A Family Hero

Our Tuesday Fox asked, “Is there a certain ancestor that you wish you could travel back in time to spend a year with? What do you hope to learn? Why that relative?”  

At first I thought I’d already written a blog post about this topic, but then I discovered that the question posed three years ago by our resident hound actually asked for the names of three people with whom we would like to take a long road trip. Here’s a link to that POST. One of my choices back then was my paternal grandfather, and since I obviously haven’t been able to meet with Grandpa, I figured I’d revisit that fantasy. I remember each of my daughters had a special bond with my dad, and my granddaughter loves her Boppa. I would have loved to get to know my ojiisan.

Having a full year to spend with him would be great for a couple of reasons. My dad told me that his father had a bit of a temper, so I guess I’d be able to space out my questions a bit and avoid annoying him, especially when he was painting. Another reason is that I have so many questions, starting with these:

Grandpa’s diploma from the Imperial School of Art in Tokyo, 1914

Did you miss your homeland? Once Grandpa graduated from the Imperial School of Art in Tokyo in the early part of the 20th century, he left Japan sometime after 1910 and never returned. He had parents and siblings there, and I wonder how close he’d been to them. I wanted to visit his hometown of Sendai when I visited the country in 2010, but wasn’t able to do so (I wasn’t able to persuade mom that I could do it on my own, despite the language barrier). And then a year later, much of the area was devastated in the nuclear disaster and following tsunami, so I have no idea if family and or records still remain.

Grandma is near the front of the line, holding my dad’s hand.

How did you deal with the difficulties during the Great Depression and WWII? The 1930s were a tough time for most Americans, and for Dad’s family it was compounded by the fact that his dad suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and was eventually confined to a wheelchair. This made my grandmother the main breadwinner, and she worked hard cleaning, sewing, and doing whatever she could. This is a picture of her, with her two boys, in line for assistance. I would imagine that Grandpa’s ego must have been bruised. How did he cope? During WWII, the family was able to remain in their home, though they were fingerprinted and followed. Did they suffer other injustices from their neighbors, or as they went about their business?

Who was the mysterious French woman? Did you plan to return to her? Four years ago, when we cleared out my parents’ home to sell it, we found a box of letters stashed in the basement. They were written in French. My niece, having lived in Luxembourg and studied the language, read them and revealed that they were from a woman with whom Grandpa had a very close relationship while he studied art in Paris (before he came to America). Apparently, she was waiting for him to return to her, and each consecutive letter showed a greater sense of despair after not hearing from him. I’m assuming he stopped corresponding after he married my grandmother, but I’d love to know more about her. And it would be interesting to find out why the letters were kept!

Grandpa playing the shakuhachi that I have now.

Will you teach me? According to my dad, Grandpa taught painting lessons, though I’m not certain if they were classes or private lessons. Among the treasures in my parents’ garage I found several books on drawing people, and a pile of unfinished sketches and watercolors from that treasure trove still reside in my basement. Since they’re not signed, I have no way of knowing whether or not they’re his work, but I’d love to find out if I could be taught to create something visually pleasing. I have no delusions of coming close to the paintings and murals he did, but I’d love to have some insight into his process. He was also a talented musician, so I’d love to play some duets with him!

Angela’s third question was “Why did I choose this relative?” As Japanese Americans, our family has experienced its share of problems, distrust, skepticism, and outright hatred. Fortunately, we’ve always had friends who surrounded us with their support and love. According to Dad, there were good people who protected his family during difficult times, but I know there had to be inner strength from within, and I’m assuming a lot of that came from Grandpa. That’s what I’d love to experience. 

About Patricia Kiyono

During her first career, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary music, computer classes, elementary classrooms, and junior high social studies. She now teaches music education at the university level. She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband, not far from her five children, nine grandchildren (so far), and great-granddaughters. Current interests, aside from writing, include sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking, and music. A love of travel and an interest in faraway people inspires her to create stories about different cultures. Check out her sweet historical contemporary romances at her Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Patricia-Kiyono/e/B0067PSM5C/
This entry was posted in blessings, decisions, experiences, Family, history, Patricia Kiyono, What if and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to A Family Hero

  1. Well, WOW! Your grandfather was an interesting man and the Mysterious Frenchwoman is quite a mystery. I am surprised that you haven’t thought of taking that ball and running with it in a story.
    One of my grandfathers will probably be my choice, but you have me so intrigued,I would like to choose YOUR grandfather to spend time with.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      I actually have considered writing a story based on the Frenchwoman. I managed to retrieve a pile of those letters from the dumpster, even though I can’t read them. I’m sure your grandfathers have intriguing stories, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jeff Salter says:

    Sounds like the grist for several terrific new stories… starting with that relationship with the French woman. I’m glad that some of this books and drawings survive… it’s a shame to not be positive the drawings are his, but it seems pretty logical (to me) that he wouldn’t have kept them if not his own work.


    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      You know what they say … authors never need to solicit ideas for new stories! We’ll probably keep most of the paintings, at least those that haven’t been damaged from being stored in my parents’ humid, dusty garage.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I can understand your desire to spend time with this ancestor. So many question go unanswered through the years.

    The maternal ancestor of mine I’d love to spend a year with would be my grandmother Ida. She came to this country from Finland as a teenager back in the 1800’s (don’t remember the date, but my mother was born in 1905, and I was born in 1945, so you can see the time span. Grandma married my grandfather Matt, raised 10 children (my mother was still a baby – the last one born – when he died), and then grandmother remarried my step-grandfather, who had 5 children, and they had three more together. They had the biggest farm in the county (or whatever it was called back then) while American Indians roamed freely. I have so many questions. LOL

    On my paternal side, I’d love to spend a year with my father’s parents who migrated to this country from Ireland (Ulster, I believe), also in the 1800s. My father hardly ever spoke of his family for some reason, but I know he was the last born after 4 sisters.

    A genealogy on my paternal side of the family is in my plans to satisfy my curiosity about my ancestors. One quicky geneology on the O’Conaill name (from which Connell derives) was done by me at least 20 years ago. In a research of my own, I did find our family crest from before the O’ was dropped from Connell. It shows a hart and a suit of armor. Interesting, don’t you think? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      It’s so true about the endless questions for our ancestors! I have many I would love to have asked my dad while I had the chance. Your grandmother Ida sounds like she’d be a good choice to spend time with, but with 18 kids, I wonder that she had time to breathe! How nice that you found your family crest. My husband has his from the Scottish side of his family. And I think there’s a Japanese one for each of my parents. I should look them up and share them with my siblings and kids.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Elaine Cantrell says:

    Your grandfather is an amazing choice. I bet he would be so interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

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