Not until his funeral did I begin to realize how much of Dad’s life I had misjudged. I was too busy rebelling, even at age 37, which is how old I was when he died on his 61st birthday.

But I got a glimpse of the man I couldn’t see when several members of a Japanese-American family unexpectedly attended his funeral. We had no idea who they were or why they were there.

One of us Euro-American mourners approached them after the service, and we learned the Japanese-American family had owned a grocery store in our Portland, Oregon, neighborhood. But it had been more than 25 years since we had moved away from the area and 34 years since the incident that prompted their attendance at his funeral.

During World War II, they had been forced to relocate from Portland to an internment camp. (Imprisoning families of other ethnicities is a measure of our chronic barbarism.) After their release in 1945, Dad was the first to welcome them home. It seems a simple act, yet it had great meaning for them, and their gratitude lasted his lifetime.

This was the man the Japanese-American family saw, and it is to them that I owe the prompt for a larger view of his life.

 

Richard LeBlond

Richard LeBlond is a retired biologist living in North Carolina. His essays and photographs have appeared in many U.S. and international journals, including Montreal Review, Redux, Compose, Concis, Lowestoft Chronicle, Trampset, and Still Point Arts Quarterly. His work has been nominated for “Best American Travel Writing” and “Best of the Net.”

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