"A Small Turkey, a Kid Cop, a 93 Year Old Boy" Pukalani by 7ContinentsOrBust

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The Only Thing Necessary For The Triumph of Evil..

Is For Good Men To Do Nothing
By Chris Verrill


3/11/03
10:54 pm
Pukalani, Hawaii, USA

When I first got back to Maui on December 12 it was nice to be back. I seriously thought about staying here permanently. The day after I got back I even had a job interview. At one point the interviewer asked how soon I could start. At another point he yawned. Go figure. Needless to say, I didn?t get the job.

Just as well. I leave here in just three days to start the real trip. I'm excited and nervous, scared and sad. Looking forward to the things I'll learn. I know I'm traveling during difficult times to potentially dangerous parts of the world. But we can't let terrorists stop us from living our lives. As Irish philosopher and statesman Edmund Burke's famous saying goes, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

Why am I taking this trip? Because I made I plan. As much as I love Pacifica, I want to see the world. More importantly than traveling the world, I want to experience it. Live it. Feel like I understand it. Not just as a tourist, but as a resident. As a local. As someone who actually lives in another country for a while. It's as much a journey of self-exploration as it is a journey of cultural exploration. Not only do I want to learn about other cultures, but I want to experience what those other cultures will teach me about me.

So I am going to do my part. I'll be a little one-on-one ambassador.

I have no desire to change the world. Well, that's not true. I do have a desire to change the world. At least a little bit. At least do my fair share and make it a smidgeon better. My Dad taught me this as a child when we went camping with the YMCA Indian Guides. Dad was Running Water. I was Little Creek. Those were our horribly politically incorrect Indian names. Hey, it was 1974, what do you expect? At least I think my Dad taught me this lesson. I think in Indian Guides. Who knows. Maybe Mom piped in sometime. I was a kid and my memory has never won me any awards. The point is, someone, in all probability my Dad, in all probability while we were playing at Running Water and Little Creek, implanted this credo in his young son. Dad said when you're camping it's always better to leave the campsite a little cleaner than when you got there. Not just as clean. But a bit cleaner. If everyone did, all the campsites would be sparkling clean. I apply the campsite philosophy to life. If everyone in the world left it, the world I mean, just a little cleaner than when they got here, the world would be a much happier place. The Running Water Campground Theory. What do you think?

But I digress. Hopefully my digressions will be worthwhile, but I'm not making any promises. I'm traveling because, after September 11, I want to understand the world a bit better, understand myself a bit better, and if I can, leave it a bit better than I found it.

====================

Taking Care of Grandpa

Is For Good Men To Do Nothing
By Chris Verrill


3/12/03
9:44 am
Pukalani, Hawaii, USA

Friday I take off and begin my long adventure. I'll be gone from Hawaii for a very long time. I spent a large part of my childhood in this house; coming here to my Grandparents' house for all the holidays. My Mom is an only child so my Grandparents lived vicariously through her. Even more, they doted over their three grandchildren, Heidi, Jennifer and me.

Pukalani is a quiet tropical bedroom community at the five hundred foot level on the slopes of Haleakala on Maui. Some commercial businesses here support the three thousand or so residents, but that's it. The views of the valley--the reason they call Maui the Valley Isle--are spectacular from Pukalani. Take your breath away spectacular. Not from Grandpa's house specifically; well, unless I stand on the roof. But as I jog down the street it is difficult to ask for a more beautiful place to have spent my childhood.

This morning Grandpa cooperated with the nurse. Quite the contrast to yesterday when he didn't want to get out of bed at all. Grandpa is 93 and he's not going on 94. The man who taught me how to fry ants in the driveway with a magnifying glass when I was a boy is now a hunched over pot-bellied, spine protruding shell of his former self. My Grandma and Mom were very upset with Grandpa for teaching that magnifying glass trick. Very, very upset.

Today, while Grandpa's not quite bed ridden, he's close. My 24 year old sister takes care of him. My baby sister Jen, who I got to carry for a few minutes as Grandpa drove the whole family home from the hospital in the backseat of his baby blue 1972 Buick LeSabre, now watches over him twenty-four hours a day. It's hard to explain how a big brother cares for a baby sister. Even harder when that big brother is 13 years old and almost an adult when the sister--my Small Turkey--is born.

Here I am, back on Maui, watching this young woman take care of our aging, dying, grandfather. She has a kind and generous spirit and a warm and gentle temperament. I'm proud of her. I'm also worried about her. Hey, I'm a brother. I'm allowed to worry. I worry years from now, she'll have not done this or that because she was taking care of Grandpa. She makes it clear this is her calling. It's what is right for her. It's what she wants to do. I hope so.

Under Jen's supervision, the nurse comes every weekday morning and gets Grandpa out of bed. Sometimes Grandpa wants to get out of bed. Sometimes he doesn't. Once or twice a week he digs his heals in and absolutely refuses to disembark.

