Independence Day

 

My son is on the cusp of being a teenager. It will happen in about 3.5 months. He is at a place where he is testing the vast ocean of independence. And today, he dipped a toe in it. He had toyed with going to the 50th state fair earlier in the year with some friends. But then he thought that he would bring his dad. I told him that his friends probably weren’t down for that. He decided that he “wasn’t ready”. So he did not go.

This week, he told me that he wanted to go to the beach with some friends. He mentioned Ala Moana Beach Park. I felt good about it. Mostly. No big waves. Generally full of families. And then, yesterday, he told me that they wanted to meet in Waikiki. And suddenly, I did not feel as comfortable letting him go. I lectured him about not sticking around if the people he was with were doing bad things (I seriously doubted this would actually happen). I told him about the kids in the neighborhood throwing stuff at cars last week. I told him that he should use common sense. I told him that sometimes smart people do stupid things. I told him about how, when I was in college, I got fired from my supermarket job for giving girls I sort of knew a discount on their beer because they told me that was the price and I believed them. The manager did not believe my story of being stupid. I told him all those things.

I dropped him off in front of a store on Beach Walk in Waikiki. The other boy (two boys and two girls – no not like that) pulled up right behind us. That was good. And then he was getting out and he was gone. Well, not completely. In the time we were separated, he called me nine times. The first few times he called to ask which way it was to the beach. I kid you not. He called to tell me that the girls did not like the beach they were at. It was too rocky. My son realized they were near the Hilton Lagoon so they decided to walk over there. He called to tell me that. They pooled resources and rented a paddle boat in the lagoon. Then they changed out of their wet things and walked (another call) over to Ala Moana Shopping Center. There was bubble tea and sushi from Japan walk (and a few more calls). The girls pooled the last of their money and bought some weird nitrogen infused dessert and they shared it.

I picked my kid up in front of Shirokiya and asked him how it was. He told me that he had the best time. He told me it was better than he thought it was going to be. He said nothing bad about it. And I am glad. I am glad that it was fun. And that he felt safe. And that is what I wanted. I wanted him to have a good time. To not run into any issues. To build his confidence. And all of that happened.

And my heart broke just a teeny bit. As it should. I know that this is what you hope your kid does. You want them to do things on their own. But I know that this is just the beginning. It is the beginning of going to movies at night and maybe dating. Driving at some point. All of those milestones that I know will stem from the toe dip that was today. And I remain verklempt about the entire thing.

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Smell Like a Deadhead

One day last week I was driving home in the afternoon. Maybe lateish afternoon. There was a bunch of boys from one of the local middle schools on the sidewalk near my building. As the car in front of me passed by them, one of the boys threw something at the car. It missed and as soon as it was thrown they all ran. So when I went past them they were not ready for another go. They were still scattered and regrouping. One may have been taking a video on his phone.

 

Our kitchen window looks out on the corner where the boys were. When I got inside I could hear them so I looked out, they had crossed the street and when another car passed, the same boy threw something again, and this time, he hit it, the passing car. The kids scattered. And the car, it stopped. And it turned around. And it followed about half of the boys in the group who were lurking in the entranceway of the building across the street from me. The car pulled into the parking lot and an older Japanese couple got out. I saw them go over and talk to the boys. And shortly after that, the police showed up.

I wondered what I would have done if the kids had hit my car. I wondered what my significant other would have done if he was with me and the kids had hit my car. I would have wanted to call the police too but I don’t know that I would have. I’m not sure what I would have done.

I can’t lie. I spied on what was going on through the kitchen window. It looked like the police officer was having the boys call home and then he was taking the phone and talking to who answered. I wondered if I had a responsibility to go outside as a witness. But I didn’t go outside. I thought that these boys were the same age as my kid and I wondered if he would have the foresight to leave the group of his friends if they were doing something similar. Something that he was not actually doing himself but seemingly condoning by not leaving. I thought about how horrified and disappointed I would be in my son if I got a call like that. How punished he would be. For so long.

I talked to him about it. He laughed it off. He told me that he wouldn’t do something like that. And while I believe that he thinks that. I think in the moment, it’s not that simple. Or that easy.

