Well, this is a fine how do ya do.
For the first time in five years, Bob and I got to take a real vacation. The kind of vacation where you only do things you want to do. No errands for Mom. No crazed phone calls. Just the kind of luxury and fun befitting a twentieth wedding anniversary.
Last year, Bob forgot our anniversary. Very unlike him, but under the circumstances, he was very busy at work and I was up to my neck in caregiving. I was sad and vocal about the lack of acknowledgment. Bob apologized and said our twentieth would get its due. We could go wherever I wanted.
Italy! I always wanted to see Florence, where so many of Michelangelo’s works were on view. And Venice. And Rome.
Bob agreed. For a while. But then “Arab Spring” began, and refugees from Tunisia and Lebanon began streaming into Italy. Might we consider something else?
Hawaii. I had been to Oahu 30 years ago when I worked for a Japanese travel agency. My alcoholic Japanese boss offered me the trip as a “paid vacation.” When I got there, he forced me to work the tour desk every day, helping the incentive trip winners to enjoy themselves. I got to sit inside watching others having fun. I got one day off to snorkel at Hanauma Bay. It was unforgettable, and I swore I’d one day return as a tourist. This was the time.
I booked a vacation package through AARP/Expedia and got the hotel for eight nights in a King room with breakfast daily, round trip, non-stop air and a full size car for one attractive price. The hotel, the Kahala Resort, is a five-star gem on the southeastern shore of Oahu, just ten minutes from Waikiki, with its own private beach and lagoon enlivened with five dolphins cavorting with guests (for a fee) and performing tricks just to add to the ambience. I added on exit row seating for our ten hour flights and we were good to go.
The place was better than you could imagine and we had the time of our lives. We enjoyed the beach and pool just about every day. Our room was lovely, featuring a terrace with a mountain/golf course/waterfall/lagoon/ocean view and a king bed as comfy as our own (which is saying something). We scaled Diamond Head, visited the Arizona Memorial, checked out Waikiki, snorkeled at Hanauma Bay, and did a little shopping (it was time to procure my first bikini in many years). I took yoga and pilates classes on the beach. I kissed and petted a dolphin. We took a sail on a catamaran at sunset and watched fireworks shot from the Hilton Hawaiian Village. We found cool restaurants with delicious food and drinks that were a little more affordable than the offerings at the resort.
One hitch in the proceedings occurred during a visit to the Kahala Mall. We went on our first Saturday after touring the northwestern portion of the island by car. I wanted to see if they had any bathing suits I might like, get a little lunch and snag some sundries.
The parking lot was busy and we circled a while until we spotted a Japanese family preparing to depart in their parked minivan. Mama-san was struggling with the stroller, trying to fold it and put it in the back of the van. The thing was not cooperating. I started making a little fun of the poor gal. “Oh honey, prease hep me wit dis ting! Honeeee!!” Then Papa-san appears with Junior-san in his arms. He transfers the child to Mama and she retreats to the vehicle. Papa stomps on the right release and the stroller yields to his pressure. Into the van goes the folded stroller, followed by Papa-san. Away they go. Bob and I are giggling watching the transaction. It’s funny because it’s not us.
We take the vacated spot. I lock my beach bag holding a couple of cheap digital cameras, my sneakers, hat, socks, the depleted battery case for my iPhone, sunscreen, hotel room key and a voucher for our Friday night sail in the trunk. Still giggling, we go shopping.
I found my first two piece bathing suit. It’s not easy finding a flattering suit, but after trying on a whole bunch, I settled on one I would not feel bad wearing in public. Then I bought a tossed salad with chicken and ate it outside the Whole Foods store as Bob went in for a look. By the time he emerged with his purchase, I’d finished my salad. We returned to the car and I asked Bob to open the trunk. The trunk was empty.
Wait a minute. We’re on vacation. How could this happen? I called 911 and they sent a squad car right over.
The policeman was nice, but he chastised us for putting the bag in the trunk after we parked where we could be seen doing it. (I’d never do anything that stupid in Brooklyn). He went on to explain that the Dodge Charger was a notoriously easy car to break into. And ours had been. The driver’s side lock had been jimmied. They used the release inside the car to open the trunk and grab my bag. Damn!
I filed a police report and said I would press charges. Hey, who wouldn’t use any excuse to go back to Hawaii?
