Nolemana’s papa-san was an amazing man. Vitally interested in anything mechanical and not afraid to try anything, when he was eighty-four years old, shortly after Nolemana’s mom died, Roy built an ultralight aircraft for my brother in law. He built it from a kit, and worked on it in his garage; the final product sat out on his front yard in Paradise, CA, and what a beauty it was! My brother in law still flies in it to this very day.
Roy flew up here for our eldest daughter’s wedding in 1991; by this time he’d been living alone for about four years, and was feeling uncomfortable at the thought of being four hours away from Nolemana’s sister them in Walnut Creek. Being an extremely practical man, Roy was concerned about his well-being in case of emergency.
After Leilani’s wedding reception, Roy, Nolemana and I were in our living room; I had just watched Leilani and her new hubby drive away down our driveway. Suddenly Roy said that he’d been thinking about his situation and wanted to know if he could move in here with Nolemana and me; he just didn’t feel good about living so far away from ‘ohana.
Wow. I was stunned. Ordinarily, with a decision this big, Nolemana and I would’ve said that we’d talk it over and get back to him. Nope, not this time. We both knew that having him come here was the right thing to do. We had the room, and when we first got this house we knew that we’d do whatever God wanted us to do with it. How could we turn Roy down? We just couldn’t. The people who built our house had had parents living downstairs, and Roy would have his own kitchen, bedroom and living area; the kitchen would have to be built, but the right connections were already there.
The first words out of my mouth were, “Of course you can.” The only stipulation I made was that I would have some say in the kitchen’s configuration, and that Roy would have a housekeeper. Nolemana’s sister and I had cleaned his house on a number of occasions, and Dad’s idea of a clean house was no where near what mine was! He was an old farm boy; he did not clean. You get the picture!
Not one to waste time, Roy began making plans for the move up here. Just two months later, Nolemana flew to Paradise to help his dad pack up and drive back. The kitchen was pau, and all was ready for their arrival. Within a few days, we went from being a two-person ‘ohana to three.
Roy soon came to know what Oregon winters were like: long, gray, wet days, and he got bored with no outdoor activities. So I took him to Damascus Pioneer Craft School, where he loved weaving on a floor loom. Deciding that he wanted to weave at home, he thought about buying a loom, but when he found out how spendy they were, decided to build one himself. And he did! Eighty-six years old and he designed and built one all by himself. I used to help him warp the loom, and still have potholders and place mats that he made.
After a few years he got bored with weaving, so he sold the loom and did stained glass for awhile. Then he built some really big model airplanes.
During the next few years, Roy planted an orchard, tilled and planted a vegetable garden, formed new friendships and made a life for himself here. He’d worked as a flight test mechanic for Lockheed for years, and his mechanical ingenuity enabled him to do all sorts of things, including an escalator-kine contraption for getting up the outside stairs. He liked cooking his own meals; he was excited when strawberry season appeared, and for the first few years, went out to a u-pick farm, picked the berries, brought them home and froze them. Frequently the wonderful aroma of his cooking wafted up the stairs and my mouth would water. Except for the time he burned his pot of beans… that was pretty dreadful. He confessed to me at one point that one of his “fears” about moving up here was that we’d invite him to eat dinner with him every day, not because he didn’t like my cooking, but because he treasured his privacy.
During the next years, Roy grew less and less able to do things. I began doing his laundry, cooking some meals for him, and becoming his driver when it was obvious that he needed some help. On our trips out every Thursday, he’d always take us to lunch in the middle of our errands; it was during those times that I really got to know him. I’d encourage him to tell me stories from his childhood; he was born in 1905, so the technology had changed enormously in his lifetime. One of his favorite stories was of the time that one of the Wright brothers came to Lockheed and was taken up in a Constellation, flying it himself! Imagine Dad living through both eras!
We spent so much time together that he became like a second dad to me. We’d laugh together, talk stories, and I’d search out places that we could go that would bring him joy. He adored the Great Oregon Steam-Up, any kind of airshow, and the draft horse demo in SW Portland. I looked forward to our Thursdays together, and it was during these years that he became “Roy-chan” to me, a Japanese term of endearment.
Roy-chan lived with us for eleven years. We had our ups and downs, and nursing him through his final months was not easy for either one of us. But I would do it again in a heartbeat. He died here at home, surrounded by photos of his ‘ohana and Nolemana and me, hymns that he loved playing softly in the background.
I miss him; I get wai maka thinking about him and our times together. We had a relationship that was even closer than he had with his kids because I spent so much time with him, and I wish we’d had more time together.
Today Roy-chan would’ve been 103 years old. I think about him and light a candle in his memory. I think about how much he loved my lemon meringue pies and wish I could make one for him today.
Hau‘oli lā hānau, Roy-chan. Aloha wau ia ‘oe. I love you. I miss you.
Roy-chan on his 95th birthday and his granddaughters, Leilani and Anela.