book, pushed it aside, and grinned at me.  “Thanks for the push.”  He then devoured his salad.

“Grandmother Jackson always said, “I thank the Lord for a good appetite.”

We talked a bit about Grandmother Jackson, her husband and their two daughters, Grandmother Fuller and Aunt Zelma.

“Bob and Don McCullough …. do you remember them, Chris?  Do you know if they are still alive?”

We talked about the almost weekly Fuller Reunions.  Fried chicken was the most common food, though they often had roasted meat and occasionally had liver and onions.  The Carter side of the family rarely met with the Fuller side of the family.  The Carter side were city folk, Aunt Avanelle, Uncle Mac and Cousin Dick.  The Fullers were farmers except for Uncle Lester who was a stock broker in St. Louis.  Uncle Lester married a woman named Lydia.  They must not have been able to have children of their own.  They adopted a boy named Brian.

“Your mother couldn’t BELIEVE how often the Fully family got together.”

Coffee Time

Plates were cleared and coffee arrived.  It was time to hit the books again.

Second round of writing

Later:

Now shrimp is gone

And so is the lettuce

And most of the people

Who were around us.

A new world emerges

In some way, at least

Much seems the same

While people seemed pleased.

We had parked the car in the parking garage around the corner from the Famished Frog. The first available spot was on the roof level, the equivalent of five or six full flights of stairs.  I gave Dad the option of the stairs or the elevator and he chose the stairs.  After the first five half-flights, Dad needed to pause.  After the next three half-flights he needed a full rest.

“I’m not in as good a shape as when Merle and I used to climb mountains.”

From the rooftop we looked out over Morristown and up at the always beautiful sky.

It was an odd day of ups and downs.  When I dropped Dad off at Chelsea I reminded him that I would see him on Saturday, that he and Jane were joining us for dinner on Christmas Eve.

“Oh,  is it Christmas Time?”

Read Full Post »

Dad sat on his hands all the way to the Watchung Gourmet Deli.  Next time we’ll remember to bring his gloves.

Lunch at Watchung Gourmet Deli

From the parking lot of the deli you can almost see the cliffs where huge icicles form during the winter months.  The winter of my sixteenth year, I climbed to the top of the cliffs carrying bottles of brightly colored Kool-Aid.  Richard and David Bareford (now a well-known artist) were my partners in crime.  We poured the colored water onto the icicles painting them into a frozen rainbow that my brother happened to see later that day as my mother drove him to his piano lessons.  I sat silently at the dinner table listening to him tell his story.  Such pranks were frowned upon and possibly dangerous.  Little did my mother (or I) know that I would be doing far more dangerous things on the face of cliffs in years to come.

Another Culture Club

The deli appears to be a gathering spot for older,perhaps retired, men.  Dad was a member of a group he called the Culture Club.  The group grew from four men to more than a dozen, meeting every morning (currently at Benny’s) to share the news and jokes of the day.

Ordering our lunch turned into a bit of a challenge, but we ended up with exactly what we wanted in spite of the confusion.  The story of the Soup and Sandwich Special is posted on my blog, Third Time Around.

“Inflation….. Any size iced tea 99 cents.  Our hired hand used to work for  a dollar a day…. a dollar a day plus room and board.”

While waiting for our lunch to arrive, I pulled out our two sketchbooks and briefly reviewed the directions for drawing a contour drawing.

“You mean I don’t draw just the outline, I can draw around the objects, too.”

“Exactly.  Your pencil and your eyes work together.  When one moves, the other moves.  When one stops, the other stops.  They are exploring the object together.  Just like cutting across the meadow this morning, your eyes can walk on the object in any direction they want.  They can change their mind and turn around if they want.  The only rule is that the pencil must follow wherever the eyes decide to wander.”

Salt Shaker and Poetic Imagery

“What is the purpose?”

“To shake the cobwebs out your brain and to coordinate your eyes and hand.”

“But what is the purpose?”

“To have fun.”

“Oh… alright.”

In Dad’s first attempt he struggled with the left side of his brain wanting him to draw the outline of the salt shaker and the right side of his brain trying desperately to be free of the boundaries.  His pencil followed that struggle perfectly.  After the second attempt he took a break and gazed into space, looking past me through the front windows of the deli.  His gaze transformed from a blank stare to a look of fascination and clarity.  A huge smile raised the corners of his mouth and he looked ten years younger.

“Dad, what are you looking at?”

“I’m watching the cars dance in and out.”

“Write that down Dad.  That’s a wonderful image. ”

Without hesitation he wrote his words beneath the drawings of the salt shakers.

“That’s the purpose, too, Dad.  I’m hoping that drawing will draw out words the way that the silo and barn drew out the stories of the gravel pit.” (See Staminique Part One.)

“Can you think of another group of words to add as a second line of imagery?”

“Okay.”  Not even a minute passed before he added two more lines to the page.

Cars driving in and out

Then paused in formation

After drivers depart

Our food arrived and we continued to draw.  What a pair we are, each with our sketchbooks, drawing odd line drawings while taking bites of our Bronx Bombers and spoonfuls of chili.

Dad's lunch

“I wouldn’t want to do anything simple ….. ” was Dad’s comment as he moved his lunch around, organizing it for his next drawing.

Dad’s filter that only permitted realism to qualify as good art has totally vanished.  He now recognizes shapes and patterns as symbols for real objects and accepts that communication.  Several years ago, if I had shown him my drawing (top of blog) he would not have recognized the objects in the drawing because they were not realistic enough.  Except for his jacket that he thought might be a background landscape of some sort, he knew exactly what everything was.  He thought it was absolutely obvious and puzzled over my surprise.  In his own drawing he was proud of the holes in the saltine crackers that he had drawn without looking at the paper.

