And It Wasn’t Even My Birthday…..
Sometimes life offers us these special moments that bring peace and joy on the most ordinary days. During my last two visits back to Hawaii, I visited my two elderly aunts, Ma-chan and “Aunty.” Ninety two year old Ma-chan, my father’s sister, appears in my Kapoho: Memoirs of a Modern Pompeii. I called her the Kapoho beauty.
She was in a wheelchair after a series of strokes but her eyes were spared whatever illnesses had invaded her body. I took my Kapoho book and read excerpts from it. She nodded and smiled when she heard her name which I had not altered in one of the stories.
I read about her two brothers, Jun and Uncle Shun. We exchanged direct eye contact with silent messages; words were not needed. Ma-chan died last night in Hilo after a brief stay in the hospital.
I visited my Uncle Jun’s wife “Aunty” who at age 89, is an avid reader and had stayed up all night reading my Kapoho book. “Hideko,” she said numerous times, “you’re very smart.” She added, “All I need to do is preserve my eyes so I can read.”
After returning home, I sent her two large priority boxes of books from my collection.
Last week, Beatrice, a 94 year old woman called me from Honolulu. She had taught first and second grades at Kapoho School in 1941. She, surprised to have caught a book review of my Kapoho book in the thick Sunday papers, called the book shop to reserve a copy. She told me wonderful stories of how, as a 23 year old graduate, she was sent to Kapoho on her first teaching assignment. She confirmed many of the scenes in my Kapoho book. “Yes,” she said, “we used kerosene lamps.” Her father gave her a revolver to protect herself when he discovered Kapoho School was about three miles away from the nearest home. That gun was confiscated soon after Pearl Harbor.
“I’m old,” she said. “Every day I get up and say, ‘oh, I’m alive for another day.’ I want to see you so I’m going to live until you come in November. Of course at my age, one never knows. But you are my inspiration to be alive. I have so many stories to tell you about Kapoho. “
She confessed that she had saved one of my Kapoho poems that appeared in the Advertiser in the late 80′s. ” I still have it,” she said, “but I don’t know where it is.” She was pleased when I told her the Kapoho book ends with that very poem. “I’m half way through your book, ” she said. “I never knew what happened after I left in 1941 so thank you for writing this book. Now I’ll know.”
Her daughter sent me photos from her mother’s album. One is of Kapoho School burning during the eruption.
I have candles burning for Ma-chan tonight. I’m feeling such sadness, but feel such gratitude that I was and am able to have three of these incredible women enter my life again and touch it so deeply.