LOWER LAKE - This is a love story that must begin with the razor blades.
It’s spring, 2017. Hokulani Wickard doesn’t remember the exact date. Hardly matters now. Alone, he drove his Jeep from his home in Lower Lake to Austin Park, a city park in Clearlake. He parked, saw the razor blades and knew why he came.
At the Lower Lake Coffee and Cream Cafe last Thursday Wickard without a word showed what he was intending to do with them.
With tears in his eyes Hokulani made a repeated slashing motion on his left wrist. Didn’t say a word. Wasn’t necessary. He just stared at his left wrist, was it friend or foe? But why Hokulani? Why?
“I felt neglected,” he said finally. Neglected? Hokulani Wickard? This is a joke. Right? This is Hokulani Wickard, the pride of Lake County, not just of Lower Lake High School. He will represent his school Wednesday at The Press Democrat’s All-Empire sports award ceremony. He is Lower Lake top male athlete and top male scholar-athlete.
Hokulani is the All-American kid, 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, MVP of his football team, All-County in two sports. A junior then in 2017 at Lower Lake, Hokulani eventually would be offered nine college scholarships. And that’s not even the half of it. Now a senior Hokulani has a 4.22 grade point average. He’ll only have four “B’s” by the time he leaves high school. He’s been on the school’s Honor Roll all four years. Blond, muscular with a little light stubble, his appearance is as welcoming as a warm cup of coffee, his personality as sweet as a Danish.
“Yeah, that’s what people see,” said Hokulani, moving his arms up and down his body, as if he’s showing off some kind of museum figurine. A bit self-conscious, he was, in doing it.
Sitting quietly that day in his Jeep, now close to his end, his cellphone rang.
“Hey, honey, come on over, let’s do something,” asked Claire Alderson, his girlfriend.
Hokulani startled awake. In that moment he cared more about her than himself. He told Claire where he was, what he was about to do. She hung up immediately and hit the gas like a NASCAR driver to reach him.
He stopped retelling the story. He just stared into space. The question had to be asked.
“Did Claire save your life?”
Looking down, Hokulani nodded. Didn’t say a word. Stayed silent, as if invisible might be the best option. Without him probably realizing it, that quiet moment represented how Hokulani came to such a dark place, why he felt neglected.
Hokulani and his dad, Damien, have had too many quiet moments, too many days, too many hours, too many years, in which nothing was said. Emotions have remained hidden. Questions were never asked so questions were ever answered. Opinions rarely shared. Two human beings stood at arm’s length, either by design or circumstance, related but not relating, close yet apart.
This is how far apart they’ve been.
“I didn’t know that,” said Damien about that day when his son came to Austin Park to kill himself. “I knew he was having issues. I knew he was struggling. … this does give me a little shock.”
If You Go
What: 24th Press Democrat All-Empire sports awards ceremony
When: Wednesday, May, 9, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Friedman Event Center, 4676 Mayette Ave., Santa Rosa
Format: High schools in the Redwood Empire were invited to nominate their top male and female athletes, their top male and female scholar-athletes. All the athletes will be introduced. From that group, overall winners were selected by judges from The Press Democrat sports department. Those announcements will conclude the ceremony.