We went to a concert last night. Hawaiian music. Keola Beamer, a master of Hawaiian slack key guitar, and Henry Kapono. They were two of the progenitors and drivers of the Hawaiian Rennaissance during the 60’s and 70’s. It was a lovely evening, albeit emotional for Terry and me. There were a couple of songs that touched me deeply, songs written for a father, songs written for children. Songs of longing for home. Irreverant songs that were hysterically funny. It was like being in these people’s living room as they talked story and shared their music. The final encore was Hawai’i Aloha. Part of the requirements of this particular song is everyone must stand, join hands and sing. Even if you don’t know the song, you sing. It has a simple melody and Keola’s wife, Moana, spoke the words before each stanza, albeit in Hawaiian. In days past I would have joined in with gusto. I can follow a tune, could fake the words. Last night I stood mute, tears streaming down my face, unable to utter a word. I tried to sing, but nothing would come out.
Throughout my life, I have had my heart broken, or so I thought at the time. Failed relationships, failed friendships, and each time the music brought me through. Music has the power to rearrange those hidden invisible pieces of your soul. In the past, I was able to play and sing to re-order those pieces. I would bang on my guitar and belt out Dylan (who always managed to catch the essence of heartbreak), old gospel songs, mountain dirges, fiddle tunes, till the ache eased. This time around, things are different. Somehow the music isn’t working.
Maybe tonight it was because of our connection to Hawai’i. We went there on our honeymoon and very nearly didn’t come back. I wish we had stayed. For years, we would take our family vacations there and felt at home. We were always treated like locals. People would invite us to private luaus, to after-hours hula sessions. It was surprising and at the same time, completely natural. We felt like locals. We would return year after year and it seemed as no time had elapsed between visits. We are headed there in July for a family vacation and look forward to the trip with a mixture of joyous anticipation and dread. There are so many memories lurking there.
The last time we were there was in the summer of 2005. One of our very last family vacations, all of us together. In retrospect, the storm was brewing but hadn’t broken yet. Will I be able to sit at the counter of Hamura Saimin and not see Jake sitting next to me ordering chicken sticks and lilikoi pie? Will I be able to golf the Makai course and not see us huddling in our golf cart during a torrential downpour only to see the magnificent rainbow just a few minutes later? Can I drive past the Tahiti Nui and not see Jake and Shane digging up the Kalua pig for the luau? Or see the 2-year-old Jake dancing on stage with the “Hula Girls”? Can I ever be on a beach without thinking of the tiki hut we would build every summer? Of course not. He will be there the entire time. After all, we carry him with us wherever we go.
I will take my uke, but I am not sure I will be able to play it. Perhaps I can play, but sing? Somehow I don’t have high hopes. This is what Mark Twain must have been referring to. He compared the death of his 24-year-old daughter Susy (Jake was 24), to the burning down of a house.
“It is one of the mysteries of our nature that a man [or a woman], all unprepared, can receive a thunder-stroke like that and live. There is but one reasonable explanation for it. The intellect is stunned by the shock of it and but gropingly gathers the meaning of the words. The power to realize their full import is mercifully wanting. The mind has a dumb sense of vast loss – that is all. It will take mind and memory months, and possibly years, to gather together the details and thus learn and know the whole extent of the loss….It will be years before the tale of lost essentials is complete, and not till then can he [she] truly know the magnitude of his [her] disaster.”
Years later, I am still learning the extent of this disaster. I am still compiling the tale of lost essentials. Jake was essential and now he is lost and all the pieces of our lives he carried with him are gone as well. And here is where it gets even worse. As you begin to comprehend the extent of the tragedy, the raw emotion subsides and you are able to evaluate what you have truly lost. I am still discovering what I have lost. The discovery will continue forever, I fear.
Neil Young said it. Only love can break your heart/what if your world should fall apart. If the magnitude of our heartbreak is measured by the depth of our love, my heartache is immeasurable. My world fell apart on December 28, 2013. Like the broken teacup, I am struggling to rebuild it, but there will always be missing pieces. I pray one of those pieces won’t be music. Perhaps it is just under the sofa in this darkened room and I will stumble across it one of these days.
Until then, we take what pleasure we can from our lives, but we are fundamentally changed. Last night was a lovely chance to soak up some true aloha from our beloved islands. We live, we laugh, we love, but alas, for now, I do not sing.