Category Archives: love

When Love Means Everything

 

InTennis

Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine 2018. 

I’ve been a tennis fan since I was 13 years old. My skills are nothing to brag about, but I love playing. My husband once videotaped me serving while we were playing at the Kapalua Tennis Resort on Mau’i. The video made me laugh so hard that I cried. I looked so awkward and uncoordinated that it looked like I was purposely trying to be funny. Brad Gilbert, a retired tennis pro player, wrote a book called “Winning Ugly.” I don’t win, I just play ugly.

When our kids were growing up, my husband and I tried to get them into tennis. We bribed our daughter with pretty tennis outfits. Our son was a trooper. He dutifully took lessons and even entered a juniors’ tournament. But then high school came along. Our daughter, who was already a ballet dancer, decided to try cheerleading. Our son declared his preference for the team sports of baseball and football.

For a while, my husband and I soldiered on and played tennis without the kids. But it got harder to find time for tennis as we spent more time driving the kids to their classes and practices and attending their shows and games. Then I injured my foot badly during a tennis clinic, and by the time I was healed enough to get back to tennis, my life seemed to have taken off in another direction. That was seven or eight years ago.

The 2018 French Open Tennis Tournament took place from late May through early June. I happened to see a commercial for the event and I immediately decided I’d try to watch a few matches. I ended up watching most of the tournament – thank you, Tennis Channel. My husband said he knew from the way I was hooked that I’d be back on the courts. I got my old racquets restrung, bought a new pair of tennis shoes, and proved my husband correct.

My first day back at tennis was a delicate balance of excitement and caution. I had lingering worry about reinjuring my foot, but I couldn’t wait to feel that old sensation of making contact with that yellow ball and following through. To my relief, muscle memory didn’t fail me. I was rusty, older, and out of shape, but I still loved playing.

A few days later, I started thinking about getting back into tennis lessons and clinics. I started remembering my old tennis coaches and the people I saw regularly at clinics and group lessons. One man stood out in my mind – a gentleman whose nickname was Dick. Like his nickname (for Richard), Dick had old world manners. He was a retiree, and it was easy to see how his social skills in business served him well in his personal life. There was always an air of formality about him, but he’d talk about going on vacation or about his grandkids, so he never seemed aloof. He was likeable. After I stopped playing tennis, I saw Dick in the cardio room at our tennis club a few times, but eventually I stopped seeing Dick at the club. I wondered if Dick was still playing tennis and if I’d see him out on the courts again.

Nearly two weeks after my first day back at tennis, I was checking in at the front desk of our tennis club. I noticed a copy of an obituary placed in a frame sitting on the counter. I pulled the frame toward me and read it. The obituary was for Dick. He died two days after my first day back on the tennis courts. Stunned and saddened, I walked to the cardio room and went through my usual routine, my mind preoccupied by what I had just read.

Dick lived to a good old age. He left behind a loving family and friends. I don’t know if he played tennis to the end. But I can picture him seeing me back on the courts. I can see him smiling as he says to me, “Welcome back. Good for you. Do the things you love, and enjoy playing while you can.” This seems like the kind of polite and friendly thing he’d do.

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2018.

 

Advertisements

Mother’s Day Cards

Mother's Day Cards

One of the hardest lessons about grieving that I learned when my brother died was that a memory could come out of nowhere and suddenly bring me to tears. In the first few months after my brother’s cancer diagnosis, I would see something or hear a song that reminded me of him and instantly I’d lose my breath, my throat would close, and tears would fill my eyes. Sometimes I ran to a ladies room to cry.

I would later learn that these episodes were anticipatory grieving. My brother’s bleak prognosis made me face the prospect of losing him. Although I’ll never know for sure, I sometimes think that bracing myself for my brother’s death lessened the blow for me when he passed away 14 months after his diagnosis.

