Sunday, May 16, 2010


I learned something about myself while I was in Hawaii. If everyone else was jumping off of a cliff, would I do it too? Yes, I would And, I will lose my glasses and rental car keys at the same time. Luckily, a kid swimming nearby spotted them in the sand under the cliff and dove for them.

I went to Hawaii to visit the winter nursery site where I had three projects nearing harvest. I spent a couple of days taking pictures of the germplasm increases and taking notes.

From Personal

Almost every night I ate sushi for dinner at Morio's sushi. It is run by him and Junko - the waitress and maybe had room for 12 people. Each night I got a seat outside or in the corner because the rest were reserved. They sat empty until the reservers arrived. Meanwhile, Morio sent reams of people away that walked in looking for somewhere to eat. The food was very good, fresh. Each meal comes with complimentary miso soup and salad. Some nights they brought me edamame beans also. No drinks at all on the menu - no soda pop, no lemonade, no alcoholic beverages. Some customers brought their own sake and beer.

From Personal

I went snorkeling while I was there. I am not the best swimmer, but when I have a snorkel I feel like I can swim all day. Somehow the rhythm of holding my breath and lifting my head to breathe I get off kilter and occasionally take in water. Once that happens I continue to take on water till I feel like I am half drowned. But, give me a snorkel in the ocean with fish, coral and wildlife to look at and I am in heaven. I saw a bunch of tropical fish, two large sea turtles, some crabs, starfish, but I didn't find any squid or octopus.

I went to Shark's cove on the north shore and Hanauma Bay near Waikiki. Hanauma Bay is a national water park. It is full of wildlife just off shore, but is full of tourists. Sharks' Cove had just as much to see, but it is far from Honolulu and was almost deserted. There is more surf just outside of the tide pool area, but the tide pools would have been fine for even kids to swim around in.

I had to hurry when I went to Hanauma bay on Saturday. I ran down to the water, swam across the bay and back, and then raced up the mountain and down again to my car. I had an appointment to meet my Dad for lunch. I hadn't seen him for almost 20 years. My parents were divorced when I was 12 and he came to visit when I was 13. He wrote us letters once after that and once he called when I was almost 14.

It was like he died. He didn't send money, visit, or call. His parents didn't have any contact with him either. None of his old friends knew about him or his disappearance. I went back to visit Teton when I was 19 and all of his old friends were dumbstruck to hear that he had disappeared so completely. Not one could believe that he left us and never came back.

Apparently, he has been living in Hawaii for the last 8 years. Before that he was travelling around the southwest doing who knows what. A friend of his contacted Anna last year after he had a stroke. She was concerned that if he died there would be no next of kin to notify. She gave us his number and I called him a few times. It was very odd to talk to a ghost that sounded so eerily like my older brother Marc. He changed cell numbers without telling any of us and disappeared again after we moved to Iowa. So when I got to Honolulu, Anna got me his friends number and I asked her to tell him I was was in town.

He called me back Friday before I was due to leave and we agreed to meet for lunch on Saturday at his favorite cafe near his house. When I came in the hostess, said "You must be Gary's son - He is over there." I went over to the booth and sat down. He doesn't look like I remember. For one thing, he is shorter than me now, grey hair, and had gained weight and then lost it. I would not have recognized him if I past him in a crowd.

We talked pleasantries and small talk. He then said he couldn't imagine why my Mom would have wanted to divorce him. He doesn't remember things like they really happened. In his mind he was the one that was abandoned and rejected. None of it was his fault and he did nothing wrong. I told him that since he had left without any money or contact that divorce was inevitable and reasonable. The silence was awkward enough that Bill, the Bahai pastor that Dad had asked to come along for support, came over from the next booth and we spent the rest of the time sharing pictures of my family and talking about children, work, etc.

It wasn't quite what I envisioned as a reunion with my long lost father. But it wasn't as bad. I would have like to have an apology of some sort for the years of silence, but I can live without it.


Bonnie said...

I admire your character in being open enough to have contact and enough restraint to push hurt and disappointment aside for a moment. You have a great deal of trust--you have learned that you can trust yourself to handle what comes with God's help and the love of those around you.

I'm humbled and proud to have you as part of our family...

Anonymous said...

Dear Brian,

I am sorry to have been absent here for so long. This is a very striking post. It is not unfitting that you should begin this blog entry with an account of jumping off a cliff into the sea; I suspect that meeting with your dad after so many years must have felt something like that. It was very brave of you.

I am nearly certain that I remember your mentioning your dad's last call to me when we knew each other in Boise eighteen or nineteen years ago; but, until I read this, I never understood what that must have been like for you. Two things are very striking for me: your perseverance in loving your father; and your gentle fidelity to the truth, despite your father’s evasions, denials, and distortions. His behavior seems as inexplicable to those who know him well as it does to someone like me, who has almost no knowledge of him.

I can understand your desire for an apology, and I sympathize with your frustration in not having received one, especially after all of that silence and waiting. It seems so obvious that he should respond to your persistence with some sort of contrition, no matter how tentative. But he would not or could not. There are surely complex reasons for that. The fact that he brought his pastor with him is an implicit acknowledgement that he felt intimidated by your having approached him, and that he recognized you as a son whom he had wronged. He brought God into it. That is a small gesture toward the truth, but it is something.

He has placed you in a strange situation: he is the prodigal father, and you are the loving and patient son. Thank you for writing about this. It was good to read it.


Mike & Anna said...

I truely believe that Dad couldn't exist with the actual truth, hence he lives with an altered truth that he can live with. As people who are profoundly affected by his choices, it is hard to accepts him and "his truth". I think with time, a new more accurate truth may come to him.

Brian G. said...


It's crazy that 18 or 19 years have passed since we were in Boise. It doesn't seem that long ago.

I appreciate your assessment of the situation and I think you are right. Maybe someday we will have enough of an actual relationship to be able to break down some of the complex reasons behind his behavior. Right now we are still strangers to each other.

For now, I can live without knowing. It is good to know he is OK. I alternated for years between being angry at him for abandoning us and wondering if something bad had happened to him. I used to wonder when I saw homeless people if I would find my father living like that.

Looks like he probably was at some point.

It's strange that even though he is my father he is more of a stranger to me than most people I run into on the street or at work.

Erin said...

I was so surprised to read this ... it's been awhile since I was checking blogs, so I was catching up on your grumblings :), and then dropped my jaw when I got to this part.

What an interesting, poignant, bittersweet chapter in the story of your relationship with your dad. Thanks for sharing, Brian.