Tag Archives: Names

The Secret to Life…

There are some phone calls in life that a person wishes never to have to make. Three months ago I had to make several of those calls on a Sunday morning: breaking the news to Keoni’s children and his parents that he had just shot himself. strength quote, you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have

And “breaking” is precisely the word for this. Utterly in shock myself at my sudden and unexpected widowhood, I heard hearts break with every one of those calls—the daughter’s screams, the mother’s anger…  And I felt at the time as if I were the instrument of all that breakage. As my own shock wore off a little, my thinking shifted: yes, I’d had the heavy task of imparting news, but I wasn’t the one who’d made the choice that created that wake of heartache.

There’s no way around it: the sound of that single shot, fired inches from my face, signaled the abrupt alteration of every aspect of my life. It was literally the starting-gun to an entire new (unasked-for) chapter of Life, with an entirely alien new set of labels… Widow. Single mom. Unemployed. I had to close our restaurant at his death, and I was suddenly out a living as well as a spouse.

For now I won’t rehash the three months of grieving—and ongoing healing—except to say that it feels like it’s been a lot longer than three months. It seems like I’ve lived three years since that Sunday morning, and my grief counselor (knowing I have a biology degree) even explained the brain-physiology behind my apparent mental time-warp. I shared with her at one point how messed up my sense of time was; as an example, I’d called my doctor’s office in those first few weeks for an adjustment to my antidepressants, and then found myself wondering later why I hadn’t yet heard from the pharmacy in the week or so since I’d made the request. It took some focused thought to realize that it was only 3pm on the same day I’d called the doctor—but it honestly felt like a week. That severe “time distortion” continued for a good month and a half—so I felt as if nearly a year had passed already. strength shows not only in the ability to persist, but the ability to start over

My grief counselor also commented that I could be the “poster child” for having the tools already in place to heal from trauma. With a lot of prayer and unfailing support from friends & family, along with the social network and tools-for-living found in Alcoholics Anonymous, healing has been happening.

I won’t lie: I know now more than ever that it’s messy being human! I was so relieved to find laughter again in a day, but felt guilty at the same time. All too often, missing-him took the form of being angry at him. In packing for the move to a new home, I came across what seemed like a million mementos from the five years of our marriage, and I could never predict whether any one of those memories would make me smile, or rage, or crumple up crying.

I will also say, though, that I have been determined, even from that first week, that I AM NOT DONE LIVING.

(I hope that the other people who loved and miss him will not take it amiss that I prefer today to talk about living—and finding joy—rather than dwelling on grief or bereavement. The grieving process is by no means done, but “Grieving Widow” just isn’t a role I feel meant to wallow in—and I don’t intend disrespect to anyone by making the conscious decision to focus on Living rather than on Loss.) when you are down to nothing God is up to something

Those of you who have been reading here over the years have heard me say (repeatedly!) that God’s plans (especially in times of crisis) are better than anything I could come up with—and there’s a reason why “God’sHumor” is a good-sized tag in that sidebar to the left… Chief among the things I wouldn’t have thought to plan for myself at this point would have been meeting someone new. No, let me say it straight: coming to love someone new.

Wouldn’t have been my plan, but I’m at least wise enough not to turn away from the Blessings God puts in my path…  I met Dustin in A.A. shortly after Keoni’s death—he’s Sober and Spiritual, fun and feisty, intense and energetic, and (no question, the seal on the deal!) my kids took to him instantly.

poker, hiking, swordplay, & Christmas decorating...

poker, hiking, swordplay, & Christmas decorating…

Our first “date” outside of time spent at our A.A. home group was a demanding hike up Boise’s Table Rock plateau with my son Christian, followed in short order by stringing Christmas lights and putting up a tree (things I hadn’t done for seven years—and now I know the kids had missed it), family poker games, home magic shows, trampoline basketball, hiking and playing games of “Capture the Flag” in the Boise Foothills…

We were having dinner at the kids’ favorite cafe recently and I noticed the older couple at the next table watching us closely. When they finished their meal, the wife came over to us to say (actually with tears in her eyes) that we were sitting at what had been their family’s regular table, and it was a joy to see kids and parents actually talking and laughing together. “You have a beautiful family,” she told us as she left. It was that same evening that Elena Grace (who usually takes forever to warm up to people) chirped brightly from the back seat: “Mommy, you should marry Dusty!”

a hike in the snow

a hike in the snow

Even when the kids aren’t around, I’m enjoying our playful spontaneity… Just before Christmas we spent an evening at a local entertainment place (“scouting” before bringing the kids… yeah, that’s our story!) playing laser tag and racing go-karts. A few nights before that we sat on top of Table Rock to watch the sunset and moonrise. We play poker (always with something significant at stake; my new short haircut is the result of one of those games!), spend evenings singing country songs together, read aloud to each other, work out together… We laid down the “ground rules” right off the bat that Parenting & Sobriety absolutely come first in the relationship—and we’re beginning every day with coffee & prayer & A.A. reflections, and hitting an A.A. meeting together every day.

