My mom called earlier in the week to let me know they were bringing him home to make him comfortable. It was just a matter of time. He had been sick for a while, and his body just couldn’t fight this latest infection. His passing wasn’t out of the blue, but it still hurt when I actually heard the news.
He was the last of my grandparents to go. The last of that generation that was a stalwart reminder of my roots. I feel untethered now. Drifting. It’s taken me so long to adjust to mainland life – the holding of the door even though the next person is at least 15′ behind you. The cursory “Hi, how are you?” uttered in passing though you don’t actually wait for an answer. The aggressive driving. This damn cold weather. I’ve been here for 15 years and I still feel out of place.
We were always close to my grandparents, on both sides. But I actually lived on his island – the island of his childhood and of my childhood are one and the same. We spent so. much. time at his house as kids – holidays, miscellaneous family gatherings, just popping in to raid the refrigerator. Sleepovers because my parents were too tired to haul all of us home. Spam and eggs in the morning with cousins who also got deposited there by tired parents who wanted a little peace themselves. Memories of my grandmother–my Kupuna–yelling at us to Be quiet! Stay outta that room! Stop running in the house! or just You kids! while my Papa hung out in the background, doing his own thing amongst the chaos of his legacy.
Chaotic. That is how I remember my childhood. Rambunctious. VERY NOISY. I come from a family of six, and grew up with almost twenty cousins, so life was always loud and messy. Such a difference from my son’s childhood, which is so much more quiet (ok, but possibly still just as messy). Sometimes its too quiet and the stillness makes me uneasy. I put on music, but its not the same. Where’s the laughter? Where’s the fighting? Where’s the chatter? We’re soon to have it, yes, with the arrival of this little one, but two is so much less than a gaggle. Am I cheating my children by raising them so far from their ‘ohana?
This question plagues me every. single. day. And with the passing of my Papa, the question weighs even heavier now. Sometimes the guilt is unbearable. My son. My little haole boy. So disconnected from his roots that he doesn’t say piko, but instead uses the haole word belly button. I can’t help but think that my grandparents–all of them–would be so disappointed in me.
“Don’t forget your roots, girl,” they told me when I left. And I’ve tried so hard to hold on. But there’s been a give and take (there had to be) as I try to cope in this new, foreign culture I am living in. Like I said, 15 years here and I still feel like I don’t belong. But I’ve been gone from home for so long now that I also feel a foreigner there. So I’m living in this sort of purgatory between where I came from and where I am now. And I don’t know how to get out.