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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"You Should Have Been Here Yesterday"

To a surfer, there is nothing more frustrating than paddling out into the lineup of other surfers out in the water, and hearing another surfer say;
"You should have been here yesterday!"
The idea being, if you think today is good surf, then you really missed out, because yesterday was better than today.

In my mind, those are not the surfers who really "get" it. To me, surfing was more spiritual. I didn't go out there looking for the perfect wave. I went out there because it was "church" to me. Out there, all problems ceased. Out there, no worries existed. Out there, there was only the water, my board, and me. Out there, there was peace.

I tried to pass that desire for the peace that came with surfing on to The Grommet. I wanted him to feel the comfort and serenity that Mama Ocean could bring in a world full of chaos. It was definitely the one thing we shared. Even when I could not go with him, and he started to head to the beach on his own, I always knew when he had been to the water. Not by the tell-tale wetsuit in the bathtub, or the sandy beach towels on the garage floor, but by the calmness in his demeanor.

Yes, he had friends who surfed. But they were the ones who told him he should have been there yesterday. He would shrug, understanding that they were clueless. A bad day surfing is better than a good day working...and to us, with surfing, there are no bad days. So, he was pretty much a loner out there. Until he met Jeff in freshman year. Unlike Grommet, Jeff looked the part of the California surfer dude; a beach-bleached, blonde-haired, blue-eyed gremmie (young surfer, aka grommet). Like Grommet, Jeff was a second generation surfer. Jeff's dad was a surfing maniac.

Unfortunately, finding his surfing kindred spirit was a short-lived joy, because Jeff and his family moved to the Big Island in the boys' sophomore year. And so, Bryson was back to being the loner. Not that it was bad. Remember, "a bad day surfing..." However, things didn't work out in Hawai'i the way that Jeff's family had hoped, and very soon, Jeff was back, much to Bryson's delight. Their friendship intensified; they both loved music and Jeff was a virtual musical prodigy. They both loved to surf and Jeff didn't care if there were no waves as long as they were in the water. They both loved friends, and a good time, and laughter. But mostly, Bryson appreciated that Jeff did not play games. He was sensitive, humble, kind, and generous, and he tried to shy away from clique-ish behavior. Sure, he could be a prankster, and he loved a good practical joke. But he was not mean-spirited, and he was not emotionally manipulative, and he did not go out of his way to exclude. Shy and self-effacing as he was, if he ever found out that someone felt left out, he would do what he could to right that wrong, and not repeat the error. Bryson had had too much of that in circles of young people who called themselves his "friends" before. He didn't want to work that hard anymore, just to get hurt in the end. Jeff never made him work that hard. They bonded with their love of Hawai'i, music, and the ocean, and with his generous spirit, Jeff taught Bryson to take things slow. Master that chord, stand on that board, and if you need to, fake it till you make it, but NEVER stop trying. NEVER stop practicing. NEVER stop.

Jeff shared his friends, and soon many adventures began. They traveled, they formed a band, they beer-ponged, they partied, they made hilarious videos, they moved their "events" from one garage to another, and they grew into young men. Jon and Jeff shared music first, then Bryson and Justin joined them and they had a band and no matter where they were, there was ALWAYS music. Someone had a guitar, or a ukulele. Where there was Jeff, Jon, Bryson, and Justin, there was music. They have a core group of friends and you'd see familiar faces when friends who were away at college would come home for the summer.

There was ONE thing though, that was just Bryson and Jeff's alone; surfing. It was where they talked about everything under the sun. Their deep and philosophical talks about life and death and the hereafter. When the cancer sometimes became something that Jeff could not leave on the shore and he needed to talk about heavy things, that's where he brought them. Bry said he was never negative, just comtemplative. He never asked why, but he did want to know how long. Even then, he would tell Bry; "Make sure my parents know I'm okay. Make sure they know I know where I'm going and I'm okay. I'm at peace with it." Then, he would smile and tell Bryson that he knew he would beat this, and they would be each other's best men at their weddings and one day, they would be out there in the water, teaching their own grommets how to surf. He and Bryson would sit out on their boards in the glassy water and they'd talk for hours, sometimes watching the sun go down and laughing that they might want to go in before they become shark biscuits.

