I have mentioned that ohana means family in an extended sense of the term, including blood-related, adoptive or intentional. It emphasizes that family are bound together, but don’t need to be blood related.
I recently lost a very important part of my Ohana. When I was born I was brought home to my house in Costa Mesa, CA where I then lived for the next 20-something years. In the house next to us was a family, that over time became my family. My Ohana.
The matriarch of this family was a beautiful, strong, Mexican woman, named Claudia. Claudia had lost her husband even before I was born, so I only ever knew her as a single women raising five children on her own (four boys and one girl). The youngest of the five children was seven years older than I, so the whole family was much older and grew up in a different California than I was growing up in.
Claudia’s strength seemed to define her. But within that strength, I found a safe, warm place within her heart. As with most families, we had our share of turmoil, and there were times that Claudia made the decision to make that walk across the lawn to our house and bring me back to the comforts of her own house, while my parents “sorted” out their differences. It took a strong women to make that decision to take someone else’s child from their home, and comfort them in their own. It also took a woman with an open heart to rock me to sleep, and cuddle and care for me until I fell asleep.
Most of all what I learned from Claudia is that beautiful balance between strength and sensitivity that I now strive for in my own life. I will always be thankful for the gifts that Claudia gave me, the most precious being her gift of time. I spent so many days hanging around her, sitting at the counter watching her cook or just following her from room to room while she listened to the small details of my day. Looking back she must have had the patience of a saint to endure those conversations day in and day out.
As I grew older, and I moved away our visits became farther and farther between. But I did return when I could to sit at her kitchen table and enjoy being in the warmth of her presence again, I always knew her door was open and there was a seat at her table for me. Although she is gone, she will always be a part of my life, my Ohana.