I know, honestly I do, that we weren't gone for that long. 6 days? But this was one of those vacations that feels like a heavenly bit of forever. By the time we got to Hawaii I was already forgetting what day of the week it was, and kept saying, "The other day..." to describe something that had happened just the day before. And now it's just as odd to be home, and remembering that it was just yesterday when I was swimming in the warm ocean. Now I'm hundreds of miles away from the nearest ocean, and it would be far too cold to want to swim in. I already miss the beaches.
I know I'm jet-lagged, but that can't be the whole reason I feel so odd about this trip. I think, really, that it just boils down to Hawaii being so completely different than Alaska. I couldn't stop staring at the trees, which were so big and lush compared to our stunted sub-arctic ones. Which is not to put down our trees at all, but they're so different. I stopped to read a plaque at one of the hotels about a tree which had been planted by the owner. By its size, from my standards, I was thinking that it had to be a 100+ year-old tree, but it turns out it was only 30. I forget, sometimes, that when trees get warmth and sunshine year-round, they get rather large. The flowers in bloom perfumed the air. Just breathing in was a treat, with the salty sea air and the flowers.
The bugs are a whole other surprise. One of my brothers also went to Hawaii for our friends' wedding--he was actually the best man. But it was his birthday the day before we all got out there, so on our second night Shane and I took him out to dinner to celebrate. We got away from the touristy area of Waikiki and found a little Thai restaurant. It was great food, and even better conversation. At the end of dinner, I went out to the restroom. It was a weird bathroom all together, with the front of the toilet being less than half a foot from the wall, even though there would have been plenty of space if they'd moved the toilet around a little. As I was contemplating how close my face would be to the wall I looked down and saw the most enormous cockroach I've ever seen in my life. (Fine, fine, aside from the ones I've seen in the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.) It must have been at least three inches long and it was walking toward my flip-flopped feet. I could have stepped on it, but I have tiny feet so there was a good possibility of cockroach guts getting onto my feet. I figured I didn't really need to pee that bad, so I left. When I confessed that later to Shane and my brother, they laughed at me. I had to remind them, "In Alaska, I never have to deal with bugs like that, and I like it that way!"
One of the biggest treats in this trip was that I got to see friends I haven't seen in years and catch up with them a bit. It's odd to realize that everyone's getting settled in life--almost all of us are married now, and most of these friends are either into or launching their chosen careers. Babies are around or on the horizon. Houses are being purchased, our parents are starting to retire. Is this what it's like to be a grownup?
The wedding itself was gorgeous, of course. Not just the setting, or the dress and rings, but all of it. The ceremony was touching, and I'm not ashamed to say that I cried a bit. (The only wedding I ever went to where I didn't cry a bit was my own. I get sentimental and weepy at other people's weddings, but at my own I felt too overwhelmingly joyful. If I remember nothing else about my wedding day, I will always remember the fact that I couldn't stop smiling.) They even had the best idea I've ever heard. My brother had made a beautiful wood box for them, and as part of the ceremony they put a few items into it: a bottle of wine, a love letter from each of them describing why they fell in love and what their favorite things about the other person are. Their parents also put small tokens in there, to help them remember their wedding day or just to have some good advice about marriage tucked away. The point of this box is that, if they ever feel for any reason that they can't keep their vows, they're to open the box together, drink the wine, and read the letters. If, as everyone hopes and trusts, they don't need to open it, they will open it on their 10th anniversary. When they're done going through the box and the wine, they will put in a new bottle of wine and two new love letters describing how their love for one another has changed over the course of ten years. Isn't that beautiful?
Seeing two wonderful people, two amazing friends, join their lives never gets old. Especially when they're so well-matched.
While we were there, we not only got to witness the beginning of a marriage, but also some of the last stages of one. Not because of divorce, but because of age. We stayed with Shane's aunt, who is wonderful, and her husband. The husband is, I believe, over 20 years older than Aunt N., in his 90s. Since our own wedding, her husband had a stroke, which caused dementia, and now it's painfully obvious that he's on the long, slow decline to the end of his life. He said a few odd things, some of which sounded a bit scary but I wonder if it's the effect of his stroke. The first night when we showed up, we said hi to both and Uncle turned to us when we asked how he was and said, "I'm dead." Aunt N. laughed and said, "No, don't scare the kids like that." But he said it again the next morning and I realized that he was saying it more like, "I'm fine." Perhaps he was getting the words mixed up in his head? He also asked me if I know how to speak Hebrew. He's still very cheerful, and very polite. They have a caretaker and physical therapist who stays with him when Aunt N. can't be there.
I couldn't help but feel sorry for her, though. I can't imagine there are many worse things in life than watching your spouse slip away from you like that. It would be so hard, so sad. I saw the pictures in the hallway of them when he was younger and they could be more active. They were so happy together. And I'm sure that there's really no other place Aunt N. would rather be than by his side, helping him and comforting him. But it's still a hard thing to do. "For better or for worse" encompasses a lot, really endless possibilities. In some ways I'm excited for the time when Shane and I are old together, and for the life we'll live together getting to that point. But it's scary, too. Seeing these two in their old age is the sort of thing that makes us hold each other just a little bit tighter, a little bit longer.
And in its own way, it makes our separation a little bit harder. We got in early this morning and took a nap together. I was the first to leave the house (I'm trying to save as much vacation time as possible so that I can use it when Shane is available) and I got a little taste of what Shane feels like every third Monday morning when he has to leave me, sleeping, with a quick kiss and a few words of love. Shane will be back on Sunday, so it's not the end of the world. But I still wish he didn't have to go. I'm not done holding him close yet.