While I was still in the hospital, I compiled a list of 14 essential things I need to do, both as a motivation for rapid rehabilitation, and also as a counterpoint to the unproductive, negative thoughts that co-occur with my illness. I hate the term “bucket-list”, and I strenuously reject the underlying notion — I have no plans to kick any buckets anytime soon. And who wants to cast a morbid shadow over something as wonderful as a trip to Hawaii? Not me. On the contrary, these 14 items are an affirmation that I intend to do all the things I always meant to do, and be the husband, father, scientist, that I’m supposed to be. Taking Jing to Maui was a reprise of our wedding and a reminder of one of the happiest days ever, besides being singularly beautiful which has intrinsic value independent of sentimental attachments.
For those keeping track, that’s 3 of the essential 14 accomplished.
- Carolyn’s first haircut. This one had to wait until my sutures came out.
- Carolyn’s first ice-cream cone. We saved this one to celebrate the first clean post-op MRI.
- Taking Jing back to Maui. I should more accurately say that she took me, since Jing handled all the travel arrangements. I was basically luggage.
Where we stayed:
We started our visit in up-country at an impeccably lovely bed-and-breakfast called Hale Hookipa in Makawao. The residence is a well-restored century-old plantation building, surrounded by a shocking abundance of fruit trees — papaya, passion fruit, strawberry guava, mango, fig, lemon, banana. This is approximately Jing’s conception of paradise, and breakfast was lovely as you might expect. We’re not really into big, self-enclosed resorts, and it was pleasant to start our visit somewhere real, inhabited by real people. From here, we drove the Road to Hana and the Haleakala crater — both of which are completely awe-inspiring. I will admit that in times past, my upbringing as a strict flat-lander from Kansas would have made me a bit uneasy gazing down the side of 1,000-foot drops from the passenger seat of a car, but after a seizure and brain cancer, things like that happily aren’t all that scary anymore. Jing might claim that I was gripping the side door a bit tightly on one or two of the hairpin turns. I won’t contradict her. After the B&B, we took up a condo in Kihei, which is close to where we got married and convenient to the south shore beaches, as well as restaurants — Sansei Sushi in particular.
Whom we met:
First, the owner of Hale Hookipa is Cherie Attix, who is a local artist and all around pleasant human being. Jing bought a print of one of her pieces — Duckie Kalikimaka — which is officially the first time we’ve ever owned original artwork that wasn’t made by one of our daughters. This is an interesting development; I wonder how this new enthusiasm will evolve and how it will affect our finances moving forward.
Second, we met our old friends Chris and Quyen who now live on the Big Island and flew over for a quick visit. Interestingly enough, Chris is now an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii — Hilo in the Department of Philosophy, which goes to show that you can start out in the same place with all the same interests, and end up on completely different paths. Although, I note that Chris and Quyen now have two lovely children that form the essential fabric of their lives, so academic interests aside, perhaps the fundamentals of our lives are still quite similar. Chris also has a new book out with an extremely provocative cover; I hope people out there are inspired to wade into it. I’m sure all such efforts will be rewarded.
What we saw:
Palm trees, banyan trees, silver sword, a sunrise over a volcanic crater, sunsets over the Pacific ocean and various nearby islands, frigatebirds, Hawaiian cardinals, nenes, zebra doves, Ae’o, Hawaiian coots, waterfalls, surfers, beaches, tropical reef fishes, sea turtles, Quinn’s many Polynesian twins (cheerful, bronzed, robust, and loud). We ate pineapples, papaya, passion fruit, mango, guava, strawberry guava, banana, apple-banana, taro, dragon fruit, kalua pork, and we set a new record for most sushi consumed in a single week.
Although Maui can’t be described as our real life, this trip was a nice break from cancer and rehab and everything that goes along with it. For the first time in months, we were doing something we wanted to do instead of something we needed to do for medical or other reasons. For Jing especially, the last few months have been very hard, and it was good to get her out of that routine and into something more adventurous. Maui isn’t real life, but I like it when our real life includes places like Maui.
3 of the essential 14 items have been accomplished. Next up: a normal day at work, which is a small joy that is not to be under-valued at any time, let alone when the alternatives have been growing so very old over the last couple of months. My driving ban is over in about a month, and it will take a lot of the pressure off of Jing when I’m able to pick the girls up and move around the city on my own. After that? Sophie has her Christmas concert with the St. Louis Children’s Choir in December. Duckie Kalikimaka indeed.