Where Hope Resides

While I was on the mainland my grandma got a dog, a cute little whitish-brown silky terrier, no bigger than 20 pounds, with a snowball for a tail. He’s a handsome dog, with bangs that hang over his big brown eyes. My grandma named him Hope.

When I heard that I thought it was a cheesy name. Why would anyone name a dog ‘Hope?’

I didn’t like him at first. For the first month he would bark at me every single time I came home. He seemed like a spoiled rotten brat, arrogant, and cocky, always turning over on his belly and expecting someone to pet him. But oh, how my grandparents adore him.

For years now things have not been well with my grandparents. You see, they don’t get along at all. They argue every day. When they’re together, they complain about each other. When they’re not together, they complain about each other. Harmless comments are turned into battles. If there were ever two people not meant to be together, I’d say it would be them.

There doesn’t seem to be even an ounce of affection between my grandparents. I know some couples don’t physically express their love, at least not so others can see it. But even then you can tell when people love each other through the way they act and talk. Love is not really physical. It is a bond between people. That’s what I think, anyway.

There seems to be no bond between them at all. They’ve both told me the only reason they haven’t separated is because it would be too inconvenient.

They’ve been married for over 50 years, and I think it’s sad how they’ve turned out. I don’t pretend to know what love is for everyone, but I don’t think they ever truly loved each other, because I don’t think true love could ever disappear that entirely. They were probably part of the large group of people who got used to each other, and called that love. Then they grew too used to each other, and call it a mistake. I like to think that even after 50 years love would only be stronger than it was on day one. Or am I just naïve?

The one thing my grandparents agree on is they both love Hope.

Hope is the most spoiled dog in Waipahu. Now that I’m all grown up they treat this dog like a grandson. Every morning my grandpa takes him walking, every afternoon he takes him for a bike ride. So if you’re in Waipahu and you see an old man wearing a big, shiny motorcycle helmet, riding an old-fashioned red bicycle with a little dog sitting in a basket, that’s my grandpa. Every night before bedtime he takes Hope for a car ride so he can sleep better. Whenever we go out to eat they make sure they bring him back something, and usually it’s something good: Filet mignon, kalua pig, prime rib, or sashimi. When there’s thunder or fireworks, my grandparents cuddle him so he won’t be afraid. He has a thick coat of fur meant to protect him from weather much colder than it could ever get here in Hawaii, but they cover him with a blanket at night so he won’t be cold. And every night of his entire life, Hope sleeps with my grandma.

It’s quite clear Hope loves my grandparents. He’s a small dog, incapable of doing any damage to a would-be assailant. But still he fiercely defends Grandma and Grandpa by barking at anyone coming into our yard until he’s certain they are a friend. When I take Grandma to the market, he stares at us through the gate as we leave and cries, thinking I’m stealing her from him. When the three of us are leaving for somewhere, Hope can sense that he’s being left behind. Just before we leave, Grandpa has a man-to-man talk with him, telling him to guard the place while we’re gone, salutes him, and promises we’ll bring him back something. Hope, as if he perfectly understands, stalwartly walks around the yard like a soldier on patrol.

Hope even has a girlfriend. Her name is Chenille. She’s the little dog who lives next door. She’s even smaller than him, and they get along great. It’s as if they’re perfect for each other. She’s so slender, she slips right through the cracks in the fence to visit him. Grandpa continually tries to patch up the cracks, but it only deters her for a short time, as she always finds a way to slip back through. She comes right up to the front door, waging her tail, with a big, innocent smile on her face as if to say, “Hi everybody! Hi Grandpa! I knew you weren’t really trying to keep me out!”

My grandpa says to me, “Even the dog has a girlfriend! Why don’t you have one?”

Thanks, Grandpa. Thank you for comparing me to a dog.

But he goes further. Hope is a smart dog, and seems to understand a lot of things my grandparents say. When Grandpa says, “bike ride,” he goes to the bike. When he says, “Go to Grandma,” he goes to Grandma. He delivers mail to her. And he recognizes the sound of my grandpa’s trucks, and comes running out to greet them when he hears it.

And boy does he greet them. Even if they were only gone for a short time, he jumps up and down, doing spins, standing on his hindlegs, and licks them as if they were covered in chocolate pudding. And if he thinks they’ve been gone for a really long time (which to him is a few hours), he’ll do this howl thing that sounds eerily as if he’s speaking English, saying, “helloooo!”

