Photo by Roy M. York, from his personal collection.
She had talked him into going to a Hawai’ian festival on the mainland for the evening. As they sat listening to a band play native Hawai’ian music it brought back some fading memories. He sat back listening to the soft ring of the slack key guitar, then leaned over and whispered in her ear, “Remember that time we rented that car in Hawai’i and had the CD cranked up as we drove along the coast?”
She nodded and whispered back, “Of course I do. I’ll always remember that.”
He leaned back and closed his eyes, the music continuing on, but beginning to fade as that day played back in his mind…
“Let’s get the red one.” Her eyes were shiny with excitement, and she squeezed his arm just a bit tighter as she whirled to face him.
“I’m not sure it’s in our budget. A convertible costs a lot more than one of those economy cars. Besides, the smaller cars are easier to drive on these narrow highways.”
“Come on, you know you want one too.” She smiled her pouty smile, lower lip sticking out, head bent down, watching him expectantly; looking for all the world like a six year old wanting a lollipop.
He smiled. He never could resist that little smile, or her for that matter. The tropical breeze blew her blonde hair lightly as she impatiently pushed it out of the way. He held his ground. “We can’t afford it. Maybe next time.”
The rental car clerk waited for them patiently as they walked to the counter. “Confirmation number?”
He pulled the reservation from his aloha shirt pocket and read the number.
“Oh yes, Mr. and Mrs. Young. You’ve reserved the red Miata, I see. You’ll really like the car. It’s one of our most popular. Is this your first time to The Islands?”
She punched him playfully on the shoulder. “You knew all along and you didn’t tell me. You rat. See how much lovin’ you’re going to get tonight.”
He laughed. “Last time we were here, you wore me out by nightfall. I’m not worried.” She gave him another punch, her eyes rolling upwards. He turned his attention to the rental car clerk. “No, we’ve been here several times. This is just the first time we’ve decided to get a convertible and truly enjoy the open road.”
The past four years had been brutal. Opening a second business, working seven days a week, up to 12 hours a day with over an hour travel, had taken its toll. They were exhausted.
The first three days were spent in the condo, eating, sleeping and catching up on their reading. Late night dinners they prepared themselves, cocktails at sundown with occasional interruptions of romance; sometimes gentle and slow, other times with an urgency neither had seen since they were first married.
On the fourth day they decided to take the convertible and cruise down to the Coffee Shack to grab a late breakfast, then head north.
With the top down and heading north on Mommalahoa Highway, he slipped in a CD of Hawai’ian music he had purchased at Hilo Hattie’s. The music blared as they sped down the highway occasionally glancing at each other, hoping that each was as happy as the other. A sign announcing a place where they could see real Hawai’ian petroglyphs looked interesting, so they decided to stop.
At first they thought they were in the wrong spot. It was a turn in for a high end resort. There were the signs, though, pointing to an area right next to a lush, well manicured golf course.
They walked along the lava beds on one side, with a fairway on the other, while a group guide droned on about what the Hawaiian warriors did, what they ate, how far they marched, on and on and on. Finally the guide pointed out small caves located here and there and said that was where the warriors slept, curled inside.
He looked at the rough lava and the sharp, craggy points on the small cinder like stones and asked out loud, “Why in Hell would they sleep in those cramped, uncomfortable caves when there was a perfectly nice fairway right over there?” He got a few laughs from some of the people in the group they were with, some raised eyebrows by an unamused guide, and another playful punch on the shoulder.
She had endured his little witticisms for years, usually embarrassed by his ability to say anything he thought was amusing to anyone at any time, anywhere. She had finally given up trying to stop him, but she never really got comfortable with him doing it.
He always wondered what deep, dark secret she kept that made her feel that way. He asked her about it once and she replied, “There’s a time and place to be spontaneous.” ‘That explains a lot,’ he thought.
Following the petroglyph excursion they got back in the Miata, cranked up the CD and rolled down the coast to another sign pointing out an ancient site, the ruins of an old village. That was where they decided to have their picnic lunch. Then they strolled along the beach and walked along the edge of the ocean lapping happily at their feet, she carrying her shoes and running ahead, with him watching, he realizing as she laughed and ran through the edge of the water, just how much he loved her.
On a whim they decided to take the road through a large ranch on the island. As they climbed higher in elevation it grew colder and they squabbled about whether or not to put the top up. He pulled over to the side of the road to put it up. Finally, she won the argument by simply being quiet, her signal that if she wasn’t happy, he wasn’t going to be happy. She sat, pouty lip and all, staring straight ahead, body language stiff and unyielding. Sighing, he pulled back out on to the roadway with the top down, and resumed their cruise; CD still playing, the harmonious notes from a slack-key guitar bouncing gaily down the highway behind them.
