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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Saying Aloha

Last Wednesday, I received a call from my sister Lokelani. She said that our brother Eddie had called her from Hawaii and told her that our father was in the hospital. He had gone in last Friday because he didn't "feel well". Over the course of the next few days, he unexpectedly took a turn for the worse. He was now unconscious, on a respirator and not breathing on his own. The family was gathering because the doctors didn't think he was going to hold on much longer and Dad made it known that he did not want to live hooked up to machines. The asbestosis in his lungs had finally staked their claim.

In a hurry, and with help from loving friends who knew that money was tight, I got an emergency flight on Saturday morning. As soon as I arrived at Honolulu Airport, I picked up my car and literally FLEW straight to the hospital. The waiting rooms were full of family; brothers, sisters, their spouses, children and grandchildren. The generations pooled together for strength in a troubled time. I hugged my mother. She looked tired and weary, and though surrounded by those that loved her, she seemed tiny and alone.

My brother Eddie took me to Dad's room where more family sat vigil. Dad looked so different from when I last saw him in October. I cried. He was just a thin shell of the robust man he once was. Gaunt, and weak, Eddie touched his head and told him quietly; "Pua's here Dad". I leaned in and squeezed his hand while the machines beeped and whirred and did their job. I whispered that I loved him. No response. We took turns the rest of the day and evening sitting by his side. As the evening progressed more family arrived; our brother Kimo and his wife getting in from Washington.

On Sunday, I was on my way to the airport to pick up Loke when I got a call from Eddie. Our sister Lee had called from the hospital and said that we needed to get there as soon as possible. Dad was responsive and he indicated that he wanted off the machines. He was crying, in so much pain, and just begged to be let go. I collected Loke and her luggage and we sped off, yet again. The family gathered in Dad's room, we were literally wall to wall, shoulder to shoulder, holding hands around Dad's bed while Kimo prayed. "We're going to let Dad rest. He doesn't want to be this way. He's made his peace with God and he just wants to let go. We'll honor his wishes and we'll say our alohas." We did just that.

The hospital staff was loving and patient. They allowed every one of us, especially Mom, the time we needed to talk to Dad, tell him we loved him, and say our goodbyes. Then, they hooked up a morphine drip, and removed all the tubes and the respirator. Dad struggled for a short time, but soon, surrounded by so much love, he drifted away into a place free from pain. We consoled each other and I remember thinking to myself how grateful I was to have been here, how grateful to have this family, how grateful that even though my time with him was so short, that he knew about me.

I'll be in Hawaii until after the memorial service on the 26th, followed by Dad's burial with full military honors on March 2nd. It's a long time and I'm missing Charlie and the kids so much; I wish they were here. But, right now, I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be. In good times and bad, I'm grateful for this beautiful thing called ohana.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

I Didn't Think It Would Be This Hard

I know it's silly, but I just can't help it. And I thank all of you who've worried, called, emailed, and sent loving hugs from afar. I'm okay. Honest. I'll be back to normal soon. Whatever "normal" is. Right now, however, I'm a bit out of sorts. My eldest child moved out this month.

Yes, I knew this time was coming. So I did have time to prepare. But no matter how prepared you think you may be, it's still not easy when the offspring take flight. Charlie's friends tease me, roll their eyes back and emit little gasps of "Oh Brother, Pua." However, the women in my life are quick to hug me when their question of "How's Averie doing at her dorm?" brings me to tears.

Ellie and I are mopey. She waits in the chair by the door for her friend to come home, stuffed toy at the ready for some playtime. Bryson and Caris still fight over who gets to move into her room. No one gets to, of course, because I remind them that Averie will be back home for the summer. Yet, when I walk by her quiet room, it's almost unbearable. I miss her presence in this house. I miss our coffee talks in the morning. I miss her delight in telling me what her day will bring. I miss how when she walks out the door every morning, she always says "Bye Mommy, I love you."

I try really hard not to pick up the phone 100 times a day to talk to her. I know the first couple of days I must have driven her to the brink of insanity. But, she would never question how much I love her. I'm sitting here blubbering as I type this and I think of what my friend Aub always says about having ovaries of steel. We Moms definitely have those when it comes to protecting our cubs. But right now, mine are mush. And I just miss her.