After the beautiful paddle out for Jeff on Saturday (which I will write more about next time because there's much to say), Charlie and I were telling Bryson how very proud we were of him and though it was difficult, the way he handled himself so nobly for his friend....we knew that Jeff was there and he was happy. It was then, in the safety of home and with all of us around him he cried. He cried for his loss and he grieved.

"It's funny."
Bry said.
"You know, everyone called Jeff their best friend. Jon says Jeff was his best friend and for sure, Jon knew Jeff the longest. I say Jeff was my best friend. Lots of people would say Jeff was their best friend. Edgar, Karli, and Gina would say Jeff was their best friend. And it's true. That was Jeff. Everyone wanted to be his best friend, and they were. But for me, he was my brother. I've lost my brother, my only surf buddy, my soulful friend."

My heart breaks for him. I know he will move on from this, because, he says, that's what Jeff wants and he wants to make him proud. But right now the loss is so great and I hurt for Bry. I hurt for Jon and the Whalen family, and Broc, and Mike. Those boys were at the hospital throughout these long three years, in and out, every single time. Leaving school, their jobs, and their personal events. Putting their own lives on hold while Jeff's life was on hold. Time after time. There for the good, there for the bad, and there for everything in between. To say I am proud of them would be the understatement of the century. If character is anything, these young men showed unbelievable character, putting their priorities in the right place...right next to their friend. I hurt for Jeff's mom and dad, who fought tirelessly and with great hope by their son's side. I hurt for our own family that someone so dear is missing. But right now, I hurt for my son who lost his brother, and for his brother's parents who have lost their son.

The thing is though, and I told this to The Grommet...when I think about Jeff and his surfing soul, I take great comfort in knowing that he never once said; "You should have been here yesterday!" Because he lived every minute, IN the minute, and he never wanted anyone, let alone himself, to feel like they missed out on anything, ever. That's what Bryson needs to remember, because that's a gift Jeff gave him all those years ago.


Anonymous Karen said...

Gosh, I'm crying and crying here, Pua. That was beautiful.

10:05 AM  
Blogger bigislandjeepguy said...


7:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I thought maybe today would be a day with dry eyes for a change.... That's not the case! Pua, you are an amazing writer! - Wes

8:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember when I was struggling as a senior in high school with what I thought were the heavy burdens of life (and some of them were quiet challenging), I had the great fortune to read an article written by a surfer. I didn't surf, I didn't know surfers. But that day, I was heavely influenced by one. He was the Jeff of 1976. Same issues, different time. He lived for the peace of the ocean, the love of the surf and people, and lived in the moment. His words helped me find some peace in a chaotic world. I hung on his every word and started to remodel my life to try things from his perspective. What a difference. Here we go again. It is difficult to try to understand a world without Jeff, but when I see the miracles that he left in the wake of his life, his love of others, his deep friendships, I can see now that he never really left us, he is in everything that surrounded him and in everyone that had the pleasure to know him. He rode the wave of life very well...........And so many of the people he influenced are sitting in the line up right now, ready to catch a beautiful wave and follow his example. - Charlie

8:15 AM  
Blogger Pua; Bakin' and Tendin' Bar said...

Wes; it's hard for me to keep my heart from spilling its contents. Words are how that happens. Love you.

Uhane; I will refrain envisioning that. But then, it's good for a much-needed giggle.

My sweet friend and life partner; perhaps this is why we found each other when we did. Though you did not surf, nor ever had, I found in you the soul of one who did, and totally "got it". Everyone should have that kind of friend. I adore you. Always.

8:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pua, you have a beautiful sou! And I totally agree with Wes, you are an amazing writer!! - Kathleen

8:17 AM  
Blogger Pua; Bakin' and Tendin' Bar said...

Thank you Kathleen. I kinda like your soul too. :)

8:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

‎...my mascara is running....and I am at work...hate when that happens....Trent

8:17 AM  
Blogger Pua; Bakin' and Tendin' Bar said...

Trent...if I were there, I'd fix that for you. :) Love and miss you.

8:18 AM  
Blogger Pua; Bakin' and Tendin' Bar said...


8:19 AM  

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