Hawaii In Kentucky

When we moved to Hawaii a little over two years ago I fell hard for my little island. Well, the first month living in the Navy Lodge without a car wasn’t easy but a hot second after I unpacked my house I was smitten. The salt water, the blue skies and rainbows, the surf and especially the people. Right after unpacking Ray surprised me with a snuba excursion for my birthday. (I didn’t misspell scuba. It’s fun and you should come visit and try it.) On our ride back into shore we were talking about why I loved it so much and seemed to have no problem with the locals that we had heard so many rumors about. We came to one conclusion. Hawaii is just a more tropical version of my little piece of Western Kentucky.

If you get away from Waikiki, you’ll find people who love their family. Family is first, always. The are suspicious of outsiders but once you’re welcomed, you are family. They like big trucks or in my case, big Jeeps. Kailua pork and mac salad is really not that far off what is served at every family gathering here. Hunting and fishing are a way of life. You would be surprised at how much people in Western Kentucky have in common with people in Hawaii.

It all came full circle for me yesterday. If you’ve seen the movie, 50 First Dates, you know that it about a girl in Hawaii who suffers from short term memory loss after a car accident because a cow is in the road. Love that movie! In fact a good friend just sent me a copy for my birthday. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. Plus, it’s my little island and Sea Life Park. Anyway… yesterday a storm blew over. I jumped in Mom’s truck and headed into town to meet up with some friends. I came around the corner and had to stop.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen a cow in the road, but it certainly made me laugh. Thankfully, there was no accident. Unfortunately, there was also no fresh pineapple.


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Mahalo Nui Loa

Almost three months ago, I felt completely overwhelmed. I was with Mom and Ned for a few weeks. It was becoming very apparent to me that Mom needed help in a big way caring for Ned. I wept when I left after Tye died. I knew I was leaving her in some pretty good hands, but they weren’t mine. Leaving in June was so much harder. I was a wreck. Literally the only thing that I could do for her was to be an outlet to vent to and pray. If you know me at all, you know that’s hard. I just want to fix it.

There is no way to say thank you. There is no way to thank Angie, Bryan, Chase and Kyle or their spouses enough. I can’t even start to list the rest of the Kendall clan that stepped up so big since I left in June. If you are reading this, please know I heard everything from Mom. I heard about every act of kindness. I heard about every time someone coaxed a smile. I heard about food being dropped off, rides being given, much needed breaks, rubbing legs, cleaning houses…I could go on and on. All I can say is Mahalo Nui Loa. The literal translation would be “Thanks great big and long.” I think that seems appropriate. It has been a great big long journey filled with people blessing Mom and Ned in their time of need.

Aunt Bonnie has been right there too. She was hanging out with Nedbone, cleaning, cooking, doing everything she could. She even waited at an airport for a few extra hours to drag my butt home.

I arrived to Golo late Friday night. There was a crowd waiting to greet me even in their grief. I have never in my life seen so much food. Fried chicken seemed to be regenerating in the refrigerator. I’m pretty sure more than 3 hogs were sent to slaughter to come up with the amount of bar-b-que scattered in various vessels between Mom’s kitchen and the pond house. Buns were plentiful. Chips were everywhere. Don’t even get me started on the breakfast casseroles, sweet buns and desserts. When people don’t know what to say or what to do, they bring food and lots of sweet tea. Bless ‘em! Thank you!

In the last couple of days alone, I’ve watched Mom pour over what looks like hundreds of cards, soaking in each word. While I realize I can’t write a thank you note for cards, I want to tell each one of you what it has meant to her to read your kind and compassionate well wishes. I never really think a card means much until I am on the receiving end. Those words mean everything when you are hurting.

Then there are the prayers. I know people all over the world have been praying for Ned.  I can say that because I wasn’t shy about asking people that I know all over the world to pray. When Ned passed, they immediately started praying for peace for the family. I know those prayers were felt. Thank you. We covet prayers. We could use some more.

Can I just tell you that I have never been at a more beautiful funeral service? Stan Colley just nailed it. It was a true celebration of Ned’s life as a Christian, a servant, a mentor, a father, a brother, a son, a husband. The number of people who took time out of their schedule to come from far flung places are a true testament to Ned’s character. Thank you for showing up. Someone told me there was record setting attendance. I would believe it. Everyone loved Ned. You couldn’t help yourself. He never gave anyone a reason not to. There are so many people that I alone need to thank for coming to support me. My sweet mother-in-law and Ray’s aunt and cousin drove all the way in from IL and were shocked when they were asked to sit down because the line was so long. There were flowers and remembrance gifts. It is almost overwhelming. Again, I say “Mahalo Nui Loa!”

There have been so many text messages, phone calls, Facebook messages, comments… I just want you to know I passed your sentiments on to Mom. Thank you.

