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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

While I was checking with Ashley to see how Dad made out at Chelsea during the three days Chelsea was without heat during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Dad slipped into the dining hall for lunch.  I panicked when there was no response to my knocking on his door.

“I think he went to lunch” remarked a woman in the hallway.  She was correct.  The dining hall had been empty when I arrived. Dad now sat alone, reading his paper.  I whisked him away before he could place his order.

Deciding on a suitable outer garment for the day’s adventure presented more of a challenge than I might have expected.  We settled on his red sweater and his yellow sweatshirt in spite of the fact that the sweater is missing three buttons.  Fortunately, there are four extra buttons sewn to the collar ????  I’ll cut off the extra buttons and use them to replace the missing ones.

We stopped at Muscle Maker Grill for lunch before exploring the condition of the Hofheimer Grotto trail.  Dad quickly decided on a chicken breast sandwich as well as a baked potato as his side dish.  Wow!  No indecisiveness today!

“And would you like a beverage?” asked the woman behind the counter.

“Coffee, please.”

“Dad, they don’t have coffee here, would you like water?”

“What?  No coffee?  That’s impossible.”

“Dad, they don’t have coffee here.”

“They have to have coffee …. everybody has coffee.  What kind of a place doesn’t have coffee?  How can a place stay in business if they don’t serve coffee?”

I grabbed a bottle of lemon water and led Dad, still carrying on about the coffee, to a table where I distracted him by pulling out his green sketchbook and pencil.

“Dad, please write a poem about not being able to order coffee.”

No Coffee?

What? No Coffee?

Unheard of, —

What is a restaurant like, —

That has — NO COFFEE?!

I do not ever, ever

Remember going to a restaurant

That does not have

coffee!

Woops. — Chris tells me

That we have been here

Seven (well at least five) times, —–

And they have never had coffee.

(Hey, —- how do they

Stay in business? Hmmmmm?

Men at the Muscle Maker Grill

While Dad wrote, I drew the men sitting at the counter enjoying their food and non-caffeinated beverages.  He finished his poem in record time.  I hoped to burn off the remainder of his disgruntled mood by asking him to draw the bottle of lemon water.

The DASANI bottle of lemon flavored water

Dad devoured his lunch, all but the potato skin.  I thought it best to squeeze one more poem out of him before we took our walk.

Opportunities

Opportunities

Minutes of each day

Are full “to the brim”

With opportunities.

We can write

We can sleep

We can sit and think, –

But once the minutes are gone, –

They’re gone.

“Are you done?”

Chris asks.

“I’m not done.’

That’s my answer.

I’m still at it.

Thankfully

Dad

Opportunities

Staying “at it”

Is the key.

Always having a goal.-

Is food for the soul.

Food for the soul.

We left the Muscle Maker Grill and drove up the road to the grotto trail.  In spite of the multitude of trees fallen from the winds of the hurricane, we made it to Hofheimer Grotto by starting at the end of the trail loop rather than the beginning.

Trying to make sense of the fallen trees

Dad has a habit of knocking off dead branches and attacking limbs that are in the way of paths.  I imagined Dad creating a domino effect of falling trees with his good intentions of clearing the path.  I’ve become more cautious while walking with Dad, hoping to keep him safe from falls and injury.  Rather than walk the trail through the woods, climbing over fallen trees and risking more trees falling on top of us, we walked around the five ball fields.

Ball fields

“Did I ever tell you I used to pitch softball?

Thinking about pitching softball

“I practiced by throwing the ball at a knothole in a board on the side of the barn.  I got pretty good … until someone accused me of throwing sidearm.”

“What happened then, Dad?”

“I didn’t know I was throwing sidearm, but you’re supposed to throw underhand.  I lost both speed and accuracy.”

“How old were you?”

“Oh, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen.”

We made our rounds of the ball fields and ended up back at the bleachers.  I suggested to Dad that he write a little bit about pitching softball.  I had jotted down a few notes about him pitching sidearm.  Instead of writing in my sketchbook, I had written in his by mistake.  He appeared baffled by my notes.

