Just last week, I was on a plane bound for Hawai'i, my home. I didn't realize that tonight, of all nights this week, would be the toughest... so far. I returned to Boise on Tuesday, leaving at 8am Hawai'i time, spending a 3.5 hour layover in LA (crying, laughing, eating, and drinking), and finally landing in Boise just before 11pm. A few hours later (only two-and-a-half hours of sleep), I was in the office for an early meeting. For the last three days, work has kept me distracted. I love my job and I booked my week up with shoots and video edits - no time for sitting and thinking. Leaving work tonight and taking the slow drive home, it started to hit. I have to deal with the rest of my life now and the first part of that is understanding where I spent my last weekend.
For the last 26 years, I've gone home multiple times. Every trip to Hawai'i has been a great experience. I visited old places, learned about new places, saw my family, and experienced my history. Every trip has been a blessing and every trip always leaves me longing for my next return. This particular trip, however, which only lasted three full days on the actual island, was the most amazing and breathtaking experience of my life. I finally know the meaning of going home.
On Friday night, my youngest brother and I arrived at the Honolulu airport. The air was hot and muggy, just the way I like it. We exited the plane, hit the restrooms to empty our bladders of the booze we drank on the plane (only one, mind you), then started texting family to let them know we had arrived. We felt and looked at home with our tank-tops, slippers, and *slightly* darker skin. Okay, I'm white, but I'm not as white as most of the people who live in Boise. And my brown eyes and dark curly hair make up for my lack of a Hawaiian tan. But I digress. Our dad picked us up at the airport and took us to our hotel in Waikiki.
After checking ourselves out in the mirror (my brother is so like me, it's crazy), we headed to a local bar for drinks and a late dinner. My dad had been in Hawai'i for two weeks by the time we arrived and hadn't been to the beach once. So, after getting him slightly tipsy, I said, "Let's go to the beach."
"But it's midnight!" My dad said.
"So?" I replied.
And off we went. My dad, my youngest brother, and me. We put our feet in the sand and felt each grain between our toes. We let the warm salt water splash on our feet. We watched the moon move across the sky and the stars come out one-by-one. Life, in that moment, was pretty damn close to perfect. We knew what the next three days would bring, so we soaked up the beach and started our journey of becoming closer to each other, our family, and our home.
On Saturday, after waking up to a beautiful Hawaiian sunrise and going for a run down Waikiki Beach, we headed to see Papa. Papa is staying at a care facility while he recovers from his recent surgery. Our Papa has been battling memory loss for years. In 2013, when I went home for my cousin's wedding, Papa didn't really recognize me. You could see a glimmer of recognition in his eyes, but he never quite knew exactly who I was. At that time, I understood that life is what it is - it continues to move forward, whether we want it to, or not.
When we arrived at Papa's care facility on Saturday, my Papa saw me. He saw me for the first time in years. He smiled as tears poured down his face. I leaned over to hug him, and he held me tight. We didn't want to let each other go. He knew me in that moment and he whispered, "I love you."
My Papa has been my Superman since the beginning of (my) time. He taught me how to love, share, cherish everyone, and live. He taught me how to be peaceful, happy, and respected, all at the same time. To see our (because he's not just mine) Superman confined to a wheelchair, was difficult to say the least. But as with all life, time keeps moving forward.
We spent many hours at that care facility on Saturday, loving on Papa and enjoying time with the cousins and Uncle. I helped Papa eat his lunch, wiped his nose for him, walked with my cousin while she pushed him in his wheelchair, and talked to him about Pearl Harbor. He didn't always know what he was talking about, but when he joked, he raised his eyebrows the way Papa always did, and I knew that man was still in there. He fake-punched my cousin and thought I was his nurse, but his joking smile took me back to the days when we would spend the night at Tutu and Papa's house and Papa would help us build paper airplanes and let us have contests off the staircase to see who's plane could glide the farthest. I would like to say that my plane always won because Papa had been teaching me for months before the others arrived, but that may not be true. Guess we'll just have to have a paper airplane flying contest the next time I go home.
That Saturday evening, after having a necessary family meeting, we went to Tutu and Papa's house to see our Tutu for the first time since the last time. I shared the pictures I took of Papa that day with Tutu, and she and I shared tears of how much he's changed over the years. My cousins, brother, and I laughed at everything and enjoyed being with each other once again in Tutu's house. Slowly, one-by-one, the cousins left to go to their own homes and feed and take care of their own keiki (children). Eventually, it was just little brother, me, and Tutu sitting on the couch. Tutu told me that she loved having us all there and she missed the laughter and the incredibly full house that all the cousins could bring. I had to agree with her. Our holidays (Christmas especially) were so full of family and love. There were so many of us that we could hardly fit into the living room, so we spilled out into other rooms, laughing, loving, and sharing life.
The thing about Hawai'i, is that time doesn't really matter. Ever since I moved to the Mainland, I stress about time. Every excuse is, "I don't have time for that." That is a sad excuse for anything, because there will always be more time, you just have to know how to find it. In Hawai'i, if you're two hours late, you're right on time. You arrived when you meant to arrive, and everything else just falls into place. I have a really difficult time grasping that on the Mainland, but it's true. Whether you're 20 minutes late, or 20 minutes early, you are exactly where you're supposed to be. And all those times we spent at Papa and Tutu's house, was exactly where we were meant to be. This entire trip to Hawai'i, completely unplanned, was exactly where I was supposed to be. I will never regret my decision to go home.