The passing of my grandmother at the age of 94, three months shy of her 95th birthday, came with no warning. She was in the hospital after making it through surgery for a broken hip that resulted from a fall. She was in Honolulu, five hours away from me by plane, with loving family members, and I was sure I would see her soon to wish her a happy 95th birthday. But Grandma passed away after hospital staff tried to get her up and walking. She was too weak and in too much pain to start her physical therapy. Grandma worked hard her entire life and never sat still, and I think God told her it was finally time to rest.

This weekend I went to Target to find a Mother’s Day card for my mom, and the sight of Mother’s Day cards for grandmas triggered another out-of-nowhere moment. I stared at the word “grandma” on a card for what felt like a long time. A twinge of pain shot through me as I realized I didn’t need a grandma card anymore. Thoughts of Grandma ran through my head and my vision blurred with tears, but I was stronger this time, and I didn’t run to the ladies room to cry.

It’s ironic. I always thought of going to the store to buy cards for Mother’s Day as an errand, a to-do on my list, a chore. That’s not to say that I didn’t choose and send these cards with love. But now that I don’t have to buy cards for my grandma and my mother-in-law who passed away several years ago, I feel deprived.

Today I included two Mother’s Day cards in the box I sent my mom. Just because I can.

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2018.

Love and Waimea Canyon

 

Love at Waimea Canyon

Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine 2018.

When I last visited Waimea Canyon on the island of Kaua’i, I saw a red padlock left on the guardrail at the viewing deck. Thinking back to the love locks left on the bridges of Paris, I immediately thought, “How romantic.” The lock’s infinity symbol and two hearts told me all I needed to know. Lovers placed the lock there to declare a love they hope will last forever.

This lone lock, with its shiny red color set against the dramatic backdrop of Waimea Canyon, left me wondering about the couple whose love it symbolized. Who are they? Where are they from? Is their relationship still strong? Are they still in love?

Meeting. Dating. Falling in love. Wedding planning. Honeymooning. The honeymoon phase. No matter the ups and downs, these are the easy stages of a relationship. The curve balls come later. Colicky babies. Ornery teens. Health issues. Emotional baggage. Financial surprises. Tragedies. Losses.

Waimea Canyon was created over millions of years. Millions. Our lives on this planet last a mere blip of time. While we’re going through rough patches in our relationships, we forget that pain and struggle won’t last forever. Love does, though. So be like this bright red lock and hang on. Create a love that lasts forever.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2018.

Lucky Girl

IMG_5394

Lucky (Copyright Writing Wahine, Living off Island 2017)

 

Lucky was a strawberry blonde Cocker Spaniel. I bestowed upon her the title, “The Sweetest Thing God Ever Made.” She made me a believer in all the incredible, corny pet stories that people tell.

When my son was about eight years old, he wore me down asking for a dog, so one day during summer vacation, I took my son and daughter to a city animal shelter.

Lucky was in a pen with several other dogs that were dominated by an alpha female that would not let the dogs approach the gate to meet humans. A shelter worker brought Lucky out to meet with us at a grassy area of the shelter. He told me Lucky was two or three years old. Her recent adoption by a family with young children failed. Her spotted tongue and coloring might make Lucky part Chow Chow.

Shell-shocked by the circumstances that led to her stays at the shelter and by the aggressive barking of the alpha female in her pen, Lucky was friendly but subdued in her interaction with us. We went home, I talked to my husband about Lucky that evening, and the kids and I went back to the shelter the next day.

Lucky was still timid, but her sweetness won us over. As I was filling out adoption paperwork, a gentleman in a postal service uniform came to check on Lucky. I learned that he was also interested in adopting her. The disappointed look on the man’s face touched me, but I was glad the kids and I had come back that day.

Over the course of the next nine years, Lucky blossomed into a tomboy older sibling to my kids. She wasn’t a cuddler. She liked her space. She slept with her legs in the air like a dead bug. She was afraid of the ocean – I think it was the noisy waves moving toward her. She liked to herd us and watch us from a short distance. Unlike our current Cocker Spaniel, Lucky didn’t like swimming or playing fetch. Also unlike our current Cocker, she loved snow, navigating snowdrifts by hopping, sinking, and launching herself back out only to sink into another spot. She liked digging shallow holes in the dirt under shrubs and lying there when it was hot. Most of all, she loved to roll over on her back and ask for belly rubs.

