Giant Memories Of A Big Brother
It was supposed to be a hike for my nephew, who just graduated from high school and was about to go off to college in a couple of weeks.
The Sleeping Giant trail is typically nice and easy, leading up to a spectacular panoramic view of Kauai’s eastern coast, where my nephew was born and raised. So I thought this was a good idea — one last excursion for him before he left the island.
Funny how we sometimes do something for a particular reason but there’s something deeper that moves us to do it, though we may not yet know why. This was one of those experiences.
Wide-eyed and eager, we entered from the back of the mountain via one of the trailheads. Greeting us was a pasture of wild verbena, a splendid display of soft purple, the Kauai version of the lavender fields of southern France that yours truly only dreams about. We crossed a wooden bridge over a clear, mellow stream, inconsequentially chatting our way through a cool, shady yellow-guava segment, then eating our way through a sunny strawberry-guava section before reaching a pine forest.
This stately Cook’s Pine forest is the two-mile marker, where the talking and nibbling stopped, perhaps because this is where spiritual awakenings take place. Either that, or this is when my peptides are triggering my body’s opiate receptors, relieving any pain or sadness of this world.
This is where I thought of my brother — my nephew’s dad — who died nearly eight years ago. Being with my nephew on this trail brought back memories of when my brother last hiked with us up this mountain. Though his heart could barely make the climb, he never complained, he just rested. He wanted so much to be with family.
This was who he was. In fact, he was not only a good brother, he was my best friend. I didn’t know it back then when I was immersed in raising a family, working and planning for the future. All I knew was that in those days when I felt confused, insecure and frustrated, I always called my brother. And he always picked up. He always listened, believed in and supported me. I thought nothing of it then because that’s what I thought a big brother was supposed do.
Years later, when I had time to make some amazing friends, I began to understand the characteristics and definition of the word “friend.” Slowly, his being infiltrated my consciousness, and by the time I went on this Sleeping Giant hike with his son, my brother was officially and posthumously awarded the title of being my best friend.
As I felt the big, soft pine needles underfoot, I told my nephew, “Your dad is here with you today.”
My nephew simply responded, “I don’t know.”
But I did.
I felt my brother was there with us that day. A minute after I announced my brother’s presence, my nephew picked up his pace and booked it up the hill, leaving me in the dust to take more measured steps as I rebonded with my brother.
I finally reached the mountaintop to find my nephew sitting on a bench by himself. Quiet and meditative, he gazed out into the vista. What I saw was a picture truly worth a thousand words: an image of a child loved by his family and friends finally grown into a young man and now looking forward to an adventurous, exciting future.
And I was the lucky one, there to show my brother, my best friend, the wonderful fruit of his life and love. This hike turned out to be not just for my nephew, but for all of us.