Archive | March, 2013

When You Wish upon a Star…

25 Mar

 “My name is Hawke I was born in March and I’m glad to meet ya, you can swaddle me but I’ll get out cause I’m a ninja…” 

This is the song I often softly sing to you as I hold you in my arms.  As I watched you, your eyes flittered about, the sandman throwing his magic into your eyes and you would drift to sleep.  I always have the biggest smile on my face when I see you…

When we first had your ultrasound the tech asked us “do you want to know if it’s a boy or a girl?”.  And we both answered “YES”!.  We thought for sure you were going to be a girl, everyone told us that.  I would have loved you either way, but I had hoped for a son to keep the family line going.  The tech paused for a second and answered, “It’s a boy”!  I was stunned.  “Are you sure”, I asked.  She laughed and said, “pretty sure”.  I felt like I had won the lottery :).

That blob in the center of the screen is you, just about five months after conception

It would be about 4 am on Tuesday March 19th that you would cause your first ruckus.  Your beautiful mother nudged me awake and let me know the first weak contractions were happening, but they weren’t the right kinds of contractions to take her to the hospital yet. Our dogs Leilani and Kalea stirred as well, Leilani let out a groan and crawled up next to me and promptly fell asleep with her head on my pillow and began snoring, I laughed because I had never heard her snore before.  But I immediately went into worry mode, I couldn’t sleep and went to the computer to work on a spearfishing article,  maybe HSD will pick it up and you can read it someday.  I went back and I rolled around in bed and finally got out to shoot my buddies a text message letting them know I wasn’t going to make that spearfishing trip today.  It’s white seabass season and I didn’t want to take a chance having you show up before I got home.

We waited for you in the am and you were still a no show, so your mom and I took a walk around the neighborhood.  It was a nice quiet morning and the sun finally started to show.  We talked about moving to a new house, a bigger one where you and any siblings you had would have more room to grow.  We had a big breakfast and then went to Disneyland where we walked around some more trying to coax you to hurry up.  We couldn’t ride too many rides but we did go on The Little Mermaid Ride, Toy Story Mania and had giant ice cream in the hot sun.  We finished up the day on “It’s a Small World” because we thought it would be nice for you to hear the music.   Your mom had to stop often as the contractions finally started again, but you still weren’t ready to show up so we went shopping for some more things for you and then had a nice dinner at home.

The contractions grew over the evening becoming stronger and stronger, your mother walked around the house and rested intermittently, somehow I fell asleep and about 2:30 am on Wednesday March 20th we knew it was time to go to the hospital. 

I stumbled around the living room and grabbed our overnight bags and some things for you as well.  I walked your mom to the car , my mind full of worry.  Would she be okay?  Would you be okay?  What would I ever do if anything happened to either of you?

Your mom was as calm as could be although the contractions doubled her over in pain.  We made it to the hospital and they checked us in, luckily for us the labor pains were the right duration and they admitted us and got her ready.  We had a couple of scares because your mom had a slight fever and your heart beat was a bit faster than it should have been so we had to wait a while until things were under control.  Finally about 11:30 am or so your mom started pushing, harder and harder.  Again I was so worried about both of you, it was hard to take but I gently coached her.  “Babe you are doing great, take a deep breath and push until we count till ten”.  With the nurses and doctors around she pushed and I heard a soft cry, you appeared with your umbilical cord wrapped slightly around your neck and they cut the cord and cleaned you up and then placed you on your moms chest.  You cried and winced at the bright lights but they assured me you were okay and I could finally relax.  You were born Wednesday March 20th at 12:15 pm, you share your bday with your grandfather on my side.

This is you, just born, eyes puffy

It turned out later that you had borderline jaundice, they had to take you from us and put you under bright UV lights for 24 hours.  It broke our hearts to see you in there with your goggles on, but you didn’t seem to mind it at all and we came to visit you that night and the next morning.  All of the nurses fell in love with you, you were such a beautiful baby with such a gentle disposition, any one who got to see you would immediately break into a smile.

