An Ordinary Yet an Extraordinary Man
A Memoir of My Father
By: Holly Sumida
“You know someone is an ordinary yet an extraordinary person if he or she leaves an imprint in your heart that never leaves your side. What a gift my dad has given me!”
To my Dad:
Dad, you are not here physically; however, you are with us spiritually. You have given me the gift of music; I have passed on to my children. You have given me the gift of pride. You’ve taught me to take pride in my work, and to willingly take its ownership. You have given me the gift of hope and a strong mindset. Your guidance has provided me with having great initiative in everything I do.
It has been an honor and privilege to call you “Dad.” Now as I contemplate your life, I strive to live each day to its fullest potential. As you once told the church congregation, “I am proud to say that my daughter is not afraid to say, “I am a Buddhist.” I am an optimistic person, like I was raised to be and your words are my guide. I called upon you for help, and you have supported me through every step of the way. Your words of wisdom and our shared experiences with one another will remain in my heart forever. I love you, Dad.
Thank you, Mom. You are an incredibly nurturing person in my life that I continue to look up to. You have endured many obstacles in your life, stuck by Dad’s side, and supported the decisions he made. Most of all, you have never given up hope, and have always had a positive outlook on life.
Thank you to my sister. You’re someone I can always turn to when I need advice. When I want to recall the memories I had with Dad, I can always count on you to reminisce about our lives. You did an incredible job putting together a biography about Dad. Reading this book and looking back at many faded memories have certainly helped me write this book.
Thank you to my husband and children. I often keep my Dad’s memories alive by sharing cherished moments of Dad with you. His wisdom has certainly gone beyond his life, and it will continue to flourish for many years to come.
Thank you to my friends. You have encouraged me to finally write a story that I wholeheartedly cherish as my own. Your words have motivated me to finally do what I love, which is to share what I learned from my father, and turn his life and my memories into a masterpiece.
“My Dad’s words of wisdom are instilled in me.”
I rummaged through his closet like crazy. I looked through every nook and cranny of his dresser. There it was…in the corner of his dresser, a bundle full of letters. I thought, “This must be it. There has to be a letter from Dad.” I quickly grabbed it, and looked through it, but to my disappointment, all I found were pieces of my childhood. It was a thick bundle of lost and forgotten letters that each family member wrote to Dad. Well, it certainly was special to him. I told myself, “This can’t be it. There has to be a letter from Dad. He must have left me one more bit of advice.” Then I saw it… In the very corner of his dresser, lay a rusty jar. I thought to myself, “No way! It can’t be.”
I suddenly had a flashback of myself as a child, creating a portrait of my Dad and gluing a piece of coiled up yarn to add to my masterpiece. Then I remembered watching my Dad open this gift in amazement and smiling brightly as he said, “What a nice gift!” I immediately was speechless as I held the jar in my hand. I felt a huge lump in my throat as I gasped at my sister, “I can’t believe he kept this.” She hugged me in response to the surprise I felt as we continued to clean up his room.
It took us weeks to clean up Dad’s belongings, and in the midst of all that, I was still in search of one last letter that was written just for me. However, I realized that I found something even more special than one last letter from him. I discovered that the pieces of advice he shared are already a part of who I am, and the answers I sought were already within myself.
“A magnificent being is someone we can learn from even after he or she leaves Earth.”
“Holly, you look just like your Dad.” My Mom was staring at a picture of me. I looked at it carefully. The right side of my smiling face had a large dimple, just like my Dad. Without thinking, I blurted out, “So I look like a man?” She laughed in response and said, “No, no, you have his eyes and smile.” That was the type of conversations I heard from a few of my family members and friends. As I think back upon this, I am proud to share similar features with Dad.
Every special relationship begins a certain way. A touch, a word, a conversation, a shared memory, and a warm embrace. My Dad and I had a unique relationship. I listened to him as a great authority and feared his consequences, yet immediately thought of him when I needed advice. However, I noticed something else about the relationship we had. I really valued his friendship and his undeniable love for my happiness and safety.
