There’s a hurricane warning for Hawaii at the moment. My brother, Tom, who lives in Kaneohe, with his family, says there’s never been a Hurricane Level 1 Warning since he’s lived there, which is now over 30 years. It’s scheduled to hit tonight Oahu, at the least with bad weather, but are any of the islands in the direct path of the hurricane? It’s hard to know.
It brings back a memory from about 10 years ago. I was on a work trip overseas when I’d received word that there was a tsunami warning for Hawaii. Tom had said that it could bring waves that could flood where he lived, grandma’s old house, built high up on a small peninsula, below it a beachfront, a lawn, and the basement of the house. The waves would have to be very high to wash up so high on Kaneohe Bay. But it was worrying.
In the hotel we were staying at, there was only access to public wireless in the common area. I found a link to a camera, a night view, of Waikiki. The image was a blueish colour and it was windy and rough, and the beach empty. But nothing happened, in the end. The catastrophe didn’t eventuate.
It’s strange how memory works. I am a meticulous record-keeper but I can’t get my travel records to match up to tsunami warnings in Hawaii. I remember it as a difficult time. In a fog of grief from losing my father at the end of January that year. Work was falling apart. There was a complicated management structure, where the founder had passed on power to a new executive director, but was still meddling. I seemed to be caught in the middle. While the staff I managed liked me and respected my work, and I was carrying it out to the best of my abilities, these two took turns questioning my work, playing games.
I think neither of them really knew what they were doing either, and I became a sort of scapegoat. And the founder and I had completely fallen out. I found him chaotic and a bully. He played favourites, and I found him subtly racist: the two of us who were Asian-American on staff were definitely treated worse than the Latinx and African-American staff members. I remember, from that same meeting, the comical image of him literally stepping behind a large potted plant, to avoid being seen by me and having to breakfast together (or making it obvious that we didn’t want to do so).
But my hurricane passed too, though it took months and months, stretching to a year. My contract wasn’t renewed. I was dispirited but stayed in the sector perhaps half a year more, before leaving what I thought would be the area in which I thought I would work for my working career. I grieved for my father. I recovered. I built a new career, which turned out to be wonderful.
I think these days, being older, about what it means to be older, and how I could never predicted as a young man how my life would turn out, nor how it would feel to be in this phase of my life: slower, quieter, more filled with sickness and death than I might have thought, and yet more acceptance and calm.
I can look back at the weather and stand apart, knowing sometimes there are forces at work which are larger than us, which we can’t control, which may end up less destructive than we were warned, that we will get through.