My grandpa says out loud to Hope, “You’re so smart! You’re the smartest guy around. Smarter than some people I know…”

You see, my grandparents, like most of my relatives, are disappointed in me. Grandma is more coy about it, but Grandpa has no problem telling me, or anyone else, exactly what he thinks of them. They want to see me succeed. Believe me, I want to achieve success as much as anyone, and I’m always working towards it. I’m getting older, and I’ve been promising success for a while now, with little to show for it. My plans are taking a little longer than I thought they would, but success will come one day soon, I’m sure of it. Of course I don’t like it when my grandpa compares me to the dog, but I try not to let it bother me. I know he only wants to see me succeed.

One day we lost Hope. Grandpa took him for a bike ride as usual when I got a phone call.

“Hi, Robert, it’s Grandpa…”

I could tell from the slight waver in his voice that something was wrong. And whenever there’s something wrong with my grandparents, I get a sinking feeling in my stomach.

“Hope is gone,” he says. “I think someone took him.”

I hop in the car and go to the park. Grandpa shows me the bushes in the corner by the side of the road, the last place he saw Hope.

“Someone probably stole him,” he says. “They’re long gone by now. We ain’t never gonna find him.” I can tell he’s trying not to sound too heartbroken, but the look on his face gives it away.

Hope is an expensive dog. He’s probably worth a few hundred dollars. He’s never run away before, so the thought that he might have been stolen was a logical possibility.

My grandparents health isn’t particularly good. That dog is a modicum of hope for them. Losing him could have disastrous effects. I’ve seen what emotional damage can do to the physical health of an elderly person, and I can’t let that happen to my grandparents.

“Oh shoot,” I thought to myself. “I’m gonna have to comb all of Waipahu, and if I don’t find him, I’ll have to search the entire island. All for a dog I don’t even care for!”

“Forget it,” says Grandpa. “You ain’t never gonna find him. He’s gone.”

But that’s the beauty of being stubborn sometimes. I’m undaunted by seemingly impossible tasks. When I make up my mind about something, I stick with it through thick and thin.

I searched up and down the street, asking people and businesses if they’d seen him, with no luck. I went back to our house, hoping he found his way home, but he wasn’t there.

There was a police man down the street, and I went over to talk to him. He was much nicer than he needed to be, took our phone number, and promised if anyone sees Hope, he would let us know.

Grandma came home from the library, and I told her the news. I can’t even begin to describe her reaction. She can’t walk well, so Grandpa and I were out looking for him while she stayed home, watching the phone in case anyone called. She left the gate open in case Hope came home.

Eventually Grandma got a call from a lady who runs the adult day care on the corner a block away, saying she thinks she found our dog. I took Grandma there. Grandpa stayed home. I could tell he was relieved Hope had been found, but also angry and a little hurt that he ran away from him, though he would never admit it.

When we got there Hope was jumping for joy to see us. Well, not so much to see me, but to see Grandma. The lady explains she had gotten our number from the humane society, who had gotten our number from the police, and that she had found Hope running back and forth across the busy street close by. How he didn’t get hit by a car, I don’t know.

It turns out that while Grandpa and Hope were biking down the street, Hope saw Grandma walking to the library. He was worried she might be running away, so when he got the chance, he took off to find her.

Since then, Hope and I started getting along better. Once, he noticed I had a wound on my arm and started licking it, not stopping until it was completely clean. In return I rubbed his tummy. He no longer barks at me, and instead greets me in a manner similar to how he greets my grandparents. Sometimes I take him for car rides around Waipahu. I even got him a Christmas present.

Turns out Hope was just around the corner, easy to find if we had only looked the other way.

I continually look for ways to help repair my grandparents relationship. But if love was never there to begin with, what is there to repair? My other relatives have given up, saying you can’t change them. They may be right, you can’t change people, but you can, I think, bring out the best in them. When you’re down, Hope licks your wounds.

Today is Christmas day. My grandparents think I’m too old for presents, so I didn’t get any. But I also didn’t want anything that money could buy, so it doesn’t bother me much.

Today it was just the four of us: me, Grandma, Grandpa, and Hope. I was kind of disappointed we weren’t going to see any of our other relatives, because it’s always just the four of us, and I always have to listen to them argue.

But then I got an unexpected present. Both of my grandparents told me they appreciate me being here with them, since they argue less with me around. And you know, I don’t think they argued even once today. Things will probably revert back to normal by tomorrow, but a victory is a victory, however minor it may be.

We must accept a certain degree of disappointment in life. Rare are the times when things go exactly as you hoped they would. But the dreams of today are the realities of tomorrow, and if you can’t hope for a better tomorrow, what can you do? You can lose people, you can lose things, you can lose money and status, you can lose pride, and you can lose love.

But you should never lose Hope.