Day 77: Ed Kame'enui's Letter to Karsten
Updated: Nov 5, 2018
I sought permission from your Dad to write a letter to you, because you’ve been on my mind for quite some time now, and more intensely on some days than others. However, I also wanted to write, because I felt a need to provide you with an update on your parents and how they are doing.
Needless to say, Karsten, but important to note nonetheless, your parents and Sev miss you immensely, and the pain of your absence, as expected, is ferocious and unforgiving—day to day, moment to moment. Naturally, your parents are always very gracious to all inquiries of their wellbeing. In fact, they are always quick to give priority to putting others at ease first, and their personal comfort or inconvenience is always secondary. Of course, these judgments are my conceits, because there is no way for me to really know how your parents feel or to even guess at the magnitude of their enduring pain and grief. As such, my perspective is rather feeble and represents a set of observations and judgments from a distance—a long, dull and safe distance, for sure.
Your Dad writes to you every day. As of this writing, he has written 76 letters to you. Naturally, because these are letters to you, they don’t represent the technical professional writing he typically does. As such, these letters are very different and in every way. Saul Bellow, the famous 20th Century writer and Nobel Laureate in literature, once observed that every piece of writing is an offering. It seems trite, but I think it’s fair to assert that every letter your Dad writes represents an offering and an intimate and personal one at that. These letters are posted daily and publicly but are written exclusively for you. It’s your Dad’s way of keeping you close to him, and in doing so, to the rest of us. So, I take this opportunity to write to you seriously and I’m honored to submit this offering.
A few weeks ago, we had dinner with your parents on their terms and at their home. Of course, your parents were gracious hosts. Your Dad, for example, who prefers beer, prepared and joined me in a Manhattan, which surprised me. I watched him up close manage the two grills he had prepared for dinner—one grill had an electric thermometer hooked up to it for the steaks, and the other was a smoker for the salmon. In the process and especially when the steak grill was at its peak in flames, he made it clear that he was missing your expert guidance, because you were the grill master. As you have noted, “Sometimes you just have to show your dad what to do. He’ll get it eventually. Or not.” Well, he got it because the results of the grilling were perfect, as was the evening.
Well, almost perfect. The evening would have been perfect had it ended with dinner. However, your parents unwittingly decided to ruin it by gifting me a wooden carving of a salmon and a turtle. I was stunned and I’m still trying to get my head around their incredible generosity.
I understand that in Native American mythology, the salmon is considered an important symbol of renewal. Likewise, the turtle symbolizes determination and endurance. These are noble characteristics that, as I understand from your parents and through your Celebration of Life, capture you—a daily sense of renewal and determination as means of endurance.
The wooden carving of the salmon now sits on my deck with the McKenzie as its backdrop. The turtle rests a short distance from the salmon, closer to the river and next to the wooden bench made of gabion cages of rocks. I love them. Truly. They give me a deep sense of renewal each and every time I look at them.
At dinner, your Dad reflected on the importance of words and how the right words mattered, a subject of several of his letters to you. Like your Dad, I too think the right words matter. In fact, when I was engaged in a great deal of public speaking, I loved citing the following quote from Mark Twain: "The difference between the almost right word and the right word is a really large matter. 'Tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."
In my “thank you” card to your parents for the dinner and wood carvings, I confessed that I was having a difficult time finding the right words to thank them. In doing so, I cited the Mark Twain quote and offered the following words:
“Admittedly, "Thank you" comes close, however, it still feels like almost the right word, and thus, slightly inadequate. Mahalo–thank you in Hawaiian–gets a tad closer, because it has cultural magnitude and currency, at least for me, but still, no Mark Twain cigar.
I must confess, I have considered other words–delightful, splendid, lovely, grateful, humbling ..., but nothing is working to honor Twain's tough standard for invoking the right word to thank you guys.
Thus, I have decided (and with approval from a higher authority) that a word maybe the wrong linguistic unit for expressing our appreciation to you two for last night. So, I'm settling on a string of words to capture last night's dinner and companionship. I trust you will recognize them:
Authentic–You guys are the real deal, man, seriously; Collaborative–well, I did make the second round of Manhattans and I did peak at the salmon in the smoker grill while JT scurried to put out the fire in the steak grill; Curious–I can't get Alex and Monica and JT's incredible kindness to them out of my head; Generous–like, duh; Athletic–Well, I trust you'll agree that Karsten's presence was with us.”
Well, that’s my offering, albeit incomplete and inadequate, as most offerings are, but in this case, especially so. I’ll do my best to keep an eye on your parents, but I think they are doing as well as can be expected. It’s an extraordinarily tough gig, but they are extraordinary individuals and together they are pretty darn special.