We were in NY over the summer visiting my family. We had gone into the town closest to my mom’s house. There is a shop with a lot of interesting locally made items. One artist mounts the bones of small animals in frames and places them in teeny glass jars on chains. My son found a display of fancy locally made soaps ($5 apiece). He decided to buy one for himself. He dutifully smelled them all. And the one he chose was patchouli. And he really loves it. I actually bought us some more patchouli bath soap online since his pricey bar was almost done. And today, I remembered, that back in the day, I used to wear patchouli oil and it was likely when he was very small or maybe even when I was pregnant with him. And this morning, I wondered if maybe in his subconscious mind, he remembered that smell. Smells seem to solicit strong memory. Maybe that is why he chose it. I would like to think that is the case. It is a nice story.

So hopefully, as parents we are teaching him what to do. The right thing to do. Even if it is not easy. Even if he is the only one. I can only hope that the strength of that is as strong as the memory of that smell. As strong as the patchouli. That crazy subconscious influence. Maybe I will just call it patchouli from now on.

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Happy?

Yesterday morning was not a happy one. My former boss’ son passed away while I was away in NY. It was sudden and unexpected. He was young. Much too young. Yesterday there was a memorial on the beach in Kailua. It was a blustery and beautiful day. Canoes paddled out the ashes. They were trailed by surfers and paddleboarders. One of the boats huli-ed on the way out and the double hull that took the ashes swamped on the way in. But they all made it. I saw many other former co-workers who had left the organization or retired. That is what always happens though. And you say those things, about why it is you only see each other in these types of circumstances. There is no good answer to that question.

After this, I set about the usual Saturday business. Going to Costco. Picking my son up from tutoring. Doing a little cooking. But I could feel the morning sticking to me. Hovering over me. Coloring my day. How could it not?

We had planned on going to the Korean Festival later in the day. So in the early afternoon we headed down to the grounds of Honolulu Hale. It was crowded. We somehow managed to time our arrival with the beginning of the kim-chee eating contest. It was difficult to see what was going on but I can say that it was not a small amount of kim-chee that had to be eaten. And a smallish woman from Waipahu seemed to win over a burly guy from Texas. Go figure.

We walked around and my son ate this weird snow ice thing (which I do not believe is Korean in any way). We went back by the stage because some dancing was about to begin. The first group was four girls and it seemed that they were replicating the dances to certain Korean pop (K-Pop) songs. They were followed by a group of six dancers doing the same thing. Replicating these K-Pop moves. But they were so enthusiastic. The crowd went crazy for them. They just looked like they were having so much fun. It was so great to watch them. And it just made me really happy.

And below is a link to one of the songs that they danced to. My significant other told me that this is a thing, doing the video dances. I am certain that I could find how to do this dance in a tutorial online. There is something just joyfully appealing to me about the entire thing. I loved it so much that we listened to the song in the car on the drive home and I have been listening to BTS since we got home.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ujQOR2DMFM

 And it reminded me that you just have to make sure that you are doing what makes you happy. And if performing K-Pop dance routines is what does it, then I say yes. Going to church, specifically to hear Pastor Moki’s sermons makes me happy, so I did that yesterday and afterwards I drank some beer because drinking beer makes me happy. Early this evening we went over to a local bar to see a former executive in my organization singing and playing guitar. He is clearly enjoying retirement and watching him was a great end to a pretty good weekend. It just made me smile. And, nowadays, that seems to be a really good goal, if you ask me.

 

 

 

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Cultural Fail

Last weekend the Hōkūleʻa came back home. The Hōkūleʻa is a Native Hawaiian sailing canoe navigated solely by using the stars. The Hōkūleʻa is part of the rebirth of Hawaiian culture and she has been on a voyage around the world and has been gone from the islands for three years. And she returned home a couple of weekends ago. To Ala Moana Beach Park to be exact. We planned to go down after she came in, a bit later in the afternoon (Uncle Jerry was playing in the early afternoon and we love to see him).

