Posts Tagged ‘writing’

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


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, —


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?”


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

“He did.”

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


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.”


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

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


“Is it turkey?”


“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!”


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.


“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.


“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.


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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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.


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


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.


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?”


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.


Our muddy footprints back at Chelsea

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I didn’t think finding a small, plain, fabric gym bag would be so difficult.  Not being a “shopper” made the task even more difficult. Today was my last opportunity to find the only gift Tom requested for his birthday on Saturday, but Thursdays are the day I spend with Dad.  After the recent Home Depot experience of losing sight of Dad, I panicked at the thought of taking him to the Bridgewater Commons Mall, my last hope after a dozen fruitless trips to other stores.  Luke saved the day by offering to join us on our trip to the mall.

After a failed attempt to open Dad’s safety deposit box at the bank, we headed to Luke’s for lunch before our shopping excursion.

Portrait of Luke and water glasses

The sunlight streaming through the window and striking water glasses stole my attention.  More Water Glass Still Life photos are posted on my other blog Third Time Around.

While the pierogies cooked on the stove, Luke made us seltzer in a fancy contraption he bought Carrie for Christmas.

Luke making Seltzer Water

Water Glasses in Sunlight

Did I just post another photo of the water glasses?  Ahhhhhh ….. sorry …… I couldn’t resist.

Still Life with Dad

Oops…. there I go again.  But Dad’s in this one, so I can get away with sneaking it in.

Luke and Dad

I brought a fistful of salad greens and some left-over chicken thighs from home to add to our luncheon feast of pierogies and Texas Toast.  After lunch we moved into the living room to entertain ourselves with a bit of music and dancing.

Luke setting up the player piano roll

Dancing Keys

As the keys danced, playing Has Anybody Seen My Gal, Dad sang along.

Dad singing along with the player piano

Still Life With Water Glass

Oh my …. another water glass still life …. I wonder how that happened ……..

Valentine's Day Still Life with Water Glass

Heavens….. this one is getting a head start on next month’s holiday.  Okay.  I will try to focus on the events of the day.

Blue Danube Waltz

When Luke switched to Blue Danube Waltz, Dad and I danced around the room.  I reminded Dad that he taught me how to waltz when I was a little girl.  In turn, I taught Alexis, Nicole and Mike to waltz when they were young.  I wanted to spend the afternoon listening to the piano and dancing with Dad.  Unfortunately, we had a mission.

Too big, Too bright, Too vinyl

Luke knew of three local stores to try before we tackled the Mall.  No luck finding the right kind of bag at the first store. Dad’s delight in the assortment of odd exercise paraphernalia surprised me.  He had been so bored in the electronics store a couple of months ago.  Being an electrical engineer, I thought he would have been fascinated with all the gadgets.  He wasn’t.

Core Stability Disk

Dad wondered why anyone would pay money for a core stability disk.  His amusement was topped only by Luke’s demonstration of the technique used for working out with the Official Shake Weight.  We headed to the next store.

Shake Weights

Two stores down and one to go before we would have to bite the bullet and go to the mall.  Eastern Mountain Sports did not let us down.  While I conversed with a salesclerk Luke investigated the Leatherman knives and Dad puzzled over the peculiar snowboards.

Dad's new sport

He was pretty keen on trying out that double  board, thinking it looked like it could be a lot of fun.  He was like a kid in a candy shop.  The salesclerk returned with the perfect gym bag.  I paid for the bag as Dad joined Luke at the Leatherman display.  He found the prices completely out of line with his thoughts on how much a good knife should cost.

Glued to the bike

The three of us headed to the door.  Our exit was delayed by Dad’s investigation of a racing bike.  It was impossible to tear him away from the bike.  He tested out the handles, wondering about the little gear levers and the odd downward curve.  While Dad stuck to the bike like a magnet, Luke browsed the bike apparel and found a cute little pair of shorts.  He thought he might start biking on weekends to have a good excuse to wear them.

Luke's new shorts

Fortunately, I talked Luke out of buying them.  We pried Dad away from the bike and left the store.  My thoughts flashed back to the challenge of gathering up the kids when it was time to leave a playground.  We drove back to Luke’s where we picked up my car and headed back to Chelsea by way of North Bridge Street.  In 1952 we rented the first floor of a house on North Bridge Street while Mom and Dad built the house in Martinsville

286 North Bridge Street

The house has been renovated and Dad refused to believe it was the house we had lived in.  I drove down the side street to see if he would recognize it from the back.

