Wednesday, November 11, 2015

More than meets the eye

By Sue Robins

There’s been a tropical storm on the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i and the one-lane bridge to the North Shore is washed out. We’re renting a cottage in Hanalei and decide to venture north to Ke’e Beach. Paradise in the rain is still paradise to me.

When we get there my son Aaron, 10, refuses to go to the beach. It’s filled with debris from the storm, and the water is unsettled. I understand his thinking: what’s the point of a beach if you can’t go swimming? My husband and daughter venture ahead. I stay behind with my willful child in an empty parking lot. He’s content to pick rocks and investigate the lifeguard tower.

Two people on coaster bikes appear: a mustachioed dude in a trucker hat and a stunning young woman. We exchange hellos.

“Are you from North Dakota?” the guy asks me with a smile.

They’ve been eavesdropping on us Canadians and our flat accents. We get to chatting—about the monk seal sighting at Tunnels Beach, about the awesome burritos at Red Hot Mamas down the highway. He has a home in LA and one here, he says casually. This guy looks familiar to me, but then, he looks a lot like a local surfer guy too.

“Hi there,” he says to Aaron. “How old are you?”

Aaron has Down syndrome and can be difficult to understand, but the surfer is patient and waits for Aaron’s answer. He’s genuinely interested in my boy, and that makes him utterly charming to me. He has a son too, he says, who’s five.

The young woman, Helena, is from Melbourne. We chat about the amusing rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney. She doesn’t have a stick of makeup on and is very beautiful. But she also has a quick wit that keeps her older man in place, and an easy, lovely laugh.

The three of us exchange stories about different health systems. “I once tried to give the nurses my credit card in an emergency room in New Zealand,” he says, “They laughed at me and wouldn’t take my money.” This unassuming dude is clearly well off and well travelled, too.

“Where are you from in Canada?” he asks.

“I’m from the west, above Montana.”

 “Where in the west?”


“I was there in January!” he exclaims.

Edmonton in January? I rib him. Nobody travels to Edmonton in January.

“I was there for work,” he says. “Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg.”

I squint at him.

And suddenly, I know who he is.

It’s Anthony Kiedis from the American band Red Hot Chili Peppers. The cities he’s listed are destinations on a Western Canadian band tour.

I take a deep breath. Do I start sputtering fan-girl accolades?

I hesitate, blink and choose to soldier on. We’re debating how to pronounce the word “herb”—those of us from the Commonwealth say “urb” and find the American pronunciation of “hurb” amusing.

My daughter Ella wanders back and Aaron insists we introduce ourselves.

“I’m Anthony Kiedis,” he says.

I knew it. It’s him.

Here we are, hanging in the Ke’e Beach parking lot: One teenage girl, a kid with Down syndrome, an exotic supermodel, a famous rock star and me—the suburban mom.

But under the swaying palm trees, we aren’t any of those things. We’re just a collection of folks gabbing by the beach.

My husband returns and Aaron is listless. It’s time to wrap up. Anthony and Helena climb back on their bikes, wave goodbye and ride away.

“Who was that guy you were talking to?” my man asks, puzzled by my exuberant, chatty behaviour, which is out of character for my introverted self.

“That was Anthony Kiedis,” I say.

My husband’s eyes pop, and he grabs the arm of the nearby lifeguard.

‘That guy was Anthony Kiedis?” he shouts.

“Yeah,” the lifeguard says. He shrugs. “He just lives up the road.”

Later, back home in Canada, I’ll hear a Red Hot Chili Peppers tune on the radio. The temperature is below zero, but I warm as I remember our lovely encounter with that dude on the beach.

I know I know for sure
That life is beautiful around the world
I know I know it's you
You say hello and then I say I do

from All Around The World

Nobody is ever just one thing, I think. Anthony didn’t dismiss me as a boring mother, and he didn’t treat my son as a disability. I chose to see him as a dude first and a rock star later.

In the disability world, we preach that people are people first. I see that this is true in the rock star world too. 

Sue Robins is a mom of three and family advisor at Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children in Vancouver.