Reading and re-reading my notes

After a lengthy spell of reading my notes, Dad put pencil to paper.

Reviewing his words

He wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and wrote.  He reviewed his words and wrote more.  He turned the page and wrote more.

Dad writing about pitching softball …. or so I thought

What a strange day.   Dad fought me tooth and nail, not wanting to write at lunch, not wanting to write after our walk, yet there he sat scribbling away.  Occasionally he stopped and looked as if he had finished.

“Could you read me what you wrote?” I asked.

“No, I’m still at it.”

I picked up my pen and sketched Dad’s gloves peeking out of his pocket.

Gloves in Dad’s Sweatshirt Pocket

Somehow, Dad had switched gears…..

Softball Pitcher at age Fifteen

Trapping For Muskrats in Indiana

A near-one-mile-long creek ran through our farm in Indiana.  It ran through our corn and wheat fields.  The banks were 1-3 feet high, perfect for muskrat “runs”.  I would set steel traps at the base of these runs.  They were very effective in catching the muskrats.  A chain would run from the trap to a stake driven in the middle of the stream.  The muskrat would start down the run, get trapped at the base of the run, and get tangled up with the chain wrapped around the stake in the middle of the stream.  The muskrat would drown trying to escape.  I would sell the muskrats for $1 each.  Our hired -hand, Owen Connor, lived in an upstairs bedroom, ate three meals a day with us, and was paid $1 per day.  He was a bachelor who was born and raised in Kentucky, and smoked Tuxedo tobacco in a pipe.  He wore out two or three pairs of gloves a year, “shucking corn”. He would “shuck” a wagon-load in one day, working perhaps 10 hours, – drive the horse-drawn wagon to the corn crib, – come in the house to eat supper, then go out after supper and shovel the load of corn from the wagon to the corn bin on the barn.  It was a long day – a typical day.  My job was to feed and milk the cows, and run the milk through the “separator” (separating its cream from the milk). About once a week, I would churn a batch of butter from cream skimmed each morning and evening from the milk.  I loved the taste of the buttermilk from the butter jar.

Well then ….. walks with Dad get more interesting all the time.  Maybe next time, after we talk about trapping muskrats, Dad will write something about pitching softball.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

One of the best days Dad and I have had in a long while!  Dad’s energy was high and his writing poured out onto the pages. The weather was glorious and our spirits were high.

Carefully parked K-car

When I park the car I try to find a spot where Dad can throw the door open without hitting anything, such as another car.  I try to avoid problems whenever I can so that we have the best chance possible to have a wonderful day together.

Dad gently rubbing the fragrant herb leaves

I drove to Lord Stirling Park.  Dad surprised me when he remembered that before our picnic we rub the leaves of the herbs to see if his sniffer is still working.  It wasn’t.  The only scent he could detect at all was a subtle whiff of camphor.

Gramps writing first poem of the day

I waited until after our picnic lunch … then handed him his green sketchbook and pencil.

Dad reading his poem aloud

Poems emerge

From images within

Of times gone by.

It seems that just

As we try to grasp one

It slips through our brain waves, –

And splashes away.

That is sad, because, –

Times have been good

Very good, indeed.

Dad walking the trail

We headed into the swamp along dry, level trails.

A world of beauty and mystery

For the first time in a long while, the weight and worry of my father’s dementia lifted from my shoulders.  We walked together, bathed in the beauty of the moments.

Another bench …. another poem

We stopped at each bench along the way.  Dad wrote a lovely poem …. his muse was enjoying the beauty of the day, too.

One last bench, one last poem

The poems are meant to be shared at another time ……  you’ll just have to wait.

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Patience is not one of my strengths, especially on a hot, humid day in the middle of July in New Jersey.  I do my best to keep a sense of humor throughout the weekly, bizarre visits with my dad.  His eternal optimism and positive outlook on every aspect of life saves the day every time.  If he wasn’t so damn much fun to be with I might just strangle him to get it over with.