I also filed a report with mall security. Having reviewed all of the items lost, it wasn’t that big a deal. It was early in the trip, so I hadn’t taken a lot of pictures. And both cameras were older. Everything could be replaced. No IDs taken. We were lucky.
Since we were at the mall, I figured I might as well replace the more essential items: the sneakers, the battery pack and the sunscreen. I found a pair of sneakers on sale at Macy’s. After getting very discouraged at the teeming Apple Store, I went to the much more accessible Verizon Store and found the battery pack I needed for my iPhone (which now also became my primary camera). I picked up a fresh tube of waterproof sunscreen and we were ready to head back to the resort.
Once in our room, I realized one of our room keys was in the stolen bag. I called the front desk and apologized for losing it (along with the cool beach bag provided in our room). The desk agent was genuinely concerned about our misfortune and assured me that new beach bags would be provided by housekeeping and he would disable our old room keys and issue new ones.
Something unusual about this hotel: they use REAL METAL KEYS, not plastic cards. But they are electronically encoded. When I got downstairs, our new keys were ready.
I found Bob at the bar and told him that he’d have to surrender the old key. Later, on passing the front desk, he deposited it in the box and we went back to our room. When we opened the door, we were greeted with a beautiful, large canvas beach bag holding two huge, plush beach towels. A consolation gift from the hotel. How nice!
Next day, we turned in the Charger and got a Chevy Malibu instead. The rest of our trip went without a hitch. We watched the weather reports and saw what was heading our way back home. Our timing appeared to be perfect. By the time our plane was scheduled to land back in Newark on Sunday, the freak Halloween snow storm would be well away, the highways would be clear and the skies would be sunny. There were no delays. Our flight would leave on time and arrive early. Oh, well. This was one time I’d have been happy for a delay.
I received a wake-up call from one of the nurses at Mom’s home: there was no power at FIVE of their facilities, including Montville. Mom was going to be moved to Ramsey, one of the locations with power. She was OK, but would have to double up for a while. I allowed the portentous nature of this call to get by me.
Upon landing in Newark, I turned my cell phone on and got a message from our pet sitter. Her phones were not working, so she was using her daughter’s cell. I got every few words. “Limbs and branches.” “No power.” “Fed the cats extra.” Huh boy. Why couldn’t we have gotten this while we were still in Hawaii?
Well, no use crying about it. We were safely on the ground. We were reunited with all of our bags, and my car was waiting in Long Term Parking. I have a Beetle, so the snow tends to slide off of its rounded form, and I did have a scraper in the trunk.
The roads were clear and I got us home pretty quickly. We saw a lot of downed trees along the way, but as we approached Ringwood, it got worse. Bob called the Skyline Traffic Hotline and the main artery home was closed. I took the alternate.
Our block was hit hard. Our house was quite intact, but there were huge branches down everywhere and saplings hanging onto our back room and hot tub. The driveway sported a 10″ layer of wet snow which is immovable by snow blower and impassible by VW Bug. The power was out, so I had to wade though the snow and brush in my new sneakers, up into the house to open the garage from inside and liberate our shovels. All that time in transit added to the six hour time difference had us weary as it was. But the only way in was to dig. So we sucked it up and dug.
Bob was alarmed by how heavy some of the fallen limbs were and did his best to clear the drive. We both shoveled as neighbors slowed in their vehicles to welcome us home, share a few words and get going to wherever they were heading following this latest natural disaster.
Eventually, we got the driveway clear so we could get the car into the garage and unload our bags. I wouldn’t be doing laundry anytime soon.
None of the electrical comforts of home worked, but we do have a natural gas fireplace, so we could heat the main living area. The kitchen stove could be lit with a match. I had enough juice in my laptop batteries to keep my phone charged and at least keep some contact with the outside world. We had candles and cat food for the cats. Upon closer inspection, our home was not damaged. We just got left in a holding pattern, waiting to get back to “normal” as the pain of leaving our island paradise clung to our tanned, chilled bodies.
By Monday evening at 9 pm, our power was restored. I raced around the house turning internet back on, resetting things and getting the TV on. In short order, we realized just how truly lucky we are. Many of our neighbors would wait many more days for their electricity to return. My car, which would have been demolished by falling limbs had we opted to take a cab to the airport, was safe inside the garage. Mom was safe in Ramsey. And we were finally home on the other side of limbo.