Our son. He is on the cusp of being a teenager. He will be 13 in December. And there are flashes of the puberty that is yet to come. He is a big fan on staying home alone. We go off shopping. Or go to church. Or go to a workout. And, I generally do not want to fight about it anymore. I generally, say okay, you want to stay home alone, well fine. Because the alternative involves me being really angry. Maybe yelling. Sometimes cursing. And, I am kind of over it. I know that some folks I know think that I should force him and maybe think that I let him win by letting him stay. But honestly, I just can’t, every time for every outing. There are some expectations but I pick and choose.

When my son said that he did not want to go down to the see the Hōkūleʻa, I gave in. I said okay. You stay at home and we will go. And we went. His dad and me. We walked down despite the fact that it was at least a million degrees out. I did not know what to expect but it was so much more. It was very crowded and the Hōkūleʻa is breathtaking in person. And there were so many people there to see her. To greet the crew. To be there. I was trying to describe what it felt like to be down there that day. I was saying that there was this overwhelming sense of cultural…..and the word, so close to being on my lips was filled in by LKY, my significant other, “pride”. A sense of cultural pride. You could feel it in the air. You could see it on the faces of the people who were there. You could hear it in the speakers. It was palpable.

There were a lot of performers scheduled and Olomana was the first to perform with Uncle Jerry. They only played like three or four songs. During the final number, someone got up to dance the hula. And then three more got up to do the same. Three people, who may have, or may have not known each other, getting up and dancing the same dance. Together.

And I knew that I had made a mistake by not making my son come with us. That I had let him stay home to avoid an argument and by doing so allowed him to miss such a significant event in Hawaiian history. And I knew that I had failed him. Because I want him to know who he is. I want him to know who he is. Where he came from. And I didn’t do that. And I regret it. From now on, I need to make better choices for my son. To make sure that the things that he opts out of are not important. For him. To become the person I know he can be.

 

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Rainy Day Observations

I cooked today. I have not cooked in a while. Truth be told, I haven’t been feeling myself. And I haven’t really wanted to. My mom would always comment to me how I must like cooking but I would always tell her that I really had no choice. That if I did not cook, that my family would starve. This is sort of untrue. There are so many things that you can make for dinner that actually involve no cooking. Just heating up. Or baking. Or putting in the microwave. That is what I have been doing for a while. Not cooking. Feeding my family but not cooking.

 

That changed today. I asked my son what he wanted to make. He was too interested in his phone so I picked a recipe that I like. A NY Times one with orzo pasta and chick peas. Easy and yummy. And then I decided to make this Jamie Oliver recipe that calls for chorizo (See this dish cooked, sort of, and talked about here – around 2:29). Luckily there is a vegetarian version that works pretty well instead of the meaty kind. The last time I tried to buy it the only place that I know sells it, was out. So I was out of luck. I scored today and threw together that recipe. And then, the bananas in the freezer. Right now banana bread is in the oven. It is an overcast day in Honolulu but it is hot like anything (son just turned on fan). So perhaps baking was not the best choice.

 

This morning was full of errands and we ended up splitting up. Our family. Significant other took son to tutoring. I went food shopping. After dropping off our son, he went across the street to get something to drink at the 7-11. He got out of his car and lo and behold, the person who had verbally accosted me last week was sitting outside asking people for food. Significant other had really felt angry towards this guy. I was nervous that he might assault him the day of the encounter. He told the guy that he would not give him food. He went in and when he came out someone had given the guy a manapua. He got back to his car and the bags for the homeless that we had picked up from church were in the back seat. And then, there he was, handing verbal assault guy a bag with snacks and toiletries in it. It was a shocking story and completely unexpected. I am proud of significant other. I am glad that he was able to set aside his anger at this guy to do something nice for him.