It’s been 5 years since my Dad passed, and I feel even closer to him than I ever had before. His words of wisdom come to me throughout my daily life, and memories of his warm hugs fill my heart and my dreams.
Life can be full of mystery, challenges, and turmoil. But the one thing that Dad taught me is that life can also be filled with joy, happiness, and triumph. Whenever I’m faced with life’s frustrations, I often think of the ocean. Then, I slowly find myself in Dad’s hometown of Pakala, Kauai having a quiet afternoon fishing with him.
This memory is clear and peaceful, and when I miss him, I often think of that moment I had with him as a little girl.
To me, a magnificent being is someone who we can learn from even after he or she leaves Earth. This magnificent person is my Dad.
I got to know my Dad even better through the course of writing this book. While growing up, I listened to his lectures and realized they were words of wisdom. I spoke about the lessons I had learned after he passed away.
I thought back upon my memories of Dad and discovered lessons from what we shared and how he lived. I heard his words and pondered upon his memory every day, and finally decided to write a story about an incredible person – my Dad. I wrote this story so the world can read about someone who was truly remarkable, so that you, too, can discover your own life lessons for living. Here is my story.
“Wow Dad, you still look the same!” I blurted out as I stared at an old black and white photo of my family, and to Dad who still had remarkably dark black hair at the age of 60. Dad was a local, Hawai’i boy of Japanese ancestry. He was an extraordinary man in my eyes, and he will forever remain in my heart. In fact, I remember thinking, “When I get older, I want to have hair like Dad’s. It’s so black, that I can count the white hairs on his head.” In fact, I remember glancing at his elementary picture and immediately exclaiming that he looked exactly the same. To me, my Dad had that “little boy” face.
While growing up, I always looked up to Dad who was much larger than me. He stood at 5 feet 10 inches, and I almost always caught him wearing a large fanny pack and a straw hat. Now I can imagine how he must have caught people off guard when he cruised around the beach like that. That scene always makes me laugh.
I would like to tell you that on the outside he looked ordinary, but he was much more than that in many ways.
“Holly, don’t you think Dad looks like this singer?” Mom said. I replied, “Yes! He looks just like him. Who is he?” She answered quickly, “That’s the Korean pop singer named Psy. He has the ‘business’ look.” I looked carefully at this man. I saw an energetic Asian with a similar haircut as Dad, who was dressed in business attire. Dad always had the sleek, neatly combed haircut, wearing a business suit when he went to the mainland for business trips. In fact, he always seemed to have a comb on hand. I thought, “Wow, Dad is even more AMAZING.”
“Never mind, just do it anyway.”
Was Dad extraordinary because he looked like the Korean singer, Psy? He certainly didn’t dance like him, although I won’t forget the night he danced with my Mom to the song, “The Twist” and the newlywed photo I saw in his album. It looked like a picture right out of a movie.
Mom had wavy hair and a nice pink dress, and Dad had his usual smooth haircut and business suit on. However, something that struck me most were their bright smiles, especially Dad’s big dimple on his right cheek. They certainly looked like one happy couple.
“Remember, hard work will pay off, and take pride in ALL you do.”
Perhaps Dad is valued as extraordinary because he sang exceptionally well. Mom always said he sounded just like Frank Sinatra when he sang, “My Way.” Well, my story explains the reasons why he upholds this title through my eyes. It all started to come together as I got to know Dad at his strongest and weakest points in life.
Dad was singing “My Way” by Frank Sinatra again, and it was 8am on a Saturday. I leaned back on my pillow and thought, “Wow, he has such a nice voice. I bet if I go over to him, we will sing our favorite duet together…“If We Hold on Together.” I quickly ran over to him in my pajamas, and listened to him sing the rest of the song. I beamed in delight as he sang.
I stared at him in awe. I really enjoyed hearing him sing those lines. I responded to his performance by smiling and clapping loudly in delight. I smiled more brightly as Dad greeted me and we sang our duet together. I sang with all my heart and I told him how nice his voice was, while he gave me a few singing pointers.
