Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Other Part of the Story

It has come to my attention that my previous post about my parents might lead some of you to believe some things that are not true.

My parent’s move from Japan to the US was not an attempt to run from perceived problems. The Japanese people are great people, kind and hospitable. Yet the fact is that it is a more homogeneous society than the US. While the Japanese might be too courteous to say anything directly to us, my parents feared that we kids would suffer a greater prejudice there than in the US. Add to that was the concern of providing for a growing family; my parents felt it best that my father finish his degree in order to increase his career opportunities. I think my mother in particular, showed great courage. She agreed to leave her family, friends and all that was familiar to her to live in a foreign land at a time when opportunities for communication were not as quick and easy as we take for granted now. Hers was a large sacrifice made for the benefit of her family.

It’s not like my brothers and I didn’t experience any prejudice here in the US. We were teased by neighbor kids with some pretty harsh names and even physical abuse in my brothers’ case. I remember often being teased to the point of tears. But I’m not sure I know anyone who wasn’t bullied in some form as a child. We mock and tease what we don’t know, what we fear...or what we’re envious of. It’s a tribute to my father and mother’s parenting that we rose above the bullying to be proud of our heritage and appreciative of all the cultures around us.

I also mentioned in my previous post how both my grandfathers objected to my parents’ marriage. While that may lead you to think they were bigoted, that is not true.

Let me start by saying I think the fears expressed by my grandfathers came from a genuine concern that their children did not fully appreciate the consequences of their decisions. As a parent myself, I have frequently fretted about something that was really not an issue. But my desire to protect my children is sometimes stronger than my common sense. I also think marriage is hard work and my grandfathers’ concern about cultural differences adding undue stress on an already hard job was not without some merit.

However, whatever issue they had with the marriage in the beginning was never shown to us grandchildren in word or deed in all the time we spent with them. Growing up, I never experienced anything but love and affection from my grandfathers. As a matter of fact, I was shocked when I read my grandfather’s letter to my mother because the author was not the man I knew.

It was the same with my mother’s father. I have only fond memories of visits with him in Japan. Whenever he traveled to various Rotary conventions, he asked us to go with him. I remember in particular an RV trip we took with Oji-chan and Oba-chan (Japanese for ‘grandpa’ and ‘grandma’). While at first he was not happy with the accommodations (7 people in a 30’ camper), my grandmother reported that he bragged to all his friends of his “Great Adventure in the American West.”

So while my grandfathers had concerns about the marriage and perhaps expressed them in less than charitable ways, once the marriage was made and the grandchildren started to arrive, they both embraced the new family and did what they could to support my parents. I believe it’s a testimony to the character of both men that, when faced with their prejudices, they chose to do what was right and true over what they could have justified as the ‘conventional wisdom’ of their day. Forgiveness, simple grace and mercy - while maybe not spoken, were there. Actually, ‘simple grace’ is an oxymoron because grace is never simple, is it?

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. - 2 Timothy 1:7

No comments: