Hawaii Jan migrated to California last week for some family milestones (graduations and the like) with her folks in El Dorado Hills. We hadn’t seen her since our unplanned stay on her island of Oahu in January. Among her many kindnesses to us, Jan found us a house to rent for a couple of weeks after Dick’s surgery. That house, though it was in chilly Pearl City, was a godsend—a pu’uhonua o honaunau (place of refuge) where Dick could rest and recover in the care of our dear friends Cora and Connie, who flew from in the mainland to perform that labor of love.
To distinguish us, Dick long ago dubbed us Hawaii Jan (though she, like me, was also born in California) and California Jan. Our fathers (born in the same summer of 1930 with pale blue eyes) both had jobs, houses and families in Long Beach when they took new jobs in the Sacramento area in the mid-’60s. Hawaii Jan’s dad, Skip Shuman, worked as a Sacramento Bee photographer with Dick.
It turned out on this visit that Hawaii Jan was on a tight schedule, and Dick and I were also a bit busy, so when our respective schedules didn’t mesh for a lunch date, we figured we’d see Jan another time. But Skip called Dick and said that it was pretty important that Dick see Jan this trip. I couldn’t join them, but Dick drove up to El Dorado Hills to meet them. And it turns out that Jan had something important to give Dick.
This is a one-of-a-kind replica of the shirt that was cut off Dick when he collapsed in cardiac arrest Jan. 15. The shirt is no longer made, and a couple of our friends have been scouring websites looking for a replacement. But we figured, oh, well, we got Dick back—that’s most important. And more than one friend sent us other terrific Life Is Good shirts to help make up for the lost one.
But Hawaii Jan makes miracles happen. Not only did she find us a house to rent for two weeks on Oahu (very difficult to do on a week’s notice), but she also brought me, among many other comforts, a big pink sweatshirt blanket that warmed me up in our way-too-cold hospital room where I slept for 12 nights. And, while Dick was still in the hospital, Jan picked me up and took me to, of all places, a local bowling alley for some outstanding local diner food. And she drove me to see the rental house before we went there to help me figure out the area. She also came to Dick’s departure ceremony at the airport before he flew home in February where he was honored as an AED survivor.
In short, Jan Lake is a gem, which we already knew. And we also knew that she has connections in the T-shirt world (she worked for the Hawaii company Crazy Shirts for years, setting up their catalog shoots, and now works for a company buying products for gift shops in Hawaii). But what we didn’t know is that that one of her connections is, as she says, “a local boy, Michael Paz (aka Pazzy).” His company, Project Aloha (projectaloha.com), makes T-shirts, caps and other aloha wear. But, Jan told us, he also creates art for Life Is Good.
And because Jan can move mountains, she persuaded Pazzy to make a replica shirt for Dick, which she presented to him on her most recent trip to see her folks.
As you might imagine, there was much exclamation and not a few tears from the man who had his T-shirt and his custom-made camera vest cut off him Jan. 15. He had an extra vest at home, thank goodness, but the shirt, we figured, was irreplaceable.
Not if you know Hawaii Jan, it turns out.
Thank you, Jan Lake and Michael Paz, for this latest act of great kindness. We’ve been touched, once again, by the miracle of love that has surrounded us throughout Dick’s Great Adventure. And now Dick can walk in the world with his newly repaired heart wearing the T-shirt that spelled it out for us the day of his rebirth: Life Is Good.