Towards the end I remember once when my mother was in the hospital and I thought my father and I should go visit her there. He didn't want to go, which I thought was a little strange. It was a little drizzly outside, so I got out the North Face windbreaker I'd given him. When we got to the hospital, White Memorila, I think, I had to help get the jacket on him and zip it up. There's was a short walk from the parking structure to the hospital itself. Every step he took was pained and labored; I hadn't realized how weak he'd become. That was why he didn't want to go. By this time it had become a herculean task for him, but he made it. He was glad to see Mom when we finally got to the room. Later I took him to lunch at a Ramen restaurant in what is now the Mitsuwa shopping center in Little Tokyo. He enjoyed it. I kept that jacket and I remember that time when I see it.
remember my last motorcycle ride with my Dad. I can't remember exactly
when it was nor where. He was riding the BMW LS-650. I think I was
riding the R-100S which used to be his pride and joy. Since it was the
650, it must have been before 1991, since that's when I rode the 650 to
Fort Knox. I think we went somewhere out into the desert since I
remember it was pretty barren. He was starting to have the problem with
what he thought was his throat where he thought he was choking. It may
have been the early
He had become weary of the world. He told me how miserable he was. All of his friends were gone, and everything was painful now. It was such a change from the tough guy I'd known, who never complained and wasnt bothered by pain.
My father grew up on a farm near one of the gates of Camp Pendleton. At least that is the second place. There was another place where his family lived before that. Both places are covered by subdivisions now. Even the lake near the last place is gone.
Dad had a favorite dog, a spitz, that he always talked about. He had to abandon him when his family was sent away to camp. I thought it was strange that he never got another dog until long afterwards. With some exceptions, the dogs he liked were always ones with twisted personalities, with definite anti-social qualities. Morgan was a Miniature Schnauzer he got from his niece. Morgan had been the runt of the litter, and was trying to make up for it. The last one is Sneakie (real name Subie) who is some kind of ersatz Australian Shepherd. She was a classic shy dog, who was, and is, fearful of everything and basically lived as a wild animal, always ready to bite to protect her privacy. She was declared untrainable by a professional dog trainer, but I eventually caught her enough times, at great personal risk, so that she became tame enough to hold. In his last years my father enjoyed sitting with her, although I always had to catch her so that she would do that.
On the other hand, Harley, a super-sized Australian Shepherd, was one of the best dogs I have known. My parents got him as a rescued dog somewhere in Pasadens. Harley was good-natured and friendly, which was a definite exception.
My father loved any kind of machinery. He said his ideal life would be to live on a big farm with an equipment shed full of farm machinery. In his early days he belonged to the Buzzards chapter of the Rosetta Timing Society, which participated in time trials. I saw a picture of him racing his jalpy once, but the program the picture was in was destroyed when rain leaked into the garage. Later he raced go-karts and built a ski boat completely from scratch.
Another phase was dirt bikes, which steadily escalated in size and power. He sustained a chest injury on his Suzuki 400 that he thought bothered him later in life. Later he got into road bikes and he used to go touring around L.A with my mother on the back.
When he was young Dad took shop classes in high school and wanted to be an aircraft mechanic. During the Concentration Camp experience he tried to learn to operate as many different kinds of machinery as possible. He volunteered to go work on one of the construction groups that built Posten. Among other thing he operated a D8 Catepillar using a drag chain with another cat to clear the land for farming near the water. Later he drove a semi-truck that delivered supplies to the camp and on the side boot-legged liquor to the Indian reservation.
When the loyalty questionnaire came out he answered no to question no. 27, that he would not serve in the armed forces since he had been thrown out of the Sand Diego Marine Corps Depot when he tried to volunteer after Pearl Harbor. He answered yes to question 28 which was about loyalty, but did give some other heart burn because of the poor wording. Unlike some of the other camps, answers to this questionnaire and protests in general were not treated with severity. Also, I believe my father said that the sheriff from his home town vouched for him. Later when the government started drafting from the camps, my father went for his medical check at the induction center. The doctors thought that he had taken a big dose of soy sauce, as was the common practice, to simulate high blood pressure and become 4F. They kept him overnight to retake his blood pressure the next day and found that it was still high. They told him he would probably die in his 40s, but he made it to 83. That plus the early deaths of his brothers caused him to be unprepared for old age, since he never thought he would live to be old.
After the war he lived on Skid Row in downtown L. A. since that was all he could afford and probably one of the few places that a Japanese American could find a place. He was still bitter long after that it was other Japanese Americans who robbed him and took everything he had. Eventually he got a break from a white guy who taught him to be an automotive machinist. Later he got a break from Sam Miyakawa who told him he could use some space in his commercial garage to start a machine shop. This he did in a partnership, and it was where he worked till he retired.
My father liked working on engines, so he was probably one of the few people happy in his job. The shop found a niche rebuilding forklift and tug motors, with occasional auto engines for Sam’s shop and others. He said about half the time he wasn’t paid for his work, or he had to use a collection agency.
The work was tough but it was probably good for him and probably kept him alive longer than if he hadn’t done it. These days people pay large fees to lift steel in fancy health spas. My father was doing that everyday in his shop. He thought that the heavy work ruined his body. His generation didn’t make a connection between health and exercise. After he retired, his health went down dramatically. The use of pneumatic tools, plus all the motorcycles, go-karts, and racing cars destroyed his hearing. Towards the end he was pretty much deaf, especially since he didn’t want to use his hearing aids, but I don’t think they did much anyway. Diabetes, brought on from genetics and a severe sweet tooth, destroyed his vision. With sight and hearing diminished, and all of his friends gone, my father became very isolated.
Since vehicles were his life, losing his drivers license probably did him in. His vision, judgement, and reactions were poor and it was probably the best for society. There were sometimes when he scared the heck out of me and thought he was going to him some pedestrians. He had always defined his life in terms of machines, and driving was his last solace. Driving him around was a trial since he was very frustrated and complained and cursed now that he was no longer in control.
Last Update: 26 March 2009
Web Author: Doug Ikemi