For those of you who have asked about my sweet Mama please know, she is strong. Boy howdy! That woman is stronger than I ever gave her credit for when I was giving her 10 kinds of hell as a teenager. When someone asks her how she is, I’ve heard her say more than once, “I’ve had 2 great husbands. I know some women don’t even have 1.” She did have two of the very best husbands I know and I am so very grateful and blessed to have been in both of their lives. She’s said other stuff too. I wish I was recording her conversations as people have given her condolences. I have cringed for people, laughed and even wanted to say, “Please forgive my mother for she knows not what she says.” I’m glad at the end of the day, we can sit down and laugh about it.

Mom is in what I like to refer to as her nesting stage of grief. She is figuring things out, trying to get comfortable in her house and her routine. We think alike. So we approach things the same way. I’ve stood behind her as she buried her mother, her husband, her father, her son and now another husband. I unfortunately know exactly what she means when she says, “I need to rearrange the furniture I feel like I’m picking at a scab.” She needs things shaken up a bit to stop herself from wallowing in grief. She needs to dot every I and cross every T to make sure things are done or she can’t sleep. I’m so glad that I’m here to help her do whatever she needs to do to feel comfortable in her own home again. Thank you Ray for taking care of 4 kids, a crazy schedule and a full time job while I’m here sorting things out for Mom. I love you!

Mom is okay. I know we could all be better, but I’ll take okay. One day, maybe it will be a little better than okay. If I’m lucky, I’ll get to help her find her aloha again but that’s something she’s going to have to want to do for herself.

I can’t say it enough. Mahalo Nui Loa for every little thing that has been done for this family since Ned’s diagnosis. When I have to leave, it is going to rip me apart but I know with certainty that I’m leaving her in good hands.

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Kitty Kitty Part Deux (The Repost)

The funeral is over. I’m trying to help mom settle back into a new routine and order as best I can. So many thoughts to pass on, but first I have to finish the story of Kitty Kitty from yesterday’s repost. If you have stories about Ned, I would love for you to share them here.


As usual, when you start talking to family there is almost always more to the story. In the spirit of Paul Harvey, I would be remiss if I didn’t give you the rest of the story about Kitty Kitty. The first update should include the fact that Ray and Ned have convinced me that Kitty Kitty couldn’t make it through the agricultural screening at the airport. Hawaii has some pretty strict standards all things considered.  She’ll have to remain a Kentucky resident for now. I guess most wildcats belong here after all. I should also mention that Ned is taking contributions to have Kitty Kitty repaired by the local taxidermist so that she can have a new home in the pond house. I suggested a boat and a Gilligan hat but Mom is most certainly having none of it.

Now on to the story. Angie had the whole family over for dinner. I know it’s shocking but not every one of my stepbrothers reads this blog. It’s scandalous really. So the Kitty Kitty story was being retold. You’re familiar… Gabe destroys cat. Tye shuffles mangled cat from one house to another for the better part of ten years… Cat is found in less than stellar condition. Mom confesses. Ned’s heart is happy. Now that we’re all caught up, more ugly the truth comes out.

Someone starts to ask how old Kitty Kitty is. Chase remembered her from childhood. So did Angie. Ned guesstimated her age at “Oh around 15 years.” Hold up. Tye carted that thing for 10. No, it was decided that she was older. That’s when Chase said, “It was just roadkill.”

I thought Grandma was going to come out of her skin. Mom and Tye held on to a secret for 10 years. It was all dark shadows and frankly nefarious. She was living a lie that she couldn’t stand. Wait for it… for a piece of road kill. Ned hit the darn thing with his truck. At the time hunting bobcats would have probably been illegal. He got out and wrapped up the lifeless body and took it to a taxidermist. Did I mention Kitty Kitty is road kill? I’m thinking I understand a little more why her paw was twisted in an unnatural position and why Mom kept insisting Gabe only pulled off her little tail.

All I have to say is I hope Ned finds the same taxidermist to fix Kitty Kitty that created the mysterious hinged joint for the unseen and can’t be named creature that allegedly haunts some home in Golo. A pouncing Kitty Kitty sure would be a site.

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The Bobcat Repost

The visitation is over. I’m officially exhausted. Because I think right now is one of those times that we should celebrate life, I am going to repost one of my favorite stories about Ned. Good news. The second post, “Kitty Kitty Part Deux” will be reposted tomorrow. Now, I fully expect a good haunting, or a least a toothpick because Ned hated for me to write anything about him…EVER. This is just one of those stories worth telling and retelling. I give you…The BOBCAT…

20130213-232904.jpgRay and Ned helped me clean out the rest of Tye’s apartment today. I should say, I stood there in shock and shuffled from one room to the car most of the day while Ray and Ned packed things up. We managed to find humor in what we were doing. I guess I shouldn’t have mentioned Tye’s stash of…well, never mind.

