Today is the day E.O. 9066 was signed

One of the most disheartening things people who didn’t mean to offend me have said (directly) to me has been post 9/11 when they express their belief that people of Middle Eastern descent, or those who are Muslim, should be “rounded up” and moved out to a deserted area or shipped back to where they came from.

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My reply to them is always the same: “It is that mentality that led to my family being imprisoned for almost 4 years during WWII. They had done nothing wrong yet they were uprooted from the West Coast and moved to Heart Mountain, WY where they lived behind barbed wire in an uninsulated shack. It was as wrong, unjust, and unAmerican then as it would be to do it again now to a different group of people.”

stacie-tamaki-japanese-american-internementMy Family

I have also had several people tell me it was for my family’s own good, for their protection from racism, that they were interned, their freedom stripped away from them. My reply to them is always that it that were so it would have been a voluntary choice to be moved into the sanctuary of the internment camps if people felt unsafe.

So if you bring up this subject to me please don’t be surprised when I defend any group from being racially or religiously profiled or stereotyped. Not enough people stood up for my family when they were taken away. I will not be one of the quiet ones if it happens again.

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Losing my dad

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I had just been home to visit my parents in December when 9 days after I left my dad had an unexpected stroke and passed away several days later. At 84 years old he wasn’t on any prescription medications, didn’t have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, and with the exception of when he was an MIA-Prisoner of War as a young man, had enjoyed good health all the way up until his last five days of life. His physical health had been so good for so long when it failed him it was a shock regardless of his age.

I was grateful to have just been there, to have spent time with him, to have made him laugh, and to have had that one last opportunity to create new memories with him. When I left I didn’t imagine for a second I wouldn’t ever see him again in this lifetime.

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Phone calls and text messages coming from various family members all at once while I was eating dinner made me instantly realize something was wrong. Representing us as tiny origami cranes was the easiest way for me to share my feelings in that moment. Online I posted this picture and these words the following morning:

Last night my dad’s soul took its next step on a journey we will all make someday. Knowing our time here is limited, that we’ll only have so many opportunities to show people that we care for them and love them, should be the only reason we need to live in the moment with as much compassion, patience, and acceptance as we are capable of.

I will miss him, his stories, him playing his harmonica, seeing him putter around the house and yard. I will deeply grieve that he is gone. But I won’t have any regrets because he lived an extraordinary life and I know he knew I loved him. He was a man of true unwavering integrity, of common sense, and generosity. Each day I do my best to live my life by the same standards he taught me for literally as long as I can remember. He was a good man with a good heart and I was blessed to have had him as my dad.

I didn’t feel compelled to rush home to be there with him as he passed. Having just been there and not feeling there was anything left that needed to be said I opted to wait two weeks until things had calmed a bit and other relatives who had made it in from out of town had left. That was when I went home to spend time with my mom. While I was there an origami artist who inspires me on Instagram posted an invitation for others to create a crane that represented their day. . .

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Ashes to ashes… Accepting the invitation by @icarus.mid.air and sharing a crane that represents my day. Today my mom and I will be receiving my dad’s ashes from the funeral home. We are looking forward to bringing him home. To participate tag #icarusmidair and share your crane. #origami #origamicrane #tribute #memorial #misshim #love

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After picking up my dad we could have gone home and been sad. Instead we took him to one of his favorite places. My mom wasn’t quite sure about the whole endeavor but I thought it was only fitting to take him for a last walk around the casino. Plus it was just before Christmas, the casino was decorated with trees everywhere and lots of red and green. He was in a marble urn tucked inside a green velvet bag so it wasn’t like we were overly conspicuous! We photographed him outside the building, under the Keno sign (his favorite game), and finally on his bench where he used to wait for my mom when he was done playing. I have no doubt he either did or would have had a good laugh that we honored him this way 🙂

To my extended family and friends I want to say thank you for all of the love and support you sent after learning of my dad’s death. Every single message was appreciated whether it was a card in the mail, a post online, an email, a text, or phone call. Though social media may have its faults it is also capable of scooping you up in a virtual cloud of comfort and caring leaving no doubt that you are not only not alone, you are surrounded by love.

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It’s been a hard two years with two of the biggest losses I’ve ever had to bear but I take comfort knowing that both lived long lives and knew they were loved. For that I will always be grateful.