Then I began preparing to sing an old Japanese song. In response, my Dad said, “Why don’t you enter the karaoke contest?” I replied, “Really? You think I can participate? I’m too young.” “Never mind, just do it anyway,” my Dad replied. Growing up, I often heard him say those words to me whenever I showed even a hint of hesitation. I reluctantly agreed and I began to sing more than ever over the next few days. Now, I was no professional, but guess who made me feel like one? Dad. Each time I sang, he was right there explaining how well I was doing and, to keep practicing – – of course!
The day of the karaoke contest finally arrived and I remember waiting for my turn to sing as I watched the singer before me. I felt envious as I observed her confidence; however, I wasn’t nervous. I looked like a Japanese doll in my gorgeous red kimono. My hair was in a neat bun with a large hair piece stuck in it.
I sang my heart out when it was my turn. I didn’t win, but I won something even better. I felt confident and extraordinary – – like Dad, and guess what? When I got in trouble for wasting money on too many stuffed animals, I cried and sang that song loudly and proudly in my room until Mom came to see what was wrong. Dad? He must have loved hearing me sing more than he wanted to scold me.
“Live your life, as if someone found it right out of a storybook.”
Dad was an incredible storyteller. He always spoke clearly and slowly and began his stories by saying something like this, “I have a story to tell you.” I remember browsing in his office and coming across a book entitled, How to Stop Worrying, and Start Living, by Dale Carnegie. I’ve always struggled with this issue, and I read the first chapter without my Dad noticing. As I think back to this memory, I believe he struggled with this issue as well; however, he was “hard head” like me and didn’t let anything get in his way. I think he learned to stop worrying, and through the lessons he learned, he became a confident leader, a wonderful father, and of course, a great storyteller.
One of his goals was to lose weight, so he often took long walks up the sugar cane road in Pa’auilo. Oftentimes, I would remind him about the story he told us by asking him if he saw a troll on his way up the road. This popular story featured my sister and I, along with an evil troll. Depending who he was telling the story to, he either said Sheri or Holly came up with the idea of finding a big rock to throw at the troll.
I’ll never forget the time when he told us the story about the man, he met during one of his long walks. He began the story like this: “You won’t believe who I met today. I met someone who looked like Abraham Lincoln. As I was walking up the road, I saw someone very tall walking towards me.” At this point, he would pause and look in our direction to see our reactions. He began again. “It was very foggy, but as he came closer, I noticed he had a long black top hat. I just continued to walk towards him. He said ‘Hello,’ as I walked past him.”
Dad told this story with such seriousness; I was convinced it was true. I believed every word he said. My sister and I asked him all sorts of questions after he finished telling his stories, and he always had something convincing to say.
“Life’s too short to be serious all the time. You’re never too old. Add humor to your life.”
Traveling to different states was a large part of his career, and Dad always got the coolest gadgets. I feel like he was a BIG kid himself since I often found him playing with old school toys such as kendamas and slingshots, as well as magic tricks. In fact, we spent nearly an hour at the magic shop in Vegas since he was busy trying to find out the secret to a levitating trick. I remember browsing at magic kits as he learned about the secret behind a large curtain. Unfortunately, I never got to see him perform that trick. I did ask him about it though, and he responded, “That’s… a secret.”
“Look what I got kids!” That was a statement Dad often said after one of his trips. I thought, “Wow, what did he buy now?” I imagined a cool electronic gadget, but I saw something that caught me off guard. Dad smiled so brightly that I could see his teeth shine. He pulled out a small umbrella and lo and behold, he placed it on his head. We all laughed, greatly amused, as he stared at us with his umbrella hat planted firmly on his head. Mom asked him, “Are you really going to wear that?” His confident reply was, “Of course!” And sure enough, I saw him walking proudly with that umbrella hat on his morning walks and while working in the garden.
My Dad was a busy bee. However, he always treated me like I was his little girl, or in my mind, his little princess. He even chose me to come with him to Disney World and Epcot Center. At the time I thought, “Wow, it’s just going to be Daddy and me, having fun at my favorite place on Earth.” Looking back, I remember his sweaty palms as we held hands waiting for rides, smelling humidity and feeling a downpour of rain, trying new foreign food, and riding almost every single ride in Epcot. I still manage to relive those memories in my dreams.