That night, Saturday-party-day, we hung out with our cousins. They managed to find some hotel rooms only .7 miles from our hotel, so my youngest bro and I hiked out to see them with a 12-pack and a bottle of Jack in tow. We invited Dad, but he wanted to sleep - none of us blamed him. We got to their room and the booze started flowing. We shared stories of our childhood - secrets that some of us didn't know. We laughed, we hugged, we cried, but most of all we had the best cousin gathering I could ever imagine. Many of the cousins couldn't make it, but those of us that did, "the bookends" as my dad calls us - the oldest and the youngest of the families - really connected. We shared so many embarrassing stories (and made embarrassing videos about those stories) that I am still reeling from the honesty that that night brought. It was needed. The connections we had with each other were real. Life and love and time were shared. I am at a loss for words and am unable to attempt to continue describing that night. It was precious, it was beautiful, and it was needed. Cousins: This WILL happen again, with all of us.
My dad put it best: Being with your cousins, was like no time had passed.
We woke early on Sunday, and joined the cousins for breakfast at a local (and pretty famous) cafe. Half of the restaurant was cleared for the 16 of us, as we continued to tell stories of our childhood while watching the keiki (my cousin's kids) enjoy their own cousin time together. The meaning of Ohana is being passed down through the generations. After breakfast we went to see Papa again. And again, he saw me. He was never able to call me by name, but he knew who I was. We sat with him, and loved on him, and spent as much time as we could with him. I learned in these three short days that life is what we make of it and we all have the opportunity to make it good. I pushed him in his wheelchair and we admired the local flowers and watched the geckos scurry away as I pointed at them. Although Papa couldn't run, we "ran" together - he in his wheelchair and me in my slippers.
After visiting with Papa, we went to dinner with my Auntie and cousin at a well known place called Zippy's. They're famous for their chili and ever since going vegetarian, I thought I would never be able to enjoy Zippy's chili ever again. But I was wrong. They make vegetarian chili!!!! And I ate it. We had a wonderful time reconnecting with my Auntie and cousin and sharing massive amounts of love that we hadn't been able to share for a long time. She is an integral part of our Ohana and I have always secretly admired her laugh. When she laughs, the world lightens up and life becomes a little bit easier. You can feel it in your heart and her laughter sings long after she's pau (done) laughing.
That night, my dad, brother, and I retired to our room in Waikiki and shared some drinks. Well, Brother didn't drink as he was preparing for a 15-mile run the next morning (he's training for a marathon), but Dad and I took care of his share as well as ours. Although I spent some of the evening working (not because I had to, but because I wanted to), my dad and I spent the majority of the evening really connecting. I never get much time with my dad. There are always other people involved, which is the way it should be - we have a big family and Dad and I are the comedians. (Don't you dare argue that point with me, little brother.) More importantly, my dad is the one who is always giving and in giving, he is usually surrounded by friends and family. So, to have an hour alone with my dad is always a blessing. We talked, I cried, we laughed, and he took me shopping. I made a list of gifts that I wanted to get my friends back in Idaho, a way to give me something to do and think about when I didn't want to be alone in my own head. And that night, my dad and I went shopping in downtown Waikiki... drunk (at least I was) and we had fun. Neither of us are shoppers - just ask the clothes hanging in my closet that I've owned for five years - but we used that time to bond even closer and try not to wake Brother when we got back to the room.
Did I mention that I had to share a bed with my youngest brother? And it was a double! Not a queen, not a king size, but a double. After the first night, any accidental leg touching didn't matter. It's good to know that even in my mid-30's (he's still only in his late 20's) I can share a bed with my brother and we can wake up the next morning and make fun of each other in our PJs and rub sunscreen on the other's back. That's love.
Monday came too soon. Seeing as how it was my last day and I hadn't fulfilled my promise to my mom to take my dad to the beach, we called it a day of relaxing. Dad and I worked for a couple of hours in the morning, while little brother went for a 15-mile run. Relaxing, right? Then I ran two miles to my favorite restaurant to order my favorite breakfast, which I had been craving for months before I even thought I'd be back home. The restaurant was out of my breakfast, but we still enjoyed talking and drinking mimosas, and eating good food. Then, we set out for our family tour around the island.
Every time we visit the island, our dad takes us on a drive around O'ahu. It is only about a two hour drive, less time than it takes some people to get to work, and worth every single minute spent in the car. For this trip, we headed into Haleiwa, an old Hawaiian town on the North Shore of O'ahu. As my dad and brother hit Matsumotos for their famous shave ice, I once again went shopping for the perfect gifts for my friends. Haleiwa has really grown since I lived there and I am so blessed to have been able to experience it in a time before tourist shops and restaurants could pop up, begging people to enter and consume their merchandise.