In early 2012, we took Lucky to the vet because she had a persistent cough. Lucky’s vet noticed a heart murmur and ran tests. Then came the diagnosis that made my knees buckle: Lucky had congestive heart failure and could live a few more months with medication. Our son was in his senior year of high school, but our daughter was away at college, and I wondered if she would get to see Lucky again.

Three months later my daughter came home for my son’s high school graduation and saw Lucky one last time. After a long weekend visit, my daughter took an evening flight back to her summer job. Lucky passed away at dawn the next day. My son, my husband, and I were with her.

I like to think that Lucky needed to herd us one last time before she left us. Seeing us all together, she might have felt that we were safe, and if she needed to leave, we would be okay.

Believing in irrational, sentimental stories about the things that dogs do for their humans isn’t about believing in preposterous things, it’s about believing in love. Pets help us exercise our ability to love and to experience being loved.

So on this day, June 13, 2017, the fifth anniversary of Lucky’s passing, I celebrate The Sweetest Thing God Ever Made. I celebrate Lucky, I celebrate love.

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2017.

 

Bless Me Father, For I Disagree

screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-12-08-13-pm

Graphic by LikeSuccess

In his homily this past Sunday, my pastor said that sin darkens our intellect and obscures our ability to see the truth – God’s truth, God’s will. Even when we see the truth, sin causes us to have a hard time obeying and following it.

As an example, my pastor said Hitler had a brilliant intellect, but his darkened intellect kept him from knowing the truth that Jews are equal to, not inferior to, Aryans. In the same way, our nation’s darkened intellect kept us from knowing that Blacks are equal to Whites.

Because sin will always be there to hamper our ability to see the truth, we need people through whom God can lead us. We all have the potential for such spiritual leadership, so we shouldn’t be afraid to fulfill our God-given potential, lest we deprive the world of a leader – “a fisher of men” as Jesus said in the Bible.

Here’s where my pastor’s homily took a weird turn. As an example of a man who is not afraid to become all that he can become, my pastor chose Donald Trump. My pastor added that he does not agree with all of Trump’s decisions or all his goals, but he nonetheless approves of his attitude in striving to be all that he can be.

My pastor marvels that Trump is not afraid to be all that he can be.

My pastor is not repulsed that Trump is not trying to be more than he can be.

My pastor seems to assume that everything Trump will be will be good. Why? Because Trump’s anti-abortion position endears him to the religious right?

Am I supposed to be impressed that Donald grew up affluent; went to private schools; didn’t have to serve in the military; got through business school; went into business with seed money from his dad; made a lot of money; went through several bankruptcies; stayed mega-rich while he stiffed contractors who worked on his buildings; and then decided to become president so he can single-handedly save our nation from economic malaise and a lack of worldwide respect? Is this a man trying to be all that he can be?

Could Trump try to do more? Could he strive to be: Mindful of the working poor who can’t afford healthcare? Compassionate toward immigrants seeking safety and a decent life? Informed about science that warns of imminent dangers to the planet we share with all the other countries of the world? Embarrassed by his locker room talk about grabbing women by their genitals? Ashamed of publicly mocking a person with a disability? Aware that lying is forbidden in God’s Top 10?

Should this man of such privilege, and now of such power, be wary of all the wrong things he can be – like the intellectually darkened Hitler? And if he is not wary, does that give us all the more reason to be?

My pastor might be correct that Trump always goes for it when it comes to becoming all he can become. But Trump goes unchecked by Christian values rooted in love. His anti-abortion stance does not give him a pass for the Christian directive to love one another.

