Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Fathers and Sons

Part of what makes studying the era right after the war so endlessly fascinating to me is that it provides an excuse to look at the things that shaped my parents - mostly my father, really, because like my most men my age, I found my father completely unknowable.  Will Ferrell, hosting SNL at the end of last season, did a mock actor-y monologue spoofing the adult son's bitter monologue to his dying and silent father.  It was brilliant and hilarious, but it was so damn close to the monologue I wrote (and eventually performed) in INNOCENT WHEN YOU DREAM that my response changed from amused appreciation to "OmigodIwanttodierightnow!"

But I'll cut myself some slack - I'm not alone in my unresolved feelings and what the hey, every attempt to understand our parents is an attempt to understand ourselves, and in the case of many ethnic folks, it's an attempt to understand the collective WE.

An old friend from San Francisco, Randall Nakano, wrote to me last week.  We'd acted together in a few plays at the Asian American Theater Company - he was a bit older than me and had a little girl.  I saw him at an audition once with his little girl upon whom he doted and who clearly adored him, and I thought:  "Man.  I want me one of them daughters, that looks like that would be so cool."  Wish granted.   I lost touch with Randall after we moved to LA, so it was so good to hear from him for so many reasons.  I asked him if I could share with you part of what he wrote, and he graciously assented:  It's a story about him and his father:

  "Very excited (thrilled) to hear you're adapting John
  Okada's 'No-No Boy' for the stage.  It was a major, significant read in my
  life. It was a story that spoke to me deeply.  To this day it connects me
  to my father.
  I remember like it was just yesterday when I,  just out of college
  unfairly, self-righteously, insensitively,
  stupid-youthfully, confronted him of
  why he allowed the govt. to incarcerate him and all the
  other Nisei men andwomen.  The hippy son, middle-class comfortable,
  pseudo-firebrand social/political activist, self-righteous in his
  indignation, indirectly accusing his proud father of being weak, pathetic, wrong to
  allow such a violation; so unfair of me, such naiveté and lack of
  knowledge and understanding.  My dad died too young at 62.  I never had
  a chance to  apologize to him for my callowness .

When my sister and I
were going through his things to keep, discard, etc. we came across in
  his wallet, a
  creased, folded, scrap of paper, like a treasured, secret keepsake. It was the
  questions from the loyalty questionnaire cut out from
  the other pages.  It was like he carried it as a burden to
  bear or a cross to carry.  Dad had just gotten married, mom was pregnant
  with their first child, he had a job with the Calif. Board of Equalization
  (an unheard of gig for an oriental in those times of discrimination) when the
  war broke out and  their world crumbled and tumbled into a camp in Colorado.
 I know it’s current to say that Asian American literature should move
  on from the internment, “anti”-sentiments, and the victims who bear the  scars
  of the 20th century.
  But the process results in the progress. We’re experiencing it now..."

I so totally agree, Randy.

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