“Work hard, and you’ll eventually get there.”
Dad always made sure he spent time with me…even if it included CHORES. I did not enjoy doing chores, but I was willing to do what it took to spend time with him at Fun Factory. He was an excellent bowler, and at the time, he had remarkable skills in earning thousands of tickets at a particular bowling game.
“Rake all of these leaves in piles. If you finish this chore, I’ll take you to Fun Factory.” Those were the famous words that I often heard from Dad, because it always resulted in me completing my chores quickly and once again, feeling like Daddy’s little girl. I quickly replied, “Sure!” and began to rake like crazy. During one of our visits to Fun Factory, I brought several bags of tickets I had collected over the years. In order to thank him for always taking me there, I got him a dartboard that went along well with the pool table he just received with the large house we bought. Next, you’ll see why he wanted a larger house in the first place.
“Being yourself is all that matters. Never mind what people think, be humble and go for it!”
I thought Dad had the easiest time reaching his goals in his careers, as well as his personal life. He was always willing to make a commitment, especially when it came to his health. In fact, Mom told me he quit smoking cigarettes “cold turkey” when my sister and I became part of his life. I was always fascinated by someone who could easily quit something without having any clear plan. As I entered my teen years, I noticed this strong, ambitious quality of his when it came time for us to move to a larger home. We now lived in Hilo and my Dad worked for the County of Hawai’i.
As I stared out the car window, the trees turned into a blur as I thought, “What should I think about during this car ride?” I always had a way of turning something boring into something exciting in my mind. Often my mind would travel to our family’s Disneyland Adventure. On this day we were driving back home to Hilo from Kona. As we were nearing Waimea, my Dad pointed to a large home on the left. I thought, “Wow, my Dad is willing to live all the way out here just so we can live in a bigger house. He is determined!” Luckily, my Mom probably convinced him to find a house in our hometown of Hilo, so we did some house hunting for the next few weeks.
We finally settled on a home that had the biggest hallway I had ever seen. As I entered the house, I saw the high ceiling, long hallway, and breathtaking chandelier. I thought to myself, “Not only could I get exercise outside, I could get exercise in this house.” My Dad once told me as I was panting frantically next to him at the dinner table, “You were just running from your room, weren’t you?” I reacted with laughter and I could tell he wasn’t scolding me since he had a large grin on his face.
I think his determination however made him a bit stubborn…which is probably why my Mom and my husband have informed me that I also have this streak of determination.
“Dad, what’s wrong with your lip?” I asked him one day as he was busy munching on his favorite snack…peanuts. I noticed his bottom lip was quite swollen. He replied, “The doctor said I have to slow down on eating this snack since I developed an allergy from eating too much of it.” I laughed in response and thought,” I didn’t know that could happen! I wouldn’t eat nuts at all if my lip looked like that!”
This stubbornness was on display when it came to my Dad’s diet. His dedication to his diet was a success since he did end up losing about 50 pounds. And this was all thanks to his stubborn streak. I imagine Dad often thinking… “Never mind what people think, I’m going to reach my goal no matter what!”
While growing up, I noticed Dad was extremely humble. He was fortunate to earn enough money to afford almost anything he wanted. However, one day I caught him coming up with innovative ideas in order to spend like a miser when it came to certain things.
“Dad, I’m going to a hairdresser,” I firmly stated. My Dad looked up in amusement and said, “Why, you don’t want me to cut your hair?” Then I thought to myself, “I think I’m getting old enough to get a professional to cut my hair,” but I replied, “Okay…you can cut my hair, Dad.”
Now, I’m not saying Dad wasn’t the best at cutting hair. I just needed a change. I could have used a different hairstyle back then. My usual hairstyle was a blunt cut with bangs. Dad was so adamant about cutting my sister’s and my hair that he even made me give it a try. We were in Costco one day and I caught him staring at a hair buzzer. He informed me, “I’m going to learn how to use this and you’re going to cut my hair.” I disagreed immediately and he responded with a shrug of misbelief and said, “Why, you can do it.” And sure enough, my Dad watched the tutorial and told me that he was going to teach me the skills I needed to buzz his hair. I reluctantly agreed to this and at first, it was quite easy. I thought, “Boy, I’m getting the hang of this.”
