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Friday, July 23, 2004

Ok, I'm outta here...
So things haven't been going so well with Charlie's mom.  Even though she says she wants to move in with us, she's dragging her feet about making a decision.  The reality of the situation is that she's really not going to cooperate. 

My right eye has a twitch.  It's been twitching since the first house I took her to and she told me not to get my hopes up.  At the next house, she told the realtor (a friend of ours who is doing us a favor and even forfeiting her percentage) how the last house we went to "had no personality"...well, DUH.  It's vacant.  On Wednesday, she called a different realtor behind my back because she didn't believe our friend was showing us all the five bedroom houses available.  Really, I think it's because she didn't trust me. 

Mom:  THIS realtor I called said there was another house available that you didn't mention.

Me:  Let me guess Mom; 321 Wimbeldon?  No?  How about 1671 Hazel?  Or maybe it was 575 Orange,  or 2502 Calvert, or 3071 Lorenzo.  Because those are the only 5 bedroom houses on the market right now.

Mom:  Well yes, those are the ones he gave me, but MY realtor also said this house (showing me the paper with the address) was available and it's a 5 bedroom. 

Me:  Ok, I'll call Abby and she can show us that one too.

Mom:  She can do that?  I thought only the realtor that is selling the house can show the house?

Me:  No Mom, ANY realtor can show you any house.  That's what they do.  If you want to see this house, we'll go see it.

Mom:  Well it can't hurt and since we're already going to be out....

My right eye:  **twitch**  **twitch**  **twitch**

Today, at an incredible house just down the street from her house, the one I told you all I was taking her to, she bit Caris' head off when Caris said to her "Look at the beautiful rose garden Grammy!"  Mom:  "Caris, I have eyes.  I can see.  You don't have to tell me what to look at."  So, I told the kids to just back off and let Grammy look around for herself.  Because she is so "wobbly" and frail, she could only take a few steps before she would have to stop and take a rest.  So it took us a good 45 minutes to do a walk-through.  While she was sitting and having a rest, my friend Abby showed me the paperwork she'd found on the listing that the realtor Mom called told her about.  She said that the house was only a 3 bedroom.

Mom:  That's NOT what he said on the phone.

Abby:  Well, maybe he just made a little error.  But, here's the listing if you'd like to look at it.    It's 3 bedrooms and 2 baths.  Maybe what he said was that it was a 5 room house.

Mom:  No, that's not what he said.

Me:  It's ok Mom.  We'll go see the house.  It's just around the corner.

As it turns out, she really loved the house we were in.  But she kept telling the owner AND my friend Abby about the house that Pua thought was perfect but she thought had "no character, and no personality."  Yeah, yeah, we know.  Eye twitching abounds.

Finally, after getting her back in the car, which is like trying to lead a horse with no blindfold away from a fire, we drive to the "5 bedroom house" HER realtor told her about.  When we got inside, it was pretty evident that the house was small.  And sure enough, it was a 3 bedroom house.   An apology?  Nahhhh....Twitch.  Twitch.

I took her home, made her lunch, and after a few bites of peach, she said to me..."You know, as much as you and Charlie want me to make a decision, and as much as I like that one house, if I sell my house, that's it.  I'll have no place to go."  What?  She's REALLY not getting this.  She just doesn't understand.   I should be blind in my right eye by now.  I'm not, but I do know this; I'm done.  It's out of my hands.  I've tried.  I've been patient and I've been respectful.  I washed up her lunch dishes, promised her I'd be back with her dinner, kissed her on the head, and left.  On the way home I called Charlie at work:

Me:  Honey, I'm done.  I just can't do this.  I've been at it non-stop since we got back from Hawaii and I just don't think she's getting it.

Charlie:  Pua, you've done a great job and I appreciate it.  I know Mom can be difficult and you've been incredible.  Don't worry about it anymore.  Go home and pack for your trip.

Pack?  Oh my gosh!  I completely forgot!  I'm leaving for Florida tomorrow morning.  I've been so wrapped up in Mom this week that it's slipped my mind.  Four months ago, my best friend from high school bought me and another friend tickets to go visit another high school friend who lives in Florida.  It will be the first time the four of us have been together since one of their weddings 8 years ago.  Four friends.  Five days on a beach in Florida.  Mass alcohol consumption while catching up on lives and looking at hot men.  And no talking about mother-in-laws.  For now anyway, the twitching seems to be getting less and less frequent.

See you Thursday kids.  Love one another.