The day started to grow late. It was dark as they made their way back along the route to get back to the condo. This time there was no argument when he pulled over and put the top up. It had started to rain, a cold stinging rain, that surprised both of them. It began to snow. They laughed. They couldn’t wait to tell their friends they had driven in a snowstorm in Hawai’i, in a convertible, no less.
They decided to find a place to eat and then continue on. Maybe by then they could put the top back down. They couldn’t be more than fifteen or twenty minutes from clearer, warmer weather.
She spotted it tucked away on the side of the road, a little place that had an inviting sign. Fireside Restaurant, Family Owned, it read. It was as advertised. A cozy restaurant, fireplace flickering brightly, casting warm shadows around the half filled room. The were given a spot for two close to the fire and soon were toasting each other with a glass of rich, red wine. A merlot, if he remembered correctly, but it really didn’t matter.
The two of them talked about various things; small talk, nothing more than that. As if talking about the business, or what they were going to do and what decisions would have to be made, would spoil the moment.
Their order came and they ate slowly and savored it, laughing as they discussed old memories, usually about their children. Time seemed to stand still, and they weren’t aware that finally, it was just the two of them alone in the restaurant. The staff were busy elsewhere and as yet, no one had intruded on their moment with a check or surreptitiously wandering by with a gentle urging of their presence to pay up and leave.
She reached over and took his hand, “I love you,” she mouthed. He didn’t need to hear the words.
“I’ve loved you since the moment I saw you. There will never be anyone else.”
She squeezed his hand. “I know, I feel the same way. There just couldn’t be anyone else.”
They got back to the condo, sat on the lanai for awhile, with another glass of wine, willing the night to stay; urging dawn to take it’s sweet time in arriving, finally going to bed and later, after the bedtime fireworks had quieted down, fell asleep in each other’s arms.
They both agreed the next morning that the day before was magical. ‘We should go back to that restaurant next time we’re here. Just to remind ourselves of last night.”
He looked at her tenderly, “I don’t know if we can ever recreate something as beautiful as yesterday, no matter how hard we try.
Yet, in the years that followed, every time they drove through Parker Ranch they looked for the restaurant. They never found it. They stopped and asked businesses nearby. No one knew what they were talking about.
“I’ve lived here all my life, and I don’t know of any restaurant called The Fireside Restaurant. You must have gotten it confused with some other restaurant.” The lady at the counter of the convenience store even called back to her husband and asked him if he ever heard of it.
He came out, wiping his hands with a towel. “Nope, my folks owned a small place, but there wasn’t any fireplace in it. Besides, think about it, fireplaces aren’t needed that much. Can’t say as how I recall any place like that.”
They talked about it with their children from time to time, reminiscing about that night, and the children listened politely, of course, chalking it up to aging parents.
She wanted to spend their fiftieth wedding anniversary in the islands. To take all the kids, their spouses and all six grandchildren and spend an entire week. “It’s always been our favorite place, and what better way to spend it than with our children and their children,” she said.
He agreed and so did the kids, and they went back to The Islands for the first time in several years. With the kids, they searched one last time for their restaurant. The rest of the time was well spent, and while it was wonderful, it never quite matched up to that one, magical etherial moment in their lives; that day and then the evening at The Fireside Restaurant. Perhaps it was becoming a memory that couldn’t be matched; that there wasn’t a moment that could replace it, or equal it, or even come close.
She was lying on the bed, a monitor beeping softly in the background. Her family gathered nearby, waiting quietly for time and age to come together and gather her, sweeping her into eternity; to finally join him. He hadn’t been gone long, and everyone knew she wouldn’t wait long before she joined him. That was where she wanted to be. Not here, connected to life as it slowly and painfully ebbed, dripping into her veins. Kept alive by modern medicine instead of allowing her to go quietly and grasp the hand he held out for her, waiting patiently.
Her son walked over and clutched his mother’s hand. He whispered gently, “How you doing, Mom.”
His mother didn’t move at first, her eyes closed. The son looked at the monitor. It was still beeping, the little V shaped lines marching their way across the screen in steady, matching, green electronic lines.
The old woman opened her eyes. A look of recognition flickered across her face. “Son,” she whispered, “We found it last night. The restaurant. Dad and I found the restaurant last night. I’m going to meet him there in a few minutes. Tell everyone we found it. Will you?”
The son squeezed his mother’s hand, nodded and said, “Glad you finally found it again. I knew you would.” The beeping on the monitor slowed, and the old woman’s eyes closed. The line on the screen stopped making it’s Vs as it turned into a straight flat line. His two sisters saw him motion and joined him at their mother’s side.
“What did she say? Anything?”
He turned and after finding his voice, said softly, “They found the restaurant.”