Disappearances

That was a long time ago and I’d never known about it.

None of our mutual friends had mentioned it to me.

But I was living off-island at the time, and that may be why I never heard,

not having been in contact with almost anyone in Hawai‘i for four years.

You lose touch, or so I saw it.

I think I’d wanted to start life over again, be reborn.

I can’t even imagine that now, deciding to wipe the slate clean.

Of course it helped that it was all letter writing and expensive phone calls back then.

No internet, no cell phones, no easy access.

I didn’t have that kind of money, nor was I ever much of a letter writer.

When I came home for the first two Christmas breaks, I saw almost no one either.

Cutting off all connections to my past cost me many close friendships.

It certainly meant I was out of our loop, might very well not be informed of her death.

And I was overwhelmed with sadness at this idea, of everything that I’d lost by my own doing.

Of everything she’d lost.

There would be people I knew who would not see what I have seen through my six decades,

just as generations after me will know a world I won’t know.

I stood there and thought of times together we’d lived before I lost touch,

with her and all our gang growing up into adulthood,

and I cannot picture us ever being without her.

It always happens when I’m on the windward side,

I visit my parents at the Kāne‘ohe Veteran’s Cemetery,

and then I visit my dad’s parents at the adjacent Hawaiian Memorial Park.

It’s always trickier than I think it will be.

My grandparents’ site is hard for me to find, every time.

And in wandering around I recognized her name on the gravestone,

at first thought it had to be someone else with the same name,

but then I saw that the dates were right, and she’d died while I was in Wisconsin.

That dash between the year of birth and that of death

was much too short for her.

And as I stood there realizing another childhood friend was gone,

I was saddened even more for how I’d tried to leave my past behind.

You can never really disappear, until you really do disappear.

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