A Perfect Picture Memory

I knew from the moment I sat down for my first-ever official plate lunch my 16-day holiday in Hawaii would melt by faster than a Popsicle left to fend for itself in the parking lot of that very Zippy’s. The two scoops of rice, mac salad, and wiener surrounded by chili stared up at me, welcoming me to the Islands.

Looking back on pictures taken during those two weeks plus, the memories float around my mind, knocking back and forth like the persistent waves that peacefully decorate the shores of Oahu.

“We had us a time” is a line my father often says, recalling various moments in his life: Twins trips, catch in the backyard, nine holes after church on Sunday. And, right now, I cannot think of a better five words to describe my experience on those two rocks in the middle of the sea.

Hawaii is beautiful – that is a given, right? – but when you are there with the love of your life and her wonderful family, well, it simply just does not get much better.

I imagine my experience in Hawaii to be different than the common traveler who shacks up at the Hilton in Waikiki, and spends their nights at over-priced bars, sipping whatever the latest vodka concoction may happen to be, tipping the guitarist to play “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” for the fifth time. Their Island Vegas away from Vegas, if you will.

I never really felt much like a tourist here, save maybe for the two hours we spent reflecting at Pearl Harbor, or laughably failing our way through Dole’s infamous pineapple maze. And there was that time on the Big Island when I was checking out how homemade chocolate was made – that was pretty touristy, but I do not have the pictures to prove it.

I felt more like I was home, surrounded by an intense amount of beauty, love, and support – the family dinners, church services, conversations, video-game playing – all webbing that undeniable sense of familiarity. Sure enough, the days did end up melting by at an unexplainable rate, and before I could catch more than one-and-a-half waves, I was back on Korean Airlines flight 51 staring out the window watching Oahu fade into the horizon. But, I was not without a psyche full of perfect picture memories, not to mention boundless thoughts, enthusiasm, faith and hope for the future.

I would like to express the biggest of thank yous to Tiff and her family for being so unbelievably welcoming, treating me to all kinds of delicious foods, doing my laundry, and being down-to-earth amazingly supportive people. Cannot wait come back home.

A few select photos can be viewed by making the jump here.

the proposal

音楽を聞きながら、プロポーズをしました。

At the end of any number of sporting events – let’s zero in on golf for the sake of an example – you often here the winning player during the post-match press conference say something like:

“I don’t really remember what happened out there. I just kept focusing on the next shot, not really paying attention to the scoreboard or what (insert golfer’s name here) was doing. I knew if I just went out and played my game, we could come out on top, and well…. looking now at the scoreboard, apparently we did just that. This all feels kind of like a dream. I cannot believe it!”

This, for me, was what it was like to ask Tiffany Kanoe Yoshida to be my bride.

It was a Wednesday in late August on the Big Island of Hawaii – the weather calm, reassuring, perfectly Hawaiian. We had spent the day snorkeling near the island’s biggest town, Kona, home to a coffee bean that has made its way into hundreds of thousands of coffee cups around the globe.

I knew this was the day God had made for me to ask her – in not so many words – to be by my side for the rest of our lives. I had received her family’s blessing four days prior, and had traveled halfway across the Pacific with a ring wrapped around a plaid shirt in the laptop compartment of my gaudily brand-named North Face backpack, which now sat in our hotel room, patiently awaiting its new home.

Satisfied with the gigantic turtle and numerous date-fish we saw swimming in the shallow bay, feeding off the reef as if it were their last meal, we settled back into our rental Ford Focus and made our way back to the resort.

The time: 5:45-ish, nearing sunset. In other words, game time.

Back in our room, I scrambled to find the ring in my backpack and then cautiously slip it in to the Velcro pocket of my Local-Boy board shorts, all the while telling Tiff to “maybe put on something nice over your bathing suit” because “I want some shots of you and the fast approaching sunset” before we “enjoy an evening dip in the resort’s luxurious pool.” She did, and looked even more striking than the first day I met her a year prior, wearing the same powder-blue dress, her face beaming a radiant smile as always. I fancied into a 15-dollar white polo from Uniqlo and the aforementioned board shorts – classy guy, yes, but hey, I think I at least matched, or at least not un-matched.

Ring, iPod, camera, one bottle of Corona, and a mini bottle of Chardonnay in tow, and we were out the door to ask and reply to the question of our lives. At this point, the resort was flooding with people, the path to the oceanfront filled with kids running and jumping, parents telling them to relax, older couples out for an evening stroll – the typical setting for any Tropical resort, I imagined. I began a mild panic attack: “Please Lord let me find a quiet place on the beach where I can ask Tiff to be my bride,” I silently prayed.

Eventually we found a brief opening in the bush that trailed the walking path and made our way down a steep descend to the beautiful white rock beach where, we, miraculously, were to be the only inhabitants for what seemed like the next 30 seconds, but in reality was likely an hour.

I nervously began taking photos of the sunset, not really paying attention to what I was shooting. We did, after all, come here to take photos of a yet another striking Hawaiian sunset. After a few more photos, Tiff and I sat on a rock-made-for-two, she to my left, close to my heart as always. As we gazed out at the waves chasing each other until they splashed in on the shore, I unvelcroed my pocket and told Tiff I had something for her.

“This is my iPod,” I remember saying, jokingly. I slid the unlock mechanism and began playing Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s medley of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” one of Tiff’s top 5 all-time songs, and about as Hawaii-poi as you can get. While said song was getting to about the point where IZ hums the sweet, sweet melody, I began telling Tiff how I felt about her, and while doing this, happiness overtook my every emotion and tears began to shed down my face. “Get it together,” I thought. So I did. I fought back the tears of joy, got down on one knee – Tiff still beautifully posed on the rock – pulled the ring out of my shorts, and…. “Will you marry me?”

I honestly do not remember the exact response (I mean I knew it was “Yes”), as the ring did end up on her finger. We then embraced, and both proceeded to shed more tears of joy – “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in its final refrain, the Pacific horizon holding on to any final rays of light it possibly could, making way for the fingernail of a moon and billions of stars.

So, was asking Tiffany Kanoe Yoshida to marry me really akin to some random PGA professional winning on tour?

Of course not.

It was better.

And I have the rest of my life to tell you why.