“Are you serious? Cause I’ll do it. Like, I’ll book it right this second, kind of do it.” I stared adamantly like a child at my laptop screen while the face of my partner/best friend laughed and exclaimed, “Yes, please! You look tired, actually you look like shit babe. You need to go somewhere warm and just rest. Take a real vacation, take the boys if you must, but yes. Take a look at the calendar and pick the days you want the condo for.”
“Yeah, well, the Lupus thanks you for the compliment. And if your serious, because I am beyond tired, then, yes, I definitely want to go to Maui. And the lupus will thank you for the vacay once I get home,” I joked back. And just like that, the flights were booked and this gal was headed to Maui.
My first trip to Maui at 35 years of age and I was going because I looked like shit. Not really the frame of mind one wants to have when leaving for a vacation but honestly, isn’t that when you need one the most? It was our first family trip since I had started the immuno-suppressant therapy for my lupus and looking back, I guess I really was in bad shape. I went days without showering, and even longer sometimes without eating solid food. I can safely say I was in the absolute worse shape of my life, and this girl had survived a divorce with 2 kids.
The flight from San Francisco was long but direct. Due to the 6 a.m. flight time, and two-hour drive to get there, we all slept through the entire flight. I awoke as the plane was descending and it was the first time I had ever seen an island. The Hawaiian Island chain is beyond breathtaking but flying over the main island and seeing the abundance of high-rise buildings, I was over the moon that we were staying on the less inhabited, less corporate island of Maui.
Once we landed, the smell of the salt water combined with what I can only describe as the most heavenly floral scent I’ve ever smelled. Plumeria and Tuberose. To this day I still buy tuberose candles so I can be taken back to that first time we arrived on Maui. We rented a bright red Jeep and immediately removed the top so we could see and smell everything along our way to the condo — the eucalyptus trees growing naturally along the side of the roads; the floral and earthy scents, mixing with that salt water smell… I miss it like it was yesterday.
We arrived at the condo and the boys immediately headed out to swim and snorkel. The waves on our side of the island weren’t near as forceful as some we would see later during our trip at the infamous Blowhole. The Blowhole was on the other side of the island where the waves were so forceful that they had eroded a hole through the cliff and shot up over 30 feet through and above the cliff.
I headed to the store for fresh fish and veggies for dinner, and arrived “home,” kicked my shoes off, and sat out on the deck barely breathing. It was the first time in months that I had actually stopped to physically breathe, and enjoy each breath. It was also the first time in months I didn’t have to pop a pain-killer every 3.5 hours.
Without warning and while the sun was still shining, the afternoon Hawaiian rains came. Fast and hard like the waves hitting the Blowhole, we were taken by surprise the first two days. We caught on after that and it became a daily afternoon game of running outside to dance in the rain, while also popping the top back on the jeep. Typically, my body, specifically my arthritis, hates the rain but it thrives in warm, humid air. I had a few days where I actually required my pain killers to go out and walk around, but that wasn’t atypical of my normal life back home. What was atypical were the days in Maui when I didn’t need them at all. Every day for about 30 minutes all of those smells I mentioned above, mixed with the smell of rain on asphalt. It was awe-inspiring and if I could have bottled it up and brought it home, I certainly would have.
Every day was very much the same; classic island living. Snorkeling, fishing, and staring out at the ocean. The sunsets were amazing and the colors that flew by on the clouds were filled with fluorescent pinks, oranges, and purples before finally the disc of the sun disappeared like a blip on a radar. I sincerely felt like the Universe was saying goodnight to us personally, and I was moved to tears every time it disappeared beyond the horizon.
One night, my eldest son side-swiped a sea urchin with his foot while out fishing on the beach. A sea urchin is the purplish, black spiky thing you see at sushi restaurants. The Sea Urchin actually doesn’t have spikes that you can pull out like a splinter. It has barbs. Imagine trying to pull out over 30 little splinters that have hooks all the way down to the end from a child’s foot. The process lasted a full hour before out of my own sheer pain as a mother, I couldn’t take it anymore. His foot was terribly mangled from my bang up ER job and yet still riddled with a dozen or more tiny little spikes that I just couldn’t get out. Truly the only downside we found on the entire island were those pesky sea urchins, as they were everywhere. The next morning my little daredevil was out there again though. Same damn spot, fishing away. Man, I love that kid. Knee deep in the water, five feet waves coming at him, while standing about two feet from a cluster of those damn sea urchins. With fishing pole in hand, that boy was having the summer vacation of a life time. As were we all.
While we did cook at home most nights, we had to be tourists one final night and attend the quintessential Luau. The dinner, a real whole pig roasted in a pit on the beach, was stunning. But it had nothing on the dancers. They were enchanting and even the boys were swaying to the beat of the drums and the rhythm of the dancers. I am not sure if it was the coconut and rum laced drinks, or if because it was our last night there, but I was moved to tears. I truly didn’t want to leave, but I knew that what made this island beautiful was the fact that the tourists go home.
So much culture for such a tiny island. I was brought back to that first morning when we were flying in. How many changes the main island had to go through due to tourism, and how beautiful this one still remained. Clean and quiet, yet still beautiful beyond imagination. I thought of how this tiny little island had calmed not only my lupus, but the embattled spirit lupus had created within us all. I boarded that plane with my lei of purple orchids still hanging from my neck. Tears streaming down my face, feeling beautiful inside and out. Even though my diagnosis was, “Hey, you look like shit,” Maui has been the best Lupus treatment I’ve ever been prescribed.