286 N. Bridge St. from the back

He didn’t.

“What looks different, Dad?”

“Let’s just say ….. nothing looks the same.  I am sure the house we rented was closer to the highway.”

I pulled back around and we drove passed the front of the house toward the highway so that Dad could see that it was only one house away from the highway.  He agreed that it had to be the right house.

“Things really change, don’t they …..”

We hadn’t written or drawn all day.  As we approached the quarry we talked about how that, too, had changed drastically since we moved to New Jersey in the early fifties.

Quarry as seen from Chimney Rock Inn

 January 19, 2012

The Quarry

Chimney Rock Inn (across the road)

An afternoon with Chris, The Dad-Daughter Combo

Chris and I are in her car, down the road and around a corner or two from where we lived for over 50 years.  They were good years,  —- very good years.

We bought a lot across the street from a Revolutionary War cemetery, built a brick house (mixing the mortar in a wheel barrow and laying the brick ourselves.  I have a photo of “Mom” laying brick.)  We moved in, from Somerville, before we installed the inside wall boards.  The first meals were cooked in the fire places.  The neighbors called us pioneers.

Dad worked hard getting the words into his green sketchbook.  It was a struggle.  It was an emotional struggle, I believe.

As we pulled into Chelsea, Dad mentioned that he had been looking at the croquet set in his room next to his door.  He had been thinking about how he hasn’t used it in a while.  He remembered his uncles playing croquet in the shade of the oak trees on the farm in Indiana.  He remembered Uncle Ken bringing his mallet with him.  I parked the car and pulled out sketchbooks out of my bag once more.

Sketching while Dad writes in the car

Some Sundays in Indiana

Farmers worked hard on week days, but Sundays were considered a “day of rest” (rest being interrupted to milk the cows, feed the pigs and cook meals over a hot, wood-and-coal-burning stove).  Most commonly the main dish was lots of fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy, and various vegetables and fruits.  Generous second helping were not uncommon for that huge noon dinner meal.

After dessert the men disappeared to the living room or under the shade trees in the front yard and talked while the women gathered in the kitchen to wash the dishes and talk.  As I remember, it was a day that all members of the families looked forward to.

The uncles would gather in the front lawn and play croquet.  Uncle Ken was the best player, the athlete in the family.  He played basketball in his high school first varsity team.  The woman prepared food and washed dishes over the hot, wood-and-coal-burning stoves.  No one had air conditioning in those days.

Abstract Still Life of Water Glass

Thanks, Luke, for a fabulous day!

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I’m not a big fan of bowling.  However ….. I wasn’t looking forward to spending another Thursday at the house in Martinsville dealing with winterizing the water pipes.  At the end of an early morning treating the pipes with RV antifreeze phone conversation with Dave, he suggested I take Dad bowling instead.  Considering the sogginess of the ground after two days of rain, bowling sounded like a better choice than a walk through swampy woods or explaining to Dad what we were doing pouring pink liquid down the drains.

Upon arriving at Chelsea I sorted through Dad’s magazines and newspapers, replacing the older ones with new arrivals.  I then handed him his mail, a special package from Louise and Dave.

A calendar for Jane and one for Dad

Dad loved the calendars and insisted on hanging the Ansel Adams Calendar on his wall.

Hanging the calendar

After the calendar was hung, I handed him the next surprise, a copy of the Grand Teton Climbing Register from August 1958.  Listed on the page were the names: Howard Craven, David Craven, Louise Carter and David C. Carter.  My uncle, cousin, father and sister had climbed the Middle Teton in the summer of 1958.  I will post the narrative of that adventure at a later date.  I was six years old and I still remember being furious that I didn’t get to go, too.  I was left behind to carry coal out of my grandmother’s basement.  Decades later my brother, Dave, and I climbed the North Face of the Grand Teton and I could put to rest my fury.

Reading the names on the register

Dad stared for a long while at the copy of the registry.  I read to him Louise’s letter that accompanied the registry list, recounting the adventure.  Dad had forgotten that Uncle Howard had passed away.  He did not, however, forget the adventure the four had shared in the mountains.

On the way to Strike N Spare bowling alley we passed Sears and Roebuck.

Monkey Ward we used to call it. No, not Sears, but the other one … Montgomery Ward.”

We stopped at a red light and Dad counted the chrome lug nuts on the wheel of the semi stopped next to us.