If you have a judgmental look on your face right now, you have not yet dealt with a loved one suffering from dementia of one sort or another.  Hopefully, you will be spared that challenge.

Thursday, July 12, 2012:

Feltville General Store, Church and School

I emptied my refrigerator into the big yellow, thermal bag and tossed in a few ice packs.  Peanut butter and jelly is easy and lightweight.  Dad loves whatever I bring for lunch.  Unfortunately, I was out of bread.  It gave me the opportunity to make up for the lousy lunches of the last few weeks.

Where would we go today?

Criteria #1 …. (really the most important criteria of all from now on) …. Restrooms!

Criteria #2 ….. picnic table for the fancy picnic

Criteria #3 …. somewhat even ground and trails that offer a small enough loop to get back to the car before fatigue changes the odds for falling.

Criteria #4 …. somewhat close to Chelsea so we aren’t driving around in a hot car too long.

Criteria #5 …. someplace we haven’t been in a while.  I needed a change of scenery. Dad doesn’t.  We could go to the same place every week and it will be new for Dad.  He doesn’t remember going to any of the trails we’ve explored over the past year, even the ones we go to on a regular basis.

We headed for Feltville. (read more about Feltville from the post of our first visit to this fascinating place.)

Meeting Criteria One

Modern, clean restrooms are located at the back of the main building, the General Store.  I checked to see that they were unlocked and in service before we walked further down the road to the picnic area.

Picnic Tables, Criteria Two

Dad thought the bottle of dressing was a juice drink (I think).  When I explained that it was dressing, he poured it over his pasta and vegetables rather than his salad.  I’m sure it tasted yummy.

Salad, Pasta and veggies, Cherries

Unlike last week, Dad initiated conversation, of sorts, on the drive to our destination.  Last week he was utterly silent and relatively unobservant of the surroundings as we passed them by.  Today, his dial must have been set to Standard Conversation Number Two – Clouds in Sky, Large Trucks and Tall Towers.  After our lively car conversation I was hopeful that our after-lunch brain games might be less frustrating for me than last week.  I began with a few follow-up questions.  I wanted to know if he really did meet Amelia Earhart and I wanted to know if his degree in electrical engineering was essential for his research and development of building materials for Johns-Manville.

No, he doesn’t think he ever met Amelia Earhart.  He did touch the controls in her plane when it was on exhibit at Perdue.  He turned the knobs to watch the dials move and was reprimanded by a guard.  The connection between electrical engineering and building material research and development left me sinking into the abyss of frustration.  I opted to redirect the conversation with a variation on last week’s brain stimulating game of tapping into the area of imagination.  At one point he had said that he would like a job that would allow him to travel with his family.

“If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go.”

“Indiana, I guess.  Back home to Indiana.  It would be nostalgic.  I’m familiar with Indiana.  And maybe the South Pacific.  That’s familiar to me, too ….. and Australia.  And I wouldn’t mind going back to Indiana and visiting some of my old, familiar places.  Maybe I could find some of the people I used to know.”

“Anyplace else?”

“I think I would like to go back to Indiana.  I know Indiana.”

“Are there places you haven’t been that you would like to visit?”

“Hmmmmmm.  I’d probably like to go back to Indiana.….. Oh, places I haven’t been?  Maybe China.”

“Any other places?”

“Hmmmmmmmmm…….hmmmmmmmmmm……..hmmmmmmmmm…..hmmmmmmmmmmm.  What was the question?”

I repeated the question.

“Places I haven’t been?  hmmmmmmm …. I’ve always enjoyed action.  Maybe a place where business is prospering, maybe parts of Europe and places I don’t know about…… and China ……  and I think Indiana.  What was the question again?”

I could cut and past the above conversation half a dozen times more.  I tried to move it along.

“What are my options, Chris?”