Your eyes first open, you look a lot like Grandpa Okamoto in this picture

We finally got a chance to take you home, we’ve been waiting for this day for a long time, and I’ve been thinking about you a lot.   You are the last of the Okamoto line of men, and maybe someday you’ll be typing a letter to your own unborn son.  Your first name was a name we chose because it was strong.  Bradley Hawke.  Your middle name Takashi is after a great man, your grandfather who you will see in a few days.  Your grandfather is one of those practical engineers, he could fix anything and build anything out of pretty common parts.  Hawke was a name that we originally thought of for your first name but decided it would be a better middle name and it stuck throughout your mothers pregnancy, it’s the name we normally call you.

The very most important thing of course is what my mother always told me, “Be glad you are healthy”.  So of course our greatest hope is that you have strong health for the rest of your life.  Of course we want you to have the world but your life will be yours to choose.   I’m hoping you will grow to be a gentleman, that you’ll open doors for women, pull out chairs and hold the elevator door and be the last one out.  You’ll be a shoulder to lean on for your friends and a ear to listen.  You’ll defend those who you care about fiercely.  You’ll grow up to learn what really is to be feared and what is not, you’ll grow to learn to never be afraid of anything except losing someone. 

I am hoping you will have the love of the ocean, when you are just a toddler we are going to introduce you to the water.  Maybe you’ll like it as much as I do and will turn out to be a fish.  Maybe you’ll like it so much that someday you’ll follow your father into the sea where we will chase mighty fish and on lucky days bring some home to share with our friends and family. There are rods and reels in the garage gathering dust just waiting to get used again so we can go fishing together.  I’ve got spearguns and other dive gear already set aside for you should you choose to follow me.  If you embrace the sea I plan on teaching you how to read the conditions, how to pilot the boat, how to be as safe as you can.  We are going to spend a lot of time outdoors, and we’ll try to see wildlife where ever we can.  We’ll go camping and sleep under the stars.  As you grow you’ll learn everything that I can teach you, you’ll learn how to wrench on cars and be able to figure out most things mechanically, you’ll be able to build things out of plastic, wood or steel.  You’ll learn how to cook and how to experment with the flavors you enjoy.  You’ll learn martial arts, basketball, and maybe some other sports you are interested in.  You’ll come home dirty, maybe even with fresh scrapes on your knees and arms.  You’ll learn the hard ways of life, you won’t complain and you’ll hopefully learn the patterns that life revolves around.   Hopefully you’ll enjoy Disneyland as much as your mother and I do.

You will challenge yourself and make mistakes, you’ll fail and learn that’s okay too.  But eventually you’ll learn to follow your dreams and make the right decisions, but you’ll never have to question whether you are loved by your mother and father.

A long time ago, I memorized the words to a song that has had a lot of meaning in my life, funny how now it means so much more.  It’s from Will Smith, Just the Two of Us.

“From the first time the doctor placed you in my arms

I knew I’d meet death before I’d let you be harmed

Although questions arose in my mind, would I be man enough?

Against wrong, choose right and be standin up

From the hospital that first night

Took a hour just to get the car-seat in right

People drivin’ all fast, got me kinda upset

Got you home safe, placed you in your basonette

That night I don’t think one wink I slept

As I slipped out my bed, to your crib I crept

Touched your head gently, felt my heart melt

Cause I knew I loved you more than life itself

Then to my knees, and I begged the Lord please

Let me be a good daddy, all he needs

Love, knowledge, discipline too

I pledge my life to you

Just the two of us, we can make it if we try

Just the two of us, (Just the two of us)

Just the two of us, building castles in the sky

Just the two of us, you and I

Five years old, bringin comedy

Everytime I look at you I think man, a little me

Just like me

Wait an see gonna be tall

Makes me laugh cause you got your dad’s ears an all

Sometimes I wonder, what you gonna be

A General, a Doctor, maybe a MC

Haha, I wanna kiss you all the time

But I will test that butt when you cut outta line, trudat

Uh-uh-uh why you do that?