Keeping My Fingers Crossed
We looked at another house yesterday.  It's in the same neighborhood that Charlie grew up in and where his mom's home is.  It's just around the corner.  Perhaps the familiarity of the neighborhood, and not having to leave neighbors will help ease her into a decision.  We can only hope.  Charlie's sister Jenny gave Mom an earful yesterday about how lucky she was that Charlie and I are willing to take her in and change our whole lives in order to do this.  She even told Mom that she herself couldn't take her in because it would be too much of a strain on her marriage.  I guess I have more patience with her because she's NOT my mom.  If that makes any sense.  I don't have any history with her, or any axes to grind.  I don't hold her responsible for any ills.  I just feel like she needs someone to take care of her now.  It's funny how the tables turn.  First you have to listen and obey your parents, and then the parents become the children and have to listen to their grown children tell them what they should do.   

I'm putting on my most calm "Patience Hat" today because I'm taking Mom to see the house at 1:00.  This should be interesting.  I'll take everything she might say with a grain of salt and know that she probably doesn't mean them in a hurtful way.   Charlie calls his mom an "EGR" person.  Extra Grace Required.  That always gives me a sense of peace and I know he's right.  There are just some people in life who you give a little more leeway to than others.  After 80 years and two bouts of cancer; I figure she rates.  It's a big change for all of us.  Maybe by the end of this, we'll ALL be EGR people. 

Send me good, peaceful vibes my friends.  I'm going to need them.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Mom painting at "Color Me Mine" Posted by Hello

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?.....Forever
Yep, the family vacation is really over :::sigh:::   I apologize for playing like the sloth and not blogging, but I've been in a sort of "Twilight Zone."  Charlie's sister Jenny picked us up from the airport at 5:30 am on Thursday morning, just in time for a tired family to watch the sunrise.  As we headed south from LAX to The OC, Jenny began to tell us all about the family (Charlie's side) excitement we've missed in the past week.  

As you recall, Jenny, Charlie, and I share the responsibility of taking care of Charlie's elderly mother.   He has two other sisters, but they live out of state and are unable to help in Mom's everyday care.  Since I haven't worked outside the home since May 2003, I haven't minded helping out and I know that both Charlie and Jenny appreciate that I'm there to fill in the gaps.  I've shared with you that Mom is an 80-year old two-time cancer survivor (lung, brain) and that last year she became a widow when Charlie's dad, after being diagnosed with a treatable heart ailment, selfishly decided not to hang around for treatment, and took his own life 

Over the past year, she's done pretty well living alone.  She can no longer drive, so we do all of her shopping, errands, and we take her to her church meetings and doctor visits.  Whatever she needs, we take care of.   Well, it appears that her days of living alone are at an end.  While we were in Hawaii, Mom took ill again and Jenny and her husband had to take Mom to the hospital.  She was in a great deal of pain and the doctors diagnosed her with Shingles (ouch!)  Since it wasn't life threatening, Jenny didn't call us over in Hawaii because she didn't want to alarm us.  But she says it's very evident that in a very short time, Mom's strength has diminished and everyone worries when she's alone.  Therefore, Jenny and her husband suggested that we either think about putting her in a home, or hire a full-time, live-in caregiver.  I cringe at the thought.

On Friday afternoon, I suggested to Charlie that we invite Mom to come and live with us.  It just seemed like the right thing to do.  He asked me if I understood the implications to our family unit.  Living with an elderly person is not new to me.  I lived with my adoptive grandparents from the time I was 12 until I was 17.  I found it to be a wonderful time in my life.  I learned so much and they had such interesting stories to tell.  I feel it enriched my life.  I'm thinking it will do the same for my kids, having Mom come and live with us.  Charlie thanked me.  There's nothing to thank me for.  It's the right thing.  We're a family.

On Friday night, Charlie made the suggestion to his Mom and asked her if she would like to come and live with us.   She seemed happy and said she liked the idea.  So now, we needed to decide whether we were going to add on to our existing home, or find a new house that would accomodate our needs.  Charlie started drawing up plans to remodel our house.   On Monday night, while we were over and Jenny's house talking about the "Mom Situation", his sister in Pittsburgh called.  Mom had fallen down while she was talking on the phone with her.  Instead of telling her to use her "I've fallen and I can't get up" Life Alert button which is what this is for, Charlie's sister called around to all the neighbors until she got someone to go over and help mom.  Now, that's all well and good, but Robin (the Pittsburgh sister) could have called either Charlie or Jenny, which she didn't, or she could have told Mom to press her Life Alert button.  That's why we got that for her.  The need for us to move quickly became apparant.  We didn't have time now to build on, we HAVE to find a house big enough for all of us and move.  NOW.

