I've been dreading writing this blog post for many reasons. As a blogger, it is a strange thing for people I've never met to know personal details about my sexuality. I feel like I've come to terms with that piece, but it's always a fine line of what constitutes too personal.
I lost my mom in 2009 after a long illness. It was horrible and traumatic, but she had been sick for so long that I was able to begin processing her passing before it occurred. Don't get me wrong, I was a mess after her passing and I still continue to mourn the loss of her.
My full disclosure is that I am the baby of the family, and I have always had a different experience with my parents than my older siblings. I have such a strong recollection of realizing they would actually die when on one of our regular road trips. I remember breaking down and sobbing at the thought of them not being in my life. I think I must have been around 8 or 9 years old at the time.
Almost everyone who met me had thought at one time or another that my parents were a weird couple. My mom was unruly, generous, emotional, and both good crazy and bad crazy. On the other hand, my dad was more stoic, intellectual, soft spoken, and super well regarded as a top notch anesthesioligst. The fact that, at 79, people still wanted him on their medical teams says so much about his love for his work.
A few months ago my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. It was quite the shock to everyone in my family because he has never been sick. The reason he went to the doctor (and remember that doctor's generally hate seeing doctors in a personal medical way) was because he was having difficulty breathing while walking on his treadmill. I'm ashamed to admit that my 79 year old father was way more active than I am.
I can't even imagine how difficult it was for him to 1) quit doctoring after 52 years, and 2) come to terms that he was given a devastating medical diagnosis. As a doctor himself, he knew the exact outcome of his diagnosis.
Cancer is a tricky illness. Some people outwardly show obvious signs of illness. My father did not. I spent some time with him after I found out about his diagnosis and remember thinking to myself "Damn, he totally doesn't even seem or look sick!" We walked his regular 2 to 3 mile loop every morning, went to some doctor's appointments, and I left him thinking that I was certain he would be around for years.
He very suddenly passed away last week. My whole family is in shock, but he was at home and not alone when he passed. Due to my husband's new diagnosis (I'm not ready to talk about it), I was not able to fly down to help my family with the aftermath of a sudden death.
My dad was a very proud and dignified man. He had been a care taker for my mom during her illness which lasted about 8 years. The slow but obvious decline of her health was heartbreaking to everyone. I know that my dad would not wish to go through the same process as my mom.
I haven't much talked about my dad because he was such a fiercely private person. He was a great role model for me growing up, and I got to see first hand that men could be loving, respected, super intelligent, and resilient.
If you don't know much about how the Japanese Americans were treated during WWII, I highly suggest you do a little a research. My father, who was born in America, and the rest of his family were re-located to an internment camp during the war. My dad's side of the family was doing quite well as farmers. They had over 35 acres of land when they were given their orders for re-location. My dad and his siblings along with his parents (American born), and grand parents were shuttled off to Idaho. They were only allowed to take what they could carry, and nothing else. When they arrived at Idaho, they were given a single converted horse stable which became their home for the next 4 years. 9 people in one tiny stable is almost impossible for me to wrap my head around. Everyone ate in a chow hall and there were only communal bathrooms.
My great grandfather (and the first Toyooka to emigrate from Japan) passed away in the internment camp due to the lack of medical services. This memory stayed with my father and I believe had a huge impact on him going on to become a physician.
When my dad's family returned from the internment camp they found that all but 3 or 4 acres of land had been taken over or sold. Their belongings were looted, but thankfully they had some neighbors who offered to hold some of their things for safe keeping.
The internment camps were not easy on anyone who were re-located. I was so fascinated by this horrible stain in American history that I went on to write my undergraduate thesis on the sociological impact the internment had on Japanese Americans.
I believe the way my father coped with the internment was to become as assimilated as possible into the American culture. He spoke very broken Japanese, graduated from medical school, and completely left the west coast. He met my mom--who happened to have blond hair and blue eyes--because she was working as a nurse at the same hospital with my dad.
The real gift my dad gave me was making me aware that there were other men out there who were "Renaissance Men". On top of being respected and well regarded amongst the medical community, my father knew something about everything. He was a voracious reader, listened to classical and opera music, had an enormous wine collection, appreciated fine food, and basically knew how to fix anything. I used to say that he was a bit of a walking encyclopedia and this was decades before the internet became commonplace.
When I was younger, I used to worry that I would never find a man to marry who had the same type of desirable qualities my dad was known for. I wasn't sure other men like that existed, but was completely shocked when I met my husband. In more ways than one, he is very similar to my father. I knew I had found a keeper when it was easy for my dad to tell me how incredibly smart my husband is. He had never said that about any of my previous boyfriends. In fact, I am quite certain that my previous boyfriends were always intimidated by my dad. He was not a big or tall man by any means. What he was, however, was quiet, and soft spoken, and this combination made many people uncomfortable.
My father defied everything people assume about the elderly. He continued to be sought out as a doctor, basically served as my sister's handyman (he walked around with a multi-meter) and computer expert (he set up and monitored their wireless connection), and adored his grand-kids. I can't even begin to describe how much they loved him.
I feel like my dad was taken from all who loved him way too soon. I know he was aware of how much I loved him, and knew how much he loved me. Losing both parents in under 4 years is just plain cruel.
I didn't get the chance to say goodbye, which will eat me up in side for what seems like forever. I am so thankful and proud he was my father. My heart is breaking, and I feel like I will never be whole again.
I've been crying through out the writing of this blog post. I know it is super personal and might make you uncomfortable. This is one of the only ways I know how to process what has happened in less than a week.
Here are a few of my favorite pictures of me and my dad at my wedding in 1995.