And yes—Living from the Heart, I’ve already followed my daughter’s directions.

Quietly, in the back yard with just the kids and an ordained friend to officiate (after Dustin asked Christian’s permission) I married him.

Backyard Wedding

Backyard Wedding

When Dustin shares during an A.A. meeting, he often wraps up with a favorite quote of his—and as we were slow-dancing in the half-packed kitchen at midnight (among stacks of packed moving-boxes) I was thinking we need this one on a plaque on our wall:

The Secret to Life… is to LIVE!

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Full Circle: At the Wheel

leaning on my original "Scubaru" by Lake Pend Orielle in northern Idaho,1993

leaning on my original “Scubaru”—at northern Idaho’s Lake Pend Orielle,1993

Dad took me car-shopping my Senior year of high school, explaining that although he’d drive the new car for a while, it was intended eventually for my use. I pictured myself in a Jeep Cherokee: four-wheel-drive, room in the back for dive gear and camping kit, a rack on top for my parents’ old orange canoe, and plenty of under-carriage clearance for the treacherous Forest-Service roads I enjoyed exploring. Instead of a Jeep, though, we drove away in a 1990 Subaru Loyale wagon—less expensive (even new), and with the same 4WD, clearance, and room in the back for all the stuff I imagined packing for my upcoming Life Adventures.

As planned, my dad drove the wagon for a couple years, periodically taking me to an empty lot at the edge of town for lessons in driving the stick-shift.  And eventually—once I’d learned not to lurch around the lot or assassinate the engine—he turned over the keys.

Subaru canoe

Set for Adventure, 1996

I’d thought myself clever to come up with “SCUBARU” as a personalized plate—but someone else had beat me to it! With sailing, scuba-diving, and canoeing in mind, I settled on WTRLOGD for the plates… Still, I come from a family that names cars, and this one would always be “Scubaru” to me.

I loaded her up at various times with Forest Service maps, tent and camp-stove, hiking boots, canoe paddles, picnic blanket, books and camera and journal… And over the years my trusty vehicle & I ventured forth to “fill in” the Idaho atlas with tracks of where-we’d-been. A five-foot map of the state hung on my wall, with all my roaming & rambles marked in highlighter pen—and at every opportunity I interspersed those outings with forays to the Pacific coast.

Scubaru proved her worth over and over again. In a blinding snowstorm atop Washington’s Snoqualmie pass, when most of the cars on the road were either pulled over or slid onto the shoulders, I put on my chains and kept right on going. An ice storm in Oregon’s Colombia Gorge encased trees, signs, and roadway in inches of solid ice, but Scubaru crept cautiously all the way to Portland, accompanied by the explosive acoustics of bursting trees alongside the road.

Subaru Sawtooth camping

Camping “off-road” in the Sawtooth National Forest, 1998

After one particularly hairy drive in the Sawtooths (a pot-holed and washed-out dirt road, no wider than the car and without turn-outs for passing—just a sheer drop, inches from the passenger tires) I spotted a warning sign: “NO passenger vehicles.” (Oops. If there were a companion sign at the other end of the road where I started, I’d missed it!) I had to peel my fingers off the steering wheel to pat Scubaru’s dashboard and congratulate her with a heartfelt “Good girl!”

Of course, even four-wheel-drive isn’t foolproof. (Though Dad also taught me not to BE a fool; specifically, not to drive into tricky conditions with the 4WD already engaged—because if you get stuck when you’re in 4WD, you’re really stuck!) Nevertheless, I had to dig her out of a couple spots. I used a snowshoe to scoop a back tire out of a snowbank in the Boise National Forest, and in the Salmon-Challis Forest put my grandpa’s collapsible Army shovel to use, extracting her from a mire of mud where a beaver dam had flooded the road…

Subaru Washington beach

Washington Coast “beach highway,” 1997

When a downpour threatened a planned picnic along the Snake River, I popped open the tailgate and happily set my spread in the back of the car.  Sheltered by the overhanging door, I savored my strawberries & brie to the soundtrack of raindrops pelting the roof. On a couple occasions, with lightning storms too close for comfort in an exposed tent, I folded down the back seats and stretched out to sleep.

On the shore of Big Trinity Lake, I woke one morning to drifts of snow piled against my tent-corners, and had to chip my solid-frozen bacon from the cooler with a hatchet… but Scubaru scooted me safely back down the mountain, heater blasting.

