My Father’s Journey

My father died 14 years ago from yesterday. He was 61.

He was the youngest of 5 children, but 9 years younger than his closest sibling. He felt like his parents did not pay much attention to him, and that he was raised by the wife of his oldest brother. He wondered if his life was a mistake.

He was a highly intelligent man with journalistic curiosity about culture, religion and human behavior. He started out as a regular “salary man” because he didn’t know what else to be. He converted to Christianity in his early 20s. He spent his early 40s as an expat in Brazil, and after that in his mid life crisis left his corporate job and enrolled in a seminary. Such a career suicide was rather unheard of for Japanese men of his generation. He went back to Brazil the 2nd time, this time as a pastor to a small Japanese-speaking church, but he realized that being a pastor wasn’t really his calling either. He struggled with depression and eventually developed ALS. But he published 3 books, the latter 2 self published. They were collections of his essays observing the South American cultures, politics and religions. Not exactly a high-interest topic for general Japanese population. But his books are his legacy, and I am glad to have them.

I think the man was ahead of his time. Self publishing 20 years ago in Japan? There were just no jobs or roles that fit his interests and temperament — the closest I can think of is a history, anthropology or religion professor. There was no mentor to guide him through his career explorations. I think it took so much out of him to pull off that career switch, even though he had full support of his wife. But still I can only imagine his dismay when he tossed aside so much to follow a hunch, or faith, only to land somewhere and realize it’s just another step in the journey, not the destination. I think he lost hope and gave up on life.

But he was an amazing father to me. If he didn’t receive much attention, he totally righted that wrong, for I received his attention. He was always so curious and fascinated with me, how different I was from him. He lamented how he couldn’t counsel me because he couldn’t understand me but it was still very clear he loved me and was proud of me. I think he would listen to my single I released yesterday and go “hmmm”, he wouldn’t get it because it’s not his kind of music. But he would recognize that I had to be fairly accomplished to put together something like that in my bedroom on my own. Just as he was, to self publish a book in the days before Amazon Publishing.

I got my love of writing, fascination with the big picture and hunger for insights from my dad. Whenever I see a mirror I see him looking back at me. He was so brave to venture out on a journey looking for a place where he belonged. He died on the way but I am continuing the path from where he left off. I intend to find my place, but even if I don’t, that’s still OK. Life is what happens on the way and he traveled it to the best of his ability. And I am following in his footsteps.