Saying Goodbye in Paradise (Or Waiting for the Hurricane)

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I’m not sure if this is going to work. Or if it will make any sense let alone be entertaining to read. I guess you can call this an experiment. I am going to write about some recent events in my life unplanned, just off the cuff and see where it leads. And I’ll be doing it on the Internet so I’ll be leaving myself open for criticism which is always interesting. Now to be sure I’ve talked about myself rather a lot on the Internet but usually it is highly scripted and cloaked in a shroud of nostalgia or embellished as to be more a work of fiction than memoir. So this will be different. Unfiltered, if you will.

Here it goes.

Last week I spent some time on Hawai’i. Oahu to be precise, Honolulu to be more precise still. This trip was part vacation, part chore. You see my daughter is going to school there and we (my wife and I) were there to get her moved in and to say goodbye for the longest time and farthest away we have ever been from one another. So this trip was not exactly a pleasure trip. That being said it is Hawai’i – palm trees, sunshine, beaches, and fruity drinks – it could be worse.

It got worse.

Hurricane Lane approached the islands from the south about mid-week. A category 5 storm swirled toward the Big Island causing high winds and floods, Oahu braced for the worst. Restaurants and shops, tours and events closed or were cancelled. Basically the island shut down. So we sat in our hotel and waited for nature’s fury to crush us.

It wasn’t all that bad to be honest. The hotel we stayed at was called the Ilikai and it is an old building built in the 60s that featured in the opening credits to the original Hawaii 5-0 TV series. (If you are curious in the credits it zooms-in to the building to find Jack Lord standing on the penthouse floor.) So I had fun fitting the phrase “Book ‘em Danno” into everyday conversation.  It is really not that hard. Do we need reservations? Book ‘em Danno. Do we need a rental car? Book it Danno. Etc. Not sure if everyone found it as humorous as I did, but you find your pleasure were you can.

The downside to this island closure was that there were no longer any distractions between what we were really there for and my incredible ability to sink into denial. I began to think a lot about the future, something I had not been doing much recently preferring instead to take the one-day-at-a-time approach. I knew theoretically that when we returned home there would be no child there. But the ramifications of this I preferred to just not think about.

For nearly 20 years my life has revolved around that child. Everything I worked for, everything I did, my sacrifices and waking thoughts were of my child and how to make her life better than mine. I succeeded I suppose (with help) she is attending college in Hawai’i – not too shabby. There should be parental pride along with the sadness of her leaving. Oddly, I didn’t feel anything.

This bothered me. I knew all the emotions I should be feeling, all the words I should be saying. Instead I just walked around silent with a blank stare feeling nothing. Just numb. I busied myself helping my daughter get moved in to her new place and gathering supplies for the approaching storm.

Before the hurricane came I went to the beach and swam out into the ocean. The water was still calm and warm. I was not wearing my glasses so the world around was just a blur. Looking back toward the beach I could make out the shapes of people and the outlines of the buildings and the palm trees. Looking up the sky was light blue and filled with wisps of clouds, but off on the horizon it was grey and gloom, darkness was coming as the storm approached.

So I floated there, in the water. I kept my head partially submerged so that only my eyes crept out over the surface. With my ears under water I could not hear the sound of the other bathers. All I could hear was the sound of my heartbeat and my blood as it rushed pounding in my ears. And I felt the water embrace me. Warm, it touched my skin, pushing me lightly back and forth. And I felt the sting of salt in my eyes, burning. Mock tears I thought.

I floated. Bobbing in the sea I tried to think. I floated knowing that somewhere off in the distance a storm was coming and that there would be danger. I floated knowing that there was change coming, that when I went back to shore things were going to be different. I floated wanting to feel something – anger, frustration, sadness, bravery – nothing came. Instead I floated. I was numb. And the water was warm.

I burned that day.  My back and chest, legs and arms turned to a pink-red shine. Every time I moved there was a dull ache and a throb. And I experienced a new feeling I’d never felt before – all over body itching. This I can tell you is not fun. I bought some aloe cream from the hotel shop and as I checked out the clerk said to me, “You know that’s not sunburn you have right?” I shook my head and shrugged and asked what it was then. “Radiation poisoning,” he told me, “the sun is a nuclear power plant and you got irradiated.” I told him that was interesting – not helpful – but interesting. And as I slathered myself with green aloe gel I thought, great now I can add radiation poisoning to my list of terrible things happening this week.

In the end the hurricane never came. There were some high winds and some rain but the worst case scenario never happened. All the planning and preparation was in the end for nothing and life simply went on as before. The running joke around the island was renaming the storm Hurricane Lame and everyone laughed about how scared we all were. All very silly really.

On the day we left my wife cried. I hugged my daughter and told her how proud I was of her and how excited I was for her. I kissed her on the head and told her to be great. I did not cry. The ride to the airport was silent.

When we arrived home we did not talk much. The dogs were excited to see us and we them. We had some lunch and my wife went to take a nap. I sat down in my office in front of my computer with the intention of writing. With my hands poised on the keyboard, my fingers did not move. Instead, my eyes turned to the bookshelf beside me and to the small hand-drawn card given to me many years ago on Father’s Day. In an uneven script written in crayon were the words – love you dad. My shoulders heaved with the sobbing that came then. I cannot say how long I wept but it seemed a long time.

And all the while the house was very, very silent.

So that’s it for this experiment. This story was written straight through without any editing so I hope it is somewhat coherent. Like I said in the opening this is not something I normally do – just write something off the cuff, unplanned, stream of consciousness style – and I’m not sure how it will be received. I y’all like it leave me a comment and maybe I’ll do it again or perhaps make it a regular feature. Anyway, thanks for reading and I hope to hear from you.

Image by Jeremy Bishop

Originally published August 30th, 2018

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  1. Nancy Berg August 31, 2018 at 6:39 am - Reply

    On my way to work and it made me cry. Not about work but what you wrote. Really good stuff and keep going!

    • Paul Matthew Carr August 31, 2018 at 3:06 pm - Reply

      Thank you Nancy. It is of course my ultimate goal to make people cry – you know, in a good way. I appreciate the positive feedback!

  2. Mom September 3, 2018 at 4:36 pm - Reply

    You always succeed in making me cry! But maybe know she will be fine just as yo were. I love you

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