Typed in darkness, a letter describes the day after the Pearl Harbor attack

“Another night, and we are again in darkness. It will be another long dark night of waiting and watching.”

That’s how my mother began a letter to her sister, typed in darkness during the blackout on December 8, 1941, a day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Click on the letter, below, to read a larger version.

from my mom to her sister

The short, half-page typed letter reflected rampant rumors (continuing raids on Pearl Harbor or Hickam, and “skirmishes” involving planes flying over head the night of December 7, machine gun fire on Kahala Beach, flares fired by Japanese sympathizers, etc.).

My mother’s parents had driven from their home in Waipahu and moved in the day before. On the 8th, She wrote that my father had gone to his job as a manager at the downtown Honolulu office of Dohrmann Hotel Supply Company, a San Francisco-based wholesaler of restaurant and hotel equipment and supplies. Her father and younger brother drove back to Waipahu to retrieve their stored canned goods, fearing they might otherwise be lost in an uprising by plantation workers. Meanwhile my mother and my grandmother went up the hill to Kaimuki in search of food, and managed to to get “liver and meat for stew that will keep us in food for this week.”

It’s an interesting bit of family history that sheds light on the historical events of the day.

The Day After

I had my “Hallelujah” moment this morning following cataract surgery on my right (and dominant) eyes yesterday. I awoke, got out of bed, and took off the eye shield that had protected my right eye during the night. The first thing I noticed was that vision in that eye was sharp and clear. The second thing is that I was seeing a different world.

It’s like an oil painting rescued from a smoker’s home. If you’ve every done this, you know that colors, and most noticeably the whites, become covered with a thin layer of yellow-brown film from tobacco smoke. That shifts the colors dramatically, and usually requires extensive cleaning of the painting to restore the original colors.

Yesterday’s cataract removal provided the same cleaning of everything I’m looking at. Whites are actually white, not a yellowish cream color. I’m seeing the colors of our house for the first time. I even had to seek out each of our cats to reassess their colors!

Looking across the yard at a plant that has variegated and green leaves. If I close the eye that had the cataract removed, and look only through the other uncorrected eye, the leaves appear yellow and green. Close that eye, open the cataract-free eye, and they are bright white and green. A dramatic difference that I’m gleefully recreating everywhere I look this morning.

[reposted from Facebook]

December 7 was my dad’s birthday

I’ve recycled this post a couple of times in the past, as it is so appropriate for December 7. I’ve updated it slightly, but it’s otherwise unedited.

Kahala Beach 1940December 7, my dad’s birthday. He would have been 103 today. At one time, I thought he might very well live to this age. Instead, he passed away in 2010, shortly before his 97th.

Now that we’re here in Kahala, and walking on Kahala Beach every morning (with other people’s dogs), it seems appropriate to repost this photo of my parents walking the same beach, probably soon after they were married. That was in December 1939, so I’m guessing this was perhaps in 1940 or so. They rented a house for a while on Kealaolu, just past Farmers Road. Then in early 1942, they bought the house where they would live for the rest of their long lives. And we moved back to that property a few months ago after completing major renovations.

In the photo, they’re walking with Kiki, my mother’s dog. That appears to be Black Point in the distance. Familiar territory. And those look like large crab holes in the sand. You don’t see those along that beach any more.

We walk the same stretch of beach these days, at least on some mornings, a sort of continuity that I’m still coming to terms with.

And, of course, December 7 is synonymous with the attack on Pearl Harbor. My parents told of being wakened by a telephone call from my mom’s mother in Waipahu, telling about what she described as the unusually realistic maneuvers underway.

But years later, I found a letter my mother wrote to her sister on December 7.

Here’s what I posted about it a couple of years ago.

It was in a box of papers uncovered yesterday afternoon as I slogged through another section of a small storeroom at my parents’ home in Kahala. The papers are dirty, faded, and covered with a fine layer of dust and rather old looking termite droppings and other bits of unknown origin. The papers included bits of genealogy, a collection of British newspapers reporting the funeral of King George VI and the coronation of Elizabeth, a carefully tied bundle of Bonnie’s school work from first through third grades, etc., etc. Then there was a small sheet of blue paper, folded in thirds. I immediately recognized my mother’s clear handwriting.

