My Grandfather, a Hawaiian Man

I sat quietly watching him as he stood quietly watching the scene outside the window. He had done this for a couple days now, staring so silently we could almost forget he was there. Except, of course, that you could never forget Tutu Man was there. He was a presence, as they say. He was a big man, with big hands and a big voice that was always ready with a big laugh.  In our little parsonage in Garfield, Washington he seemed even bigger.

Na Pali coast, Kauai Hawaii Na Pali, Kauai, Hawaii

There’s an area in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that heaven looks most favorably upon. God didn’t want such beauty to be missed, so he dropped a few islands there, bursting above the waves like stepping stones to absorb and thrust that beauty out of every crevice. Tutu Man was made from and for the wide open of those Hawaiian Islands.

“Hoo hoo, Mama!” He said in his deep, resonating voice, “Come see!”

My tiny Tutu Lady didn’t look up from her Scrabble game, “I saw already, Daddy!”

“Shooooo…” he responded, more to himself than to her.

He was still mesmerized by the first snowfall he had ever seen in his sixty-two years. He was always one to be in awe of life and nature. I don’t think he ever stopped asking, “Why,” and he forever questioned how things worked. This new experience was taking all of his intense focus.

“Kalani,” he called to my dad, “that stop sign there. How can it not fall off?”

Who knows how long he had been puzzling through the mystery of a stop sign covered in thick snow before he actually voiced it. My oldest brother took great pleasure in explaining the science of ice crystals and microscopic building blocks to our inventor grandfather. I listened in fascination to hear that there was purpose and reason behind trees with snow and ice on each tiny branch and beautiful soft mounds covering the landscape in silky rolling white.

It was not something I could have explained as a twelve year old. I had grown up with snow all my life, and had never thought to question it. It was snow. It did funny things. It tasted good and made magical forts and weapons. But Snow bokeh_photography_snowTutu Man had just added a new level of curiosity to my life. How did it stay on the face of something perpendicular to the ground? What happened to gravity?  I had never noticed the wonder of it all the way he had, marveling silently as he stood and stared out the window. How often in the decades since have I seen a mystery of nature and thought, “Tutu Man would have loved this!”

He has been gone too many years now, missed too much of my life and that of the rest of his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. I miss his tricks and twitching toes and twisted sense of fun. I miss the way his booming laughter filled the room when my two-year-old said of him, “He’s driving me nuts!” I miss his voice singing bass when family sings Aloha ‘Oe in farewell to one another. It has been too long. The snow outside my window today reminds me of him and who he was. He was a Hawaiian man.

One fond embrace,

A ho ‘i a ‘e au

Until we meet again

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16 Responses to My Grandfather, a Hawaiian Man

  1. This is so beautiful! Thank you for sharing such precious glimpses of a special grandfather! 🙂


    • Thank you! He was very special, and quite a character. He always tried to get us involved in his pranks on our Aunties and Uncles or our cousins. You just never knew what he was up to. And, oh! What a beautiful and rich Hawaiian voice he had!


  2. Robbye says:

    I’m crying now. It’s my favorite memory of him. Remember when he would save his snowballs he would make? Mom would open the freezer and there they were!!


    • Yes! She kept giggling because it seemed every time she went to the freezer there would be a new one or two. We kept his tiny snowman in the big freezer until we moved from Garfield to Spokane, too. I remember being sad that it wouldn’t last through the hour long drive.


  3. Great thoughts and great writing! Thanks!


  4. Kalani Kruse says:

    Thank you, Sweets, What a guy, my dad!! God said, “Let us make man in our own image” and a part of that image was a creative part. That was my daddy mostly. He loved looking at moving parts and wished to make it “Mo Bettah”. Fascination with life, hmmm Maybe that’s where I get it from.


    • Thank you, Daddy. I really wanted to honor him and show the world a glimpse of who he was. He really was all this, and so much more! I could write a book with him as the main character and never tell it all.


  5. Brenda says:

    You were 12 when this happened? Ahhh…I’m sorry to have missed his visit. I would’ve loved meeting him after all the stories Mom K told me. What a wonderful memory! I hope to visit his islands one day. Maybe we’ll go together. Love you.


    • It was around Thanksgiving, I think. One thing I remember my Tutu Lady exclaiming over was how cheap our food was, especially the bread! They enjoyed our little tiny town, but didn’t last super long out in the cold. Gramps definitely made a lot of snowballs, and he made a little snow man out of the snow on the roof of my other grandparents’ Buick. My two sets of grandparents got along very well and loved each other dearly.


  6. Auntie Ann says:

    Beautiful images of MY Daddy! enjoying his first snow! yes like Robby brought tears to my eyes – I do miss him everyday of my life! Thank you Dawn!


    • Thank you, Auntie! I wanted to share this memory with all of his ohana, knowing you would understand him and could hear and see him in your mind’s eye. I do miss him, and it’s made me miss you, too. Love you!


  7. This is such a beautiful story! I am blessed to know your Augsburg ohana and can only hope for the day that I’d like to meet more of the ohana from the island! As for the bass voice, I can only imagine who inherited one like his….I have always loved hearing your daddy (and momma) sing…SIGH…I miss you ALL! xoxo


  8. Thank you, Terri! Dad’s voice is a lot like Tutu Man’s, but Dad is a baritone or tenor, and Gramps was a true bass. His voice was SO deep, even when he talked. It was either soothing or scary, depending on what you’d been up to!


  9. Traci says:

    Beautiful blend of writing and photography.


    • Thank you very much, Traci. I really loved my Tutu Man, and isn’t is easier to write about someone you love so much. 🙂

      I wish I could claim to be the photographer, but I just found them floating online. I give credit whenever I can find a name or site, but these were just out there.


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