Sunday, April 22, 2007


It is 09:30PM HST on Saturday. The clock on my laptop says its 00:34 (using 24-hour PDT) on Sunday. I am tired. It has been a very long day. A day that began in San Francisco, side–tripped to Berkeley, passed back through San Francisco and then transited approximately 2,140 miles across the Pacific. I am on Hawai‘i. The Big Island. The Orchid Island.

The sunset was a bright orange sun setting against a partially–clouded sky shot with horizontal bands of near crimson and purple reaching seemingly to infinity to the west, with a deepening–to–indigo sky spangled with diamond-like stars and lit by narrow crescent moon to the east of the zenith.

My mother and I are in an extraordinarily beautiful condo, on the Kona coast, about 20 minutes north of the airport. Our presence here is the utterly undeserved gift of a very generous friend of my father’s. But we are deeply grateful.

The temperature outside right now is 71F. If I listen, I can hear ocean waves hissing onto the beach about 100 feet from my bedroom. In the hotel nextdoor, at what I assume to be a regular weekend luau, a Don Ho wannabe croons innocuous songs to slack key guitar.

Neither of us is happy to be here. To the contrary, the trip so far has seemed to be a chore. Each of us quietly cried a bit on the flight. We were probably two of the most solemn people to ever deplane in the Islands. But at last we will have a week of peace. Of quiet. With no memorials. No dinners.

Here we are isolated from the seemingly ceaseless stream of cards, letters, e-mails, phone calls and gifts. More than six weeks on, word of my dad’s death seems to be still spreading around the world. Each call or missive, each package reminds, saddens and burdens us with the thought of yet another friend/colleague/ex-student whom we then know shares a little of our pain. At least the flow is gradually subsiding; it is only a stream now, not the torrent it was immediately after he died.

Please understand: This is not to make any of you who are reading this feel guilty. That is not my intent at all. My mother and I appreciate everything that we have received, heard or experienced in my dad’s memory. But here, for the next few days, we can be just mother and son. I can set aside being Clark Howell’s son. My mother can set aside being Clark Howell’s wife. For the next few days I am simply Brian and my dad is...was just my dad. For the next few days my mom is just Betty and my dad was just her husband. For the next few days that is enough.

For the next few days we can reclaim ownership of my dad’s memory, his relationships with us and his importance to us, sharing him with nobody else.

We just need some time for us.