There’s a famous line from the Hawai’ian-themed Disney movie, Lilo & Stitch: “Ohana means family, and family means nobody gets left behind.”
But as even the movie demonstrates, Family is also a very complicated thing. Sometimes it takes some time—decades, even—to reach that point where nobody is being left behind.
Our family is a pretty good example, “All-American” in its complexity. Keoni and I have seven kids between us, from a total of three previous marriages, and with a rainbow of cultural backgrounds. (I’m the “token white person” in our family—Keoni’s kids are Hawai’ian-and-Mexican, and mine are half Filipino…)
The three oldest kids, Kulia, Anelahikialani, and Keoni—from Keoni’s second marriage—live close to one another in California with their respective partners and kids, and their mom, Diana. With these three kids, ours has been a journey of RE-connecting. Keoni actually had very little contact with them for a long time, because his third ex-wife is one of those people who feels threatened by the idea of anyone else having a place in the heart of someone who “belongs” to her. She used to intercept calls from the other kids, block their attempts at contact, and keep them out of the picture by whatever means she could manage. When Keoni and I got together—just out of Rehab—one of the first things we did was to cash in my last free airline-miles to buy a ticket to California to see his kids. To put things in perspective here, he hadn’t seen his adult son since Keoni-the-younger was twelve.
An important player in our extended family is Keoni’s second wife Diana, mother to the oldest three kids. Despite what could certainly be considered “bad history,” Diana always told the kids “keep the door open” for their dad, and have faith that he would come back into their lives. Quite honestly, we were overwhelmed by the genuine and heartfelt welcome we received—from Diana as well as from the kids. Diana is a wonderful and generous woman who did a great job of raising three amazing people—and I’m honored to count her among my friends!
A few years ago, when we owned our first restaurant, we told the Cali-kids that we’d like to provide them with Christmas dinner… They missed Daddy’s home-cooked Hawai’ian food, so we arranged with them that we’d have food shipped and delivered at a specified time when they’d all be together. Only Diana knew the rest of the plan: that WE would be delivering! We packed the Prius with food and drove through a snow-storm from Idaho to California, calling Diana’s cell phone from a couple blocks away at the designated time. She opened up the garage door for us and told the kids “the food” had arrived. The expressions on the girls’ faces when Daddy walked through the door… That’s in my mental scrapbook of precious moments!
This month they knew we were coming, because this was an Occasion. Anelahikialani had dreamed for years—even when her Dad wasn’t actively involved in her life—that he’d be on hand to give her away at her wedding. When they visited us last winter, she and her fiancée Sarah asked us if Keoni would cook for their reception and if I would perform the ceremony. As the day approached, we teased the girls about the explosive potential of a wedding with TWO prospective “Bridezillas”… But in truth, they were both beaming. And beautiful!
Note to myself: if I ever perform another wedding for one of our own kids, I need to stock my pockets with KLEENEX!
I stood at the foot of the outdoor amphitheater on Mount Madonna and Anela appeared at the top of the stairs… Barefoot in a delightfully simple strapless gown and Hawai’ian Haku Lei, absolutely radiant, on the arms of both her parents…
Well, it’s just as well that all eyes were on her, because the minister was having a hard time stemming the runny nose I get when I cry. (The girls gave a thumbs-up to my short-sleeved clerical blouse—largely in giggly anticipation of the “shock-value effect” my tattoos would have on their older aunties—but it didn’t leave me with any options for subtle nose-wiping…)
A lot of OUR marriage went into the words I wrote for this ceremony—after all, it’s my “source material” when I reflect on Marriage…Which is why I choked up entirely when I got to these words: “From this day on you will have the joy of waking every morning in each other’s arms, and both of you in God’s hands.” That right there is our bottom line—our joyful reminder to each other in our best moments, sometimes a tearful reminder in the tougher times. God gave us each other, and He’s got our backs.
“Gay Marriage” has been in the headlines a lot this month—absurd arguments about “protecting” Marriage, as if any marriage could actually be threatened by anything so completely unrelated as other people also being married. Any “threats to a marriage” come from within that marriage, end of story. Let me think… My marriage is not in any way threatened—in fact, not even affected—by any other pair getting married. Not the Republican couple I run into at the mailboxes, not the teens down the block with two kids, not Laura and Maria who lived across the street and raised a great kid… Okay, I’m done with the Soapbox now.
Usually when I perform a wedding ceremony, I finish by proclaiming a couple married “by the laws of this state”… But this time the statement isn’t true.
So… The State can go to hell on this one. I don’t presume to know God’s mind, but I DO know a God who isn’t hateful or exclusionary—so when people try to put hateful or exclusionary words in God’s mouth, I’m not buying.
Bottom line: THESE words of the ceremony do stand: “By the authority vested in me as a minister of the Word of God”… Anela and Sarah are married.
And we are SO joyful to see the joy they bring each other.
At the outdoor reception, the very first dance (“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole) featured the two brides dancing with their Dads. Diana and I stood with our arms around each other, crying and watching Keoni & Anela singing along with Izzy. Our ‘Ohana probably doesn’t fit any version of “traditional” labeling, but I have to think God approves of all the LOVE!