“We’re playing a game, Dad.  You have ten seconds to tell me to buy a ticket to anyplace in the world.  If you don’t pick a destination, you will sit on this bench for the rest of your life.  Those are your two options.”

“What was the question?”

I repeated, several times.

“Indiana, I guess.  It’s familiar.”

At some point, Dad clicked into another part of his brain.

“China.  Maybe the Himalayas.  And maybe, if I didn’t have to stay there too long, the Sahara Desert.  If I could stay a little longer, I’d pick a place where I could meet and chat with the people.”

“Where would that be, Dad?”

“China.  Maybe South America…. or China.  I have curiosity …. not to live, but to visit Africa.  I’m interested in how the people live and how I could improve their way of living.  I used to do that.  I sold Real Estate to help people better their lives.”

“You didn’t sell Real Estate for very long, Dad.  If you liked helping people that way, why did you stop selling Real Estate?”

“I don’t know.  What did I do after that?”

Dad definitely seemed stuck in Indiana.  I gave him a hint.

“I was born in Indiana, Dad, but I didn’t grow up there.”

“Hmmmmmmmm.  I went to work for Johns-Manville, didn’t I?”

The conversation turned to Dad’s transition between selling Real Estate and his job at Johns-Manville.  I was exhausted and pulled out the sketchbooks.

“Time to write, Dad.”

First poem of the day

It Is What It Is

The silence is deafening

In these woods —

Ah, now there’s a plane overhead

And the pattering of footsteps

As joggers

Go jogging by.

Chris contributes to the silence as she sketches away, —

While sitting at the picnic table, —

Across from me this warm summer day.

I pop another grape in my mouth, —

And sip a sip of Poland Spring water

Hoping more exciting words

Will come for me to write down, soon.

It might be a quite long wait

For words that somehow make some sense

Until then it seems a bit wasteful

To sit here pushing pencil on paper

It is what it is

Dad … a day in the woods with Chris

Dad’s illustrated poem

I asked Dad to draw a few cherries (we didn’t have any grapes) on the page with his poem.  That led into more drawing.

Cherries and Words

We played with writing words along the cherry stems in our drawings.

bending words along cherry stems

The expression on Dad’s face changed as he wrote the words along the cherry stem.  I presented another graphic word game to him.

Dad’s second attempt at word game

Dad’s third attempt at word game

I think he would have been happy to be stuck on the bench for the rest of his life playing this game.  Maybe he would choose that next time instead of sending me to buy a ticket to Indiana or China.

Waiting for my return

We packed up our picnic and continued our walk, stopping first at the restrooms.  The yellow, thermal bag, filled with pottery bowls, ice packs and bottles was too heavy for me to carry through the woods.  I left Dad on a bench while I brought the bag back up the steep hill to the car.  I left him with pencil in hand and green sketchbook open on his lap, hoping I would see words on the page when I returned.  Even more importantly, I hoped I would see Dad still sitting on the bench when I returned.

The wooded area speaks history

Of trees reaching high

Search for Sun’s rays

Coming down from the sky

The green grass below

Carpets the ground

And prevents rains from the skies

Leaving big ditches all ’round

I can’t help but believe that drawing helps Dad to put words together poetically.  There is a dramatic difference between this poem and his first poem.

Lost somewhere between tree tops and sky

The afternoon light distracted me and I snapped dozens of photos of a pipe while Dad drifted into the tree tops.

Beautiful pipe

It was getting late.  After a very short walk through the woods, we trudged up the hill to the car.  Dad needed to stop only once to rest.

Dad with pencil in hand

Next week I’ll tuck a few sheets of graph paper into Dad’s sketchbook.  We’ll play the word game again.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

No walking adventures today.  Jane, Dad and I spent the day at the V A Hospital.  It was time for Dad’s annual physical.  The facility is clean and bright, filled with friendly people who go out of their way to help.

We had short intervals of waiting between exam, EKG, chest X-ray, blood test and signing up for a new internet program.

During our last waiting period I handed Dad his green notebook.

