IMR: Entries: 2003: July: 18 — Friday, July 18, 2003


Things around here got pretty weird pretty fast.

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Mom's car is alive. It's alive! Found six blocks away. Lock punched, radio nicked, but otherwise functional.
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Also found that weekend, a jittery little kitten. Sunday brought a picnic with a dance troupe.
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Dad steals the show, husking a coconut. Gayle keeps an eye on the delicious spread.
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Eathan poses cool with some sticky white rice. Zac started feeling pretty bad as the sun set.
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The next day, Katie fell to the stomach bug as well. Celebrating mom's new driver's license at Wendy's.
Not wanting to waste a single minute, we got up before dawn last Monday, loaded the entire family into the new car, and drove all the way out to Wahiawa to try and get Jen a walk-in road test. (There are only ten available every day, otherwise it's by appointment — and they're booked well into August.) We arrived at the Satellite City Hall at 7:15 a.m., but our optimism vanished as we walked in and saw the line already looped around most of the waiting area.

All remaining hopes were dashed the moment the office opened at 7:45 a.m., when a woman came out and helpfully shouted out all of the things we'd need to take the test. Or, to be more exact, the things they would not accept as official documentation. This included photocopies of insurance cards (which is all we had, since we'd just gotten it faxed to us by Geico at the car lot), and dealer registration (which, again, is all we had for Jen's car at the moment).

Disheartened, we decided to try again later with the van. Jen's car spent the rest of the week making three separate trips to the Ford service center, getting things checked, tweaked, and rechecked. Thinking that mom and Todd would be able to use it at least for a little while, we drove it out to Mililani last weekend for our regular visit.

But then I found mom's car.

See, Zac was a little fussy that day, so I put him in the car to drive around the neighborhood a little. I did say I was going out to see if I could find mom's stolen car somewhere in the neighborhood, but honestly didn't think I would. Most stolen cars end up in the boonies, I figured — I just wanted to get the boy out of the house.

I realized quickly that a lot of people own Toyota Camrys, and a number of them were light blue. I stopped a few times when I passed one in a driveway or parking lot, but I started to feel silly pretty quickly. After a couple of circuits past the high school and shopping center, I decided to return to mom's place the back way.

Just as I was about to turn right down Kipapa Drive, I looked left to check oncoming traffic and saw a light blue Camry parked next to a fire hydrant. "Might as well," I said to myself, and after ticking off the driver behind me by turning right from the left lane, I pulled up alongside the Camry.

Servco Toyota license plate holder. Buddhist omamori hanging from the rear view mirror. And a bumper sticker. "Holy crap!" I hissed. Fortunately, Zac was fast asleep.

I raced home, honked my horn furiously until my mom ran out, then drove her back to her baby. She couldn't believe it either.

A friend had once tried to describe how weird it felt to get back into a car after it had been stolen, or to go back home after it was robbed — a sense of personal violation, even though it's just property — but I never understood what she meant until that day. My mom and I walked several circles around her car, shaking our head in wonder, reluctant for a while to touch it. Part of it was, of course, because we figured the police might want to dust for prints, but it was also because we didn't know anything about the last person who drove it, or what they did to it.

It was dirty, covered with leaves and bird droppings. Through the window, it was obvious the stereo had been ripped out, but I also got the troubling sense that the car was used for a little while. It was filled with garbage, but not exactly random garbage — fast food packages, some kind of vinyl duffel bag, a Tupperware tub.

Feeling pretty conspicuous peering into a car on a busy street, we decided we should try to get it home. The door had been punched, but the ignition looked intact, and we cheered when we found it still ran. I handed my mom a napkin and a piece of plastic, and as she piloted her car as delicately as a forensic scientist would, I followed her back to her house.

We called the police, and as expected they came out to try and get some fingerprints. They also took some of the things left in the car, from the plastic tub to a gas can we found in the trunk. (The thieves had left my brother's textbooks and his girlfriend's stuffed animals alone.) As soon as they left, I was seized by an uncontrollable urge to clean it, and spent the rest of the evening washing, waxing, vacuuming and otherwise removing any trace I could find of the car's lost week. Mom said it looked better than the day it disappeared — excluding the lock and radio.

It's recovery time was brief. My brother took it to work the next morning.

While my mom's world slowly returned to normalcy, however, Zac's fussiness that day was harbinger of things to come.

