IMR: 1997: December: 28 -- Sunday, 11:16 p.m.
Our Apartment, Waikiki, Hawai`i
I'm sitting in the dark, trying not to wake Jen, who turned in early tonight. She felt bad, not staying up with me; she didn't have a particularly rough day at work. But carrying around an eight-month belly is surely exhausting enough.

I just e-mailed my dad, looking for the details on Wednesday night's New Year's Service at the Waipahu Soto Zen Taiyoji. We skipped out last year to go to First Night, but this year our frayed souls are definitely in need of some spiritual recharging.

It's funny. Now that we're bringing a new life into this world, I'm suddenly finding "family values" creeping in from all sides.

Jen and I are already months into an anti-cursing program, with swear words punishable by ruthless pinching. As Christmas came and went, we pondered where we could attend a Catholic Midnight Mass should we decide to go next winter. And where I once came up with any excuse to avoid crossing into a new year with chanting and incense, I'm now eager to greet 1998 solemnly, respectfully... "properly."

It's hard to believe that five years ago, one of my hobbies was taunting the preaching evangelists who shouted of God and salvation on Waikiki street corners. They still annoy me, of course, but on the other hand the word "religion" no longer triggers the kind of chilly, hostile feelings it once did.

If Jen wants to rediscover her Christianity -- as I suspect she may with the dawning of a new year -- I'll support it. I'll go with her to church, and maybe even sing... or, maybe not. I will, at least, try to keep my snippy retorts to myself during sermons.

For my own spiritual health, I really should go to the Waipahu temple more often.

My grandfather built the place, yet were it not for his widow -- my grandmother -- the only time you would see an Ozawa on the premises is during the "big" services. New Years. Obon. Even then, though several of my relatives show face, most sit to the side and grimace, just as eager to leave as I was when I was six. The fear of my grandmother's wrath is probably all that keeps them coming.

Of all my grandmother's children, it seems my father is the only one who makes it a point to encourage the family to attend, to donate money, to visit my grandfather's grave in Mililani. My dad -- "The Colonel," the ever-busy, ever-schmoozing, globe-hopping state administrator -- still knows the Buddhist sutras by heart.

I doubt anyone in my generation -- myself included -- knows a single chant, or understands and appreciates the family history, or visits the church or the grave on their own.

That should change.

Today was lining up to be a repeat of yesterday, sans whales. I answered some e-mail and shuffled things around on Zip disks in some futile attempt to make it look like I was Mr. Organized. I ate four bowls of Chex.

But then something seized me, and I jumped up and headed out the door. I almost forgot to put some shorts on.

I went straight down to the beach and waded knee deep in the water, stopping a moment to watch kids jump off The Wall into the low surf. Then I turned Ewa and simply started walking along the water line. My slippers threw sand against the back of my legs.

I maneuvered around tourists digging holes and dodged kids throwing sand, climbing over various sea walls as they came.

I saw what looked like a Wisconsin basketball team taking pictures at a lifeguard tower. I saw a toddler on a leash, a couple playing tonsil hockey on a bench, a woman afraid to climb the steps into a small catamaran.

[ Sunset ]I walked past hotel after hotel, listening to scattered live bands as I went. People started to crowd the beach, waiting to catch, as one tourist said as I passed, "the famous Waikiki sunset."

I ducked inland at the Halekulani, weaving through taxis and buses and lost tour groups until I reached Kalakaua. Then I followed it back toward home, watching the sun slowly drop.

Finally, as everything glowed gold and two surfer girls paddled out to sea, I stood on the beach and watched the sun sink below the horizon.

Living so close to such a beautiful, daily show, it's almost criminal that I haven't taken the time to watch a sunset for so long. I'm glad I finally did... this week, especially. While there is no bonenkai -- a "forget the year party," as William graciously explained -- those ten minutes were all the ceremony I needed to say a quiet goodbye to 1997.


© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 28 December 1997 · Last Modified: 29 December 1997