Sunday was another Father’s Day. I kept busy in the garden and really didn’t think about what day it was until late afternoon. From a neighbor’s yard I got a whiff of steaks on the barbecue.
I left Hawaii at the end of 1980 and said goodbye to my parents at the airport. They had followed me over to the islands after my twins were born. They came specifically to help care for my sons, but it didn’t take long for them to adapt to and embrace the island way of life.
Mom and Dad had senior citizen passes that entitled them to ride the buses for free. My father liked to do the grocery shopping and the cooking. He took the bus downtown to the fish market, the butcher shop and to produce stands to search out the freshest foods. He cooked stews, then put them in the blender to make homemade baby food. When a doctor told my father he needed more exercise, he got up early and walked eight miles before doing the shopping.
On their “days off,” as my parents liked to call weekends, they rode the bus from one end of Oahu to the other. Sometimes they went to the other side of the island just to have a picnic at the beach or to try a restaurant someone had recommended.
My father’s olive skin tanned easily to a deep mahogany brown. He wore Hawaiian shirts every day and he and my mother were the picture of relaxation and contentment, island style. They were the happiest I’d ever seen them during the three and a half years that they lived down the road from me in their one-bedroom condo that overlooked Pearl Harbor.
The smell of my neighbor’s barbecue reminded me of zillions of barbecues my dad presided over. His specialty was sirloin steak cut into large cubes, marinated in olive oil, chopped parsley and garlic, sprinkled with salt and pepper and always charcoal-grilled to perfection. My friends considered an invitation to one of “Mike’s barbecues” a special treat they wouldn’t miss for the world.
My parents put up a brave front as they waved goodbye to their only daughter and her family as we left Hawaii for the Mainland. I felt a little guilty, but I knew my parents would be over to visit us soon and I knew we’d return to Hawaii often to see them.
Just three weeks later I was on a flight back to Oahu. My mother called to tell me my father had suffered a heart attack and the doctor thought he might not recover. I got on the next plane and arrived at two in the afternoon. My father passed away at six that evening.
My dad’s been gone for nearly half my life now, but it doesn’t seem like that long ago that we were celebrating Father’s Day together, either at my childhood home or a park or beach or in the back yard of my home in Hawaii with Dad at the helm of the barbecue and my children underfoot.
I called my youngest son Sunday afternoon. My first grandchild, his daughter, is due in October. When I asked my son what he was doing, he said he was getting ready to barbecue. I wished him “Happy Father-to-be Day” and envisioned the years ahead: a loving daughter and her doting dad together at a barbecue on Father’s Day!
I hope to sit at the table with them and savor every moment.