Just as I thought things were going well, I moved the buzzer a little too deep, and gave him a great, big rat bite at the back of his head. I abruptly stopped, and he asked me what the holdup was. In fact, I recall staring at the comb wondering if I was using the right one, while thinking, “I should just go for it like dad thought me. I uttered, “Uh, I think I did something wrong.” He took one look in the handheld mirror and said, “Aiya!” The next day he went to work and when I asked him if anyone noticed his hair, he said, “Of course people asked me about it, but it’s all right. It will grow back.” To my relief, he never asked me to buzz his hair again.
“Determine your goal and always follow through.”
Dad had a natural instinct towards my safety. His goal and determination were my happiness and safety. I went with my two best friends on the high flyer at the local County Fair during my middle school years. As I strapped myself in, I noticed the yellow “Caution” tape on the chairs next to me. I hesitated for a second, then I decided to enjoy the ride.
As the ride began, I didn’t notice how unsteady it was until I felt my seat jerk while the ride was hurling towards the ground. I screamed as I usually did during any ride, and I wasn’t worried at all. However, it was Dad’s 6th sense that informed the operator about his concern and luckily, the ride was stopped. My heart went from jumping out of my chest, and then feeling a huge weight come off my shoulders. I was safe because my dad saw an unsafe situation, and I can still remember how relieved I felt that day. And boy was I excited to tell my friends the next day.
Dad also showed great determination in his daily exercising habit. We lived in Hilo at the time, and as I prepared my breakfast, Mom frantically explained that he was coming home from the hospital since he twisted his ankle while coming out of the pool. I stared at her in disbelief and replied, “That will teach him not to swim at 4am in the morning.”
The door suddenly opened, and in walked Dad on crutches. As he sat down, I thought, “Here it comes…the lecture.” Mom began spewing out all the worries and precautions he must consider just in case he decided to swim early in the morning again. Dad nodded in response and annoyingly said, “Don’t worry, I’m fine.”
He walked around on crutches for weeks, but when I found out he was going to continue to swim at 4am as usual, I was astounded! I thought, “Wow, that fall didn’t stop Dad from continuing to swim.” Mom was surprised by his decision and I remember her asking, “Are you sure that’s a good idea?” while she proceeded to remind him about what happened.
“Never try to be someone else. Be Brilliant, be YOU. The only way you’ll learn is to make your own decisions and live with the consequences. Learn from your mistakes.”
Dad had a yearning for me to be independent. He had a fascinating way of allowing me to make my own decisions, while questioning my decision making, and ultimately forcing me to realize the lessons I’d learned. I know that sounds complicated, but believe me, I only realized recently why he approached misbehavior a certain way. I often had to ask Dad to make final decisions when it came to my curfew, and whether or not I could attend major school events.
I once wanted to change my curfew from 9:30pm to 10:30pm. I knew Dad would not be easily convinced, and I decided to write him a 3-page letter, explaining the reasons why it needed to be changed. Fortunately, my new curfew extended to 10pm, which was better than nothing. I enjoyed my new curfew, – – a little too much.
“Beep Beep Beep Beep!” The alarm was blaring in my ears as I frantically ran to the alarm system to punch in the code. “I can’t believe I didn’t make it home on time.” I thought. I glanced at my watch and noticed it was only 10:05pm. A wave of relief came to me, as I peered into the long dark hallway that appeared before me.
As I began darting towards my room, I saw a dark looming shadow sitting down at the end of the long dinner table. My heart pounded with fear as I glanced over my shoulder and saw Dad sitting there. His face read disappointment all over it. His eyes had a wide glare, and his posture was unbelievably straight. I hesitated as I sat down next to him and he began his long lecture by saying, “I am very disappointed in you.”
I endured the long lecture by looking down most of the time. I couldn’t even look him in the eye. He decided to ground me for 3 months. I finally began to get home on time after being late a few more times. I must have been grounded for a total of 9 months during my high school career.