On the top shelf of Tye’s garage sat a stuffed bobcat. I recognized it as Ned’s and always wondered where kitty kitty had disappeared too when Mom and Ned moved out of the blue house. I’ve seen the occasional stuffed squirrel and deer head but the bobcat has been noticeably missing. There she sat. Ray grabbed and it and passed it down to Ned. I ran to take pictures… I mean, we are from Kentucky.

Ned was mentioning that maybe mom would now let him display the kitty with the fox. I thought she might. He said that the mice might have done a number on their nemesis. That’s when we noticed. One paw was dangling in a precarious position. His tail was no longer attached. Oh. My. Good. Gravy. Kitty Kitty had seen better days.

When I got home I heard the whole story. Tye moved into the blue house with Gabe after Grandma and Ned moved into the big house. One dark night, the bobcat caught Gabe’s attention in the dark. Tye was fast but Gabe was faster. Kitty Kitty lost her tail and almost a paw. Tye called his compatriot in all things sinister…his mama. Mom said, “Ned is going to kill you and feed you to Gabe then kill him too! Hide it!” Tye tucked the bobcat in his closet. Eventually Tye built and moved into the white house. The bobcat moved with him. Tye married Julie and moved to Benton. The bobcat found a new home in the attic. With each move Mom said, “Ned is going to kill you! Hide it!” With each move, Tye carefully moved kitty kitty.

About six months ago Tye sold everything and moved to a small apartment on the campus where he worked. Mom was helping him pack and move when she happened upon kitty kitty. “Tye Wheeler Jackson, Ned will kill you. Get rid of it. You have to get rid of it. It’s been 10 years!” she said yelled. Tye dutifully carried kitty kitty and placed him on the shelf in his garage…until today when I handed him to Ned.

Kitty Kitty may find a new home in the aloha state. Think he’ll fit in a suitcase? Wonder what Tucker would do.

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The Penny And The Toothpick

You know people deal with death and grief differently. Some look for signs or messages. Others shut down. Some people pull up there bootstraps to push through as fast as they can. I’m a firm believer of well, all of it.

I have tried to help today clear things out so that Mom can focus on remembering a happier time before cancer. I talk a lot about doing the hard work now while you’re hurting so you don’t have open old wounds later. I try to stay busy so I don’t have to think. As a side note, busy looks a little different when you suffer from jet lag. I also look for signs without even realizing it.

When Dad died, it was a whirlwind. Tye just announced a divorce and that he was coming back home. I had less than a week off from my job without pay because I had just started working as a copywriter. Ray was supposed to start his first deployment and Mom was about to become an HSE. It was a crazy time in our lives and in the blink of an eye Dad wasn’t going to be there to walk with us through it. Oh it hurt. Right now, this reminds me of that time. I guess I might be anxious to shake the hurt off.

Anyway, the day of the funeral we got home and there was a shiny new penny propped on the door just like someone had placed it there. Dad always liked to tell us that we needed to pick up stray pennies because it would remind us who to trust. Get it yet? “In God we trust…” We all talked about how weird it was. As the year after his death went on we found pennies just when we needed to. It was always when you needed to see it and placed at a precarious position to make you wonder how it got there. It still happens. On the way to get Jack from China we were walking down that long tunnel to board the plane. Right there in front of my foot was a shiny new penny. I still have it. It was like he needed to go along with us and I definitely needed to remember who to trust!

So, cut to my second flight of three to try to get home. I sat down on the plane and watched as everyone else boarded. I’m a bit of a people watcher. You know the guy I mentioned yesterday, the sick one. I was watching him try to shove a too giant suitcase in the carryon bin. A toothpick fell. I thought someone would pick it up. It was just lying there on the blue carpet. I stared at that thing through the entire flight. I kept thinking its trash maybe I should pick it up. I certainly didn’t want whatever Mr. Sweaty Sick had. I still had another layover, flight and drive from Nashville. That toothpick seriously tortured me through that flight. I wanted to pick it up the whole time and couldn’t understand why it was there.

So I finally make it to Golo. I was greeted by a big old loving group. Naturally stories are coming out at a time like this. I was chatting with someone. People were asking me how my trip was and someone was talking about finding toothpicks. Then I heard Mom say, “Well yes, we’re going to put a toothpick behind his ear.”

I swear to you it was like a train hit me. The toothpick!!! It was Ned’s thing. He always had one or 100. There was always one tucked behind his ear for later. I was exhausted from the flight and wanted to wait to tell Mom. That’s happened so now I’m sharing it with you…whoever cares to listen to me blabber.

