Here's to Dad on his day
By Katherine Nichols
Advertiser Staff Writer
The background noise of chatter and televisions and laughter at Kahi Kaonohi's Kailua house hums on the threshold of chaos at all hours. Yet Kaonohi seems calm. This in itself is semi-miraculous, considering his schedule: He works days as an air-conditioning technician and several nights a week playing electric bass and singing lead vocals with Na Hoku Award-winning band Maunalua at places like Roy's and Hale'iwa Joe's. But his careers pale next to his duties as baseball coach, basketball coach and father of six children, who range in age from 12 years to 22 months.
"I just try to fit everything in," he said with a laugh. The different path his life has taken from his earlier, single days is profound. Fatherhood "made me more aware of how I spend my time," said the 33-year-old. "When I was single, I didn't have to worry about anyone but myself."
Now Kaonohi has the added responsibility of parenting his 22-month old daughter with his wife Trina, as well as 9-year-old twin boys from his previous marriage, along with acting as full-time stepfather to Trina's children, ages 12, 10 and 7, from an earlier marriage.
Like most dads, Kaonohi doesn't need poetic cards or a special breakfast to tell him what he already knows: Every day is Father's Day.
"It doesn't matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was."
Fatherhood, according to those who speak honestly about it, is the ultimate test. It requires love, patience, affection and communication not traits every man was raised to dispense openly and easily. In the same breath it requires a man to be at the top of his game in his career, a successful provider for several people whose welfare relies in large part on his performance at work. And yet these two areas of his life often require completely different skills.
"You talk about rescuing people in shorebreak at Sandy's, and that's a different kind of challenge," said Ron Bregman, a 38-year-old Honolulu water safety officer. "You can control that situation a little better."
To Bregman, it's far more difficult to master the daily needs of his year-old daughter. "Taking care of her is probably the biggest challenge I've ever had in my life." A real achievement in Bregman's eyes is caring for his daughter while his wife works as a scientific illustrator at the Hawai'i Natural Energy Institute. "(If) you don't have to call anyone for advice, and you make it through the day ... to me, that's an accomplishment."
Bregman said that his daughter's birth changed his perspective on work and athletics. "It's really not as important to me as it once was," said Bregman, who has been swimming competitively since age 6 and realizes that to take his master's swimming to the next level, he'd have to spend an enormous amount of time training. "Maybe when she's older. But I don't feel that urgency now."
Jon-Eric Greene echoed these sentiments. Having children "was a great defining moment for me," he said. "Money is still important to provide a comfortable life," but being the top producer in his field of commercial real-estate is no longer his No. 1 priority, though he admits the pull between his clients and his family is always there. Now, he said, "I really look a lot more at where I spend my time."
"By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he's wrong."
Glenn Sexton, vice president and general manager of Xerox Hawai'i, basketball coach and father of a 10-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl, agreed that fatherhood "put things into perspective far more."
"I don't really think about attaining as many personal goals for my own sake," he said. "I think more about their future."
Sexton has the added perspectives that health problems, workplace tragedy and the proximity of sudden death have forced upon him. "As corny as it sounds," he said, "I really try hard to value the moments with them. I've been through a lot of adversity in the past few years. You start to realize that those mundane things are the most meaningful."
Still, he concedes that because he is always on the go, "it's a constant battle to pause and breathe and enjoy it."
Sexton said he used to be extremely ambitious in his career goals. Though he continues to value his work performance, he said, "I'm balancing it far more. I don't take the day in and day out battles at work as seriously. Now I step back ... I'm a little more patient."
He looks forward to being available to his children when they become adults, and really helping them when they need assistance. "I truly put my family first in more than just words," he said. "And I want to be able to do that forever."
For Sexton and other fathers, this longevity depends on making time however minimal for their own health and fitness.
"It's really hard to find time to work out," said Greene, who seizes odd hours to train for bicycle races. "But it's critical." Taking care of himself is the first step in nurturing his family. And for the ninth year in a row, he and his father will celebrate Father's Day by completing a bicycle tour covering 450 hilly miles over six days in the Colorado Rockies.
"The words that father speaks to his children in the privacy of home are not heard by the world, but, as in whispering galleries, they are clearly heard at the end, and by posterity."
Because Kaonohi and his wife have both experienced divorce, Kaonohi said that one of his most important roles as a father is not only to take care of himself, but to tend to his marriage. "I think that's No. 1," he said. "If kids see that Mom or Dad is being loved by the other person, it makes them feel more confident."
He embraces his role as stepfather with all of its compromises and challenges, of which, he said, there are many. Nonetheless, he acts as father to all the children. "In order to keep the family a family," Kaonohi said, "you need to love them all equally.
"To me, family is first. You have a lot of friends that come and go, but the one thing that stays there no matter what is your family."
A child's relationship with his or her father is often the most influential and lasting one sparked with emotion and memories recalled in snapshots. While Father's Day is fun, most people will admit that they don't really need the third Sunday in June to remind them who is important in their lives.
"My father was an amazing man. The older I got, the smarter he got."