I try to be a tough dad, but you be makin me laugh

Crazy joy, when I see the eyes of my baby boy

I pledge to you, I will always do

Everything I can

Show you how to be a man

Dignity, integrity, honor an

I don’t mind if you lose, long as you came with it

An you can cry, ain’t no shame in it

It didn’t work out with me an your mom

But yo, push come to shove

You was conceived in love

So if the world attacks, and you slide off track

Remember one fact, I got your back

It’s a full-time job to be a good dad

You got so much more stuff than I had

I gotta study just to keep with the changin times

101 Dalmations on your CD-ROM

See me-I’m

Tryin to pretend I know

On my PC where that CD go

But yo, ain’t nuthin’ promised, one day I’ll be gone

Feel the strife, but trust life does go on

But just in case

It’s my place

To impart

One day some girl’s gonna break your heart

And ooh ain’t no pain like from the opposite sex

Gonna hurt bad, but don’t take it out on the next, son

Throughout life people will make you mad

Disrespect you and treat you bad

Let God deal with the things they do

Cause hate in your heart will consume you too

Always tell the truth, say your prayers

Hold doors, pull out chairs, easy on the swears

You’re living proof that dreams come true

I love you and I’m here for you”

There is nothing more for me to say to you Hawke, just remember, we love you and we are here for you 🙂


An Encounter with Marine Mammals

1 Mar

I’m not sure when this actually occurred, but I’m pretty sure it was within a hundred years or so ;).  I remember waking up and rolling out of my warm bed, gathering my gear and firing up my truck.  I remember loading our gear into my buddies boat and feeling that dreadful cold air creeping through our clothes.  I remember feeling the boat rise and fall, feeling the wind pushing into our faces and making us even colder.  As we headed towards our first dive spot we saw a giant blow, the spout of a large whale.  We slowed down and took a look, I thought I caught a glimpse of gray and white and my guess is it was a gray whale.  We all watched as the boat silently drifted by, the whale took no notice and continued it’s way.  Then it dipped down and with a mighty push with its tail it breached clearly out of the water!  There was a big splash and I wished I had my camera, it was definitely a gray whale, fairly young and about 20ish feet long.  I thought no way would it happen again and then SPLASH, it leaped out and breached again!  This was the first time I’ve ever seen a gray whale breach in southern California, I’ve seen them breach in Baja before.  We could clearly make out the white/gray barnacle scarring and the orange patches of sea lice.  We talked about why they might be doing that and I remember what I used to tell the students when I was teaching:  “Why do whales breach?  Do they do it because they are showing off?  Is it because they are having fun and just horsing around?  Maybe they are trying to get some of the lice and barnacles off?  You really want to know why they do that?  I’ll tell you why, here’s the big secret answer.  We don’t know!  Maybe someday you can invent a whale talking machine and you can ask them and then come back and find me and let me know.”

We watched the whale for a few minutes and then took off, I quietly reminded myself that people pay a lot of money to see things like that and we get to see it pretty much for free.  Spend enough time in the water and you get to see a lot of really cool things, I’ve seen sea turtles locally, orcas mid channel on the way to Catalina, and blue whales come up to our boat so close that we felt their breath.  Today would be yet another somewhat unexpected adventure.

We eventually made our way to a spot to look for some white seabass.  The visibility was eeeeh just okay at maybe ten or so feet.  As I was putting on my wetsuit I sadly discovered I had ripped a 3″ hole right in the ass area.  I was even more sad because we were out of the water and I could feel that cold air seeping right against my skin, this proved a delight to my fellow freedivers.   Those cold hearted bastards!!   I tried vainly to cover up the area with my wetsuit top and tried to put the fabric together but it would always open to it’s wicked white smile.  As I put my long fins on and dropped over the side as quietly as possible I immediately felt the cold water pin against my body.  As I kicked that hole opened and closed up like some balloon mouth and cold water would shoot across one cheek to the other and then up my back.  I glanced at my watch, 56 degrees.  Wonderful.

Hunting the beds during the winter is always a dreadful event.  The water is typically murky.  It’s cold.  Fleeting thoughts of white sharks haunt us everytime we kick towards the end of the bed.  And the beds are usually fairly lifeless, there is some bait but very few other fish are around.  I dropped down until I was negative and started slowly kicking forward while stopping every once in a while to check out any life that might be around.  Some spanish mackerel cruised thru the bed and I saw some very small kelp bass dart away.  Senioritas would come check me out and then flitter away.  I breathed up once again and then made my drop.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw some movement and then a huge white shape pushed through.  Finger off the trigger, I swung the gun just in case it was a fat white seabass.  Instead two large curious eyes poked through and eventually the whole body was pushed through the kelp.  It was a very big harbor seal.  The differences between seals and sea lions are pretty obvious if you care to look at them.  Sea lions have external ear flaps and their “flippers” are shaped a bit different.  Seals lack those ear flaps.  Sea lions are bastards to freedivers.  They often bear their teeth at us, blow bubbles in our faces and will rush us and veer away at the last minute.  They will snatch fish on a stringer on your belt and pull you to the bottom.  They have bitten divers before and are fairly bold, I’d say in the short time I’ve been diving I’ve seen them get even bolder because their numbers are largely unchecked and they are increasing.  Seals however are usually not as bold.  I’ve had them try to grab fish but they aren’t as bold about it, they’ve never tried to bite me (yet) and are more curious than anything.

This harbor seal was even more curious than others I’ve seen.  It followed me during my entire dive, watching me from below and then when I breathed up it would follow me and breathe up with me.  When I was below it came right up and inspected my speargun, it pushed against the tip and bands and would come right up to me with unblinking eyes.  I tried to ignore it, because I knew that if any seabass were around that the seal would scare them away.  It didn’t work.  Eventually it would rub it’s body up against my fins and I would gently push it away and it would immediately come back again, like a dog that wants to be scratched.  I gave up hunting, there was no way any seabass would be nearby me with this pest around.  Eventually the seal started to hug my fins and just wanted to sit there and watch me.  I dove as deep as I could and as I was kicking away horizontally I’d feel weight on my fins and as I looked back the seal would let go and dart away.  I would breathe up and again feel weight and look back and once again it was there playing it’s game.  On one drop I felt something laying against me and as I turned back saw it just putting the weight of it’s body against mine with it’s head on the square of my back.  My dog Leilani does the same thing when we are watching tv sometimes.  As I neared the boat the seal came to me one more time, it pushed against my leg and came right up to me, face to face.  As I put my hand up to push it away it pushed the side of it’s face into my hand.  I was careful to make sure it wasn’t trying to bite me and we both surfaced at the same time.  As I jumped back onto the boat it sat there in the water with it’s head up watching me with questioning eyes, like it was inviting me to come back to play, I had to laugh.  By then I was freezing and fishless, I poured some much needed hot water down my back and shivered until my buddies returned.

We never saw a fish that day, never heard any white seabass croaks and the kelp bed was pretty dead.  Yet I had to admit, it was just another pretty amazing day.  In fact pretty much any day in the water is a good day to me :).

I realized that most of the pix I have of marine mammals are either on film somewhere or in videos that I have yet to edit.  So here’s some really bad ones.  The harbor seal is the first picture hiding behind kelp, they typically will look spotted under the water.  The sea lion is the one in the green water.  And just for good measure, below that are elephant seals from a rookery up north.  We do get elephant seals in southern California, the males can get larger than walrus’s.  Should you ever see a sick seal/sea lion on the beach stay away from it, they can deliver a nasty bite.

Harbor Seal

Sea Lion

Elephant Seals, the males are the larger ones with the “snout”