Along the Washington Coast where stretches of beach serve as legally designated “highway,” I misjudged the incoming tide and dashed the last leg with waves licking the tires and wipers warding off wads of sea-foam blowing against the glass. Scubaru served staunchly through many a scrape and adventure.

With a little love and care, a Subaru will run forEVER. I drove that one for close to twenty years, and I might still be driving her… But when I departed my first marriage, I didn’t stop to quibble about any of the community-property stuff. Not long after I moved out, the wagon was also absent from her accustomed spot in front of my ex’s house… I never inquired about her fate.

2014: “Kana Girl’s Hawai’ian BBQ” license-plate holder on the NEW (old) Scubaru

Fast forward a few years… My husband started making noises this summer about the red 1989 Subaru Loyale parked in front of our neighbor’s house: I wonder if they’d consider selling it. I countered with “practical” negatives—we work together and don’t need a second car, they’d have posted a sign if they wanted to sell… But Keoni recognized what I hadn’t acknowledged even to myself: my affectionate nostalgia for that whacky wandering wagon.  In no time at all he had negotiated a sale-price, payable primarily in the form of a sizable certificate to our restaurant.

Subaru Scubaru

20-odd years later: the SCUBARU plates!

Next thing I knew, I was slipping into the driver’s seat of a car that felt as familiar and comfortable as a favorite old pair of jeans.

Keoni and our son Kapena are plotting “improvements” to the engine and paint and upholstery… Fixing her up will be a fun family project, but I’m content already. I’m “back” in my very first car, and behind her wheel I’ve come full circle. This time with the SCUBARU plates!

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Time-Travel via YouTube

Punahou football

Punahou’s #79—Keoni’s Senior season (1973)

My husband Keoni found a historic gem online yesterday: game-film from the championship football game he played his senior year of high school. The whole game—complete with a “pause to change reels.”  Yep, reel-to-reel, black-and-white game film. Classic 1973.

Naturally, I didn’t miss the opportunity to tease him about my Favorite Fact. “Wow, there’s Senior-in-high-school You. What was I doing then? Oh yeah—I wasn’t born yet!” (Hell, I wasn’t even conceived yet.)

And another favorite topic of teasing: the mascot for Punahou High School. To back up for a little history, this school stands on Hawai’ian land won in battle by King Kamehameha I, and gifted half a century later to the missionary Hiram Bingham. (If you’ve read James Michener’s Hawaii, Bingham is the historical basis for the dour, hardass character of Abner Hale.) Bingham and his fellow missionaries started a school for their kids in 1841, with Daniel Dole (think pineapples!) as the first principal. One hundred seventy years later, Punahou is still a prestigious private school, known to some as the alma mater of Barry. You know Barry… Obama? (He graduated with Keoni’s younger brother.)

a page from my brother-in-law’s Punahou yearbook…

But I’ve digressed—it’s the mascot I like to tease about. Any guesses? Punahou’s mascot is (drum roll, please)…

The Lauhala Tree. That’s right, a tree. Ferocious and intimidating, don’t you think?

So while the game commentators used the opposing team’s mascot (“the Crusaders”) in references to them, Punahou was identified instead by their colors—“the Buff and Blues”—as if that were the team name. I’ve been giggling and poking fun at this unusual mascot-situation for years, but hearing it from the sports commentators took it to a whole new level of fun.

Keoni and his cousin, Kimo Kealoha, hugging each other after Kimo’s spectacular fumble recovery, and walking off the field hand-in-hand

Plus, I have to add the observation that to members of my generation, “buff” is a state of undress rather than a color. Seriously—I had the 128-box of Crayolas, and there wasn’t a buff anywhere in the line-up. (Of course, our son Christian just pointed out that his generation uses the term “buff” to refer to someone who’s very muscular—so I guess this is one of those words that pinpoints your age by how you use it…)

Generational joking aside, it was fun to hear some familiar names in the commentary. Punahou’s offensive line alone boasted three all-star players who seemed destined for the Pros: Mosi Tatupu (who went on to USC and a career with the New England Patriots), Keith Uperesa (who went on to BYU and played for the Oakland Raiders & the Denver Broncos), and one John (a.k.a. Keoni) Tyler (who went on to ASU, but lost his football scholarship to a career-ending leg injury).

“Coach K” working with Kapena’s team this year–and still in Buff & Blue!

I will admit to one moment of weirdness, when I was commenting on his uniform… (Ladies, you know what there is to say about football pants, right?) …And then it dawned on me that the version of Keoni I was watching was a sixteen-year-old. In fact, exactly the age of our son Kapena—which suddenly made my commentary seem a little creepy. Until I reminded myself that I wasn’t even born yet when this particular butt was on display. Well, I’m back to patting the 55-year-old version of that butt, but I sure got a kick out of our YouTube time-travel.


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