8/22/2008

Estranged Dad



my mom & dad are on the left side....uncles, shig & johnson on the right...

To elaborate on my relations with my dad…we were strangely estranged & different on one hand …than in the end (maybe too late) we realized how much we were alike.

My dad was born in San Francisco to parents of upper middle-class very traditional family who had fallen on bad times as all of Japan had fallen during that time (the depression). His mother being who she was demanded to go back to Japan & raise her 2 sons as her husband stayed to work as a laborer to send $$ back home. He was a lonely child..being teased for being “fatherless”…having retained his US citizenship..and for his slight deafness due to a childhood swimming accident. He concentrated on his studies, his love of the arts, and a growing awareness of his government at large.

There were rumors through old family ties that he was going to be arrested for protesting the government & forced to join the imperial army for a war that was “inevitable”….he used his dual citizenship & family connections to get a steamer to the states. There he met other expatriots with their own stories…one colorful one turned out to be young, dumb “yakuza”, with with one of his fingers cut off (punishment for a failed "job")…who for a while was his traveling buddy.

These were just a few stories I was able to get from my dad after we learned to communicate with each other…literally. When I was young, we had no problems, but then puberty & both our stubbon sides faced off…he refused to learn English & refused to learn Japanese…pretty uncomfortable at family functions.

When my mother died (she was our translator), I thought that would be okay, then little by little the cold heart between us thawed & we both wanted to talk…BUT HOW? I talked to the priest at the Oakland Buddhist Church who agreed to translate letters for us…and for a couple of years, while the priest was still assigned to that church, my dad & I were like two people lost in a desert, thirsting for each others life stories.

When my dad died, my brother & sister almost thought it was a “relief”…he never showed affection to his family (that’s something mom always did)…I guess I felt it too..wondering if he ever really cared about those letters we shared years before. My brother took care of the funeral arrangements, my sister did her usual purging of anything she thought was valuable…after she left his room, I went to his bedside table ..looked inside and found a neatly bundled stack of letters I had written him.

Making art in my past has always saved me somehow…gotten thru rough times spiritually. When I moved back to my old hometown, I was blindsided with such vivid childhood memories. When I started my on-line business, it became my savior as well. I like making jewelry & being creative on a daily basis, BUT when something like this “bird series” inspiration comes about, there is such a strong attachment I have for each piece I make…I hope that comes through when people see my work.

7 comments:

Tresijas said...

That is an incredibly touching story. Thank you for sharing it :)

Sweet Irie said...

Beautiful story. I also had problems with my father, who is also gone, so I can understand where you are coming from. :)

SilverMonk Design said...

very touching story.........

On a Whimsey said...

Thank you so much for sharing your very poignant story. Lessons for many of us to learn here!

Hey Harriet said...

Wow! That's quite a story. Thanks for sharing it. I love your 'bird series' pieces too! :)

Ellen said...

thank you everyone...i believe the relationship between fathers & daughters are special...even the disfunctional ones :)

Tango Goddess said...

I just checked out your etsy shop, and your pieces are wonderful. Even more wonderful was the little blurb you wrote about the inspiration behind your bird series. I was so moved, I had to check out your blog! Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful story.

I'm growing closer to my parents, too, now that I'm in my late 30's. It hasn't been easy, and I'm still frustrated and angry sometimes, but I've been learning such surprising things about them as individuals, not as just my parents. So, thanks for the reminder.