Boxes of Letters

kids today will never know the effect of a love letter written in the hand of your beloved
Kids today are as cool as I think they are – and they might figure out that old people like me might have something to impart.

Mostly, I’d tell them:

1) never do not see music just because you are alone and think you can’t go to a show by yourself;

2) take good pictures of your friends;

3) be generous;

4) love often but not carelessly;

5) trust that voice in your head that people who don’t understand physiology call “your gut”;

6) know who will accept your collect call;

7) be thankful for everything you can think of;

8) do what you fear;

9) to be determined…

On this day

A lot has happened.

In 1992, Hurricane Iniki struck the island of Kaua’i, the day after we had returned from an aborted kayaking trip for Eric’s birthday on the Big Island of Hawaii. We had camped in an area where the spirits migrated up the valley, and there was an other-worldly hum to the place. On the plus side, we got to hang out with a dog the whole time which made me happier since we were stranded and had to hitchhike out of the valley instead of paddling our way around the coast. When we left, the dog went back ‘home’ in Waipio Valley.

We returned to Kaua’i and went out for Eric’s birthday, oblivious to the roar headed directly for the excruciatingly beautiful ‘most isolated’ land mass in the world. It hardly seemed ‘fair’ that a hurricane that was stronger than Andrew (which had just decimated Florida) would be so bent on making landfall on such a small island. But it did. And the eye of the hurricane is one of the most mystical experiences I have ever witnessed, Stephen Hawking’s theory that we are specks in a vast landscape of nothingness, not-withstanding.

We woke up at 4 in the morning, taped the windows, ‘secured’ our house (to no avail, but one must try) and headed up to our friend’s more secure home to ‘ride it out.’ I remember looking up at the beams in his ceiling often during the storm. I had just bought a new, used truck and I saw it almost get sliced by a roof that flew off and started careening towards us (winds peaked at 160 mph in the mountains), only to be stopped by one of those old school metal clothes lines, which bent to the ground with the force, about 18 inches away from my 4WD truck.

One hotel—the Coco Palms Resort famous for Elvis Presley’s Blue Hawaii—never reopened after the hurricane.[8] Destroyed housing across the island left more than 7,000 people homeless after the storm’s passage.[9]

We returned to our house after the storm and most of the roof had flown off. I had been somewhat terrified at one point during the storm when the radio station in Honolulu claimed that Kauai was simply ‘gone.’ I thought, Is this how Dorothy felt? I had no Toto but, as it turns out, a Tin Man.

As we walked up, I was actually relieved to see any of the house still standing. Eric, on the other hand, was howling “like a Greek mother,” I thought. I distinctly remember that thought. I have no idea why I thought it but I did.

We rebuilt (we lived in a tent in our ‘office’ room for many months because the mosquitoes were vociferous) and made the house our own. I was the only one who could get to our Hospice office (with the giant emergency cell phone that was reserved for quick calls to family to let them know that, in fact, Kaua’i was still there) and remember driving down the two-lane road to Lihue and marveling at the fact that somehow I did not get a flat tire, there were nails and downed telephone poles scattered across the pavement. I had to go in to the hospital to check on our clients. Kaua’i Hospice would be forever transformed after that as we found our way into the work of bereavement for those who had lost so much in one ‘natural disaster.’

Nine years later, on September 11, 2001, the disaster was man-made.