I have one last thing to say. Ned, I am so happy to know you are looking out for me. I’m happy to have you go anywhere I go. There is something I need to tell you. I will pick up my Daddy’s pennies. I will not be picking up your durn used toothpicks but I love you for dropping them!

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Long Way Home

I just finished the journey home. I’m pretty sure it’s the first time I’ve come alone in my adult life. It’s weird. At one point today my children were on an island in the Pacific, I was in Seattle and Ray was in Atlanta. It’s just not right. Not now, when we should all be together for this. I’m grateful for the time I get to spend with Mom though.

I need to take a second and say thank you. Thank you to our church family and thank you to our navy family. They stepped up BIG. I never leave my kids. On one occasion I left Arleigh and Hanan over night with someone other than my mom. I can’t even begin to tell you how hard it was to leave my house last night, kissing those little faces. Thank you Kristina and Landry for being there. Thank you Guy, Karrie and Lorraine for standing in the gap as my taxi service. It was a huge relief! Thank you Ray for pulling double duty so that I can be here with Mom. I love you!

So I’ve made the long trip. At one point Ray told me today that I will have a lot to blog about. I’ve been quiet for far too long. He may have been referencing the near panic attack I had when I had to ride on a plane with a row full of adults rather than children. It’s much easier to stretch out with Bria and Jack laying across me in a row than sitting with two other adults. He could have been mentioning the fact that I spent nearly 13 hours in various airplanes with no headphones and I had my own screen. The horror! There was the bigger horror of the man sitting across from me who went to the bathroom like 10 times in two hours. When he started to break out in a cold sweat I started wondering if it would be appropriate to spray down the entire airplane with Lysol. Is that legal? Lots of things to blog about is right. The first leg of the journey was worth three posts. Too bad I lost everything I wrote while I was still on the plane. (Insert curse word here.)

The real thing to blog about, the thing that has consumed me the last few days is that heaven gained a good man. No, heaven gained a great man. Ned passed away on Thursday. I had to write the day because they are all running together. I’m home to wish him Fair Winds and Following Seas and to be with Mom. I love that navy sentiment but at this moment I think Aloha is more fitting… hello, goodbye, love and until we meet again.

My heart is broken for Mom, Angie, Bryan, Chase and Kyle. It is truly hurting for all those precious little hearts of his 13 grandchildren who loved him so dearly. When I learned about Ned’s diagnosis my heart ached for him. I knew either Ned would find his way to getting better or find his way to heaven. Either way his battle would be awful. He can rest. Now I’m hurting for the hearts left behind to grieve for him until they meet him again.

I remember like yesterday the first time I met Ned. I had a diaper bag slung over one shoulder, a backpack on the other, a baby on my hip and a rather large car seat in my hand. Did I mention I was pregnant and traveling by myself with a baby from Iceland? Yeah. Good times. It was the Christmas after 9-11 and there would be no one meeting me at the gate. Of course we were at the last one and there was no cart. I finally came out of the glass doors looking for Mom and some relief. This man walks up and says, “are you Brandi?” I told him I was. He said, “Hi, I’m Ned.” He proceeded to tell me that my mother was at a counter throwing a hissy fit because she thought we missed our flight, got lost in the hallway or just generally disappeared. He asked if he could help. I said “yes, please take something.” He grabbed Arleigh out of my arms and I dropped everything else. Arleigh gave him one of her perfected death stares and then broke into a grin. I immediately loved Ned. Mom showed up a bit later after she had screamed and cried at every available agent. We then proceeded to go on the LONGEST RIDE HOME EVER! Ned never believed in driving over 35. He was never in a hurry to do anything unless it was getting out of a car that I was driving. He could do that pretty darn quickly. I have no idea what that was about.

Ned was a good guy. I’ll miss seeing his fist and hearing his growl when he was pretending to be mad. I’ll miss hearing him tell me to bite his butt. I’ll miss having him take fish off hooks for my kids and showing them how to make bamboo fishing poles. I’ll miss his smile. Ned was a kind man. I can’t tell you how many people have told me that Ned taught them to do something, drive a nail, cast a line or in Tye’s case just about everything that required any kind of mechanics. His patience knew no limits. The thing that impressed me the most was Ned’s willingness to forgive. Nothing riled him ever. He just quietly moved on. It’s something I should learn.

I’m back home now sleeping in the house he built with Mom and it’s far too quiet. (Maybe it’s my missing kids.) Ned was loved my his family and his community. He’ll be missed. The only thing that makes me happy right now is knowing he can cast that fishing line without any pain.

Right after Tye died Ned told me he had a dream. He was at a beautiful fishing hole. Tye walked up rubbing his hands laughing. Tye said, “I want you meet my buddy Noah. He’s got a joke to tell you.”

I hope you’re laughing and fishing with Tye and Noah. We love you Ned Bone. Aloha!

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