Tuesday, December 7, 2010

To Commemorate Pearl Harbor

(For my father, Bill, who was raised in upstate New York and died before seeing me publish one thing. To my Father-in-law Hideo who was actually in the cane fields when the Zero's flew over and to my husband who took this small-town girl and landed her on an island with such beauty, you have to see it to believe it.) NOTE: I did my best to tell the historical events accurately. Please forgive me if something is off.

“Grampa let me help you with that tie.” 

James said the name as if the ‘pa’ in Grandpa was almost an afterthought. That’s the way they’d always said it in Rochester. Probably said it the same way in the entire state of New York.

“What, I can’t fix my own tie?” Grandpa shoved James’s hands away from his neck and turned toward the bathroom mirror. “Why you ever did such a thing, to get married to this—”

“Her name is Tomika, Grampa, and though she may look Japanese, she’s as American as—”

“Apple pie, yea, yea.” Grandpa gave his tie a final tug. “If this is what you want, then I won’t say nothing. But if you ask me, if she looks Japanese and talks Japanese—”

“Grampa, she was raised in Hawaii, she can’t help her accent. That’s the way everyone talks there.”

“You call that English?" Grandpa's held out his hand as if begging for a dime. "My grandmother, God rest her soul, was from Germany and she spoke with less of an accent then your so-called American girl.”

James took a deep breath, filling his lungs with the rose-scented air freshener hiding on the back of the toilet under a crocheted doily doll.  “All I know is if you go and make a scene in front of her mother... All I’m saying is don’t make a scene.”

The door creaked open and a beautiful, dark-haired woman poked her head through the crack. “James. You gonna make da kine toas-? Auntie and Mamma is waiting, yeah. Oh nice tie Grandpa Levine.”

Grandpa’s grunt sounded more like a non-committing bullfrog.

“I’ll make the toast in a minute, Tomi. Grampa was just giving me some last minute advice.”

“Okie-dokie, then.”

The door shut.

“See what I’m saying?” Grandpa shoved his hands toward the door. “That was English?”

“Gramps, I can’t stay in here all day arguing. It’s done. We’re married already. Move on.”

“Wait ‘till my old shipmates here this. They’ll roll over in their graves.” Grandpa’s wagging finger moved closer to his face. James wrapped his own fingers around them. “Pearl Harbor was not so long ago.” 

“Grampa.” James released Grandpa’s hand. “She’s from Pearl.”

“I’m telling you in those days… What?”

“Tomika’s family is from Maui and moved to Oahu after the war. Her own father was in the cane fields when the Zero’s flew over his head for pete’s sake.”

“What? Her father was on the Island. And I should know this how?”

James dusted imaginary lint off his grandfather’s shoulders. “If you had been listening to the stories her Auntie was telling, instead of grousing in the corner, you would have learned a lot of things about Tomika’s family.”

Grandpa’s wrinkled mouth creaked open as if on rusty hinges.

“Her grandparents were not allowed to even fight for their own country, forced into the holding camps on the mainland. They lost their home. Their market. Their way of life. You remember those stories don’t you Grampa? Encampments. Tula Lake. Executive Order 9066? The Masaru family was treated like traitors and yet here they are…completely un-embittered at the people responsible for their hardship.” James released his breath. “You can go on holding grudges Grampa, but she’s the one here with all the rights to them.”

James turned away, his hand on the knob when he felt a gentle tug on his arm. “Wait a minute. Just…just hold on. Give me a moment.”

“What else is there to say, Grampa?”

Grandpa released him and went to sit on the edge of the bathtub. His shoulders slumped forward as he laced his fingers together. “I had just finished my last rounds at 07:55 before we were to change over. I saw the rising sun emblem on the tip of the Zero moments before I saw my first blast. The sky filled with black smoke, bullet-like tubes dropped like rain, submerging everything into an inferno.”

James moved toward the toilet and slowly crouched on the lid.

“We were ordered to get underway.” Grandpa slid his hands down his thighs and capped over his knees. “We tried to make it out of the channel but were hit by one of the bombs. Unable to make it to open water, we ran the Nevada aground on Hospital Pointe. Couldn’t take the chance of blocking the fleet’s escape. Abandon ship was called. Oil covered the surface of the water, men jumped overboard despite the flames.” Grandpa held his arm up. James remembered the terrible scares. “We kept swimming.”

Grandpa looked up, tears clouded his eyes. 

“I watched them jump from the rails. I heard the screams of men on fire. I held the hand of a shipmate that would never walk again. I closed the eyes of a man who would never see his newborn son.”

Grandpa continued, his throat sounding tighter. “To say Tomika and her family has the right to be offended…so maybe it’s true. We’ve all lived through tribulations of other’s making. I guess…I forgot what that was like.”

“Grampa, I—”

Grandpa held his hand up then covered James’s left knee with it. “You’re right, Jimmy. I had no right. This was supposed to be a day full of love and celebration, not hashing the past. Especially a past I thought I had given up.”

James covered Grandpa’s hand with his own. “Maybe December seventh was a poor choice for getting married, huh?”

Grandpa smiled then patted his hand before standing. “Maybe it was the best day in the world for it. Gives me a new reason to look toward it now.”

James stood up and went into his Grandpa’s open arms. The bands that wrapped round him still held the strength of a young man and a love that reached beyond the pain. “I love you Grampa.”

“Same to you, James.”

Grandpa released him and James reached for the tissue box near the vanity. He wiped his eyes while Grandpa pulled out his own kerchief. “Tomika’s waiting for the toast, Grandpa. We’d better go join them.”

Grandpa blew into his handkerchief. “Yea, yea.”

James tossed the tissue into the trash then straightened his jacket. “How do I look?”

“Like the man who pulled me from the burning bay. Like an angel.”

“Ahh, don’t let Tomika hear you talking like that. She might get jealous.” James patted Grandpa’s back as he walked out the door in front of him. Ready to face his new comrades.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Looking for Guest.

This is a picture of me and my mentor, Susan May Warren, at the ACFW this year. She is holding the Mentor of the Year award and boy does she deserve it! She is one of the best instructors I have ever had the privilege to learn from. If you have an opportunity to attend one of her retreats, do yourself a favor and  GO! Here's a link to her Deep Thinkers retreat in Florida this March.

Okay. So here's the thing. I'm looking for guest bloggers to come on from time to time. Send me a comment if you would like to try this out.

Merry Christmas!