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A Love Story by

Diane Stark (McConnell) Sanfilippo



Chapter 68 – Even More Adventures in Paradise



From the very first, there was something about Billy’s sports car that I did not like; whether it was his ‘love’ of the tiny car, its Martian-like ‘bug eye headlights, or the cramped conditions when the entire family filled it, I am not sure. What I am sure of was that I did not like it. Billy loved it though and on the weekends when he was not on duty, we all piled inside and explored Oahu. Once, when someone asked me what we saw while we were there, and another asked, “Did you see thus and such?”

My reply was always the same, “We saw everything that did not charge admission.”

Some of these places remain in my memories as special and those that I wished to remember; like the huge steel cross that marked the pass in the mountains where the Japanese zeros roared over Schofield Barracks on that early Sunday morning in December, 1941, to strike first at the fighter planes on the ground at Wheeler Field. Although I was not even born at the time, I could just imagine the fear of those young couples living in the quarters on post. Awakened from a deep sleep, they heard first the explosions and then the sound of the aircraft overhead as wing after wing of those planes, with the terrifying rising sun on their wings, flew over Schofield Barracks. Most of the officer’s quarters were the very same as on that Day of Infamy, and being right there just brought the horror to life for me.

Not long after Elvis Presley donated money to create a proper memorial over the battleship Arizona, we visited Pearl Harbor and took a boat out to the site. Amazingly, bubbles of oil still leaked from the massive sunken ship and the graveyard of so many young sailors. Even Michael, at the young age of three, seemed to realize that this was a sacred place and he quietly held onto his father’s hand as we peered into the depths of the harbor and saw the massive ship, seemingly intact, although she lay in pieces, blown to bits by torpedo bombs. I will never forget that afternoon, staring into the clear water of Pearl Harbor at the rusting gray tomb, the image forever etched in my memory.

There were other memorials all over the island, and stories to learn of so many heroes, but the Punchbowl National Cemetery was the one that I think of when I think of cemeteries. I have been to Arlington National Cemetery many times while living in Northern Virginia, and I visited several American cemeteries in parts of Europe that were gratefully cared for by the local residents, but nowhere have I ever experienced the feeling that I did that day at the Punchbowl. Shivers ran up my spine, although it must have been 80 degrees in the sun, and perhaps because this was the first time that I had visited such holy ground with row after row after row of perfectly aligned white crosses and the occasional Star of David. As we stood there in complete silence, both of us holding onto our own thoughts, for some reason, I could not shake a feeling of foreboding, perhaps because I knew that soon my precious Billy would be leaving for Vietnam. I know that I silently prayed that I would never have to read his name on a cross or a bronze marker, and when I moved closer to him, he slipped his arm around my waist, and I around his. I could not imagine life without him since my own had begun the day we met.

We did not confine ourselves to the memorials, but we parked at Waikiki Beach and dipped our feet into the almost still water, just so that we could say that we had been there. We circled the entire island on the King Kamehameha Highway that ran in front of our house, and once turned off the main road down a sandy lane that led to an abandoned World War II airfield. The concrete of the runway lay in chunks, the hangers gone, but several old Quonset huts still stood watch silently, although full of holes where they had rusted through in places from the salt air. We walked over this barren landscape and could hear the sea just over the dunes, and Billy said how lonely it felt here, although the highway was less than a mile away. Now, I understand, there is a huge resort hotel on that very spot.

We circled around to Kaneohe Bay, where the shark had killed the surfer that had been on the front page of the paper not long after we moved into our beach house, and where the Marines in the shark watch copter watched several sharks following in the wake of a water skier. Also in the article had been the fact that one of the largest tiger shark breeding grounds was found near the entrance to the bay, and we both decided that we would let the Air Force keep this side of the island!

One drive took us to the Pali Overlook where legend says that warriors leapt to their death rather than become prisoners, or killed, but that is just one of the legends that belong to this scenic area. After Billy parked the car, tenuously I followed him, with Michael riding on his broad shoulders, and as we approached the edge of the cliff I could not bring myself to get close enough to look over, besides the view was enough beauty for me to take in that day. There was not a secure guardrail as there is at The Grand Canyon, and my fear of heights replaced any desire I had to look downward. It is beautiful, and the winds are strong here, but not for one moment did I believe the legend that if one jumped from the overlook, the wind would push them back to the precipice. No, not for one instant did I believe it!