Sleeping over at a hotel on prom night with my friends was a big deal during my senior year of high school. I first asked Mom if I could go and she quickly told me no. Still feeling hopeful, I decided to ask Dad the same question. He told me he would discuss it with Mom, and after hearing Dad tell her, “Never mind, just let her go,” my Mom reluctantly agreed.
I quickly learned that Dad was more lenient when it came to certain things. Now I realize he restricted me a lot less as I got older in order for me to gain more independence. I think Dad’s hope was that this feeling of freedom would be enough to get me to attend college at home; however, I felt I needed to live far away from the islands. Even my friends questioned, “Don’t you want to get off this rock after high school?”
“Life doesn’t need a plan. Life comes from here (points to head) but most of all – it comes from here (points to heart).
Some of Dad’s decision making seemed to be made on a whim. While growing up, I noticed my attention to detail got in the way of decision making, and it still gets in my way today. As I’m writing this book however, I am learning about Dad more than ever before. The fact that I have this natural instinct to focus on details has caused me to discover the qualities that made Dad successful. It was his ability to look beyond the details, go with his gut instinct and “Go for it,” as he used to tell me on a few occasions.
“I’m finally learning how to drive,” I thought as I drove carefully into a police station parking lot. “Of all places…a police station parking lot. Why in the world would Dad take me here?” I contemplated. “Now, park here,” Dad urgently said. I hesitated and quickly recalled my Driver’s Education teacher telling us to line up our car mirror directly with the line of the parking stall. Then immediately jerk the steering wheel to the right in order to park into the correct stall. I failed miserably as my Dad shook his head in disgust. “What are you doing?” he said. “I’m doing what I was taught. I have to line up my mirror first, then park the car,” I quickly responded.
After a few more failures of parking the car, I suddenly felt a large boil of anger erupt inside my chest. My hands were clammy, my heart was racing, and I thought to myself, “Why can’t I get this? Just park the car!” I was so flustered while Dad was about to have a nervous breakdown, but surprisingly looked calm and collected. “I can’t think!” I thought. FWUMP!!! I drove onto the curb! I realized that I pressed the gas instead of the brake. I quickly jammed my foot on the brake as we drove right near a tree. I looked up and realized that I barely missed the tree. I thought, “Boy, I’m going to hear it now.”
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING!” Dad screamed. He doesn’t scream often, but this time I heard it loud and clear. I responded, “I don’t know what happened. I’m sorry.” I gasped for air since my heart was still racing and my palms were still sweaty. I slowly reversed off the curb and Dad immediately took the driver’s seat.
Once we were calm, he began his lesson. “Now listen, all you have to do is look at the lines, and park the car into the stall. You don’t need to do all that stuff. Just drive and go for it. You can do it. Just take your time.” I listened to him with great intent and did exactly what he said. I took the driver’s seat confidently, looked for a parking stall, and just drove right into it. It was that easy. Now as I’m writing this, I am still learning valuable lessons from Dad. I can imagine him saying, “Life doesn’t need a plan. Life comes from here (points to head), but most of all – it comes from here (points to heart).” Now would I have come to realize this if I didn’t write this book? I think these lessons were instilled in me; however, now they are bursting at its seams.
“Never think your child’s too old to spend time with you.”
After graduating from high school, I began my college years at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Dad was always generous, especially when it came to food. As I reflect back to the delicious meals Dad cooked, I always think about the meals I had for breakfast. I usually had Dad’s famous “Egg Rice” or his famous bento consisting of goteborg, vienna sausage, portuguese sausage, egg with nori, and a musubi. I also recall the late-night ice cream cone I had nearly every day during my high school years. Mom would often say, “Watch out, you’ll become momona.” Momona is the Hawaiian word for fat. Dad would reply, “Nevermind.” Now I realize why he often said that word. He had a “Go get em” attitude. It’s a quality that I have, and I am still striving to reach its full potential.
