I returned from an evening out with friends at around 11:30 on the night she changed the memory I have of my father. Until that night, I could only remember the 19 months he was ill. She helped make him healthy again.
"We need to talk about some things," she said.
"But you hate talking," I said. Half-hoping she'd get mad and leave. I was tired and wanted to go to bed.
"But now I need to talk," she said, "and I'm afraid you're going to have to listen... I took the test."
"What test, sweetheart?"
"THE test," she chortled—convulsing and breathing and laughing at the same time. "You're going to be a dad."
Interesting choice of words, now that I think about it. She didn't say, "father." She said, "You're going to be a dad."
There's something sweet about that word: Daddy.
I hugged her instinctively, and she stopped moving. Her eyes met mine, and with a look I'd never seen in her before, she kissed me... hard.
We went to sleep almost immediately. The next morning, Wednesday, I woke her with a kiss and a question: "Will you be my wife?" I asked.
Gong. Gong. Clang. Clang.
Four days, seven hours and about 35 minutes later, she said "yes."
I was in Hawaii on my twelfth birthday. Not too many kids can say that. Probably more than I give credit, but I like to think that I am one of a very select few.
Father took the entire family to Waikiki the week before the Honolulu Marathon. There are, more than likely, even fewer kids who can claim that their father ran in five marathons. I guess that made this vacation extra special...
We have somewhat of a tradition in my family. We celebrate birthdays by allowing the honoree to choose the restaurant at which we all dine for the day.
I chose Burger King. I was 12.
Father and I left the Hawaii Prince Hotel at around six-thirty in the morning. We strolled down Holomoana Street towards the Burger King to retrieve breakfast croissants for the Sunshine and the butterfly, still sleeping in their rooms.
"Why don't you and I go down to the water after we eat... we'll let your mom and Deb sleep a little while longer."
We ate my birthday breakfast on the move. We were but a few hundred feet from the beach, and it seemed that Father was on a mission. I remember thinking that the sausage, egg and cheese croissant and large Coca-Cola was not on his "marathon diet." He ate it in one breath—inhaled it, so to speak.
"I was your age the first time I ever realized I had an erection," he said.
"Wah...?! Gross!" I exclaimed.
I wasn't the brightest kid in the world, but I had known what the word erection meant for quite a while. 6 months—give or take about 13 days—before this trip, I overheard the sunshine—in all her glory—discuss with Jupiter how she'd found me in the bathtub, "rubbing on his erection," she said.
I don't recall ever hearing the word used, other than to describe tall buildings before that moment, but I knew exactly what she'd seen me rubbing in the bathtub.
"Who cares, Dad? I don't want to hear about that!"
"I was with Becky Tomlinson at the 6th Grade formal. We were slow dancing, and then all the sudden: Boom!"
"Boom?" I asked aloud.
Suddenly I wasn't so sure my mother hadn't simply seen me trying to pop a zit.
He continued: "Yeah, there it was for all the world to see. My penis was sticking out so far it made my sport coat fly open."
Nope. Not a zit.
There I was, in arguably the most beautiful place in the world, looking out over the blue water... a light breeze gently wisped through my hair... no one and nothing but early morning joggers and dedicated surfers to obscure my view. But I didn't "see" any of it. Instead I choked down what was left of my bacon and cheese French pastry and focused on NOT picturing my father's first hard-on.
To this day, I do not remember my reaction to the "sport coat comment," but I do recall quickly turning the discussion to parasailing and our impending climb up Diamond Head Mountain the next day.
Diamond Head is not a "mountain," after all... It's a volcanic crater.
Oh, the irony of it all.
Diamond Head is located on the South-east Coast of Oahu at the end of Waikiki. It was originally named "Laeahi" by the ancient Hawaiians. The name meant "brow of the tuna," and looking at the silhouette of the crater from the beach, you can see the resemblance.
The current name was given to the crater by British sailors in the 1800's. When they first saw the crater from sea, the calcite crystals in the lava rock appeared to glimmer in the sunlight. The sailors thought there must be diamonds in the soil.
There were no diamonds in the soil. Anyway, the volcano has been extinct for 150,000 years, and we went there the day after my birthday.