Thanks to a gracious invitation from my dad, we joined him and Gayle on Sunday for a picnic they were hosting for the New York-based Covenant Dance Theatre troupe, which was visiting from the Mainland for "Nisei."

It's always fun to bring locals and visitors together in a casual, local-style setting, and the talkstory was almost as good as the food. Dad ran the grill, cooking up steak and a mix of grilled vegetables, while Gayle watched over the spread of food and other tasty treats. Eathan was there, too, providing backup. Jen, Katie, Zac and I were pretty much left to enjoy ourselves.

A spontaneous volleyball game broke out, and Katie threw herself into a gaggle of older kids that assembled to watch. (They were not-so-subtly trying to ditch her, actually, but bless her heart, she was completely oblivious and kept on following them.) Dad drew a crowd as he husked a coconut, and guests got to sample the freshest Hawaiian delicacy around. I talked with several people, one of whom I knew through my last job.

Zac, however, was very unhappy. He'd been spitting up most of the day, and by the time we got to the picnic, he'd been rejecting everything we gave him, including water. He kept coughing and gagging, and was clearly confused, tired, and exhausted. We thought some time outdoors, or even a quick dip in the ocean, might calm him a bit, but he spent most of the picnic howling.

By the time we left, Jen had convinced me to drop her and Zac off at the emergency room.

As usual, Jen's instincts were right. The doctors, noting a recent upswing in similar cases, suspected rotavirus. And blood tests showed that Zac was pretty dehydrated. He had to be hooked up to an I.V., and it was almost 11 p.m. when Jen finally called me to pick them up. He was up most of the night, desperate to nurse, throwing up basically anything left in his stomach.

Katie got the bug the next day. She, too, couldn't keep anything down, and also developed a fever and got incredibly weak. Considering her past history of serious dehydration, her doctor told us to take her to the emergency room as well. I took her in, sat with her, calmed her when she had to get an I.V. (she had to be strapped to a board — utterly heartbreaking), and ultimately fell asleep with her to the sounds of the I.V. pump and other whimpering, shrieking kids.

We got home after 10 p.m.

There was no sleep, and an awful, almost comical quantity of vomit in the Ozawa household that night. And over the next couple of days. The way the apartment looked, smelled, and sounded last week, you'd think our kids were training for an Olympic event focused around synchronized, explosive bodily functions. Jen earned her stripes, that's for sure.

Even though I got to escape to work every day, the week is at best a hazy memory. The virus did its worst for only three or four days, but it seemed like it took forever before Zac or Katie could drink Gatorade, or eat rice and bread, or eat a tiny bit of meat.

I got a mild case of the virus, too, but considering what the kids were going through, I could hardly complain. On the bright side, I lost at least a couple of pounds.

Let me tell you, when we were finally able to declare an end to major virus combat operations, we could barely stop ourselves from dancing in the streets and pulling down a statue or two.

So we went back out to Wahiawa at the crack of dawn once again, and Jen got the last walk-in road test of the day. Even though she had to take the test in the van, she passed on her first try. She was so thrilled, she didn't even mind the photo that ended up on her brand new license. (It was, to be frank, about as bad as a DMV photo could possibly be.)

And to celebrate, we took the family to Wendy's — one of only two on the island, and a taste treat Jen had been craving for months.

I love their sandwiches too, to be sure, in moderation. But due to an ordering error on my part, a triple cheeseburger ended up on the table. The sandwich is so obnoxiously big, part of you is convinced the thing must be a joke. But it's not.

Politeness prevents me from disclosing who ended up eating it. But it wasn't Katie or me. (Or Zac.)


Glad to hear the family recovered from a series of "X-Files" type of events. But what about the kitty cat? What's its story?
Joy (July 19, 2003 8:39 AM)

Poor babies! I'm glad they're doing better. What a nightmare. Congrats to Jen! :) I hope you both have some peace and quiet in the upcoming weeks. I'm sure you've both earned it and then some.
lisa (July 19, 2003 9:35 AM)

Yeah, Jen!! What a great finish to a horrendous week! The bouce back power of children never ceases to amaze me--bless them. They probably won't even remember being sick :)
ali (July 19, 2003 9:50 AM)

E kala mai! Comments have been disabled due to overwhelming abuse by spammers. Please click through to any of the video hosting services linked above to leave a public response, or feel free to send an e-mail. Mahalo!

© 1997-2008 Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: [ PGP ] · Created: 13 November 1997 · Last Modified: 14 January 2008