We walked the wooden board sidewalks of Haleiwa, going into the stores while I shopped for material for curtains for the children’s rooms, and the prices were twice that on the mainland, but of course, ships furnished everything to this remote island, even the fuel for electric power! Then, in the mid 60’s, one single dollar bought meat for one meal, but when I ran out of milk and bread, I was appalled to have to pay a dollar for it at the local stores. It simply made no sense to purchase anything on the economy, and we certainly avoided it as much as possible. Gasoline was outrageous, except on the military posts and bases, so trips to Schofield to buy groceries, or even to fill the cars up with gas were essential. Money was tight now that we had a car payment, something that we had never had before, and there were times towards the end of the month that I did not have the money for milk or bread, and would have to search the house looking for change just for the bare necessities.

However, we had plenty of pineapple! Most evenings when Billy was able to come home for supper, he would stop in the pineapple field and for just a quarter buy the leftovers from the tourist buses when the fruit was at that perfect stage of ripeness when one more day would find it spoiled. So while we did not have the money to visit the ‘tourist’ attractions, such as the Polynesian Village where there were nightly luaus, we saw what we could see just paying the cost of gasoline, and I will have to admit that ugly ‘bug-like’ car went a long way on just a little bit of gas!

On one of our weekend drives, Billy took me through Schofield Barracks and out the back gate. This gate opened to a road that led through miles of mountains that were supposed to conceal secret ammunition bunkers, and the M.P.s timed all vehicles as they made the descent from one gate to the other. If a car took too long to reach the gate at the other end, a Military Police car went to look for the offending vehicle, and if a car reached the other end too quickly, the driver received a ticket for speeding. It was almost impossible to speed as the road was one hairpin curve after another and switched back on itself several times. The actuality that there was cactus growing in this tropical landscape fascinated me, along with the fact that all along this road, the steel cross in the infamous pass was visible. I enjoyed this drive, not just for the beauty of the mountains, but because every now and then, a narrow road, not much wider than tire tracks would veer off towards the mountains with a large ‘KEEP OUT’ sign at the entrance, so my imagination went wild wondering what was at the end of the road. Often there was even a locked gate, which intrigued my imagination further, but unlike the times that Billy and I would follow roads just like these in the North Georgia Mountains and some at Ft. Benning, we knew better than to even try it here.

Goodness! Of all the sights that I left out were two that are among the most popular with the tourists, Diamond Head, and the blowhole! Diamond Head does not need description, and actually, the view from the Pali Overlook is far prettier, although the sea is in the distance, but the blowhole fascinated all of us. It was exciting to observe the huge waves as they crashed against the lava rocks and then sprayed water through the holes that had taken centuries to form. and even Michael enjoyed the spectacle since we were far enough away from the water that he could not possibly get wet. We drove through the rain forest near Kaneohe, although, at the time, I was not nearly as appreciative of the flora and fauna as I would be now. Still it was breathtakingly beautiful, and such a rare occurrence to see thousands of orchids in a kaleidoscope of colors from the deepest jewel tones to the palest of pastels just growing wild throughout the forest. But nowhere did we ever find a beach nearly as lovely as our ‘own’ backyard, plus we had the advantage of having no ‘tourists’ to mar the natural beauty of Sunset Beach.

     We spent hour after hour, whenever Billy could be home, getting to know our beautiful island home and these memories will be with me forever, but I have no burning desire to return. One can never go back, and I am sure that I would find the changes appalling as the island’s tourist trade has grown out to invade even our lovely wild beach, with a huge resort just around the corner from our small A-frame home, which is still there. I know that I would HAVE to see it, but I would not want to see it, because of the memories. Although I know that I can never, never go back to those beautiful days exploring the island, and those even more beautiful nights lying in my Billy’s arms on that soft cream carpet.

     As if it were yesterday, I still have those same feelings, with the same intensity, and my mind remains twenty-two years old while in our little frame house I am still waiting for my soldier to come home.

     I can never hold him again, or gently trace his handsome face with my finger, and my heart can no longer race through those peaks and valleys as we made love with the moon watching through the tall windows. My cheeks no longer sting from his unshaven face as we kissed, deeply and frantically, until we both climbed to the moon over, and over, and over again, and never again will I hear him softly whisper, “I love you more than life itself”.



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