After eating and shopping were done, we then headed toward Kahuku and Hau'ula, where we used to live, and on our way we spotted two (or three) humpback whales just off the coast. I made my dad pull over - it was more of a screech of "dad, dad, daddy, daddy, dad, pull over, pull over now, daddy, daddy, dad!" but he pulled over and the three of us jumped out to capture the beauty of mating whales. Despite the time I spent living in and visiting Hawai'i, I had never before seen humpback whales that up close and personal.
We rounded the island and headed to our favorite swim spot at Turtle Bay. Brother and I, being the light-skinned people that we are, put on sunscreen and set ourselves up to spend at least an hour on the beach - me in the water and he sunbathing. After helping each other apply the sunscreen, I ran into the ocean, while Brother settled himself comfortably on the sand. I had just entered the water, and exclaimed to my dad how wonderful it was and that I miss the beach so much and I could live in the water, he told me that it was time to go. "But my sunscreen hasn't even done it's job!"
"I know!" He laughed, "I told you you wouldn't need it."
"Well," I said, "I guess I'll head back... as soon as I catch the next wave."
Joke's on him, there are no waves in Turtle Bay.
The salt water in my hair, the sunscreen on my skin, the sand stuck to my feet, were all worth the ten minutes we could spend at the beach. We spent the amount of time that we could afford, and we cherished every minute of it.
From there, we drove to our house in Hau'ula and I snapped some photos of our old property and the house we grew up in. It has certainly changed for the worse and seeing it made me cry. I am of the islands. I wasn't just born there. The land flows through my blood as ancient as the family that I come from. It is not just a place, but a sacred space meant for those who truly grasp and understand the depth of the islands and all that comes with it. Hawai'i is not an easy place to live. Despite the hotels, the manicured beaches, and the fancy drinks, it has it's secrets. It has it's dark places. The secrets and places that people who are from the islands know very well. The school buses we may have lived on, the hidden garage where the neighbor found you, the home that you once knew. This trip, more than any, made me realize how lucky I am to have grown up in such a beautiful place. To have experienced life in the Aloha state, and to understand that time runs at a different pace.
After seeing our old homestead and realizing why I long to live in the country, but ache at the thought of leaving a big city, we headed home to Tutu and Papa's house. First, we stopped to see Papa for one last time. I was wearing a hat, and when I entered his room he didn't know me. I said, "Hi Papa," and he still looked at me with confused eyes. I took off my hat and his tears rolled down his face. We hugged and he said, "I love you." I love you, Papa. Thank you for knowing me.
That entire weekend, Papa would hug Brother, but he never knew who he was hugging. Papa hugged because he had to. He would pat my brother on the back and then continue eating, or trying to talk to whomever was closest. That evening, as we stood over our Papa, he looked at Brother, pointed and said, "You're the one who sleeps with men." Brother and I looked at each other in shock, then started laughing. Yes, Papa knew who his young grandson was. In that moment, Papa knew and we all laughed. We still don't know who told Papa, but whether it was that he was told, or he just knew, he recognized my brother.
We said goodbye to Papa. Leaving him with love, life, and time. We shared dinner with the cousins and hugs with Tutu. My baby cousins taught me how to hula and sang for me with their beautiful voices. We took pictures, laughed with Tutu, and promised each other that we wouldn't wait so long for our next trip home. It was like old times again, all we needed was the Beach Boys to sing Kokomo for us.
We tried to go to bed early that night - dad managed - but Brother and I stayed up, packing and talking, and playing on our phones. Posting photos and Facebook updates about our trip, doing our best to stall and not go to bed, knowing that we would be leaving the next day.
I woke up at 4am, before the sun rose, and left the island. As I sat in the airport, attempting to drink my coffee and eat some fruit, a familiar song began playing on the loud speaker...
I am sitting here wanting memories to teach meto see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.I am sitting here wanting memories to teach meTo see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.You said you'd rock me in the cradle of your arms.You said you'd hold me ‘til the storms of life were gone.You said you'd comfort me in times like these and now I need you.Now I need you...And you are -gone.So, I am sitting here wanting memories to teach meto see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.Since you've gone and left me, there's been so little beauty,but I know I saw it clearly through your eyes.Now the world outside is such a cold and bitter place.Here inside I have few things that will console.And when I try to hear your voice above the storms of life,then i remember all the things that I was told.Well, I am sitting here wanting memories to teach meto see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.Yes, I am sitting here wanting memories to teach meTo see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.I think on the things that made me feel so wonderful when I was young.I think on the things that made me laugh , made me dance, made me sing.I think on the things that made me grow into a being full of pride.I think on these things, for they are true.I am sitting here wanting memories to teach meto see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.I thought that you were gone, but now I know you're with me.You are the voice that whispers all I need to hear.I know a "Please", a "Thank you", and a smile will take me far.I know that I am you and you are me, and we are one.I know that who I am is numbered in each grain of sand.I know that I am blessed,again, and again, and again, and again,and, again.I am sitting here wanting memories to teach meto see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.I am sitting here wanting memories to teach meTo see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
To my Ohana: Thank you for the memories. I take you and all your love, time, and life, into my own life from now and forever more. My trip home was more than a trip, it was a lesson in love. Mahalo.