I am not as agile as I once was in my younger days — just a few years ago. So with a pull from Christina and a push from her husband, Chris, I managed to climb into the back of the truck and settled down between my two guests on the wooden bench behind the cab. Then we were on our way over the rocky road to Kalawao with the ever young, 92-year-old John Arruda behind the wheel.
The last time I had travelled this road on the back of a truck I suffered permanent damage to my undercarriage. Now I was attempting to conduct a tour while at times holding onto that wooden bench. Fortunately John slowed the pace as soon as he caught up to Eric in his truck.
This situation had come about because only a few days prior to this escapade, as I was preparing to take a group of pilgrims from the Kalaupapa International Airport in Kalaupapa town, and as I was putting the station wagon into reverse, the gear shift lever broke in my hand. This was the second time this had happened in a short span of time and prompted mechanic, “Too Tall Andrew,” to suggest that my hand was too strong.
Of course I have often claimed that my hands are the strongest part of my whole anatomy. So I am now planning on having the great John Arruda teach me karate! After all, John came to my rescue and offered to take my guests to see the holy sites of Kalaupapa and Kalawao. Like Tom Brady, he came through in the clutch.
John Arruda, now 92 going on 29, is our oldest patient but does not act his age. While his home is on the island of Kauai, John spends a good deal of his time here with us in Kalaupapa and is not only helpful but insightful and entertaining. He is a real favorite of the ladies and he acknowledges that. So I was more than delighted that on this occasion we had him with us, not just as our driver, but as one with a real feel for the history of the peninsula.
John interacted with our guests and along with Eric was invaluable to me in telling the story of the settlements, a story of pain and a story of compassion, a story of despair and a story of triumph. I hope that we can again do a joint pilgrimage to Kalawao but this time I will sit in his cab. Aloha.
Anchor columnist Father Killilea is pastor of St. Francis Parish in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.