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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Journeys...


I remember when I flew to Washington D.C. on short notice to retrieve my Father and bring him home in 2014. He was in a care home in Maryland. I stayed in a hotel right by the airport. I had about forty-eight hours from the time I landed until the time we were both set to leave Dulles to return to Hawai’i. There were so many unknowns. I hadn’t seen my Father in over eight months and his Dementia had only been worsening. 

I had made arrangements with the nurses and staff of the care home he was in to get him up and ready at about 3:00 in the morning, to make the journey straight to the airport and get on our flight before his new wife found out, and inevitably notified the authorities and her lawyers. There were so many unknowns that day, 5000 miles away from home. If I were stopped, at any point, I would never get another opportunity to get him home as his new spouse was trying to have him examined by two physicians, and had retained a high powered law firm to gain guardianship of him. They were preparing court documents already.

This was my only chance. I practiced the forty minute drive from my hotel, to the care home, and back to the airport, about five times, to make sure that I knew exactly where I needed to go. It was confusing with so many roads, exits and toll-booths.

I didn’t sleep at all the night before that morning when I was supposed to retrieve him. I started my drive about 1:00am on that Sunday, June 1st, my sister Nalani’s Birthday. I had to wait for his prescriptions at a pharmacy in Virginia at 2:00am before heading to Maryland. Thank God for GPS. I would never have had made it. 

I remember driving down the suburban street headed to the 24-hour pharmacy in a residential neighborhood, about 1:30 in the morning, when I noticed something trotting along the sidewalk keeping pace with my car. It was a red fox. Just moving along the sidewalk with my vehicle. It seemed like it was quite some time we stayed together as I drove slowly. Very surreal. I felt like our Iroquois ancestors were there with me. Kind of like how the two large and rare Golden Eagles were circling above my rental car when I first landed at Dulles and first retrieved my vehicle. I needed every sign of support as I was alone and fearful of failure. Fearful of never seeing my Father again.

I made it to the care home about 3:00am and drove carefully through the dark surrounding neighborhood, a route which I studied many times during the day practice trips, trying not to look suspicious and attract the attention of law enforcement or troopers. If I was pulled over, the line of questioning could very well inevitably risk my whole mission and journey.

When I pulled into the front of the care home driveway, I buzzed the front door and a nurse opened the door cautiously at that ungodly hour. I let her know who I was, and she summoned several other nurses and caretakers. They brought my Father out in a wheelchair. I was so nervous as to his reaction. If he would be mad. If he would even recognize me as his son. When  he came out, he sat there. Motionless. Emotionless. Like he was in a catatonic state. I looked at him and smiled and said,  in my most cheerful and confident voice, “It’s me Dad! Kai! I’m here to take you out of here. Take you home.”

There was no reaction or response whatsoever. He sat there, staring at the floor. He didn't even look up at me. I could sense the awkwardness in the air for all who witnessed that exchange. And I sensed sorrow as well.

We busied ourselves getting outside to the rental car as a nurse helped my Father up and out of the wheelchair on his stiff and shaky legs. Other staff loaded up his clothes and belongings and lots of adult diapers and cleaning wipes. We got him in the car and got his seatbelt on after some struggle. I hugged the workers really tight, and thanked them profusely for caring for my Father and for helping me get him out and home before I truly lost any legal hope of being able to fight for him, to fulfill the promise to my Mother, to care for my Father after she left this World. Most importantly, to bury them together for Eternity.

The staff wished me great luck in my Journey home and getting my Father through airport security since his new wife had all of his current identification cards. I only had an old military I.D. card I had found a decade before, and somehow kept it. My Father, a retired Lt. Colonel in the United States Marine Corps, was a Captain in that old card and decades younger. I didn’t know how TSA would react since he hardly looked like the same young person staring back from that green laminated card. My only saving grace was that there was no expiration date on that old card. I thought that it would still be valid as an ID. Anyway, I would cross that bridge later.

I got into the car and put on my seatbelt. I put my hand on the gear shifter to put the vehicle into Drive, when I saw my Father slowly move his left hand over to mine, and wrap it around my hand still on the shifter. He then slowly reached his right hand over as well and  put both hands onto my hand. I reached over and held both of his hands with both of mine. He held on so tight.

I looked over at him. He looked up at me with tears in his eyes. I started sobbing. As I cried, I said, “It’s going to be okay Dad. I’m here. I got you. I’m taking you home with me. You are safe now Marine.” He squeezed even harder and just held on to me.

With my one free hand, I set the GPS to get us to the rental car facility and then to Dulles airport for our flight. He never let go of my right hand, as we began the long arduous Journey home. I knew if I  was ever lost so far away, that my Father, would stop at nothing to bring me home.

I knew my beloved late Mother was with us at that moment as well, as we headed off into the darkness together. The three of us...

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