One of his standard sayings
was “I feel like shit and fall in it.”
This, from one of his grandmothers.
Increasingly, he said “My lungs hurt” and coughed
flecks of blood into handkerchiefs, sometimes secretly.
Occasionally, certain of the lucky among us
must know it’s time. I think it would be good
to look up in dawning recognition rather
than in sudden, pained surprise-regret and see
time’s scythe-bearer arriving, hooded, embracing.
He had a recurring dream of his tombstone
but refused to share the end date with those
of us who loved him. I have been less than
charitable in thinking about his reasons. Now,
I’m prepared to state that he spared us concern.
One–likely two phone calls, one to each of Char’s sons.
“I’m checking myself into the hospital.
I don’t expect to return home. Come pick up
your mother, now.”
One of them did, flew out to the islands
gathered his mother’s possessions and his mother
flew her to the Mainland and his home—her in tears,
her with a new terrible understanding. Through the fog
and missed connections of a stroke’s aftermath
she understood this final leaving, this final departure.
He drove to Hilo, checked himself into Hilo Hospital.
He was airlifted to Honolulu and one
of the big hospitals there, died a handful
of days later. The night he died
Stuart, a family friend and I sat a deathbed vigil,
talking in low, calm voices.
The autopsy revealed pulmonary fibrosis
and one lung as a mass of scar tissue.
His final effects were released to me.
The doctor’s bag he packed for his visit to the hospital.
His sense of humor.
Sets of boxers and t-shirts.
“Wear boxers. It’ll be easier for you to conceive.”
His sense of humor and his refusal to give up.
“Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
A pocket-sized spiral pale blue notebook of family sayings.
When I saw it, I knew what it was immediately. The previous year
he’d asked me “Would you like me to write down some of the family
sayings for you?” I answered in all sincerity, “Yes, please.”
I had no idea how close the end was.
This notebook is what interested my sisters. They asked me
to make copies for them. In this one little thing
I didn’t fail them.
His respect for the wisdom of family.
His respect for the wisdom of people from the hill country of Ohio.
His fidelity to memory.
His belief in keeping his word.
His life as a planner and problem solver.
“Work for and expect the best but plan for the worst.”
This isn’t in the small notebook. I can’t remember him
saying it, but he could have. He didn’t include his sayings,
entrusted them to my memory.
I look for “Keep your powder dry” but can’t find it. I do
remember “The light at the end of the tunnel could be an
His deep respect for tools and machines.
“Walk your horse the first mile.”
“It’s not the size of the wand that makes the magic.”
This, from his father.
Despite their estrangement, he quoted his father’s sayings.
The 1957 edition of the Hawaiian-English Dictionary
by Mary Pukui and others. He believed its fidelity closest
to his friend Mary’s vision for what the Dictionary should be.
His love of Hawai‛i and the Hawaiians.
“Ua lehulehu a manomano ka ‘ikena a ka Hawai‛i.”
“Great and without end is the knowledge of the Hawaiians.”
His desire to keep working until he couldn’t any longer.
His admonition to me to keep my word.
His glasses—two pairs.
He’d betrayed his lungs; the air of his chosen place betrayed his lungs
and him. His heart was good, though.
My sisters and I buried Dad on his beloved island of Hawai‛i.
“Likeke McBride… an Irish-Indian with a Hawaiian Heart.”
Andrew Shattuck McBride
PaPoWriMo ~ 2012 *Day Eleven Poem*
October 7, 2012
Aloha, Dad–rest in peace.