I find only two things wrong with Kauai. One it is too far away from where I live. By the second flight I am so anxious and like a toddler, keep asking myself how much LONGER are we on this plane. Two, people have found it and it is becoming less and less organic and noncommercial.
When we were planning for our wedding, we reached the decision that a destination wedding with few guests solved a lot of our coordination issues. We also thought it should be a beach as we dream of living one day by the ocean. My boss at the time had told me a great deal about Kauai and she had been many times. The seed was planted. It was fantastically easy to get married there. And I fell in love with the island. We did many tourist things that first trip, fascinated by the beauty everywhere you looked. We took a helicopter tour to see where they had filmed movies. We found the waterfall where “de plane” was spotted weekly on the TV of our youth. You could not get fast food and not a Starbucks was seen, but you could eat more fresh seafood than you had ever dreamed of.
I am embarrassed to admit that I have lost track (ok yes, I could look through scrapbooks) of the times I have been to Kauai (always the north shore); they all just blend into one relaxing yet invigorating moment in life. Except for one trip.
Working around Spring Break and other work commitments, we had booked to go the end of March 2014. I ended up having to book two different places for our week stay due to scheduling issues. But we were on the Northshore and both places looked very fun in their very different ways. It had been a balancing trick to schedule vacations while our parents got older and struggled with health issues. Bud, my father-in-law, had passed away two years earlier and my mother was in a nursing home near us. I had a friend network set up to visit her when we were gone, but she failed rapidly and died mid-February 2014.
No one mentions that there is a lot of work to do when someone dies. Physical work like cleaning out their belongings, scheduling a service, deciding what to do with the belongings, writing thank you notes, closing accounts, filing final taxes are just a few things that come to mind. Not to mention normal daily living of work, meals, cleaning, shopping, and taking care of family. There is often no real time to grieve. I didn’t realize that at the time, I thought I was doing quite well juggling all the things and moving forward with my loss. It never even crossed my mind to cancel or postpone our vacation.
Our first place was across the road from the ocean, just a quick walk to the water. It was a bungalow sort of place with a giant poster bed and the jungle all around. It had an odd bathroom set up of two sinks on opposite corners of the bathroom. Odd, but it worked. It also rained. We knew we were headed there in rainy season, but I don’t think we knew how much it would rain. In Kauai, you expect a shower around 3/4pm and then poof, the sun is back. This was not like that. It rained and rained.
And I had finally stopped racing around and could let my guard down. It hit me; my mom was gone. I had no regrets, no ‘I wish I would have done/said/tried’. I just missed her, a big giant ache of missing. We walked the beach in between the rain showers and saw rainbows when we timed it wrong (right?) and walked in the rain (I am pretty sure I have never walked in the rain that much my entire life as I did on this trip). And plopped down on that giant four poster bed and watched episode of episode of Gilligan’s Island. A favorite from childhood and oddly one of the only channels that came in well during the heavy rains. By the time we moved out of that bungalow to our new accommodations, I was starting to feel like I was dealing with my sad. But Gilligan’s Island will always be tied to how I felt then and how surprised I felt at the depth of my loss when it hit me all at once when I had convinced myself that I had dealt with it.
We moved to a fancy condo where the man who owned it also owned a label maker, and it was no doubt his very best friend. Everything as labeled. He had owners’ manuals for everything. He also had an appliance for everything. Want shave ice… use this. It was astounding and tad intimidating.
Day or so there and we decide to take a hike. We had brought our shoes and poles and decided why not. Matt indicated he found a shorter one that had a waterfall we could turn around after seeing and returned. I packed some trail mix, light snacks, water and we headed out. I figured it might be a morning trip and we could do dinner later.
I can honestly say it was the hardest hike I had ever been on and ever will have been on because … wow. I legit, thought I was as good as dead when we came back around the cliff face where if you slip you just fall REALLY FAR into the ocean and it was raining sideways. Some of the pictures we took that day are my very favorite and I still cannot believe I got to experience that. I also gave up before we got to the falls because I feared I would not have the energy to make it back (it was a BIG tad longer than just a morning hike). We were muddy and I took the last steep incline intentional on my butt as I was so tired and feared falling. Needless to say, I did enjoy Mr. Labels giant bathtub though I fretted if I was ever going to get all the dirt off me AND then the tub!
We found out later that people actually had been trapped on the other side of the water we had to hike through and be transported by helicopter to the main area after spending the night. (we also also learned that people had died hiking that trail and we check a bit better now just exactly where we are hiking! LOL)
I almost forgot the Monk Seals. We had never seen them before but that year for whatever reason, they were beaching themselves to rest and we saw quite a few, so many in fact we got two tiny stuffed ones that road in my car for years to remember them. What magnificent creatures. The locals took such good care of them making sure tourists stayed away and let them rest so they could return back to their homes.