 

This was probably happening when I was at Safeway today. The Safeway is designed with the parking on the ground level so that you have to take an escalator, elevator or the stairs to the store. I had been there yesterday and the escalator was broken and I could tell as I approached the entrance that it was still not working. There were signs up on the door and inside. There was a woman walking ahead of me towards the store. She was a bit overweight. And I figured that she did not yet know that the escalator was not working. I found myself hoping that she would see the dead escalator and rather than walking over to take the elevator up, that she would maybe take a deep breath at the bottom, look up and walk up those stairs. I figured that she would be slow and I would be stuck behind her but maybe I could cheer her on if she was feeling winded. Or needed a break. I tell this story to my son. He thinks that I am weird. But then the woman entered the foyer, saw the signs and turned for the elevator. No thought or consideration to take the stairs at all. And it made me kind of sad. Sad that she didn’t think she could do it. Or didn’t even want to try to do it. And yes, she may have had a medical condition. She may have had a bum knee or a bad ankle. But I was ready. To encourage her.

I took the non-working escalator stairs. They are a pain. But I did it. I saw elevator woman pushing a cart around the store. I hope that one day she will decide to try the stairs. Even if it sucks. And even if she is slow. Even if she doesn’t think that she can do it. Because sometimes things that are completely unexpected and seem so far from reality, well, they are right thing to do. I’m for it. Even if my son thinks I’m weird.

 

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My Babadook

Today I took my son to math tutoring. It is right in town. Right here. Maybe a 15-minute walk from our place. It is on a major road that leads to the freeway and is always full of traffic. It was around 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday. I decided that after parking and watching my son walk to the building, that I would go over to the store across the street. We needed soap and shampoo. I walked out of the parking lot to the corner and waited for the light to change so I could cross the street.

I happened to look back and there was a man walking towards me. He looked a little disheveled and it seemed as if he had writing on his face. He was not young. He was not old. The light did not turn fast enough. He came up next to me on the corner and said, “hey lady.” I turned to look at him and said “hello.” He was curly haired and the letter “N” was written on one cheek and the letter “O” on the other (very Charles Mansonesque). He said it again and I replied the same way. He said it again. And I ignored him. Then he said something vulgar that made me feel uncomfortable so I turned and walked away. I was a little nervous putting my back to him but I did it. I walked the other way up the sidewalk passing a young girl (better me than her I figured). The man yelled out but he had crossed the road we had both been waiting to cross.

And, at that moment, my significant other (LKY), happened to be driving up Piikoi St. and, believe it or not, witnessed the entire incident. I have to admit, that turning my back on that person and walking away made me a bit nervous. LKY, made a turn out of the freeway lane and pulled up on the small side street I was walking along. The first thing he yelled out the window to me was to ask me what the guy had said to me. I knew that if I told him what was actually said, there could be some violence, which given the vulgarity, would not have been unwarranted. But the last thing I want is for him to be accused of assault, even if in his mind he felt justified. So rather than telling him, I crossed the street and jumped in his vehicle where he ferried me safely to where I was going. A ten second drive. But one that I was pretty grateful for.

I have to admit, after that, I was looking for that guy everywhere. Once I left the store to walk back to tutoring. Driving through my neighborhood. When I went out to my car. Later, at home. This was especially true since I had been watching a movie called The Babadook. It was creepy goodness from beginning to end. I felt like that guy with the writing on his face was standing outside my sliding glass door. Maybe lurking in my closet. It was not a good feeling. My own personal Babadook.

And I suppose it would have been better, easier, for me not to engage with the person at all. But I just couldn’t be that rude. To just ignore someone. In retrospect, maybe not the best choice. This morning we ended up at the long Sunday Hawaiian mass (we were unable to attend our short, informal Saturday evening mass). And, as non-religious as I am, I have to plug Pastor Moki at St. Andrew’s Cathedral whose sermon today included passages from Elton John’s Rocket Man. But, I digress. In the midst of the reading of the gospel in Hawaiian today, a homeless woman began sort of marching towards the altar up the middle aisle of the church. It was one of those moments. One of those moments where you are unsure if you should tackle the person or engage on a human level. One of the church volunteers sort of put their arm around the woman as she got up towards the altar and steered her towards a pew in the back of the church. And that was it. No vulgarity or violence.