Wow!  Major resistance to the idea of writing anything.

“I know one word, a two letter word and it’s spelled ‘N-O’.”

I am dreadfully persistent.

Dad writing …. reluctantly

I’m glad I insisted …

How beautiful she is

The lady, across the table

I wish I could tell you, —-

If only I were able

And the lady on my left, —-

My daughter, I can tell you

They are the beauties

I find by my side

They make my days lovely

I hope theirs are too, —-

Making it unanimous

Nice.  I think that to be true.

Dad! With Daughter Chris, —- and Lovely Jane

6-14-2012

And then we waited again….. more resistance.   I reminded Dad that if I hadn’t insisted, he never would have written the lovely poem.  He read the poem he had just written, smiled and said, “I wrote this poem?”

One more poem

Searching For Words

It cannot be true

That there is nothing to write about

For I am with lovelies

Chris and Jane

Days are full

Of events to cherish

How fortunate we are

For what more could we wish?!

I am searching for more

Words to express it

But the words above,

Pretty much say it.

As I waved goodbye, Jane and Dad were headed for a stroll around the Chelsea Pond.

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Tra-la, tra-la ….. a spectacular day with Dad!

View from our picnic table

Dad was awake and perky when I arrived this morning.  Within ten minutes we were on our way to Natirar in Far Hills.  The day was sunny with a cool breeze that freshened the air and chased away the humidity.  A quick stop at Country Picnic Deli provided us with a delicious picnic of paninis (Southwest Melt for Dad and Fire Roasted Vegetables for me), a small container of curried chicken because we couldn’t resist, coleslaw and a brownie for dessert.  We forgot to eat the brownie.  I’m eating it now as I write.  Yummm!

On the drive to Natirar I played the Dust Off The Cobwebs game with Dad.  I bombarded him with questions about people, places and things. Had it been a television quiz show he would have been eliminated in the first round.  The poor score did nothing to dampen his spirits or diminish his sense of humor.

“Why do you have a pencil in your pocket, Dad?”

“I guess I’m going to write.  I don’t think I’m going to pick my teeth with it.”

Dad’s hands as he writes his first poem of the day

A Pause in the Woods

A deep blue sky

And a cool, gentle breeze

Are very much enjoyed

While sitting in the shade

At a picnic table, —

With Chris.

She is sketching

As I write.

The sky, deep blue,

Holds a single white cloud

And a noisy single-engine plane, –

As it goes passing by.

The noiseless leaves falling

From the trees overhead

Are ignored as we write, —

This almost totally silent

Wonderful, warm

Fine summer day.

Natirar 5/31/12

Dad as he writes at the picnic table after lunch

We headed up the hill to the path along the river.  I pointed out the strange lighting on the trees. Dad explained the reason for the odd illumination of the trees.

“That’s because the sun’s sending a ray through that hole in the cloud.” He pointed to the cloud directly above us.

The hole in the cloud

We didn’t get very far along the path before we came upon a bench.  Naturally, Dad wanted to stop for a rest.  I handed him his green sketchbook.

“What do we do when we sit on benches, Dad?”

What do we do?

“What do we do

Each time we sit on the bench?”

Was the question put to me

By daughter Chris.

“Write? I asked.

“Right,” she answered.

So here I sit, —

Writing.

the wind futily tries

To turn the page

But I cannot let that happen

I have more to say.

Opportunity abounds

And good health allows

Time to write a word or two

About the things we do.

Like taking walks

On a gorgeous summer day

And parking on a bench

To write what we may.

If only the words could begin to relay

The joys brought to us

This most wonderful day.

Wow…. Dad was on a roll.  While he wrote his poem, I sketched the odd lighting from the hole in the cloud.

Trees and grass lit by rays of sun through the hole in the cloud

We moved on ….. a little way ….. and came upon another bench.

Bench by the side of the stream

In the shade, by the stream

Is a good place to write

Or so it would seem.