Charlie put his drawings aside, and I started looking on the internet for real estate listings in our area.  In all of Costa Mesa, a city of approximately 100,000 residents, there are only 4, count 'em, FOUR, listings for 5-bedroom houses on the market right now.   I got my friend Abie, an agent, to get us into all of them on Monday.  The kids went with me; I figured it couldn't hurt to get their opinions.  After all, this effects them.  Let's cut to the chase, shall we?  The places were too small, square footage wise, AND they wanted me to put up my son as collateral.  Either that, or cut off an arm and a leg...squeeze blood out of a turnip....and every other metaphor you can think of.  The least expensive home was $729,000!  Hello?  Are you shitting me?  For that kind of money, these better be pristine.  But no.  One, I would even consider a "fixer". 

Finally, at the last house, I kept my fingers crossed and said a little prayer before we went inside.  It was WAY more than we could afford on our own, but if we sold our house, and kept Mom's as a rental, or vice versa, we might be able to swing it.  The house was perfect.  Absolutely perfect.  It even had a renovated bottom floor HUGE, master suite with a sunny sitting room.  A little work and we could put in a mini kitchenette so mom could have her own little place if she just got sick of us.  We thought we'd hit paydirt.  I went over the next day and took Charlie AND a video camera so that we could show Mom what we'd found.  The kids went with us and excitedly ran around the upstairs, each "claiming" a room as their own.  It could work.  I began to see a happy lining.

That night, Charlie took the video over to show Mom.  She said she wanted to see it.  Yesterday afternoon, he brought her over.  There was now a "FOR RENT" sign in the yard.  I had a little panic attack.  The owner was getting desperate.  The house had been on the market for 45 days and he needed to either sell or get someone in there to lease.  The montly leasing amount you ask?  $2,875.00.  Good God.  My mortgage right now is $900.  We could NEVER afford to lease, but with the equity from Mom's house AND income from the rental of our house, we could afford a couple hundred more on a mortgage.  It was doable.  It would be really, really tight.  But it was doable.

The kids and I all waited outside while Charlie walked his mother through the house, which is no easy task.  After their walk-through, they came outside and on her way back to the car, she turned to look at me and she said..."Don't get your hopes up."  That was it.  I took that as a no.  The kids and I stood there stunned.  Me?  I wasn't surprised.  That's the kind of treatment I always got from Charlie's parents.  But I was always willing to turn the other cheek.

After all these years of putting up with all the crap they've put me through.  After being willing to be there to help care for her in her end days.  After offering to let her live with us and enjoy the benefits of a loving family.  I get "Don't get your hopes up."  I get the impression she's gonna be difficult and cantankerous throughout this entire process.  I'm not so sure I wanna be a nice girl anymore.

Is that bad?

Friday, July 16, 2004

Meeting up with Fabulous Ron! Posted by Hello

Mmmmmm...Shave Ice! Posted by Hello

Climbing trees in Kailua Town Posted by Hello

All The Cousins with Tutu (Grandma) Posted by Hello

My brothers, sisters, their spouses, me, Charlie, and my Mom Posted by Hello

Karaoke night for my brothers Kimo and Eddie Posted by Hello

The Washington Cousins meet the California Cousins at Honolulu Airport. Posted by Hello

