From that point, my life has gone pretty normally for someone in my position. I eventually found the right woman for me, and we have been married for two years now. My parents are both retired and living a decent life a few miles from where I live now. My grandparents passed away a few years ago, and we managed to take a trip back to Japan to see them buried with the rest of their family there. That was a very surreal experience in my life, heading back to where our lineage all began.
I grew up a standard southern boy, working in a Roofing and Siding company in Kentucky, and yet I was suddenly immersed in this side of my culture that I had never really experienced before. The formality of everything, the speed that everyone moved, the accent on politeness and not really revealing any emotional reaction to anything. It was such a night and day experience for me, and made me feel kind of bad deep down that I didn’t identify with it at all. I felt like I was somehow letting my heritage down by feeling that way.
But I could also tell that my parents were feeling just as awkward as I was. I had a feeling that maybe they also felt like they let down our heritage with the quick progression to the ways of things in the west, and lost track of what it was that my grandparents had brought over with them. After we returned to the states, they started to get a lot more involved in cultural events, and trying to reconnect with their roots, which I always found kind of admirable. I didn’t have that availability though, I think I was just too far disconnected.
When my wife and I had our first child, you could see some of my heritage washed away. Not that I ever would complain, my daughter is my life, but it made me think of this cultural melting pot that society is, where it’s really hard to identify yourself with just one thing. I was a Japanese American in the eyes of most, but that was simply because of parentage and skin color. My daughter may not even face that same label, and I kind of hope that she doesn’t, not that there’s anything inherently wrong with it, just that she’s an American.
I believe in our history and culture, but I also believe that we need to move on, and not look so much into the background of things. Sure, life had been hard, and my grandparents sacrificed a lot. But we persevered, and we continued on with the progression of our family, and now we have evolved. We are a new branch on the family tree, and though it may not be the most interesting life to share with people, it’s the one I have, and one that I’ve always wanted to get out there. Who knows? There may be someone else going through the same thing now.