My family dynamics are, at best, difficult to explain even with flow charts, diagrams, and projectors. The intricate laces that attach me to the foster family would confuse even the most tactful weavers from ancient civilizations; and then there’s my nephew Skyler. Skyler-Jay Makahinuhinulikemekahoku Paulo is possibly the most important person in my life. He is my foster-sister’s second son and although his older brother and I were raised together like brothers, Skyler became more like a son to me due to the age gap between us. He was born in November of 2002 and when I received the first picture message of him from his tiny hospital bed in the nursery my heart swelled immediately. Even as a newborn he had a way of melting people around him into piles of loving mush.
When his mother brought him to my foster mom and I he was only five months old. He seemed small for his age, considering most of the babies in the family were plump until they hit the age they could run off all of the rice and poi. His eyes were so bright and shining that I immediately understood why his grandmother gave him his middle name, “eyes that sparkle like the stars.” I would argue that the stars would even be jealous of how much they twinkled. When he would cry I would be the first person to rush to his aid and let him hold onto my hand while I cradled his head against my shoulder and sung softly to him. His sparse and whispy hair covered by a knit cap, his lower body wrapped in swaddling. From head to toe the kid was nestled against me like he always would be.
As he grew, his face filled out, and although he wasn’t born with his signature dimple on his right cheek, he sure had an adventure making it for himself! He was running through our house one summer day, and somehow slipped on the rug in the hallway of our small home and smashed his face hard into the corner of a doorway, which I can only guess pinched the fat and muscle tissue in his cheek together forming a fake but realistic dimple. His round eyes only got larger and became chestnut orbs that accentuated his bright smile. His smile has little gaps between his teeth and the two silver capped teeth gleam as he brushes them with pride as though they were his own
Skyler definitely knows how to be a charmer though. One day we were at the Kuhio Shopping Center downtown in Hilo with my foster mom and she went into the bank without us. Skyler was about 4 years old and learning a few languages at a time because in our home we used Hawaiian Creole (Pijin) and I wanted to make sure he understood all of the languages individually. He started to jumble and mix the languages to whatever he felt like he thought at the time was easiest. “Mahea tututma?” he asked. “At the bank,” I responded. He thought for a moment and asked if we could go outside and run around in a blur of languages and slang. I told him I was tired, so he looked at me as sadly as he could, stuck his bottom lip out so far I thought it would fall off of his little face and asked again. I acquiesced against my better judgment knowing he would run around the perimeter before I could blink.
Later that day he turned his impish smile on a Dairy Queen worker who had no idea what hit her. He asked me to buy him an ice cream cone and to also play at the arcade in the mall. I told him he had to pick one or the other, so he asked for a dollar for the arcade, but took off towards the Dairy Queen parlor. I heard him ask the girl behind the counter for an ice cream cone; she promptly made a small vanilla ice cream cone for him and said it would be $2.50. Skyler put his dollar on the counter and the girl pursed her lips and explained that he needed a little more money than that; so my nephew’s little broken heart grabbed the dollar off the counter gingerly and started to walk away with defeat weighing on his shoulders. The Dairy Queen Girl quickly called him back over and gave him the ice cream cone which lifted his smile so high off the ground I thought he would float away! He put the dollar on the counter in front of her, beaming his happy smile and bright eyes at her and she said he could keep his dollar and asked him not to be sad anymore. With that, the little guy skipped off to the arcade with his dollar and an ice cream cone and I have never been so stunned. I still don’t know if he planned the whole thing or if it just happened to play out that way.
Since my partner and I aren’t equipped to have our own biological children I’m sure that Skyler is about as close to my child as I could get. I often think of him much like he was my own son and I know the feeling is mutual between us. When I get to visit him back home in Hilo, he tries to stay in my room with me. Sometimes he falls asleep on my bed while we play video games and he’ll softly say “goodnight Dad,” to me before nestling a little closer and falling into a deep sleep. In those cases I carry his little body to his room although he’s sometimes clung so tightly to me I had to stay with him for a while after putting him down. I can safely say that Skyler gets along with my partner Raul enough that when my foster mom jokes that he’s going to run away and come live with us up in Boston I’ll try and smile jokingly at Raul but we both know we would accept him into our home without question.