Honolulu City Lights
"Looking out upon the city lights and the stars above the ocean,
  Got my ticket for the midnight plane, and it's not easy to leave again.
  Took my clothes and put them in the bag, try not to think just yet of leaving.
  Looking out into the city night, it's not easy to leave again.
  Each time Honolulu City Lights, stirs up memories in me.
  Each time Honolulu City Lights, will bring me back again.
  You are my island sunset, and you are my island dream......." 
  Keola Beamer
I've known and loved this song from the very first time I heard it in the late 70's.  As Keola says, "Music touches the heart, but we often forget that it has the power to transcend time."  I put the words here, because I couldn't think of lyrics more fitting to express how I feel right now.  I wish that somehow you could hear this song, because I know it would touch your soul with the emotions that I feel, that seem, for me, indescribable.
First, I want to tell you, friends of my heart in the blogdom, how grateful I am to have you to lean on, cry to, and even bitch to, as I have in the past.  I have felt your sincere care and support as I've embarked on this journey to find my birth family.  You've been awesome and I want you to know how much it means to me to know you're "out there."
Speaking of Out There, Charlie, Averie and I had the extreme good pleasure to meet up with Ron.  Let me just say this about that, my entire trip was full of very wonderful memories, not the least of which was getting to hug this very special man.  We had a little hitch in our getalong as Ron hustled on his little moped to a different hotel with the word "Monarch" in the title, but after some phone tag, I saw him motoring by and yelled out to him as he, in turn, yelled out to me ("Puaaaa where are youuuuuuuu???"), and then, after spotting me,  zoomed right up on the sidewalk!  We walked along the beach and talked, shared last call at "Room Without A Key," a beautiful oceanfront spot at the gorgeous Halekulani, and ended up under a palapa, chatting away while the sky opened on us.  Ron, you are warm, funny, articulate and on this trip I found you in my ohana as well.  It was an honor.  If you ever have need of a local momona "aunty" to sit on someone you no like, you only have to call...yeah?  Thank you for being SO accomodating to change your date to see us.  Your attitude of "If can can, if no can no can" made it very very easy for us.  But there was no friggin way I was going to leave that island without hugging you!  Much aloha to you my friend.
I won't go into every little detail or minute by minute account of the trip.  But I will tell you that from the minute we stepped off the plane in Hawaii, we were embraced with pure aloha.  My brother Eddie and my brother Kimo and their families were there to meet us, leis in hand, and love abounding.  From start to finish, we felt loved and welcomed and I can't tell you how many times I was told, "Pua, we're so glad you had to courage to step out and find us.  You are our ohana (family) and we are yours.  We love you.  Welcome home."
We were on the move constantly, as each one of my brothers and sisters wanted to have the chance to share their homes with us.  Each night, we were at a different sibling's home for dinner, and everyone in the family gathered there.  Charlie and I commented on how they put out the red carpet and even though most everyone had to work, they still did their best to make our experience wonderful.  We were on vacation, but they still had their regular lives to attend to.  Yet, there was never a complaint.  All we ever felt was love.  Since I have brothers and sisters ALL OVER the island, it was no easy process to get everyone to a certain spot at a certain time, but they did it night after night with smiles on their faces.
I didn't have the opportunity to meet my mother and father until the day after we arrived, so that first night, I didn't sleep very well.  Come to think of it, I didn't sleep for a few nights before we left.  Nerves.  Scared.  The morning after our arrival, I was to meet my mother.  My brother Kimo was bringing her to town (Waikiki) for breakfast.  Eddie and his wife Petra were staying at the hotel next door to ours, just for the fun of it.  Kimo and his family, who came in from Seattle, were staying at my sister Ululani's house, so he brought mom to see us.  When I saw her walk in, I started to cry and I walked over to embrace her.  She whispered in my ear..."Aloha my long lost daughter.  I'm your mother and I'm so happy you're here.  I'm so happy you found me." 
She held me, and we cried together.  All through breakfast, she held my hand and she kept apologizing for giving me away.  She said that she hoped I didn't hate her for what she did.  I could tell that this was even more emotional for her than it was for me.  My presence reminded her of regrets.  Of decisions that she made so long ago that she has been wrestling with for so many years.  She had her own demons haunting her.  I put my arm around her and I told her that I didn't hate her and that I had nothing but respect for whatever decision she had to make.  I told her I was grateful that she gave me life.  I told her that she didn't owe me an apology and that I was so happy to finally know her.  Of all the questions I had in my life, they were not questions of "Why did this happen to me?" or "Did they not love me or want me?"  My questions were, "Why am I so different from the family that raised me?"  "Who do I look like?"  "Are there people out there who look and act like me?"  I now had the answers to those questions.  An empty space in my life was now filled with familiar faces looking back at me with my own eyes, and my own smile.
We talked and talked and I tried to spend as much time with her as I could.  She's tiny, and frail, and she tires easily.  I knew that I'd have days ahead to talk with her more and I would take advantage of those times.  Over the course of days, each time I had a chance to sit with Mom, it was she who would first apologize to me.  It could sense it was she that had suffered more than I ever suffered.  She would talk about meeting my adoptive mother and how she had promised that she would keep in touch and send pictures of me growing up, but she never did.  Once I was handed over, my parents took me and disappeared.  The funny thing is that both my adoptive mother and my birth mother were from Hawaii, so here I was growing up on the same island as the rest of my siblings, only not knowing about each other.  In fact, I went to school with my sister's brother-in-law, I had the same favorite bakery as my brother Eddie, my brother Kimo and I both love Zippy's and Shiro's in Waimalu (Hawaii's Denny's).  We may have passed each other so many times in so many places.
This family of mine, my ohana, who I have never known but now know...it's as if we have known each other our whole lives.  The time went fast with so much love and so much laughter.  I felt my heart burst as my kids met their cousins and shared their lives.  I told them I was blessed with Charlie.  He was the one that always encouraged me to find them.  They asked questions about me, about my life.  Where had I been?  What do I care about?  What makes me me?  They asked me to tell the story of how I found them, and the keikis (children) and teenagers gathered around at my table with their parents, my siblings behind them, to hear it.  Their mouths agape, their eyes wide with astonishment, and then the tears would come.  In the end, everyone thanked Charlie for pushing me to continue my search for them.  My mother especially told him how grateful she was to him.  I am too.
To embrace with love seems so small a term but the impact it had on me was overwhelming.  I had a family.  They loved me.  They wanted to know me and they wanted me to be a part of their lives.  I grew up without them, but they let me know that I would never be without them again.  We tried to make up for 40 plus years of lost time in just 7 days.  We laughed, we cried, we loved, and in the process, the distant sadness in the dark corner of my heart went away.  Now, life will never be the same. 
Charlie has often asked me if I ever wanted to move back and live in Hawaii.  I've always told him no.  I had no desire to live there.  There was nothing there for me.  On the night before we left, we sat out on the balcony of our hotel room and he asked me that familiar question.  This time, I said that I could.  My family is there. 