It’s a letter from my mother to her sister, Marguerite, written late on the morning of December 7, 1941, my father’s 28th birthday, as machine gun fire could be heard overhead and puffs of smoke seen in the sky.

The paper is brittle, there’s some old termite damage, but this treasure survived.

I’ve transcribed it below. You can see the original letter here.

Dec. 7, 1941
11:30 a.m.

Dear Margot:

Something is brewing but we don’t exactly know what the score is. We were awakened by a telephone call from Ma this morning saying that Japanese planes were bombing Pearl Harbor. I had a big head from a party last night so didn’t talk very much. She told John the house was shaking like a leaf. We’ve been sitting here watching the shooting. I wish I were at Waipahu to see more of it. We have to be content with just watching the puffs from the shots.

Every 10 minutes an announcement is made over the radio for people to report for one thing or another. The latest report is total blackout tonight. We still don’t know whether this is real or not. Jimi was called for sea-scout duty early this morning. All ROTC students are getting their equipment. I guess they’ll patrol the streets. One funny thing happened today. We went out to the street to watch them haul cannons. The soldiers were throwing kisses to all the gals along the street.

Guess we’ll have to stay put today. We can’t use the telephone anymore & we can’t drive our cars, so here we are.

11:50 Well, there goes the radio. Station KGMB has been ordered off the air. Governor Poindexter is declaring a state of emergency on station KGU. There come the planes!! Oh, oh, and machine gun fire right above us. I’m getting jittery! Shucks, this letter won’t get to you anyway; might as well quit.

The letter was never mailed, and my mom saved the original all those years. At this point, I deeply appreciate her inability to throw things away.

See December 8: Another 75-year old letter written in the dark on the day following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Cataract gone…so far, so good

[text]So far, so good.
I checked in for cataract surgery this morning at 6:30 a.m., about 25 minutes before sunrise. It was, and felt, early. It was over, and I was ready to be picked, by 8:33, which is when an initial text to Meda was time stamped.

So far, no “hallelujah” moment, I’m afraid. My eye is still somewhat dilated, vision a bit blurry, but no pain or headache. I report back for first recheck tomorrow morning, then again next Monday. I’m taking it slow and easy.

I have a longer post over on Facebook.

Cataract, your hours are numbered!

A friend commented to me this week that cataract surgery has become a regular rite of passage for people of a certain age, and I suppose that’s true.

My first and dominant eye goes under the laser knife tomorrow morning. Scheduling and preparations have been going on for longer than I really wanted. But such is life.

The preparations for cataract surgery have included two different sessions where measurements were taken, I believe to guide the computer-assisted laser that does the actual cutting of the eye. In addition, there was a required session with my primary care doctor to obtain a medical clearance, affirming that I’m well enough to survive the brief out-patient surgery. In my case, the computer returned the estimate of something less than one-half of one percent chance of suffering a heart attack or stroke. The doctor assured me that these odds never go to zero, so not to worry that the risk wasn’t zero.

Of course, just to be sure that you aren’t too casual about it, the packet of paperwork also included an optional Advance Health-Care Directive where I could specify how much I want to stay alive if by some fluke I keel over during the short operation. I decided to go with the odds and not worry about such things at this time.

Then, beginning three days before the surgery, three different eye drops, none inexpensive. Two start at the beginning of the three days, but on different schedules (one 1x per day, the other 2x per day). Then, after the surgery, the third drops are added. There’s a complex calendar for each eye, and they overlap (the calendars, not so much the eyes), so I know it’s going to get confusing.

Then there were the instructions to be sure to report any changes in health prior to the surgery. Of course, after returning from New Orleans a couple of weeks ago, I came down with the obligatory airplane cold. It’s worked its way through my system, from a running nose through an uncomfortable cough and back to near normalcy. I decided to wait until today before checking in as instructed with one of the nurses regarding health changes. Luckily, the cold has largely receded and I was told it should not pose any problems tomorrow.

I’m prepared to show up before sunrise at the surgical offices near downtown with photo i.d., insurance card, the form disclosing any medication I take regularly, and of course some form of payment for amounts not covered by insurance (and luckily our health insurance is quite good).

So wish me and my right eye the best of luck!