Especially, with a silent breeze

And a silent stream passing by

A noiseless, beautiful scene.

And the event is well worth remembering, —

A walk in the woods with daughter Chris

And a pause to sit, and to write a bit.

View from the bench by the stream

Onward ….. past the stream, stopping along the river to pose, repeating the photo on the cover of Walks With Dad.

Reliving a forgotten moment

Dad showed no signs of fatigue.  Perhaps because we stopped every five minutes to sit on a bench.  Rather than circle back to the car, we took a left at the fork and climbed the hill to the upper meadow.  Half-way up the hill we rested on another bench.  No poetry writing this time around.  Dad was trying to figure out the brother, sister, husband, wife connection of Grandmother Carter, Grandfather Carter, Uncle Lafe (Lafayette) and Aunt Tiny.

Carter Wilson Connections

The Carter brother and sister each married a Wilson brother and sister.  I haven’t checked the family tree to see if that’s right.  The topic came up when Dad told the story of the uncles coming to the farm from the city (West Lafayette) to visit.  Dad and the two uncles would go fishing at the gravel pit.  The uncles didn’t know where to drop their lines because they didn’t know where the fish were … but Dad did.  The fish hung out on the far end where they dumped the old wire fencing.  “The fish must have fooled around in the fencing.”

The story became more complicated when I asked Dad which uncles they were.

“Well, Uncle Lafe always came to visit.”

“Who was the other uncle?”

Dad couldn’t think of who it was or who it could be……  “Uncle Lafe was married to Aunt Tiny.  They lived right next to us.”

“Next to the farm?”

“Yes.”

“I thought you said Uncle Lafe came from the city to visit.”

“He did.”

“But I thought he lived right next to you.”

“Hmmmmmm.”

One confusion led to another.  We were glad to find the bench to rest on to sort through the story.

Dad looking at the barn in the meadow

Dad looking at the barn in the meadow

The barn in the meadow usually brings back memories of moving hay on the farm.

The barn in the meadow

You had to have three people to get the hay into the hay mow.  One to work the fork that grabbed the hay, one to drive the horse on the other side of the barn to lift the hay bale up into the hay mow and one to release the hay bale once it was in place.

“Usually the kid in the family was the one with the horse. I was always the one with the horse on our farm.”

Dad rests as I chase butterflies

At the far end of the meadow we saw little white butterflies flitting about.  They were the same type of butterfly we had seen last week at Lord Stirling Park.

“Dad, do you think those are butterflies or moths?”

“If you ask me, they’re moths.  Butterflies have color on them.”

I had a feeling his answer would be the same as last week.

“But Dad, moths fly around at night, butterflies fly around during the day.”  I don’t know if this is really true or not.

I couldn’t get a photo of the little white winged creatures, so we moved on.

Dad stopped, startled by the sight of a train going by in front of us.

“I didn’t think we would have a train cross our path!”

Wires for the train

Train tracks run along the far side of the meadow.  It looks as if the train is running along a path in the woods.

With our backs to the train tracks we took another rest on a bench.  Dad wrote, I drew, and we both re-hydrated.

An isolated tree on a hillside

Reaching for the great blue sky

Catches sunlight and breezes

And certainly enriches the scene.

the isolated tree in the meadow

Dad re-hydrating

Still Dad was showing no fatigue.

Climbing the last hill of the day

Nearing the top of the hill

Unbelievable.  Dad hasn’t had this much energy in months!

Our favorite bench is at the top of this hill.  We didn’t write, we didn’t sketch.  We sat and smiled at the expanse of meadow that lay before us.  After a bit, reluctantly, we moved on, leaving the meadow behind and entering the woods between the high meadow and the Raritan River.  We crossed back over the cement bridge and out into the sunshine of the open grass below the mansion.  There we found another bench.  It was getting late.  We didn’t write, we didn’t sketch…. even though that is what we do when we sit on benches.

Another bench

What do we do?

We always have a marvelous day together.  Today was exceptional.

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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.

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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.”

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