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

The Time Has Come

I have spent the last three days going over an entire life. I've pondered and agonized over what I should take to Hawaii to give to my family. My mom (the one that raised me) always told me to never go empty handed to a party, function, whatever. Whetever the occasion, bring something. So, I couldn't think of a more approriate gift than a scrapbook full of my life. I know that sounds a little self absorbed. But if you think about it; I have 43 years of time to fill for the mother that gave birth to me, but who never knew where I was, or what I had become. I somehow think this is appropriate.

I'm scared. Please think of me and send me your best thoughts as I leave tomorrow. My friend Greg calls his blog "A Day in the Life". Somehow that seems so appropo. 43 years to fill in just a short time. Ron, I will call you when I arrive. Maybe sooner.

I'll blog when I return. Love you all and feel your love. Aloha nui loa. Pua

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Grommet Bry and Mom - Summer 99 Posted by Hello

Surfer's Worship

I have often talked about acts of worship, and how I look to pay homage to whatever beings hold the miracle of creation in their hands. Whether it's Momma Ocean, Neptune, Triton. Whatever deity or higher royal power they may be. We, being mere mortals, give them human personifications and call them "He", "She", or "It"...because in a sense, our knowledge of the things that BE are so limited. There is vastness that we cannot comprehend beyond our small way of thinking. I think that's where so many people make a mistake of putting the involuntary action of breathing into a box and labeling it "LIFE". We put just enough into the box for our little friend to merely exist and say we're doing our best. When really, all it wants is to allow us to sprout wings and fly. To blossom and grow. But we hide it from the sun and say we're protecting it. How small is that?

This morning, Momma Ocean not only beckoned...she rang the bell and said "NOW, my children..now is YOUR time...I give this to you." The ones who heard ran to her with wide eyes of wonder and smiles so radiant they could not be kept hidden away in a small box. Wings sprouted. Not near the pier, but between the jetties, she laid down her hand and said, "Come play!" The lineup grew. She pounded the beach and every wave she gave sent up a mist so fine that when it hit your face it felt like the perfect kiss. 3's and 4's, long and clean and breaking right. One after another. She sent them down like bowling balls down an alley. Every single one a strike and you prayed someone was close by so that you could give a high five. The kind of day where you looked over your shoulder when you finished your ride just to see if the guy next to you would be as blessed as you...but you already KNEW he was, because he was looking over his shoulder at the guy behind him too. The kind of day where the gonzo Blackie's guys didn't stand around in their Ugg boots, drinking coffee...they suited up and came to the "church of Momma" because they couldn't stand the thought of not being part of the services. It was what Branden Diaz called "Tavaruan Bliss," but it was happening right here in Newport. You'd paddle out, and you wouldn't even have time to say "thank you", because SHE had already picked you up and brought you in. So you'd belly up and go for it again and remember that you should be grateful on the way out because you knew She'd be there ready to take you again.

You ached when you were done, but in an entirely awesome and profoundly satisfying way. That smile you started with is still on your face and your face hurts because you can't stop smiling. Everyone you pass with their sticks on their heads or under their arms, coming in or paddling out, sense the incredible fellowship and they feel as if the sermon can go on all day and they won't ever fall asleep while She preaches. Touched to the very core by an incredible gift.

Today, the Life Box opened and joy flew out. Living, breathing, blossoming joy. Worship in its most precious sense.