For many people, going to Hawaii offers up the promise of adventure. And depending upon your interests, that adventure can take many forms.
Feel like exploring nature under water? There’s no limit to the snorkeling and scuba diving options throughout the islands. Surfing is at the top of a lot of Hawaii travelers’s lists. If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, you can head up to the almost 14,000-ft summit of Maura Kea. And almost as adventurous as the drive up is mastering your 4×4’s low gears as you try not to burn up your brakes on the way down. A hike along the lava fields near the constantly erupting Kilauea can be breathtaking, or life-ending if you take the wrong step near one of the flowing rivers of 2,000-degree magma. And there is always the solemnity and history that comes with a visit to Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial.
A few of these items were on my family’s itinerary as part of a recent trip we took to the Big Island of Hawaii. But there was also something more adventurous than all of those items combined that we had in mind. Something that really doesn’t show up on the hundreds of activity fliers that are in every Hawaiian hotel lobby. Something that gets at the the heart of who we are and where we came from.
We were looking for family.
It’s no secret that all families have their own stories, and characters, too. For example, my dad used to say that when he was in the army during the Cuban Missile Crisis, he and the other paratroopers had to sleep on the runway, under their planes, in order to be ready to invade Cuba as soon as John F. Kennedy said the word.
Now, this story might be apocryphal, but it’s become part of our family lore. But, in order to have such lore as part of your family, you need to have a family to be the source of such tales. And this how we came to spend a day driving through the southern, Kua region of the Big Island on a quest to find my wife’s roots.
You see, my wife, Megan, was adopted. And as is the case with many children who are adopted, Megan has always wanted to know where, and who, she was from. Her story isn’t uncommon among children of adoption: Her birth parents were young, her mother got pregnant and didn’t feel she was in a position to be a mother, and she gave up Megan for adoption. Within a matter of days, the couple that would be Megan’s parents, her mom and dad, had found her and took her home to Oakland where she has always lived. In fact, we live in the home where he parents brought her and gave her a name and a life. She found her birth parents, who never married or stayed together, back in 2003, and has developed good relationships with both of them.
But, as it turned out, her birth father was from Hawaii. He met Megan’s birth mother on Oahu, they went to California together, and, the rest of the story is history. Or, it was, until Megan began pulling at the strings of her birth father’s family.
And it was all of that pulling that took us on a trip around the Big Island.