So maybe my initial inclination was correct. To approach the situation with a touch of humanity. The outcome will always be unknown but I can’t not continue to go with that humanity bit. I don’t think that I could go any other way. And although my experience was not the best with the Babadook, I’m not sure that I could have completely ignored him talking to me. Maybe I was going to be the only person who talked to him like a person all day. Or the only one who guided that person to a safe and proper place. I could not lose that despite, the obvious drawbacks. Today, when we left church we took two pre-made bags to hand out to those who may be in need of a little kindness (and toiletries). I don’t know if we would offer this to the Babadook but maybe, maybe, we would still try.

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A Good No

I went for a follow up visit to the gastroenterologist today. I had an endoscopy aka an esophagogastroduodenoscopy or EGD last week. I was having some GERD issues. Don’t know what that is? I feel like everyone I know has it. If somehow you don’t really know, GERD is a fancy name for heartburn. But it is usually chronic and if it is bad enough it can cause damage to your pipes. It is stomach acid after all. Anyway, I was referred for an EGD. I did not want to have it. I had been referred for one before. Months ago. But I did not do it. I did not want to. I still did not want to but this was the second time I had been referred to get one. I figured maybe it was time.

 The first time I went to see the gastroenterologist, I told the girl (yes, I want to call her girl. I am of the age where if I am dealing with someone potentially young enough to be my child, they are girl or boy. However, I will change this in the spirit of not being a jerk) woman taking my information that their forms were ridiculous. They wanted to know when I had started drinking. I’m sorry, I’m fifty, I am lucky I remember what I had for lunch. They wanted to know when I started working at my current job and how long I had been there. I put from here to eternity. It didn’t help that the forms looked like they were typed in 1970. The woman defended the awful forms and gave me that look. A look that is the look my mother has railed against for many years. That look that made me feel like I was being an old pain in the ass. It was hard for me not to hold that against her.

 Anyway, I had the EGD last week. It was awful but it was fine. My follow up with the gastroenterologist was today. He is an odd one. He pauses too long before speaking. He reminds me of a cross between Brian the dog on Family Guy and this character actor whose name I don’t know but who has been on Law & Order SVU as some sort of offender. The worst part about the EGD is being in the waiting area before. Wearing a hospital gown. Stripped down. The IV needle stuck in and attached to tubing that goes nowhere at that point. Gross. But I digress.

 When I showed up at the office, the same woman who had given me that look welcomed me into the back. I had decided that I would run to the appointment and then run home. It killed two birds with one stone. I got a bit of exercise. I used less fuel. I did not have to pay for parking. All good. I was wearing my Hapalua half marathon shirt. After taking my weight, let’s not talk about that, she sat me down in an examination room and began telling me that she had done the Honolulu Marathon this year with no training. That she had registered under the kamaaina rate and figured she had a year to train but didn’t. How she was doing really well for a while. And then she hit a wall. And the man who ran with a tuba passed her while she walked the end. I told her that the Hapalua was good and that maybe I would do it next year. And we had a moment.

 She left me alone a while in that room while I waited for the gastroenterologist. When he came in, he told me that all was well. He told me that they had biopsied the tissue taken from my esophagus and stomach and found NO abnormalities (he underlined and circled that on the paper he gave me). Then he told me about additional disgusting tests they could do. One involved snaking a probe down the nose where it dangles in the throat. If the person experiences any symptoms like coughing, they press a button on the thingy that is outside of the body but attached to the dangly throat thing by a wire. It records the level of acid while the symptom is being felt. Gross. Then he told me about this esophageal disease where the flap to the stomach seizes up. The esophagus gets filled with food. And it can smell bad. Even more gross. Generally, none of this had anything to do with me personally. I think he just liked talking to me.

 But after I left and ran home I was thinking about meeting number two with that woman. How today was like we had just started over. Like the first conversation didn’t happen. It was like she saw me today for the first time. Maybe she was having a bad day last time. And for me, I was like, “ugh, you again” when she spoke to me at the desk. But maybe I saw her for the first time today too. We had a small connection. Maybe it’s hard to see at first with certain people. But it’s there. And maybe it needs more than one chance. Because, there is probably something. There is almost always somewhere to meet. Some common ground that exists. And that always feels better than “ugh, you again.”

 

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