The smell of Dad’s famous breakfast poured into my bedroom during my visits home from college. I could smell the ingredients of his famous bento. And behold…as I walked into the kitchen, I saw a delicious breakfast waiting for me, covered in saran wrap. To me, it was the best bento ever. My heart filled with warmth and my stomach started gurgling at just the sight of it. I ate everything up. This was the type of food he gave me as a child, and he was still trying his best to win my heart as an adult.
I became Daddy’s little girl again even after I got married. My husband was deployed, and I was busy as ever, attending classes at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo in order to earn my Masters in Education.
“Holly, do you want to go to the movies?” my Dad asked one night on the phone. I was sitting at the dinner table deciding what to prepare for one person. I was surprised to hear that question coming from Dad. I couldn’t recall when’s the last time I actually spent time with Dad so I replied, “Sure!” Dad explained that he knows I like scary movies so we both decided on the same movie together. That night I had flashbacks of my childhood years as I screamed in delight and hid my eyes during the scary scenes. I caught a few glimpses of Dad smiling and laughing at my reactions.
“Trust yourself and commit to the decisions you make.”
“You are born here, and you will die here. Do you want to live your life feeling happy or sad?”
I watched Dad rise and fall, and rise again during his moments of despair as his cancer spread; however, that did not take his spirit away. I say this with all my heart because I remember the words he said to me before he passed.
When I first found out about his cancer, I could not believe it. I thought, “How could something like this happen to Dad?” He told me it was a metastatic tumor. I remember looking up his illness and when I found out that he was talking about cancer, I just broke down into tears.
He appeared to be optimistic from that moment. However, I’ll never forget how hopeless he looked at the hospital that day. It was the first time he actually broke down and showed hopelessness like I’ve never witnessed before.
I walked slowly into the hospital room and saw Mom talking to Dad. After a short time, being the optimistic one in the family, she smiled at me to give me reassurance and left. I smiled at my Dad and gave him a big hug. To my surprise, he started to cry hysterically as he explained he did not know what to do. I didn’t know what to say. All I did was try to remain as composed and assured as my Mom was and replied, “It’s going to be okay,” I said to him. I didn’t cry, but later as I explained everything to my friend, I broke down into tears. It was a moment I will never forget. I realized I was trying to come up with a way to help someone who helped me in so many ways.
As weeks passed, Dad decided to get a huge procedure done. I remember how worried we were as Mom and I waited for his results in the hospital. Mom and I were very hopeful for his recovery. We were relieved to find out that the surgeon was able to get most of his tumor out.
We knew that there was a risk that the cancer could spread even though this procedure was successful. The doctor predicted this approach could make him live up to 5 years. I thought, “How could you make a prediction like that? He will live much longer than that!”
Thereafter, I began to do some investigating on my own and came up with several alternatives Dad could experience in order to improve his health. I looked up natural herbs and cancer treatments. I wrote him a letter that could be compared to the one I wrote about my curfew, which I hoped could possibly persuade him to use other methods I described for him. However, as you know…once Dad made a decision, he stuck with it. He replied in a long email explaining the reasons for his decisions. I read that email while having a huge lump of sadness in my throat.
During his last few days, I continued to believe that he would become healthy once again. However, I’m so grateful for my husband who has witnessed near death experiences while being deployed in the army. It was like he instinctively knew Dad would not live much longer, and he informed me to visit him before it’s too late. I even told my husband I wanted to eat one last meal with just him, but reconsidered my decision as I was usually hesitant when it came to making my own decisions.
During our last long conversation, Dad told me he felt certain about his decision to end all treatments. He told me something I would never forget. He reassuringly said, “You are born here, and you will die here. Do you want to live your life feeling happy or sad?” It was from that moment that I decided I would not be ordinary, but become extraordinary just like my Dad.
Fortunately, my last wish of eating with Dad somewhat came true since I got to serve his last meal, which was Mom’s delicious spaghetti at home. I served him generous portions of food and I watched him devour it. That made me smile, and I know that’s all he wanted.
Mom was incredibly positive throughout the entire ordeal of taking care of Dad before she turned to Hospice for his care. She was the glue that held our family together as we all tried to accept Dad’s decline in his health. As Dad took his last breath, Mom was right by his side and she told him, “Namo Amida Butsu.”
