Golf—or at least a golf course—turns out not to be a good walk spoiled, but the best walk so far of the ones I’ve done daily around the area of Kaiser Moanalua hospital in Honolulu. The hospital sits on a crest of the mouth of Moanalua valley, and from some windows, if you look makai (toward the sea), you can catch a glimpse of blue. Dick’s room looks mauka (toward the mountains) and out the large window, eucalyptus trees with their lovely peeling bark reveal green the color of a young gecko.
Beyond the trees I can see the pink edifice that is Tripler Army Medical Center majestically atop a Moanalua hill. You can easily see it when taking off or descending in a jet from Honolulu International Airport. I often forget its name and have to ask Dick. Now I’ve got it. I doubt that I’ll forget it.
Today, we celebrated the week-aversary of Dick’s new life after his cardiac arrest at the Honolulu Airport Jan. 15. We have learned that such resurrections are rare, and we are pleased he is one of them. We also got the news today from one of the two cardio-thoracic surgeons here that Dick will have his bypass/CABG surgery Thursday, two days from now. We are pleased about that. He’s had a week to rest (he’s sleeping a lot) and get stronger, and they’re pleased with his progress. It makes Dick, the surgeon said, an excellent candidate for the surgery.
I look forward to my daily walks here. One of the nurses suggested that I walk to the golf course, part of which we can see from the hospital. So I did yesterday, finding my way down the sloping hill, passing free-growing flowers the likes of which one sees in botanical gardens in Hawaii… but there they are, planted once by someone and now going greengreengreen (with occasional flowerflower) on their own. Hawaii is a place where it’s easy being green.
I found my way to a path that rims the Moanalua Golf Club, whose sign claims it as the oldest golf course in Hawaii, built in 1898. It’s a long, slender course that points toward the back of Moanalua Valley, whose main road leads to the Moanalua Valley Trail. I wasn’t going to hike that far, but because it was late afternoon, and few golfers were about, I ambled along in a pleasant bit of sunshine with huge, cartoon-fluffy clouds over the mountains.
I passed some men golfing, and, stopping to take some photos with my phone, one big guy in a very clean white T-shirt and baggy shorts below the knees called out, “Wanna take our picture?” He smiled at me, so I called back, “Sure!” And he approached me with a smaller, paler guy wearing a red cap. “We give you a pose,” he said, and they stood atop a rise with the Moanalua mountains rising into the clouds.
I took their photo on my phone, showed it to the big guy who walked over to me. “Mike,” he said, sticking out his hand.
“Jan,” I said and put mine in his.
Mike gave me his phone number, and I texted the photo to him. He said, “You on a walk?” On the golf course?”
Ah, I thought. “I know I’m not supposed to walk on the golf course if I’m not golfing,” I said, “but my husband’s [when he’s sick, he’s my husband] is in the hospital up there, and we’re waiting to find out when he’s going to have heart surgery.”
I didn’t say that we’ve been waiting for a week, that I’m sleeping in the hospital next to him, that he had a cardiac arrest at the airport almost a week ago, that he was brought back by a portable defibrillator, that he is one lucky duck. And so am I.
Mike put his hand over his own heart, a big brown paw against that white shirt, and he sighed.
“Ah, sistah,” he said sadly, shaking his head.
Tears popped into my eyes. Those Hawaiian terms of endearment–”sistah,” “auntie,” “uncle”—are not used casually with visitors, almost never with tourists. But from the beginning of this crisis we’ve been treated like ohana (family). Local women who work as aides in the hospital come into Dick’s room and, after getting to know him a bit, josh with him and call him “uncle.” Some of them, coming to collect urine, stick their heads in the door and say, “You shi-shi yet?” (the local term for peeing).
And here was this big man who didn’t know me, his hand on his heart, looking at me with sad eyes, basically embracing me with one word as ohana. It was all I could do not to cry on that nice white shirt.
“Do you work here?” I asked Mike.
“Yeah,” he said. “Pau hana [after work] we play a round. Exercise!” he grinned.
He didn’t translate; somehow he figured I knew a bit of Hawaiian. “Yeah, you not ‘sposed to walk on the course, but you go ahead, sistah. Up that trail right there, you walk right back to the hospital.” He emphasized the middle syllable—hosPITal.
“Mahalo,” I said, and Mike and his golfing partner headed down the big hill to their next hole.
I followed the trail Mike suggested, coming into a broad plain that circles behind the hosPITal. I found a sign that said, “Walking path is steep and rocky—enter at your own risk,” which made me think, well, yeah, kinda like life. I saw a cattle egret, one of my favorite local birds (introduced here in 1959 to keep insects from pestering cows, they’re now considered invasive), perched on a fence. He let me take his picture before he flew off. I walked by the emergency room entrance where the ambulance had brought Dick seven days earlier. The doors swished open, and I walked in, finding myself on the same floor where Dick lay in his hospital bed, covers up to his chin, tucked in and warm. Waiting for me.
I sat down on my little chair/bed and watched him breathing for a bit, grateful for every moment I get to do that now, to be with him, the linchpin of my ohana.