"I want to die," he grumbles. Or perhaps he'll say "I wish I were dead" or some variation on the theme. In more lucid moments, he explains why, too. On those occasions when his brain is working, and there aren't many, it is clear he understands his poor health and lack of quality of life.

When I first heard him say that, it came as a shock. I got angry at him for saying it. Then I got angry at me for getting angry with him. Sometimes growing old isn't all it's cracked up to be.

The nurse leaves Grandpa at the breakfast table and takes off. This is where I come in. To be honest, I don't do much. I sit at the table and make a point of eating my breakfast with him just so he'll have some company. I ask him how he's doing.

"Not so good," he usually responds. "My knee hurts." Either that, or it's some variant on his usual wish-to-die theme. If he's in a feisty mood, he'll say he's "Doing everyone. The good ones twice!"

Grandpa! He never talked that way when I was a kid burning ants! Those moments are precious. But few.

Oh, there's an itty bitty reason why my Grandma and Mom were angry with Grandpa for teaching me how to use the magnifying glass on the ants. You see, Grandpa, in his infinite Grandfatherly wisdom, poured gasoline on the ants first. As a six year old boy, Grandpa thrilled me with his amazing trick. But for some incomprehensible reason, Mom and Grandma weren't thrilled at all. I don't know why. Go figure.

====================

Saying Goodbye

Is For Good Men To Do Nothing
By Chris Verrill


3/12/03
7:48 pm
Pukalani, Hawaii, USA

Today I gave Grandpa a map of the Middle East with lines indicating my travel destinations. Although I'm not sure he understands the specific places on the map, he understands I'm leaving. We've been talking about it for a couple weeks now.

The next part of my trip will be a week back in the Bay Area and then two weeks on the East Coast. I wanted to bring Jen on this East Coast part of the trip. Just as seeing the Middle East will expand my horizons, I think seeing New York and DC would expand hers. I'm sad she's not coming. The two week vacation from taking care of Grandpa would have been so good for her. She could have seen new things in the world. Maybe plant some dreams into her.

It's been nice being on Maui. Getting reconnected with my family, my roots. Especially my Mom--the school crossing guard I call a Kid Cop. My baby sister, too. Seeing old friends from high school like Linda has been wonderful. Linda, full of compassion, gave me a going away card when I left Maui. In her card she enclosed $58 with instructions to give the money to someone I saw begging on the street for survival. How's that for having a kind heart?

Ever since I took up scuba diving I always try to go at least once every time I come back here to Maui. You know, I spent my childhood here, but never went diving. It wasn't until I took my diving lessons in a fishless ice-cold man made lake in California I learned out to scuba dive. It seems I frequently do things in life backwards. I got in two dives while here. One of them, my first night dive, was a novelty. It's like a day dive, except, and I know this will come as a surprise, you do it with, insert drum roll, a flashlight. Ooooh. But I like trying new things, in which category, this certainly falls. The eels, puffer fish, squid, and a zillion-bazillion little colorful fishies all kept me company.

Before the night dive, just before sunset, I dove Molokini. Molokini is a partially submerged volcanic caldera and because the inside is so sheltered it's like swimming in an aquarium. Swimming with the sharks was thrilling, let me tell you. For those of you divers reading Virtual Tourist, Molokini is the best dive spot on earth.

On both dives, listening to the sound of the whales singing while I was underwater made the dives dreamlike.

I?ve now finished my packing. Given that I did 99 percent of the work before I left Pacifica, it only took me couple hours today. It?s quite astonishing. I got my whole life into one Eagle Creek duffel bag plus a carry-on. Admittedly a very large duffel bag, but still, just one. Now I feel like my adventure is really about to begin.

I am looking forward to my trip. Everyone always asks where I am going and what I'll be doing. I think it will be an education for me and make me a wiser more worldly person.

SARS be damned. Who cares about the pending war in Iraq? A traveling I will go. Middle East and parts beyond, here I come.

My mom and stepfather just left my Grandpa's house. They came over for dinner for my last night here. We had pizza and chili from Pizza Hut. It was really bland and tasteless. I guess I won't be getting any endorsements or sponsorships from Pizza Hut, will I? It's the last time I?ll see my parents for a very long time.

When they left, my stepfather and I shook hands. Mom hugged me and started crying and trembling. I just held her. I couldn't think of anything to say to comfort her. I wish I could have. They both left, I closed the door, and Jennifer started talking. Saying what, I don't remember. My mind didn't hear her speaking. Then my stepfather came back in the house and gave me a hug.

"Take care of my mom," I told him.

"I'm going to die before she does," he said.

"You damn well better not," I replied as he shuffled outside toward the car.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:My family: Jen, Grandpa, Mom, and Vince
  • Cons:See above. Hehe.
  • In a nutshell:I return and feel grounded
  • Last visit to Pukalani: Mar 2003
  • Intro Updated May 11, 2004
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