Last week, we celebrated our 30th anniversary on Oahu. Instead of renting a car, we used foot power and public transportation to get where we wanted to go. We met Myron, the bus driver, on our first day.
He talked about the unseasonable cold snap we’d just missed.
“Sixty-two degrees,” he said, shaking his head. “Man, it was so cold. We have thin blood on the islands – we can’t handle that kind of chill.”
Myron told us the best times to visit sights we wanted to see and the best local places to dine. Dropping us off at the restaurant, he assured us he’d be working until midnight and would meet us at our stop after dinner.
Sure enough, a few hours later, he greeted us. “Happy anniversary, guys!”
He spoke of his first wife. “We were married 20 years and have four kids. She died of cancer two years ago.”
We murmured our condolences and he admitted the loss had been hard on him and his kids. Then he smiled. “I recently remarried. I met her right here on this bus.”
His new bride had just moved to the island from Las Vegas and got on his bus hopelessly lost. Myron helped her navigate her first day in the city.
“The next day she got back on my bus and brought me dinner,” he said, grinning. “That weekend we took my kids to lunch. I asked them what they thought about me dating and they said, ‘Dad you’ve been so sad. We want you to be happy again.’ ”
Love stories. I find them everywhere I go – even across the ocean!
Pulling up at our stop, Myron said, “Don’t forget to try the Chart House. Ask for Colene. Tell her I sent you.”
So after a full day of beach-bathing, sun-soaking indulgence, we walked to the Chart House for dinner and asked for Colene.
“Myron, the bus driver sent us,” I told her.
She smiled. “Oh my goodness, I haven’t talked to him in ages! He and my husband were good friends.”
Her smile disappeared and the lines around her eyes deepened. “My husband passed away suddenly two years ago – right after Myron’s wife died.”
At this point my husband began to worry. He’s learned over the past three decades that while my body may be on vacation, my mind rarely is. A writer’s brain is wired to find stories everywhere. He may be the extrovert who launches conversations but I’m one who has to discover the rest of the story.
Colene didn’t know Myron had remarried. “I’m so happy for him,” she said. “Maybe I should date. My son wants me to …”
She returned to our table with our check and some macadamia nut ice cream – on the house.
“You guys coming here tonight … do you ever feel like some things are just meant to be?”
Her eyes filled. “I think I needed to hear about Myron’s happiness – to know that it’s possible again.”
The next morning, another love story found us while we waited in line for coffee before setting off for Pearl Harbor.
“Hello there, honey,” said a little lady in a Hawaiian print shirt.
It was Myrt Powers from Cheney. She and her husband, Walt, are featured in my book “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.”
The Powers have wintered in Hawaii for many years, but to find her at our hotel at 8:15 in the morning was amazing. It turns out Walt swims at the hotel pool every morning at 8.
After chatting with her for a bit, we boarded our bus. I knew I was in trouble when I saw the sign for Ford Island and started crying. Ford Island, where my friends Warren and Betty Schott lived and survived the horrific attack on Pearl Harbor – to be in a place I’ve written about for so many years was emotionally overwhelming.
As I walked the grounds at Pearl Harbor, I pictured Warren’s desperate drive to get his wife to safety. They’d spoken of shrapnel falling from the skies – of the road shredded by machine gun fire – of the terror and the noise.
We watched a short film featuring actual footage of the attack. A scene of sailors and soldiers pulling the wounded and dead from the harbor made me gasp. That’s what Warren had done in the aftermath – it was the one thing he didn’t want to discuss with me over the course of many interviews. It was the only thing he refused to speak of with his wife and best friend of 76 years.
As we boarded the boat that took us to the USS Arizona, I thought of Pearl Harbor survivor Ray Daves, who died in 2011. His friend, George Maybee, perished aboard the Arizona. His remains are entombed in the waters below the memorial. The throng of tourists quieted. The only sound was the snapping of the flag in the wind as I found Maybee’s name among the more than 1,000 names engraved. I wished I could tell Ray.
The somberness of Pearl Harbor was balanced by the sightseeing and sunshine that devoured the rest of our stay on Oahu. Though my phone is filled with photos of sunsets, beaches and palm trees, it’s the people, not the places, that I’ll remember most.
Bus drivers, waitresses, soldiers, sailors, love of country, love lost and found again – whether at home or across the sea, it’s our stories that connect us.
Contact Cindy Hval at email@example.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.