Sharing Mana‘o

My mother started her bucket list over a decade ago, with a parasail ride and an ankle tattoo for her 83rd birthday. Now, at 94, she’s checked off all the original items and keeps adding to the agenda. She won’t be kicking the bucket anytime soon; she’s too busy kicking butt.

During our recent visit to Michigan and excursion to Niagara Falls, Mom started talking about “one more trip, the last one.” Again. In the past few years, we’ve taken the Alaska inside passage cruise, attended a family reunion in Las Vegas, and enjoyed several interisland journeys by ship and by plane. Each time we leave Maui, she says it’s her last trip. Each time we return home, she says, “Well, maybe just one more.”

I don’t have a bucket list myself. I’m happy to tag along with Mom as she tears through hers. Instead, I’ve started a more mundane, but no less ambitious, checklist. It’s a back-to-it list, not so much a “things to do” menu as a “things I used to do” reminder.

One of the things I need to get back to is my bicycle. A friend surprised me with his gently used bike last Christmas, after we had talked about cycling for fun and exercise. Until then, I’d been on a bicycle only three times in the past 40 years.

My first bike was an electric blue Schwinn Sting-Ray, boys model, with the butterfly handlebars and banana seat. I rode that beauty up and down the streets of Kahului’s sixth increment. In the 7th grade, I graduated to a more conservative women’s bike, but stopped riding once I entered high school. Except for one memorable outing in my senior year.

My best friend and I thought it would be fun to take a Saturday morning bike ride, even though neither of us had been on a two-wheeler since getting our driver’s licenses. We rented a couple of bikes from Iwado Bike Shop and headed for Kihei, so confident that we called some friends before leaving Kahului and told them to meet us at Charley Young’s Beach around lunchtime. We made it less than a mile beyond the old tree tunnel along Puunene Avenue. Winded and sweaty, we returned to her house and, with our last remnant of strength, heaved the bikes into the back of her father’s pickup truck and drove to Kihei. We parked the truck at my boyfriend’s house, and he unloaded the bikes so we could coast the half mile or so to Young’s.

Older and wiser, my cycling goals are more modest now. A few months ago, I had worked my way up to half-hour daily (well, most days) rides. But between the current heat wave and a busier-than-usual work schedule, I’ve excused myself from this routine for too long. It’s time to get back on the bike.

I also want to get back to playing the oboe and baking gingerbread, along with a few other things I haven’t enjoyed in many years. But at the top of the list is something I should never have stopped, and honestly don’t know how or why I did. In fact, I didn’t even realize it was missing from my life until a couple of months ago, during Mom’s most recent bucket list trip.

I need to hug my mom.

If you know me, you know I’m a hugger; whether greeting friends, meeting new ones, saying goodbye, or just because, I give hugs freely. And if you know my mom, you know how lovable and huggable she is. People often ask me, “How’s your mom? Give her a hug for me!” But I rarely do. Oh, I always pass the message on, but without an actual embrace.

My childhood was filled with cuddles and snuggles, but around the time I outgrew my father’s lap, things changed. Although I never doubted their love, my parents weren’t outwardly affectionate, either verbally or physically. I never saw them kiss or hold hands, never heard them say “I love you” to each other. They didn’t have to; their love was as obvious and consistent as the sunrise every morning.

I guess that’s why I’ve assumed my mother isn’t comfortable with hugs. But as we said goodbye to my son at the airport, I saw how tenderly they embraced and how contentedly she smiled.

That’s when I resolved to get back to hugging my mom and to treat every day as if it might be the last, even if I know there’s bound to be “just one more.”

* Kathy Collins is a radio personality (The Buzz 107.5 FM), storyteller, actress, emcee and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is kcmaui913@gmail.com.