Life has been great, thanks to you. You were the one to raise two brothers almost single-handedly. (As much as you may disagree, Dad deserves a little credit even though he wasn’t around much.) You shared your dream with us when we flew with you to Boston for the day just to pick-up bagels and lobster, when we flew all over the country to see our relatives. You put the both of us through college despite the financial difficulties. You drove us to soccer practices no matter how far the best opportunities were for us. We always asked what was for dinner without taking a second thought to realize how exhausted you were from driving all the way to work . You taught us how to cook by telling us sometimes, “whatever you can find.” I’m going to use this one when I’m a father. It’s a great way to teach problem solving skills. You should be proud that I am managing to cook while living abroad. There’s no better way to take care of myself.
The band concerts and soccer games were a little more nerve-racking because you always made the effort to be there. You know, it would have been OK if you had missed a few here and there? You could have rested more. And driving to my games when I was in college… 8 hours of driving just to see me play 90 minutes. I can’t thank you enough for the support and for the nourishment you brought with you from home. I’m sure my friends enjoyed having your friend rice and rum cakes.
Thank you for taking the time to travel with me to visit all the colleges when I was in high school. That was an awesome trip looking back on it. That must have cost a lot of money… Although I don’t have a job right now, I think we made the right choice. You may disagree in the short-term, but in the long-run it’s going to turn out perfect.
I know it is hard for you to understand why I am where I am and why I am the way I am. I have had so many different experiences in life that I can only hope by writing what comes to my mind, you can begin to understand I am what I am because of what I see in the world. If it weren’t for your dedication and sacrifice, I wouldn’t have the colorful life that I have had thus far. I’m just starting to paint what I want. Can you be patient with me?
Thank you for having the courage to send me away with the boys choir for two summers. That experience not only taught me how to pack my bags by myself but it also colored my life with music. I probably would have never developed the ability to sing and to bring our family to tears this past Thanksgiving. Maybe the wine was the reason emotions were flowing that night. You should feel proud I was courageous enough to sing without alcohol.
Here’s a story from my last day in Okinawa:
Otousan is driving me to the bus station at 5:00am in his pick-up truck. In the bed of the truck are my backpack, books and gym bag to go along with the giant blue containers they use to haul the okara from Nago. For the most part it is a quiet ride. Otousan and I talk about how long I will be in Taiwan, how I think he should come visit me while I’m here. Before long it gets kind of quiet. I can hear his nose running slightly and he’s softly sniffling. I think nothing of it as we continue down the dark road. Allergies maybe.
We reach the bus station and I get out of the truck. I grab all my belongings from the back and bring them to the bench in front of the stand for the 111 bus. I make my way back to the truck where Otousan has come around to the passenger side to meet me. We embrace and we shake each other’s hand. I look in his eyes and I tell him thank you for having me. I see that his eyes are red. He had been crying as he drove me to the bus stop.
I kind of felt bad for not having the money to spend on gifts each time I came back to Kiyuna. After a friend once told me, “anything you can buy, I can buy,” I rationalized it was OK to not spend money on a physical gift. (Felt better about not spending money). That the real gift was inside of me. So everywhere I go, the gift I bring is my talent which you helped to cultivate all the way back to when I would cry outside the bathroom door while you anxiously showered. My gift to the Kiyunas was my hard work – the shit-shoveling, the esa-making, the grocery-shopping, the dish washing, the cooking, the driving. They let me drive their cars with my international driver’s license. They trusted me to take the other wwoofers on field trips.
Otousan’s tears show you how much he appreciated me helping him on his farm despite your wishes for what I should be doing at this point in my life. For Otousan and Okaasan to call me their first son after having five daughters should make you feel proud. Proud that another family wants your son as their own. Don’t worry, Mom. I know where home is. It’s wherever you are. It’s wherever I am. You’re with me where ever I go.