If I was going to choose a time in my life where the person I was to become was just starting to surface, I would choose the years between 1979 and 1984. My family moved from Chula Vista, near the border between Mexico and the US, to Northern San Diego, to a place called Poway.
From 13 through 19, I lived in Poway and made friends with many people. I have always been of the mindset that those friends, the ones you make when you are finding yourself, are the ones that know you best. They have seen what you were, and if they stick around long enough, see who you become. They have the full picture and most likely, are the ones who you can’t lie to without getting called on it. The one friend that has followed me through my life to this point is my good buddy, Allen. For me, he is that guy.
Allen and I were tight throughout high school. He was a grade lower than I, but we spent a great deal of time together. We had our first double date together, going to the movies with two girls who were good friends. I honestly can’t tell you the name of the movie, much less the names of those girls, but I can tell you that Allen and I had a good time. That is the way it was between us for quite a long time. We’d do things, but the only reason they were memorable was because we shared those moments together. Whether it was watching the Rolling Stones rock Jack Murphy Stadium, or playing street hockey in front of his house, or getting high in his brother’s VW Rabbit, our high school years were one adventure after another, laughter the thread.
When I graduated high school, Allen pulled me aside and told me that he was afraid. Afraid that as I went to college, I would have less time to do things with him. Afraid that our friendship was coming to an end. I had never even given much thought to it to be honest. I expected Allen to follow me, but I realized his path would not include college.
Despite his worries, Allen I still remained close. Through college and beyond. We would go out on weekends often. Drinking, carousing, and generally causing as much trouble as we could get away with without ending up in jail. Through it all, Allen and I spent equal time together and with our respective girlfriends. Our time together may have lessened, but we never stopped finding time to have fun together. We took up mountain biking around the same time and even went or a road race together from Tecate to Ensenada in Baja California with some college buddies of mine.
Years past and after I graduated from college, I settled in to a frenetic lifestyle filled with cubicle farms Monday through Friday, and bars and clubs all over San Diego with Allen on weekend nights. During that time, Allen and I shared an apartment, each of us following our career paths. Mine in advertising and marketing, his in sales.
Around 1994, i was offered a job by an Advertising Agency in the Bay Area. Around that same time, Allen met a girl and after dating for only a few months, they got married. While it was a whirlwind romance, the connection was real and I liked her immediately. She was exactly the kind of woman that could keep Allen focused, which he was going to need in the years to come. They were married in Colorado, where she was from. I flew out to Denver and was lucky to be part of the wedding, seeing one of my best friends begin his life as an adult.
As the years went by, Allen and I spoke less often. He had a son, then a daughter, life went on, for both of us. I became a slave to my job, I had numerous girlfriends, making one mistake after another. Allen and his wife overcame hardships and the same problems that confound many couples. Even still, Allen and could pick up the phone and talk as though no time had past. We would discuss our lives and the directions they had taken. Neither of us regretting our decisions, congratulating each other when times were good, commiserating when times were bad. It was just that kind of friendship.
When his mother lost her battle with cancer, I was one of the first people he called. It was tragic. Allen was devastated. I was a big fan of his mother. She was always incredibly positive and was always offering just the right words to Allen when he needed them. She was supportive and strong and Allen loved her dearly. With the help of his wife and children, he survived the loss.
A few months ago, Allen called me to tell me that he, his wife, and their two kids would be on Oahu for a few weeks. I promised that if my schedule allowed, I would hustle over to spend some time with him and his family. We talked a few times, he was excited to be visiting Hawaii, as he had never been. I explained all the best things to do on Oahu and talked a little bit about the other islands and what might be fun.
Today, Allen called me to tell me about his first few days in paradise.
Apparently, he and his family decided to fly to Kaua‘i before visiting Oahu. Along with Allen, his wife and two kids, were his wife’s mother, father, brother and his wife. They planned on a short stay, checking out the island before hitting Oahu. They landed on Saturday afternoon. On Sunday morning, Allen, his wife, his brother and sister-in-law, and Allen’s two children went to see the big waves on the North Shore of Kaua‘i.
The Northern shores of all the Hawaiian Islands host among the most powerful waves on the planet. From Early October to February, those powerful waves are not only powerful, they are huge, often averaging 8 to 10 feet in height. The North Shore of Kaua‘i is no different, and this past weekend a swell rolled in that pushed the waves higher and higher, topping 15 feet in some areas.
Allen and his family strolled along the ledge at Queen’s Bath, a natural pool carved into a lava shelf along a rocky shoreline that is most often enjoyed in the summer when the North Shore seas are calmer. The two women walked ahead of the children and men, talking and enjoying the excursion. A rogue wave came crashing over the ledge, sweeping the two women into the ocean and out to sea. Allen rushed his children to safety and returned to help his wife and sister-in-law. His brother-in-law meanwhile, attempted to rescue them, screaming their names, hoping that he would save them in time.
His brother-in-law was ravaged by the rocks as he desperately tried to rescue the two women, but the current was so strong that he had to return to shore, exhausted. Allen scanned the churning waters to no avail. What started out as an enjoyable day out, had turned tragic in the blink of an eye.
Both Allen’s wife and his sister-in-law drowned. Local rescue crews located and recovered the bodies a short time later.
I am, despite this long missive, at a loss for words. My heart and thoughts are with Allen, his two children and his wife’s family as they mourn the loss of two members of their family.