It is a wise father that knows his own child.
- William Shakespeare
STANDING ALONG THE fringe of a decidedly warmer Pacific ocean than the one we had left behind 24 hours earlier, my husband and son stood hip-to-shoulder, surveying the sandy shoreline and topaz water. We had arrived on the Hawaiian island of Oahu after a nearly catastrophic year of accidents and illness, and we figured we deserved this 10-day respite of surf, sunshine, and family rejuvenation.
The decision to visit Hawaii together had been a plot hatched by my dynamic duo - the older (dad) had promised the younger (son) a trip somewhere warm after dad's arm and body had healed sufficiently from an accident that nearly claimed his life and left us flattened and battered like the bicycle laying on its side in the backyard shed. Hawaii, they believed, was the Promised Land of togetherness after 12 months of physical pain and emotional separation.
Sometimes, the mere act of packing up and moving on, however briefly, is all it takes to return roses to cheeks and light to a pair of eyes. I saw a slow but steady progression of both as days began and ended with sweet tropical scents, pounding waves and side-by-side footprints in the sand. The ocean, with its warm breath and peaceful color became a welcome ally, and we splashed within its coral-circled arms from dawn to dusk.
Our son, a timid swimmer in Alaska, made headlong rushes into the waves with his dad, wiry arms akimbo, shouting praises to no one in particular as he danced among the foamy crests. I watched their banter from the security of my grass mat, pretending to read a novel but more interested in the relationship rebuilding before my eyes. This was the missing piece, the part I had swept under the pillow with my nightly tears and daily medication lists and therapy appointments. I wasn’t about to let it fall by the wayside like I had so many other aspects of our life.
The remaining days were full of bold explorations and tentative moments of insight; my husband’s first overhand strokes 50 yards offshore in a triumphant return to ocean swimming, our son’s impressive dolphin kick while adorned with fins and snorkel mask, drinking out of a coconut, watching a rainbow form over our mountainside bungalow.
“Should we try to encourage him to talk about your accident?” I had asked my husband one night shortly after his return from the hospital.
“I don’t know,” he replied thoughtfully, curling the still-swollen fingers of his casted arm. “I think we’ll just have to watch carefully and show him everything’s going to get back to normal soon.”
I thought about that statement a lot during the course of our trip, and how, in his quiet way, my husband had indeed demonstrated courage and love and fatherhood to a seven year-old boy who, hopefully someday, will be able to return the favor to his own children.
My husband and I had hoped a trip to Hawaii would provide a needed diversion at best, and perhaps enable us to return home a stronger, more confident family. I’m glad it worked out that way.
Erin Kirkland is the author of AKontheGO.com, an Alaska family travel website and blog.