A Flower Within a Flower

I like being here with Crystel in her dorm room on Oahu. She lies on the air mattress eyeing her computer. She’s researching how to replace her lost passport. She hasn’t been able to find it since applying for a job near Waikiki Beach. Her plans to travel to Japan and Guatemala are in jeopardy.

I break the companiable silence. “How’s it going with the lost passport?”

“After I’m done eating,” she answers.

I laugh. Of course. Our sense of urgency is not the same. She’ll let me know when she needs help.

Her dorm room is spare. The University of Manoa campus is empty. Jody and I had previously thought that other families would have done the same as we did: vacationed in Hawaii with their national student exchange family member for holiday break. Instead, students had only stayed a semester and had already returned to the mainland. Crystel would be alone for New Year’s and the following week before school started. Her friend, Allie, who had visited from Minnesota had also returned home.

Lanikai Pillbox trail with Allie

Jody and I had worried about Crystel being on a vacated campus and returning to her empty dorm room in the evening from her new job. We also didn’t want her to be alone on the holiday.

During the Maui part of our vacation when I told her our concern she said, “Why don’t you come stay with me?”

“You should,” Jody agreed.

It didn’t take a moment for me to know that was exactly what I would do.

32 years ago, when I went into the Peace Corps, volunteers received their initial training for the Kingdom of Tonga on Oahu. During the plane ride from Minnesota to Hawaii, tears flowed down my cheeks. In the airplane bathroom I tried to stuff them back in. With each mile I flew – watching the dot on the large airplane screen move closer and closer to Hawaii – I shed layer after layer of my life until I knew this to be true: I had been abandoned. I was that child, that teenager, the one who had been left to fend for herself against the sexual abuse that raged in our home. To protect my three younger sisters, I reported the abuse to the police when I was nineteen years old. My parents disowned me.

I was abandoned.

Hanakapial Falls

I didn’t want Crystel to feel abandoned. To be alone. I didn’t want her walking on a deserted campus. Spending a week with her and seeing her life would be a gift. An adventure.

Hiking Lanikai Pillbox Trail with her and Allie, visiting beaches, an arduous 8-mile waterfall hike on Kauai, and kayaking were a few of the things we did.

It was on the Pillbox hike that Crystel asked me what I was thinking. I told her that I had been on this island before. How my past influences my parenting. She pointed a blossom out to Allie and me, “See that flower within a flower?”

My children are a flower within a flower. They have the holding space – love – to be beautiful and a landing spot – their mothers – to feel safe and flourish.

As The Wind Blows

That’s what our daughter says.

When she first landed in Hawaii, we enjoyed our daily chats with her.

Jody and I asked her about the phone calls: too much, too little, how are you doing? We wanted to be present for her and yet also give her the space she needed.

We knew we were at the end of our daily calls when three weeks later we disrupted her at breakfast. Dining at IHOP with newly found college friends, she left the table to answer our call.

“Oh, yeah, so you don’t need to call me anymore,” she said.

“Wait. Wait. Wait,” Jody and I responded. “We expect at least a weekly phone call.”

It took Crystel a few weeks to remember whether it was a Wednesday or Thursday that we were going to call. That made for a fortuitous two phone calls in a week. The parents were being weaned from adult daughter contact.

Facetime worked the best. At least we could see her, study her face, discern if anything was off, and she could make faces at us in the camera and use it to check her brow line.

We had been asking her the same questions, week after week. How is school? How are your roommates? How is the dining hall? What plans do you have for this weekend? Our weekly conversations changed the first time she used the line, “As the wind blows.” I felt like she was putting us off. Dismissing us.

She had been planning an outing with her roommates to swim with the sharks. It didn’t happen because as the wind blows.

I thought she was being disrespectful. I told her that we needed more engagement from her. She needed to add to the conversation.

After the phone call, when I had time to cool down, I realized that what she was saying was true. Isn’t that the way of most college students and young adults – as the wind blows. And didn’t I embrace spontaneity? Encourage her to follow her joy?

Personally, I love being in the moment, being able to go inside to determine my path or action. I phrase it as introspection.

We’ve learned to anticipate the changing winds. She’s made friends, adventured to the northern parts of Oahu, flew to Maui for a weekend, snorkeled, cliff jumped, and learned to surf. She did eventually swim with the sharks.

Crystel requested and received a permit for solo hiking on the island of Kauai for the first week in January. Though she explained that maybe she would explore the island with a friend and do day excursions, she didn’t know yet.

Letting go of our adult child is a kite in the wind. I’m proud of her. A bit nervous for her. And hope the winds always blow strong and true.

“Ua pa mai ka makani…” / “The wind has been blowing…

I Made It!

I didn’t die.

My goal for retirement was to get out alive. To not die while still working. Early deaths in my family haunt me. My parents and four siblings died early deaths at ages 72, 67, 60, 59, 57, and 30. That is unnatural.

Monday, I woke up with a smile on my face. My current goal is good health. I want to outlive my other seven siblings. My chances are good. I’ve recently become a mall walker when it is -10 windchill. Yes, I’m now one of those, I tell myself. Jody and I will be spending the month of February in Florida.  She’ll be working remotely while I’m walking the beach.

Our kids are our retirement plan. Crystel has applied for National Student Exchange in Hawaii for the 2022-2023 school year. We’ll follow her. They should be worried that we won’t leave their basement!

My next goal is to find my rhythm in retirement. Cooking, writing, reading, being outdoors. I want to find out what retirement means to me. Right now, it feels like freedom. A blank page to define myself.