Wednesday, December 07, 2011

What enemy will we marry next?

kw: national events, memorials, sociology

In early 1941, realizing that war between Japan and the United States was getting ever more likely, a Japan-born naturalized American citizen, who had lived in California for twenty years, took his wife and two daughters to Japan. Were there a war, he expected Japan to win. A few years later his wife died of TB and, during the last year of the war, he remarried. Early in 1946 their daughter was born, who grew into the woman I married in 1975. But before that, when the little girl was barely three, the man divorced his wife and returned to America, with his two other daughters, to marry again, but he had no more children.

Another Japanese man, a soldier in the war of the Pacific, lost his wife soon after the war. He had two young boys. He met the divorcée and married her; they blended the families. He it was who actually raised my future wife.

A key element here is that the girl's natural father had returned to the U.S. When she was a young working girl, she saved enough money to visit him in California. A second visit a few years later led her to decide to remain, and a year after that she and I met. I find it strange that, nearly thirty years before we married, her stepfather and my father were in the same region, fighting on opposite sides in the war. I did not get to know him well, as he spoke no English, but we had a cordial relationship for the very few weeks we spent together. He died more than ten years ago.

Today, the seventieth anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack (and a coincident attack near Manila), carries great significance to my father and his generation. It is before my time, and my wife's time, so the event of greatest significance to the two of us has been her decision to reside in America, which has led, so far, to 36 years together.

Just five years after we married, Mount Saint Helens in Washington state erupted, devastating many square miles of landscape. It took just a few years for new life to take root in and through the ash and lava, and begin to reclaim the landscape. I liken the thriving relationship of my wife and myself, and our son, now in his mid-twenties, to new life that arose from the devastation the volcano. We were born in the aftermath of war, though in truth, her country was much more devastated than mine, and our fathers suffered their own traumas. Life is tough and tenacious. I wonder what we will find, a generation from now, in the aftermath of two current wars and another one or two that are on the horizon.

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