Salt & Pepper Shakers

Chili bowl

With spoon paused for use

(Saltine crackers)

Before leaving the deli Dad stopped in at the restroom.  I waited.  I waited a very, very long time for Dad to return.  Then I waited even longer.  I heard a rattle of the door and worried that he might be locked in.  I wondered how long I should wait until I rescued him.  Another two minutes passed and Dad came out smiling.

When we were in the car, I asked Dad if he had a problem in the restroom, having taken so long.

“I didn’t think I took a long time.  No, no problem.  No problem at all.”

A short pause.

“I didn’t realize I was taking a long time.  Hmmmmmm.  I was probably just enjoying myself.”

Read Full Post »

In spite of the rain Dad and I headed to Lord Stirling Park to picnic among the aromatic mints and lavender.

View from the Scent Garden

The morning started with juggled rescheduling of plans.  I regret that we canceled meeting Corina and Chloe at Watchung Reservation.  I knew my tolerance level was diminished due to my lingering head cold.  I couldn’t count on myself to keep four soggy walkers in good spirits.  It turned out that the rain stopped when we arrived at Lord Stirling Park.

Before our excursion to the swamp, I cleaned Dad’s room a bit, sorting through piles of paper that accumulated on his floor and tables.  Along with the abundance of napkins and score sheets games Dad continues to win, I found several books that he had borrowed from the Chelsea library.  I found twenty-two books to be exact, each with a napkin marking his place, somewhere between page fifteen and page thirty of each book.

Dad was baffled by the pile of books, not knowing where they had come from.  He sorted through the pile eight times before we carried them upstairs to return them to the library where he sorted through them another three times.  The problem was that one of them had been inscribed “Happy Birthday, Dad.  Love, Mark, Joanne and Chris.”  He was sure the book was his because it said “Happy Birthday, Dad” and because one of the names was Chris.  It didn’t seem to matter that he doesn’t have any children or mates of children who are named Mark or Joanne.  The only names that mattered were Dad and Chris.  He kept asking me how the books got into his room if they weren’t his.  Eventually, we were able to leave the stack of books behind and left for Lord Stirling Park.

In spite of my impaired patience I felt optimistic about the day.  A birthday card from Jane and Dad had been placed on Dad’s table to welcome me.  I opened it to discover that Dad had written a wonderful birthday poem for me. There is even a bit of rhyming in it! (Thank you, Jane!)

It is a very special scene

The date of October nineteen,

For on that date some years ago

A brand new life was to be seen.

Candles were lit

On that day ever since

to celebrate

That very special birth.

And may it be

for many years more

A great life to celebrate

From shore to shore and shining shore.

Love, Dad

I am still smiling inside, treasuring such a special gift.  I have noticed that it is increasingly difficult for Dad to put words together on paper.  I knew that our opportunities today were limited due to the rain-soaked benches that we would ordinarily use for drawing and writing.  I did bring plastic garbage bags to sit on, but the mosquitoes were ravenous and disturbed our moments of creative solitude.

Dad gently rubbing the scented leaves

Though it has been about two months since we visited the Scent Garden, Dad immediately began rubbing the leaves and smelling them.

Yellow leaves

The yellow and red of the autumn leaves made up for the lost color of faded flowers.

Sh

Was it a creature

Dashing across the path?

Or was it just a leaf

Shoved by the breeze?

I caught only a glimpse of it

Whatever it was is gone

All is still

Silence reigns on.

The Track Garden

On our previous visits, we missed seeing the Track Garden.  Dad’s response to the round markers along the perimeter brought to mind the first trip to the Museum of Natural History with Alexis, Nicole and Michael.  Michael was probably 4 and the girls almost 6.  After initially being awestruck by the dioramas of the animals the children began to question how the animals had ended up in the museum, especially the mothers with their young, a difficult question to answer gently.  Though a bit dismayed, we continued through the dioramas, making our way downstairs to the aquatic scenes.  At the far end of the room, one of the windows displayed a sponge diver………

When Dad saw the circular markers around the edge of the garden I noticed the same expression that had appeared on the faces of the children when they saw the sponge diver behind the glass.

“Do you think they’re all buried in the garden beneath the plants?” Dad asked.  The question would not have been quite so unsettling if it hadn’t been for the marker directly in front of us.  A squirrel under the bush is one thing…. a human is quite another matter.

Another view of the Track Garden

We left the Track Garden behind and ventured into the swamp.

Off to Oz

The wet leaves upon the boardwalk caused slippery walking conditions.

The straight, tall trees

As we walked, Dad recalled walking along the wooded trails in Idaho with his friend Merle Bunker while fighting forest fires one summer during college.  Merle and Dad were lab partners.  Bunker was the last of the “B” names and Carter was the first of the “C” names.  They became lifelong friends.  Dad talked about the “windfall” logs being so abundant that they walked along them, not stepping on the ground for a good half mile.

Twisted Trunk Tree

The trees stood naked in the misty forest.  Without their frocks of leaves, the shapes of limbs, darkened by the recent rain, stood our starkly against the blanket of gold and brown.

Dad finding his stride

After oiling his joints, Dad rolled up his sleeves and picked up his pace.  We walked about three times the distance I had expected.  Not once did we sit and take a break.  “I need to do that more often.” he remarked as we got into the car to return to Chelsea.

Searching for words

Back in his room, there was one more poem to be written.  This time, the words did not come.

There is always next time…..

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »