In Loving memory of Lennie who passed away one year ago today.
Gone, but never forgotten.
In Loving memory of Lennie who passed away one year ago today.
Gone, but never forgotten.
Trying to stay positive is sometimes hard work.
Today was Lennie’s birthday. He would have been 64. It was one of those melancholy days when I kept thinking back to when he had turned 61. I had only known him for several months and had decided to throw him a party. It was an evening full of fun and friends and singing and laughter. Later that night he had told me that it was the very first birthday party that he had ever had. For some reason that thought made me think about how quickly our lives pass by, one birthday at a time.
Life is too short to hold grudges. I have long ago forgiven Malia. I cannot hate her, partly because I still love her.
If someone has done something to hurt you, here are some points to consider:
It has been far too long since I have written on my blog. I have just posted Chapter 4 in The Story of Us a couple of days ago. I feel that I should update everyone on what has been happening in my life this past few months.
I have seen the inside of an American Courtroom more times than I care to. I have been falsely and maliciously accused of many things. There have been petitions put forth in court alleging that Lennie had never loved me and that I was nothing more than his caregiver besides dozens more cruel lies. I have learned that greed has no bounds. I have learned that often people have a false sense of entitlement. And I have learned the meaning behind the cynical phrase “No good deed goes unpunished.” I hope that few people have to endure the pain and heartache that I have gone through since Lennie passed away. His heart would break for me if he had known the sheer magnitude of greed that surrounded him. And yet, I believe that he does know. I feel him beside me often, guiding my path and putting good people near me to offer their help and support. I cannot talk about this more than what I have stated as it is on-going.
I am now back in Canada with my pets and my friends and all that I love and that is familiar to me. I have been financially devastated by Lennie’s cancer treatments and at the age of 55 …I am starting over.
Please visit my website at www.kathrynsmith.com if you would like to purchase a limited edition print online, view my artwork, or order a commission. If you would like to contact me, my contact information is there also.
Vehementer vive, valde ama,
It was eleven a.m. in the morning in Vancouver. I could feel the panic rising in me as I dialed Lennie’s number. Vancouver International airport was huge; bigger than anything I had imagined. Because I was still in Canada, I was told that I had to pick up my luggage and go through customs before getting on the next plane that would take me to Honolulu. But, where was my luggage? How was I supposed to find it in this enormous airport. It was eight o’clock in the morning in Hawai’i and I heard Lennie’s voice answer, “Hey Baby. You did it. You’re making it happen!”
“I don’t know what to do or where to go. They said I have to pick up my luggage and go through customs.” I could feel pain behind my eyes as if I was a lost child. ”Okay”, said Lennie, “Look around you for signs that say ‘Baggage’.” ”There’s nothing here and there’s different levels – I don’t know where to go!” Despite his help, I didn’t have a clue where to go and just started randomly asking anyone that was in a uniform. A flight attendant directed me to an information booth and they told me that I would have to go to the next level to claim my bags and then re-enter security and go through customs.
I was more calm now that I had found my luggage and Lennie said, “How long a layover do you have?” My flight doesn’t leave for 6 hours. It had been 7, but I had used up an hour looking for my luggage. He spent the next few minutes trying to talk me into leaving the airport and taking in some of the sights in Vancouver. I assured him that I was absolutely not leaving the airport. It was bad enough that it was under construction for the upcoming Olympics and there were detour signs and arrows and plastic-covered scaffolding, but I sure wasn’t going to go exploring by myself in a strange city, dragging around my luggage. So I wandered. I went through customs and just plunked myself down in a waiting area and waited. Occasionally I drifted off to sleep for a few minutes at a time and got up to get something to eat and drink. Finally it was six o’clock in the evening and I was boarding the last leg of the flight – a seven hour flight over the pacific to Honolulu to meet Lennie in person for the very first time.
The flight was uneventful and long. I became the Queen of “Are we there yet?” I was flying on WestJet and it was a night flight. I was thankful that there was a movie even if it was “Twilight”. Finally the captain come on to announce that we were approaching Honolulu and were flying over the other Islands. I looked out the window and through the darkness could see the sparkling lights that outlined the strip of Waikiki, stretching up along the coast to Pearl Harbor and the airport that we were descending upon.
As I stepped off the plane I remembered Lennie’s words: ”Stop and breathe in the air; there is nothing else like it. The air here in Hawai’i has more oxygen in it.” This was true as I breathed in the warm, moist air. It was as if my lungs were expanding more fully than they were ever able to before. I walked across the breezeway with its open sides, overlooking palm trees and a small pond. The airport was small with just a few carousels for luggage. I had changed into a summer dress in the tiny head on the plane and now had my luggage in tow. Where was Lennie? I was crouching on the floor, digging through my purse for my phone when I heard a familiar voice behind me say, “Are you looking for me?”
“Yes”, I replied as I stood up, turning around and staring into his handsome, smiling face. He was wearing the parrot shirt that he had worn in the photo that he had sent to me. I had asked him to wear it and it was to become one of my favorite shirts on him and later, one of my most cherished belongings. We walked out of the airport, hand in hand to his old Dodge Ram that I had asked him to pick me up in. As I had explained to him, it had a bench seat and we could sit next to each other.
We drove out of the airport and into the night as we traveled inland to get to the Windward side of O’ahu. Tunnels that were illuminated broke through the darkness as we cruised through the mountains and along the winding Pali Highway. The majority of the trip was in darkness so I couldn’t see the beauty that was Hawai’i. We passed stretches of ocean with lights dotted all over, showing glimpses of where towns and forests and marshes were. Finally we were on Mokapu Saddle Road and turning onto the street in Kailua that was to become my home.
The house was in darkness when we arrived and Lennie lifted my luggage out of the back of the truck with ease and carried it into the house. I walked behind him and stood, waiting for him to turn on the lights when he came right back outside to me. He picked me up in his arms and carried me over the threshold as if I was his new bride. He put me down and I stood in the middle of the living room while Lennie turned on the lights and I got my first glimpse of the house. There was a lot of stuff and some mix and match furniture. ”Wait right here”, he instructed me as he walked into another room and closed the door behind him. A few minutes later he opened the door with a smile on his face and the candlelight shining in moist eyes. ”Welcome to your new home, Kathryn.” There were candles all over the master bedroom with a homemade sign on the bed, welcoming me. He took me in his arms and kissed me passionately as he pushed the bedroom door closed with his foot. The room and the night enveloped us as if we had been parted for a very long time and had finally found our way back to each other over the years and perhaps other lifetimes. Finally, we had found each other.
As I previously mentioned, my blog has been down and I have been unable to post, so this is from March 9, 2012.
WET & WILD HAWAI’I is a water theme park here in Hawai’i. Today it was the description for the entire Hawai’ian Islands.
I woke up shortly after five-dark-thirty, as Lennie use to say, to the sound of what sounded like hammering or rapid gunfire on the roof. The sound was deafening, as if we were under seige. I listened for a few minutes before my friend Debbie came running into my bedroom, drenched from the rain. “Kathryn, you have to get up and see this! We will never see it again in our lifetime!”
Debbie had been out in the garage/lanai having her early morning coffee and cigarette when the storm hit. She was soaked from having run the 10 feet to the front door. When I looked at the ground in the still darkness, I could see hundreds of mis-shapen golf balls of ice. We were having a hail storm in Hawai’i. Most of the people that have lived here all their lives have never seen hail. And most of the people from the northern part of the mainland see it rarely. It is one of the oddities of nature and does not occur unless conditions are perfect. We turned on the morning news to see what it was like on the rest of the island. On the windward side we were getting the brunt of it. The marine corps base just 4 minutes from here had to be closed down due to flooded out roads. The base sits on a penninsula, forming a breakwall between the ocean and Kaneohe Bay. They were being hit hard.
It has rained for almost the entire month of February and now into March, but this was the worst of it as two storms of different pressures met. Off the coast of Lanikai, which is just 3 2 miles down the road, someone shot a video of a funnel cloud – something that has not occured in the Hawai’ian Islands for over 100 years. This was likely responsible for the 60+ mile per hour winds that whirled the rain and hail around the house. At one point you could not tell where the wind was coming from. It sucked empty pails and containers out of the garage and the already water logged ground could not take in the water fast enough. It started to rise above ground level and flooded the side apartment. When Debbie later phoned friends in Honolulu they told her that the rain came down the mountain so fast that there was 2 feet of water running through the beautiful hill-side studio that she had previously lived in. When the worst of it was over, there were about 1,000 families in this area without power. The funnel cloud had briefly touched land before dissipating and one house in Lanikai had been destroyed, along with any trees that had been in its path. There were mud slides and thousands of evacuations. During the pre-storm when it was just heavy rain, one of our neighbors had climbed onto their house and covered the roof with a tarp and sandbags. No one in Hawai’i has ever seen anything like this. Oh, and the temperature was 6 degrees above New York at a chilly 60 F.
February and March seem to be the worst months to visit Hawai’i. It was almost this same date last year that the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan and everyone in Hawai’i was being evacuated. I remember Lennie and I driving to the higher ground of the upper house in Kaneohe. I am guessing that we have had maybe 5 or 6 sunny days since I arrived here, and most of those were just days of partial sun. You have to feel bad for the people on vacation when you see everyone wearing polar fleece hoodies. Right now I am in the house – a house that has no heat and louvered panels of glass in the windows that normally would let in the balmy Hawai’ian breezes. I am wearing a faux sheepskin jacket and yoga pants. I am dressed in grey and black. It feels much like being up north in a cottage during a not-so-nice summer. Many of the restaurants here are open to the beach and the elements, not use to having anything like this kind of weather. All activities are centered around the outdoor beauty of Hawai’i. Even the famous Ala Moana Shopping Center is open to the sky on all floors with strategic bits of roofing to cover escalators and mostly for architectural esthetics. My friend Debbie and I went there one day last week, just to get away from the rain and the cold on this side of the island, only to find flooded streets in Honolulu and dozens of people with brooms trying to sweep back the rain from the store entrances at the Ala Moana. Patrons gingerly walked along the walls, not wanting to step away from the 12 inch overhang that afforded them slight cover on the slippery stone floors. Later we raced back to Kailua so that Debbie could watch American Idol, only to have the power go out due to another windy storm. We had only been in the house for about 2 minutes – just long enough to turn on the lights and the TV when a power line went down, setting the entire hillside on fire.
So everyone here has had enough of the rain, wind, clouds and cold temperatures. And by the way, did I mention the vog (volcanic organic gases)?
Lennie and I shared a beautiful love affair for 996 days and nights from Valentine’s Day 2009, when we met by serendipitous chance on the Internet, to November 7, 2011 when he died in my arms in his beloved Hawai’i.
The following is a pictoral history of some of the early photos in the short span of life that we shared. How we filled that time with love, laughter and devotion to each other.
Vehementer vive, valde ama
“I am courting you Kathryn.” Lennie was at the Ala Moana Hotel standing out side of Rumors Night Club. In the background I could hear the music playing. It was a duet between Nat King Cole and his daughter Natalie Cole. It was a recording of Unforgettable. “I came outside where I could call you. I’m just standing here listening to the music and pretending that I’m dancing with you. It’s so strange, but I would rather be out here, talking to you on the phone, than in there dancing with one of the women.”
Going dancing at Rumors Night Club was Lennie’s Friday night ritual. He had been doing it for several years. It had been part of his weight loss program when he had arrived back in Hawai’i after leaving his wife in 2002. At that point, out of years of stress and emotional eating, he had weighed a staggering 325 lbs. Through better eating habits, his Friday night dancing and the Bragg exercise class on the beach, outside Fort DeRussy in Waikiki and his love of swimming, he had lost 75 pounds. Now he was looking pretty good; six-foot-one, a head of thick, wavy, dark hair and well muscled. He didn’t have trouble finding someone to dance with.
“Just think”, I was saying, “in a couple of weeks I will be there.” The 3 months had been shortened when I saw a seat sale on West Jet. My arrival date was now March 26, a mere 3 weeks away. “I can’t wait to go dancing with you.”, I said. “Did I ever tell you that I took dance lessons at Fred Astaire?” ”No, you didn’t. I never took any lessons, but I have about 25 moves and I’m a strong leader.” I love a strong lead dancer, I thought to myself and I imagined us whirling around the floor. ”Because I’m a good dancer”, he was continuing, “I got a free European Cruise a couple of years ago.” ”A free cruise? How did you manage that?” ”Well, I saw this ad for dance partners on a cruise ship. You see, there are always more women than men on cruises and the women want someone to dance with, so I signed up for it. I had to go to a dance studio and prove that I could dance and get the owner to certify me as qualified and that was it. So I signed up on this cruise that went from Japan to Russia and some ports in Europe. Because I was considered entertainment, I got the use of everything on the ship that the passengers got.” ”How much did you have to dance?”, I asked. ”Not that much; just 45 minutes after lunch, and 45 minutes both before and after dinner. I had to wear grey pants and a navy blazer and we weren’t supposed to dance with a woman twice before having danced with everyone. And guess what Baby? I always had the biggest lineup. The women liked dancing with me because I’m such a fun guy.” Somehow I already knew this. Lennie was the kind of dancer that didn’t care if he got all the steps right; he didn’t care if the woman broke into the lead once in a while; as long as you were both having fun. ”I’m going back in to get some more exercise. You don’t mind do you – that I know you’re coming and I’m dancing with other women?” ”No, of course not. Why would I mind when you’ve been doing it for years?” ”Good.”, Lennie said, “I don’t want you to be jealous. You know what I do? I look for the fattest and most unattractive lady and I ask her to dance. You should see the way their face lights up and while they’re dancing, they’re waving to their friends to get their attention, like ‘Hey, look at me with this guy.’ It makes their night, and it gives them bragging rights to make them feel good.” So, he was also kind. We both liked the underdog stories and he was doing his part. No, I could not wait to be dancing with him.
Lennie hung up the phone and went back inside Rumors while I replayedUnforgettable in my mind. It really was only 3 weeks now before we would meet. One of my friends from the dog park told me that West Jet flew out of Hamilton and that they occasionally had seat sales. As luck would have it, when I went on to their web site, there it was – a 3-day-only seat sale. I had immediately called Lennie. ”Well, why don’t you book it before it’s gone?” ”I don’t know how. I’ve never bought anything over the Internet. I’ve never bought anything over the phone either.” I heard him sigh. ”Well, it’s the only way that you’re going to get here.”, he said. A frustrating (for him) hour later he had managed to convince me that the airline people would not use my credit card if I gave them the number. It was safe and secure and the majority of people in North America did this all the time. So it was done. I had my flight booked for a wonderful 2 1/2 weeks. Exhausted from dealing with my creditcardphobia he said that he was going to take a nap. But, even though it was six hours later here, I felt empowered by my new Internet knowledge. I went back on to the West Jet site. There were more seat sales. My return flight would bring me back to Hamilton in mid-April. There was another seat in the middle of May that was on sale, but the only one that I could find for a return flight was five weeks after. Oh well, I would stay for five weeks on my second trip. And it was done. I had now booked a second flight to Hawai’i for five weeks before even having met Lennie.
In the meantime, he had been asking me to send him some more photos of myself. I know that he wanted some pin-up shots, but like he had said, “I know that’s not your style Baby.” He had recalled stories that he told me of women that were dying to have him invite them to Hawai’i and sent him nude shots with their first e-mails. Usually that had been enough for him to block them from his list. But he wanted something cute. So I had set up my tripod and taken some shots of me in a sarong and talking on the phone and in a swimsuit. Lennie would like these. The photo of me in the sarong would become one of his favorites and the one that he uploaded into his phone as his background. I had had this sarong for over 25 years. I had kept it for the day that I would be brave enough to travel to Hawai’i. Now that day was drawing near.
About an hour and a half later Lennie had woken up from his nap. My phone rang and I grabbed it on the first ring. ”Hi Honey”, I said brightly. ”Guess what I did?” ”What Baby?” ”I went back on the West Jet site and booked a second flight; for five weeks.” There was silence. The silence was followed by nervous laughter and then he said, “That’s my girl. Go straight for the throat.” I wasn’t sure what he meant by that. ”That’s alright, isn’t it? I think that we are both going to get along and the worst that can happen is that I have to cancel it and West Jet has this bank account thing that I can put the cancelled ticket into or even sell it to someone else.” I was talking too fast. ”It’s okay Baby. It was just a surprise, that’s all.” Later I would find out how much of a surprise it was to him. He would tell me a year later that he had thought that I might be just a two week fling and that me booking that second flight before we had even met had helped to cement our relationship.
A couple of hours later he called me and said, “Guess what I’m doing?” ”What?”, I asked. ”I’m cleaning up the house for your arrival. I’ve got my handyman and cleaning lady helping me. We’re throwing out stuff and cleaning the place up. I’m doing it for you, Kathryn. I’m starting to nest.”
Most people say that this is the worst time of year if you are trying to deal with the death of someone you love. I have a different opinion on this sentiment. I am not coming from a psychology point of view, but one of experience, having just lost the man that I loved last month. This is not only the most nostalgic time of year, but also the most festive, the most busy and for many, the most friendly. The following are some tips that have helped me during this Christmas season and perhaps they can help you too.
Blessings this Christmas,