I’m still working my way back into life on the island from the last two weeks I spent in New Orleans helping out my stepdaughter and her family. Two weeks of helping care for a four year old and a two year old with a newborn there as well pretty much knocks out everything else one might otherwise be doing or thinking about. Having never raised babies myself it was a new experience…one I treasured deeply, and one that has helped me begin to really understand both the joy and exhaustion of parenting. I hated to leave her, hate not being closer to see those children grow, hate thinking I am so far away…but, her own mother was flying in the day I left, so she will still have some help for awhile. Even though I am a stepparent, I have many years of memories with her…I went to her high school graduation, and now she is, some 17 years later, raising three beautiful children. It breaks my heart not to be able to share it all with Mike, who was always so proud of both his daughters.
Mike was always at the forefront of new technologies…
Ha now there’s a sentence which is surprised at having been strung together. Mike was certainly not the most adept at such things…probably what I meant to say was that he loved to see all the techie gadgets that came along during his lifetime and then buy them and try and figure out how to use them. As a kid he was a fan of Dick Tracy and his watch and so there you have it. When Skype came along and then the iPhone and then FaceTime he couldn’t wait to have one of everything and I know if he’d been around when the Apple watch came out he’d have one of those too, and would have been quite gratified to see Mr. Tracy’s gadget truly come to life. He was tickled pink to be able to chat live in video with his daughter and baby grandson.
I am traveling…yes, I’m off island once again. My poor little pink suitcase I bought the year after Mike died had to be taken out of service because the stitching actually ripped open this last trip, it’s been used so much. I can’t remember ever having a suitcase get worn out…and I can’t remember when in my life I’ve stayed in so many different houses and hotel rooms in one year.
I've been spending some time here and there working on the book again, organizing all the pages, thoughts, dreams, adventures since Mike died...rereading much of what I've written. It's been so long I have forgotten a lot of the words I've put down, but going through it has brought back much of what I've gone through. It's brought me back in touch with many of the steps and moments I've experienced...the process and processing of my grief, that very personal, individual experience, how I've grown and changed throughout it, how the very picture of my daily life has shifted.
My friend and fellow widow Karin here in Kona was talking about her husband’s death day last month…the conversation went on before I really realized how that term flew by so clearly and succinctly without us having to explain what that meant, though I hadn’t used it before. Death day. That day, we all know; that day, we all remember, that day, we can never forget.
Mike’s death day was yesterday, February 17. It has now been three years.
In the Chinese zodiac, Mike was a snake. He was born in 1953 which was the water snake. Each animal has five elements, so being that the animals recur every 12 years, if you multiply that by the five elements, the exact animal under which you were born doesn’t reappear again until you are 60.
Mike’s full-cycle water snake began February 9, 2013. He died exactly one week later. Almost to the hour, if you count that it begins on the hour of the new moon.
I’m not an astrology freak, but I do notice such things out of curiosity and interest. I happen to be a monkey, in the Chinese astrology. This year of 2016 is the year of the monkey. The fire monkey, to be exact. My birth water monkey will occur in the next cycle in 2028, when I turn 60. So when I realized the timing of this, it took on a level of grave importance to my small life. This was to be the last full cycle before my birth animal…the one which took Mike.
I pulled a Mike the other day. I was listening to someone playing the flute on a video and went looking for his little wooden flute to try and play it.
That was Mike; he had all kinds of silly instruments around and was always trying to play them, especially after hearing something particularly moving or beautiful. He had moments of beauty himself; he would sometimes manage a sound he was pleased with and would repeat it over and over to his joy - and our entertained annoyance. He was not trained musically (except on the bagpipes) but had the intent to learn and did just that, quite well, over the years, on lots of instruments - saxophone, drums, flute, keyboards, harmonicas…I bought him a harmonium one year and he loved that…and he got really good at the ukulele living here in Hawaii. He was ticked to learn, when we met, that I was a classically trained pianist and flautist. I don’t play much these days other than for my own entertainment but over the years we had a lot of fun playing silly songs together on all kinds of things.
Well, that flute was not to be found, of course, because it had been gifted to friends in the big sort-out after he died along with most of his other instruments - we’re talking cheap penny whistles and flea market sound-makers, things he collected and people treasured only because they had belonged to him. I knew this even while I was looking for it. But I still looked in the places I knew we had kept the flutes before, because I couldn’t remember exactly who had taken what or where I might have stored little bits like that after things got moved around.
Mike and I have been going through a bit of a rough patch the last few weeks. Not really knowing what was going on, it’s slowly lead to us both having triggers and making incorrect assumptions about various situations.
After a few weeks of unknowingly having some things build up, it finally came to a head over lunch this past week. We talked, and cried, and got frustrated, and cried more. As it turns out, behind all the fear and frustration, we were just projecting things from the past on each other. It had little to do with him or me, and more to do with the age old fear of “this behavior lead somewhere painful in my past and I don’t want that to happen again”. Plain and simple, fear.Read more
So last Friday was the annual Circle of Remembrance memorial held by the Kona Hospice. It takes place at Hulihe’e Palace, an absolutely beautiful spot in Kona town. The building itself has a lot of history for Hawaii, which I thought about a lot sitting there; the place has a lot of history for me personally too. Mike loved it so, so much down there. I can never forget that first time we were there together, Christmas of 2000 before we had even moved to Hawaii, and how much in awe we were of this spectacular location, taking the historical tour of the house and the fish ponds. This night, the waves crashing right there on the wall, the nearly full moon shining overhead, palm trees swaying in the breeze, made me feel like Mike was there with me, sharing in the love of this special place so dear to us both. I lovingly placed his photo on the table laden with candles along with all the others, proud of my legacy, and yet the ache of sadness was so profound, thinking I had now only photos, and not the live man to walk beside me.
I’ve been thinking about death a lot this week…how could you not. Not only do we have our own personal losses always dangling in our hearts, but when well known cultural icons pass away the whole world mourns for them and then it’s everywhere.