Last week, I helped my dad mark an item off his bucket list: Pearl Harbor. As a former P.O.W and army guy, my father’s interest in Pearl Harbor was quite unique. He has read so many books and articles about it, it was as if he was giving me the tour and history lesson for the start of U.S involvement into WWII. But as an old man, his recollections were constantly repeated. His memory has started to fade but not at an alarming rate; just a natural aging process. When he forgets something, he just moves on. I did, too. It wasn’t worth trying to jog his memory. I’ve only heard the stories 5x before.
I spent 4 days with my dad to take him out of his monotony. I thought I was being a good daughter. For years he has been wanting to see Pearl Harbor but has no one to travel with. He visited Hawaii many times but never Pearl Harbor. So, I closed my office to take him. At the airport, my dad saw my older sister with her kids heading to Honolulu as well. We were all surprised as she didn’t tell anybody she was going there. It stung my dad gently because she didn’t invite him, whereas, he nudged me to take him. In my culture, the oldest takes care of the parents, not the middle child. But since my parents are divorced, my dad got me by default. My uncle has always told him he got the better daughter. My dad never confirmed it. He was just happy to get one child to care for him. Even his surgeon told him he was lucky to have me. He just smiled and nodded in politeness, like he would even if the surgeon was to tell him he will lose a leg tomorrow. “Thank you, doctor.”
In Waikiki, his patience shortened with the rising temperature. I thought it was his low blood sugar as we were standing in a food court surrounded by restaurants and he complained about being hungry. But his HbA1c is 4.4. After 3 years of prodding me to take him to Pearl Harbor, a 5.5 hours flight, 15 minutes of air turbulence, 5 hours of interrupted sleep the night before, and an hour on public transportation, he spent all of 30 minutes there. The last 20 minutes were spent touring the submarine, our only glimpse of Pearl Harbor. I felt like I was paying for my daughter’s music lesson, $1/min. But unlike the control I have over my daughter, I couldn’t make my dad practice more at Pearl Harbor. We skipped the main attraction because it required a ferry ride over the water under the sun. He was sparing my skin from the potential burn as it was delicate and soft. He did purchase that hat for me.
We picked up our luggage at the hotel, headed to the airport, changed our tickets to get an earlier flight to Maui, then boarded. My husband picked us up in a rental car. My father complained the ride from the airport to the condo was too long. He wished the restaurants were closer to the condo than the airport. Luckily for me, restaurants were just a short walk away. Wailea did not fail me, it had restaurants galore. But it failed my dad for it lacked a Vietnamese pho place.
At the luau, I advised my dad to take a little bit of all the food offerings just in case he doesn’t like something. He listened. He enjoyed the show. He even joined in on the hula lesson. By the end of the night, he wanted to purchase our souvenir picture. It was dark so he couldn’t really see the poor quality of the image. Not to mention, there were people in the background. So instead of $40, they offered to let us purchase the 5”x7” for only $30. I told him no. He said he could Photoshop the person out and enhance the quality of the picture. He heard of Photoshop; he has never used it.
By Sunday, I was happy to be back home, jetlagged and all. I didn’t have to carry anything but my own bags. I didn’t have to worry about ordering food that someone might not like. It was eat or starve. The little things of my everyday life were a joy to me. The irony of old age pouting is only funny after the facts. Even after all that, I don’t think I’ve gained any points with him. But I know he loves me in his own way; he wished me a happy birthday a whole week before the actual date. It just tells me he’s celebrating his second daughter for a week in his own way.