“He’s grown,” says our son-in-law, the Alaska fisherman, as he sits on the couch and the puppy nibbles his sunburned neck and ears. He, along with our oldest daughter, who is at work in Seattle this morning, and his family were in Hawaii for a week. Roger stayed with us, and now the Captain has come to get him. “His legs are longer.”
Arly, our own puppy, whimpers with jealously and excitement from the other end of the couch where he sits with the Bearded One. I’m in my rocker. We are talking about big, important stuff, and the dogs make the conversation difficult in their barking, wrestling, puppy way.
“I know it’s selfish,” says the Captain, “but I don’t want you to move. It blew me away when I first heard.” He’s the only NO in an otherwise unanimous sea of support for our latest notion, which is just days old now, but growing more real with time.
“Well, I’m as surprised at the notion as you are,” I say. “Maybe more so. I imagined building this farmlet and having all you Seattle kids and future grandkids drive an hour south to come see Grandma and Granddaddy and the goats and chickens on the farm.”
The Captain knows all about altered dreams. His father died last month in a motorcycle accident after suffering a massive heart attack while speeding through the backroads of the Baja Peninsula. It was out of the blue and shocked us all. He
was 58, the same age as the Bearded One and one year older than me. The clan had planned all year to go to Hawaii. They never imagined their hearts would be so broken. He will be missed.
Arly yelps and lunges at Roger who yelps and lunges back.
“It’s been a year full of transition,” I say. “And then your dad died. Was it just three weeks ago? Seems much longer — ”
“Three weeks?” The Captain looks at me and is quiet. Time is tripping with all of us.
Can it be just days since I asked the Bearded One, “Do you want to move to Hawaii?” and he instantly said, “Yes”. He’s not one to travel or visit, and he’s never even been to Hawaii, but he loves the idea of living in a whole different place. Living in Alaska for a couple of years in the mid-1990s, much of it in the bush, was one of the highlights of his life. The other was an 8,000 mile motorcycle trip across the western USA in 1982.
The idea of moving to Hawaii came to me after a cold, gray misty walk by myself just a week ago, on December 30, New Year’s Eve Eve. I thought about our daughter helping to scatter some of her father-in-law’s ashes in the middle of the brilliant Pacific Ocean. And then I thought of Tom Coolidge.
Tom Coolidge was the first person to live on this road. There was no road ’til he got here. Just bears. He designed and built the 1400 square foot pole house that is now the Farmlet House in 1990.
He lived here for sixteen years, watching the road grow longer and attract more farmlets. Now we’ve lived here for exactly seven years —
— and Tom lives in Hawaii. His girlfriend, a lovely woman with a Ph.D. in Linguistics named Deborah, came to our door 3-1/2 years ago. She was in nearby Port Townsend for a retreat, she said, but she was usually in Hawaii with Tom. He had told her about this house and said he could do the same in Hawaii for them….and she wanted to see this place for herself, would we mind? It was our 13th anniversary, May 2, 2010. Come on in! we said.
So when I got home from my cold and wet but thoughtful walk, I found Deborah and her blog on Facebook. And, oh oh oh! A photo of the “Sherbet Shed” — a smaller version of the Farmlet House painted glorious rainbow colors on an acre of tropical forest in Puna, Hawaii. The wet side of the Big Island.
Since that moment, we’ve stepped into a bit of a rip current, whisking us through the week of Roger and Arly, energized by the vision of that beautiful little sunny house. I’m tickled by all the positive feedback we’ve gotten — neighbors, the UPS guy, and most especially, the kids.
All the kids except the Captain, that is. Who before our eyes, as we talk, becomes so bone-tired that we send him into the den for a nap before he drives back to Seattle with Roger. We put the dogs outside. The Bearded One and I whisper in the kitchen.
Two hours later when he gets up, the Captain says, “You know, lots of Hawaiians and Samoans fish with us. There are lots of flights between Hawaii and Anchorage.”
He tells us about how he grew up living the summers in Naknek, where his dad worked all year building the family fishing business. He knew how to filet a salmon when he was 7.
“There’s a small house and three shipping containers on the property,” he says, “sort of a family compound. My brothers and I talked a lot this week about how the future grandkids will be there all summer, but we’ll all be out fishing. It’d be great if you came up and helped out.”
The Bearded One sits forward in his chair. “Oh my yes…,” he says, and the Captain grins.
And then it hits me, and I leap up. “Holy Moly. The way all these farm animals tie us to this place, we’ll see more of our grandkids from Hawaii than we would from here!”
I like where this is going.
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A TIMING NOTE: After roughly 3 years of weekly blogs, I’m shifting for a time to “intermittent” – whenever-the-muse-hits-me. Thanks for reading!