It’s been fifteen years since I’ve seen my father in the flesh. The last time I saw him, before the funeral, he was lying in his hospital bed, already gone. The hospital called to tell me my father had passed away. I begged them not to take his body away until I got there. I was 22 years old, and I wanted to see him one last time. He really did look like he was just sleeping. I got to hold his hand one more time.
In my entire life, I can’t really remember ever seeing her cry, but that day I noticed the balled-up kleenex in my mom’s hand. She’d been waiting an hour for me to get there, and didn’t allow them to take my dad away until I saw him.
I had a dream recently: My dad was walking up the street and I was walking in the opposite direction, back to my house on the other side. He was with one of the occupational therapists/nurse-type people, and he was looking down, walking slowly, smiling at something I couldn’t hear.
I didn’t get to have a lot of adult conversations with him, since he’d gotten sick when I was in the eighth grade. But I can tell you, he was one of those renaissance men. He was smart, athletic, funny, came from a farm in Lualualei, knew how to fix almost everything that broke in our home, was in the Air Force during the Korean War, and a fly-weight boxer… Played football, was one of the “Gypsies” of Waianae. (I don’t quite know what that means, but my mom used to say it). He worked at Pearl Harbor for over 30 years, starting from the bottom as a mechanic, and moving up to the position of “Planner and Estimator” during his time there. He was a first generation pidgin speaker since his parents were from Okinawa, and he was born on Molokai.. his pidgin sounded nothing like what pidgin sounds like today, and I miss it. When I hear people who speak it, I stop to listen… and smile.
My mom said they were definitely not rich when they first married, and lived on the farm in Lualualei next to grandma in a second house they built. When they had to move to town, he did things like agreed to live in the smallest apartment in the whole complex, and got a cut in the rent for doing all the maintenance & yard work for the entire building, and painting units when people moved out on his weekends (after working all week at Pearl Harbor)… he worked all kinds of jobs as a young man. He was a mover, constructed parts of Kolekole pass, so think of my dad when you drive through… and those water tanks you see when you drive out to Waianae, he also worked on those.
He was granted redress for what happened to him and his family during WWII, but never spoke of it… I remember us going to the beach, so many parks, Disneyland!, Honolulu Zoo, hotels on stay-cations, Dairy Queen in Wahiawa, McDonald’s in Mililani, all kinds of places. He loved the ocean. He loved Hawaii.
I’ve always felt my sister, who was 4-years older, got a better chance to know him. They had a special bond. My niece, is named Karma. The “K” in Karma is for “Keyei,” which my dad pronounced “K” to everyone. Karma’s middle name is “Haruko” (spring), just like my mom’s middle name. But I’ll save that for another post. My niece is a tribute to my parents, and that’s super cool.
My mom never remarried or dated. She told me once, that she had dreams, and in the dreams, she could never be with him….
Today, my sister, niece and I are putting flowers on our parents’ niche, then going to lunch. It’s really cool that my sister spends time with me on these kinds of holidays.
I’m thankful for having had such a great dad.
Happy Father’s Day!