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.
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 Tutu 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