Does my opinion make me a bad Christian? A hypocrite? Many will condemn me as such. It’s my struggle, a matter between my conscience and my God, but I cannot love with one hand and hate with the other. If Trump is a fisher of men, I pray he does not catch me in his net.

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2017.

Love Must Push Back

 

 

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-6-39-29-pm

Lady Justice with her scales and her sword. Source: Internet, no credit found. 

Like many Americans, my mind is swirling with many questions about the 2016 presidential election, particularly its results. As I did during the contentious 18 months of campaigning, I am reading opinion pieces and articles to try to comprehend why people, especially people of differing opinions, think the things they do. Peace starts with empathy. One journalist asked why people are still touting the “Love Trumps Hate” slogan after the election results proved it wrong.

“Love Trumps Hate” is for me a belief rooted in faith, not a mere slogan. Since God is the source of all love, then God trumps hate – ultimately, seldom instantly, but in a sustained fashion. Being a person of faith means accepting that things happen in God’s time, and we are not privy to the reasons. Waiting is hard for us, especially when times are hard. And we are quick to forget that we need to work, to fight, and to sacrifice for things worth having.

Why did hate – in the forms of disrespect, bullying, misogyny, bigotry, racism, and xenophobia – get tolerated and perhaps rewarded in this election? Were people so filled with rage born of fear and resentment that nothing else mattered? Were people were so filled with distrust and laziness that they did not bother to vote in rejection of these things?

Women, racial minorities, immigrants, veterans, the LGBT community, and disabled persons were all made to feel less than, unwanted, intimidated, and threatened during this election. Now that the responsible person is in a position to affect their lives, many people have reason to fear and doubt. Now more than ever, I need to cling to my belief that love trumps hate.

Love sometimes requires courageous, difficult, and unrelenting work. To act in the name of love means to act with patience, respectfulness, and humility. When hate pushes against and looms over some of us, we have the choice to stand together, lock arms, and push back.

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.

Kai Loa

Kai

Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016. 

A little more than two years ago, my husband’s uncle Don passed away and left his parakeet orphaned. Don’s neighbors and friends weren’t able to take the parakeet, so we drove the little guy seven hours north from Long Beach, California, to live with us in northern California. No one knew the parakeet’s name or age, but we learned from the Internet that a blue beak meant he was male. We named him Kai Loa: kahakai means beach in Hawaiian, and loa means long.

Parakeets are social birds, so we decided the best place for Kai’s cage was in our family room, the social hub of our home. Since parakeets also like to be the loudest thing in the room, we sometimes moved Kai’s cage to the guest bathroom in order to hear our TV. Kai sang at the top of his lungs when he heard me practicing hula, and he alerted whenever he heard our dog run by.

Recently Kai stopped singing and vocalizing. We booked the first available appointment for Kai to see a bird vet recommended by our dog vet. After poking around the Internet, we guessed that Kai had a respiratory and throat infection that is common in parakeets.

Yesterday I had a vision: Kai was lying on his side on the floor of his cage. I immediately went to his cage and found him sitting on the floor, a sign that he was too weak to balance himself on his perches. It took some time, but Kai eventually mustered up the energy to climb back on his perches.

Today I saw Kai hobbling around the floor of his cage, and I hoped he would manage to climb back up again. It pained me to see him getting weaker, and I knew it was time to pick him up.

As Kai sat in my cupped hands, his breathing very shallow, he half-opened his eyes a few times. I whispered to him and lightly stroked his back. It takes a lot of effort to stroke a parakeet gently. This went on for some time, but just when I thought his breathing was slowing down, he opened his eyes, raised his head, and tried to spread his wings. “Wow,” I thought, “Kai is making a comeback!” But just as suddenly, Kai slumped over onto his side and stopped breathing.

Parakeets don’t garner the type of sentiment that dogs and cats do, but Kai was the only other living thing in Don’s home. Kai was loved by a human being. This has to count for something. Being loved gives us value. Giving love gives us value.

They say all dogs go to heaven. I hope parakeets do, too, and that Kai and Don are together again.

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.