After Dad passed, I had numerous dreams about him that I have recorded the moment I woke up. One dream in particular stands out. Dad and I are in a restaurant, eating and smiling during a meal.
Despite all the obstacles my Dad endured, he lived a full life. He learned to accept the fact that there was nothing he could do about his illness. He also knew he was fortunate enough to make preparations for his passing by finishing his bucket list, and making a list of who would be receiving his prized possessions. He was making the most out of a bad situation and he was looking at the bright side. During his cancer treatments, he went to Vegas for a class reunion, and took a trip with the grandkids to Japan and Disneyland. He didn’t let anything get in his way, and he even got an electric wheelchair to use in Disneyland. In fact, it was quite funny when I saw Dad almost reverse into someone while leaving the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. He loved the fact that his immobility made it easy for us to get to every ride early.
Learn with confidence, and you will put forth this skill in everything you do. Display your skills as a masterpiece and you will shine. Tell your stories with conviction and patience. Build joy in every single situation and every person you share experiences with.
Writing this book has given me insight into Dad’s life. Dad has given me unforgettable lifelong lessons and values I apply in my life. He enters my life when I need him most, and remains a voice I call on even though he is only spiritually here.
It’s been over 5 years since Dad passed, and when I think about him, a smile and a gentle sense of warmth surrounds me. I picture him laughing, sharing stories, and singing. He is like the Buddha surrounding me with light and love.
As I strum my ukulele and sing my heart out to my Dad’s favorite song, “My Way,” I wish dearly for my Dad to be right here beside me. However, my Dad’s love will never leave me. He is encouraging me as I write my stories and teach my students. His love surrounds me, and I come to realize that every moment of life needs to be cherished no matter how small it may seem.
My Father was born on August 2, 1948 on the island of Kauai. His home was located in the Pakala Camp, which was part of the Gay and Robinson Sugar Plantation. While growing up, his parents held a multitude of jobs. His father was a carpenter, painter, and he later moved up to be the plantation electrician. His mother was a practical nurse at Betsui Hospital, a private nurse to the Robinson Family, a dental assistant, and later worked at the Waimea Dispensary.
During his childhood, he picked kiawe tree bean pods for the plantation, and as a teenager, he was a yard worker for the Robinson family. After graduating from Waimea High School, he attended Central Washington University and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting.
He began his career in a new audit position at Haskins and Sells in Honolulu. Meanwhile, he got married and became a Certified Public Accountant. A few years later, he became an Internal Auditor at Hawaiian Electric Company and later worked at Theo H. Davies and Co. After having 2 kids, he became a Controller at Hamakua Sugar Company, and eventually became the Company’s Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer.
The family moved to Hilo once he became the Finance Director of the County of Hawaii, and then a Managing Director for the Mayor. Thereafter, he became the Owner’s Representative, and finally a Consultant at Puna Geothermal Venture.
In addition to having a successful career, he was involved in numerous community projects and organizations. He held positions such as the Kyodan President for Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii and the President of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce. He was also a board member of W.H. Shipman, Ltd. and served on the Hawaii Island Economic Development Board. He became a University of Hawaii Board of Regent in 2011 and helped raise $10 million for Hospice of Hilo.
About the Author and Illustrator:
This is the first published book I have written and illustrated. It includes the lessons I’ve learned from my father, and illustrations I have drawn from photographs and loving memories.
I live on the Big Island of Hawaii, and I am an elementary teacher. I have 2 wonderful sons, and we often spend time doing crafts and participating in sports. In my spare time, I enjoy singing, playing the ukulele, running, and writing.
As a child, I always enjoyed writing about my life. I remember taking a diary with me on almost every family trip. Reading and listening to stories were also an enjoyable activity for me as a child. One of my favorite places was sitting in a walk-in closet that had an assortment of books to choose from. I browsed the shelves and read for hours.
As an adult, I often listen to audiobooks while running and share my own written stories with my children and students. Writing is my hobby and I look forward to publishing more books in the future.
Prompt: June 2022 Year of the Tiger Bamboo Shoots Writing Contest Prompts