At night a gecko barks.
Another thunder storm. All night. Heavy rain. We wake up and worry about our helicopter flight booked for later in the day. We remember to wish Jasper a happy birthday. Nine. There are lots of low hanging clouds obscuring the tops of the mountains. We take the road to Lihue and continue on to Popiu Beach. Here Jasper can try out snorkeling. It is windy and warm. Life guards sit atop their towers. One, as brown as gravy, offers us the use of a beach wheelchair. But the water is rough and not inviting so I will sit out under the beach shades and watch.
The boys disappear under the surface.
The wind picks up a beach umbrella and tumbles it over the sand. It is caught, one handed, by a man as it flies past. He gives it back to its owner who has come chasing after it. He takes it back to its rightful spot and again pokes it in the sand. It doesn’t want to stay. He must hold on to it. But he will not give in to the wind. The flimsy rainbow coloured brolli turns inside out but still he refuses to take it down. It is not providing shade. He sits determinedly on his deck chair, gripping the umbrella pole.
Other beach goers congregate in the communal shade of the beach shack and a couple preparing their assault on the sand pack their belongings into their bag after changing into their bathers in the toilets. A man says to his wife, “Don’t lose my teeth out of there. They’re zipped in the side.”
By the road side are Tsunami warning sirens.
The boys emerge from the sea having seen an eel slithering through rocks and numerous fish.
We are killing time before the helicopter flight. Walking by the ocean that has been browned by the recent heavy rain and run off from the rivers.
At the helicopter reception we watch a film on safety and then we head out to the airport where our chopper and pilot awaits. We are directed on board. Jasper will have a window seat and I will be next to him and Graham on the other side. Jasper seems sedated by the anti nausea tablet we have given him. Uh oh. The chopper takes off and arches over the airstrip, Hawaii Five O style. Every motion picture with helicopter vision in it comes to mind as we swoop along. Apocalypse Now. We have headphones on and communicate with each other and the pilot. In the background there is a sound track of ephemeral music to add to the viewing pleasure. Our pilot gives a commentary. After the recent rain the island’s waterfalls are abundant and everywhere are silver streaks of water coursing down the steep slopes. We hear how a single family, the Robinson’s, own one third of the island after an early purchase from a Hawaiian King and how their commitment to conservation has meant it has remained unspoilt and undeveloped. The Napali coast is where Pirates of the Caribbean is filmed and we weave our way in and around canyons and gorges. Like a marble in a wine glass the pilot rotates the chopper to gives us a three sixty view. The steep cliffs appear covered in soft green moss but really it is trees and bushes we are seeing from a distance. The pilot tells us how the Hurricane of 1992 blew down all the chicken coops and since that time the chickens have run free. After the hurricane not a single leaf was left on a branch and the entire island was brown.
Jasper is pale and sighing. I know he isn’t feeling good. The pilot has already told us of the whereabouts of the comfort bag. I ready it. Up comes the fried chicken from the take out. He will not want to eat that again. I am trying to keep one eye on the scenery, afterall it is costing us $250 each as well as hold open the vomit bag and hand out wipes. We are nearly at the end.
Jasper says he still had a good time, despite the nausea.
For Jasper’s birthday dinner we go back to our favorite Baracuda but it isn’t as good as it was the first night.
Next day, we drive out to Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of Hawaii. Tourist buses snake up the hill side and oversized Americans struggle up the paths to get to the look outs. We are listening to IZ, Somewhere over the rainbow. From a viewing platform we watch as white tropic birds sail the current winds of the canyon. The canyon, unlike the Grand Canyon, is green and lush, but lacks the spectacular jaw dropping surprise one feels when coming across the Grand Canyon’s gaping enormity.
On returning to our beach house we discover that Goong Goong has died. Opening the emails I read from the top and mistakenly get a message from my sister giving instructions for the funeral parlour before I read the email telling me of his death. Of course it cannot be a surprise. Only this morning before leaving the house and once again checking emails for news of him we all remarked how odd it was he was still alive. Jasper said, believing it to be possible, perhaps he will hang on to you get home Mum. He’s pretty strong, is old Goong Goong.
I have no tears. I ring my mother. I cannot remember what I say to her. I think I say I am sorry to be away from her, for her sake. I tell her if she needs Lisa to come she must ask.
We head out to dinner at the Dolphin for Alaskan crab, white grilled fish and sushi. We talk about Dad and toast him. In the distance is the sound of the river, hurtling by, so alive, so free and full of force. Water is a vivid reminder of life and energy and now a reminder of death too. We toast him for his dependability, his devotion to us, his small family. Like a loyal dog that doesn’t much care for outsiders but is warm and tail wagging with ones he loves. We must brave the road again because of the lack of footpath. Imagine being run over now.
We want an early night because our plane leaves early from Lihue in the morning and we must make the 45 minute drive to the airport and return the hire car. But we have locked ourselves out of the beach house. We had two keys and one was initially hidden outside but because we didn’t want to forget to replace it in the morning I put it in my bag and my bag is now locked in the house too. I blame the stress of my father dying. Graham’s iPhone with all the rental details is locked inside too. The Californians that rent upstairs are out. It is raining. The road is full of mud. We huddle under the carport and imagine what it might be like to spend all night here waiting to get inside. Graham does a reconnoitre around the house trying to ascertain if we can get in. It is too secure. He goes across the road to see if we can access our email from another tourist’s computer and hence find the owner’s number to ring her. We know she doesn’t live in the village but I recall reading an emergency number on an email. Our upstairs neighbours return but their key doesn’t fit our lock. I ring a trusty school mother knowing it is 3pm Perth time and give her my hotmail details so she can search my email for the owners details. I think I tell her my father has died too. Saying it is like trying it out.
Do you remember saying “I’m a virgin”?You only get to say it for a short time with any feeling. With any real impact. To the boy that will take that virginity from you and perhaps to a few prior you don’t give it up to. My father’s died is a bit the same. It is a short lived sentence. You can’t really say it to strangers. If you do they offer their condolences and you automatically say it’s okay, like it’s not their fault. It’s not what you mean. You want to thank them for their sympathy but instead you say it’s okay. Like you might to a waiter who is apologising for bringing you burnt toast. There never seemed the right time or the right someone to say, “My father’s died.” Perhaps it would be something that just swirled around inside my head, that I said to myself till I believed it. Knew it had happened…
to be continued…