Friday, July 20, 2007

One of Life's Exceptions

When we returned to my Father he was livid. We had been gone more than twice as long as we were supposed to be. We were late for our plane. He acted like he would beat us both.

Phone calls to the airport were made, while the shrieking continued. Dad was informed that we could get another plane leaving a couple of hours later than the one we were originally to take. He settled down. As he relaxed, my Mother told him about the conversation with Lani, and how it proved she was right and he was wrong. I WAS speaking Hawaiian. He said to her, "How did YOU suddenly get to be the expert on what's Hawaiian and what's Pidgin?" She said, "I was there, I heard him, and anyway I know as much about it as you do, which is nothing, nothing at all, so shut up."

Since we had so much more time to catch the plane, my Father took us the long way to the airport. Leaving Schofield, he drove northwest instead of southeast, and we reached the coast. Then he turned and followed the coastal highway.

I was in the back seat holding the whistle, which my Father hadn't noticed yet. As Alaka'i I studied the whistle, turning it over and over, looking at all of the designs. One of the things that Lani taught me was that asymmetry is not a problem for Hawaiian art, so long as each side of a piece has the same power. I saw how the right and left sides of the red bird were carved differently, but they were equally strong.

Then I gave the whistle to Keiki Kona, telling him that it wasn't a toy, so he should be careful with it. Kona immediately played the whistle loudly.

My Father screamed at my Mother, "TELL YOUR SON TO STOP THAT DAMN NOISE!"

She said, "Stop playing the whistle, honey."

My Father said, "Whistle? Where did he get a whistle? I didn't give him any damn whistle!"

She said, "I was going to tell you. The nice Hawaiian man gave it to him, as a going away present or something."

He said, "Great. So I suppose he's forgot all about the ball I worked so hard at getting him. He's going to just play with this stupid whistle and drive me nuts."

My Mother said, "Well, about the ball, there's something,..."

"WHAT? Where's the ball?!" He pulled the car over, opened his door and got out of the car, and opened the back door on the driver's side and screamed at me, "WHERE'S THE BALL I GAVE YOU??!!"

I said, "I gave it to Lani."

My Father dragged me out and hurled me onto the pavement behind the car. Even though it was December it was a hot afternoon. The asphalt was hot, and I remember the air shimmering in the distance, as I got up off the ground. I don't remember a word he was screaming. I remember he knocked me down again, and then he snatched the whistle out of my hand and threw it toward the ocean, the screaming was just a meaningless muffled background noise to me.

I think I started to hate my Father at precisely the moment the whistle left his hand and sailed away. There wasn't a whole lot to love in that picture.

At that point in the coastal highway the bank of the road is formed by rocks which slant down to the sea. I don't think my Father's throw reached the ocean. I think the whistle landed on the rocks below us. I like to think it's still there.

My Mother had to stand in between us to stop him from hitting me more. She said if he was going to kill me to do it and get it over with -- he should throw me into the ocean -- but if not, he had to stop. They could explain a child disappearing at a rocky beach, but they couldn't explain a battered child.

Dad yelled at me to get back in the car. I said no. So he yelled at my Mother to get in. She did, and he started to drive off without me. I just stood there.

Then he stopped, and they sat in place, about a hundred yards ahead of me. After one or two minutes, the car back up to where I was, my Father got out, walked up to me, grabbed me by the arm and threw me in the back seat. We continued on to the airport.

On the way Kona was in tears because the whistle was lost, but Alaka'i said it was the memory of the whistle that mattered, and since he had committed it to memory it would still do what it was meant to do.

Just before we arrived at the airport we were driving down an avenue lined with tall trees. I imagined they were koa trees. Lani and Lono had told me that the great canoes were sometimes made from koa trees. Koa also means army, so in my imagination the trees turned into how I thought Hawaiian warriors might have looked, one for each tree. I had little to go on, so they looked like dozens of clones of Lani and Lono wearing feather cloaks and holding spears upright before them.

On the plane ride to Seattle my Mother brought up the subject of Kona. She introduced him to my Father as an imaginary friend. He told her he was glad she wasn't pushing the split personality idea anymore. Then he noticed that I called him Keiki Kona.

He said, "That proves he's not speaking real Hawaiian. Anyone who knows any Hawaiian knows they put the adjectives after the noun. If Kona is the name, then it has to be Kona Keiki."

I didn't know what to say. I just spoke it, I didn't know books about it. It was almost 39 years later that I found a Hawaiian grammar book in a Half-Price Bookstore and read that some adjectives, including many that begin with the letters ke or ka, precede the noun. They're exceptions.

Just like me.

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