“Did I ever tell you that I earned a scholarship from Montgomery Ward?”

“How did you do that, Dad?”

“I road around on my bike and delivered order forms to all the neighbors.  When they used my order form I would earn 15% and that money went into a special Montgomery Ward account that earned interest all those years until I went to college.”

“How old were you?”

“About twelve, I think.  It didn’t work too well with the neighbors.  Mostly relatives used my order forms …. Didn’t work with the DeVaults, though.  The boys took my idea and went out delivering order forms themselves.”  The Devault boys’ mother was a cousin to Dad’s grandmother, Etta Alice Carter.

We arrived at Strike N Spare.  Neither one of us had stepped foot in a bowling alley for over a decade at least.  The first task was to rent shoes.  Dad changed his mind several times about the size shoe he wore.  He couldn’t quite remember.

Bowling Shoes

I paid for one game with the option to play more if all went well.

The next task was to find a ball of a good weight with the right size finger holes.

Searching for the perfect ball

Finding the right ball proved to be a challenge.  I chose a light-weight blue ball.  Eventually I was able to find the right ball for Dad.  Of course…. it was green!

The perfect balls

The next step was to chose a background theme for our digital score sheet.

Background themes

Dad chose the first theme, the Classic theme.

And so the game began.

Throwing the ball

We had a blast.  Our scores were utterly miserable.  Dad’s harsh judgement on his performance was tempered by my complete lack of concern about my own performance.  I was just happy not to get a gutter ball.

First Game Score

I pulled out ahead in the last frame.  Luckily, I’ve been going to the gym lately and my arm enjoyed the challenge of throwing a heavy ball down a long alley to knock a few pins down.  We both wanted to play another game.

Bewildered Dad

Dad was bewildered.  He couldn’t understand why he wasn’t knocking more pins down.  His ball kept veering over to the left.

“I used to put a little English on it.  It doesn’t seem to be working.”

My arm was giving out.  I followed a strike with four gutter balls!  What a waste.

Second Game score

Dad wanted to play a third game, but my arm was shot.  I opted for lunch, promising that we definitely would come back again soon.  I’ll lift more weights at the gym and be more prepared next time.  My commitment to bowling no more than once every three or four years dissolved and I’m already looking forward to the next game.

As we returned our shoes, we struck up a conversation with Ron Lichtenberger, the general manager.  He wanted to make sure we had enjoyed ourselves.  Our smiles confirmed that we had.  He suggested Dad join a Senior League.

“We have a lot of seniors playing.  In fact, we have a 97 year old woman who bowls an average of 120.  Hah!  Let me tell you a story…. We asked her to throw the first ball at the opening of the Women’s State Tournament.  Right before it started she came up to me and said … “My daughter says it’s okay…. Can I have a shot of Jack?” Naturally, I gave it to her.  She was terribly nervous about being in front of so many people.  She drank the shot of Jack, went back to the alley and threw a strike!”

Ron went on to tell us of another woman in her nineties that bowls there every week.

“Honora is 93.  She’s even in our Hall of Fame.  Just a little bit of a woman.  Come on over here and I’ll show you her photo on the wall.”

Dad and I followed Ron around the corner to the other end of the bowling alley.

“There she is!  Let me introduce you.”

Ron Lichtenberger and Honora Geddis

Honora thought I worked for a newspaper and was pleased to have her photo taken.  She showed me her place of honor on the wall.

Bowling Hall of Fame

She returned to her alley, picked up her ball and knocked nine pins down on the first throw.  Amazing.

Dad and I ordered a pizza and grabbed a table to write and draw until our pizza arrived.  As we waited, the bowling alley filled with teenagers all wearing matching shirts of one sort or another.  The darn whippersnappers threw strike after strike after strike, frowning when they achieved a spare instead.

Teenage Bowlers

Dad surprised me with a bit of prose instead of a poem.

January 12, 2012

Chris and Dad bowled at Strike N Spare on Route 22.  Score not important.  There are forty eight lanes and ten are being used at 3:15 PM.  Chris sketches while Dad writes.  We are pleased that the place is still in business.  It seems well run, clean, and people are having fun.  TV screens above the pins flash commercials as background music beats.  No one’s listening or watching except me, it seems, but who cares?  Chris ordered a small pizza that just arrived, so I’ll stop writing and start munching and chatting.  Fun !!!  Thanks, Chris!




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