Herny & Mary Yamaguchi

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Henry & Mary

Tribute by Janis Tanji Wong

Although my grandparents are no longer here with me, I feel their presence often in particular now that I have children of my own. What I tend to remember most is their positive attitude and simple philosophy of life especially when they were in the most difficult of times. I sense much of this comes from their Japanese core values and Buddhist beliefs. More specifically, it is the shikata ga nai and gaman explanation for being able to pick yourself up and make the best of any situation.

Interestingly, this also makes you grateful for when good things happen. I remember whenever I would complain about something, my grandparents would listen intently with an understanding nod and, at times, a gentle smile which really was to let me know that my “suffering” was acknowledged, but now it was time to deal with it and move on. With my own 12-year-old son and my 14-year-old daughter I, too, do this especially when they anguish or carry-on about trivial things. I’ve even pointed out that at their age, their grandmother was living in a barrack in the middle of the California desert and I am sure she would have loved to have these things to fret about! It is all about perspective.

I chose this picture of my grandparents for this Tribute because when I look at the smiles on their faces, I see the initial hardships endured, the sacrifices made and, most importantly, the successes they were able to achieve. I see the journey that began in Washington for my grandmother, and in Japan for my grandfather, and each decade thereafter that was filled with many moments of good and bad times.

Who I am today and what I have today is because of all that they have endured and overcame. I can only imagine what it was like to have lived through similar experiences, but it makes me all the more appreciative and filled with such admiration and respect. As an adult, I hear that inner-voice (or was it my grandparents?) that pushed me gently along to persevere. This is what I see me instilling in my children to work hard and do your best so that all that my grandparents lived through was not in vain.

In understanding my grandparents I also better understand and appreciate how even my parents continued this Issei spirit post-World War II and able to give me and my siblings an even stronger platform to succeed. And, so my grandparents’ journey continues now in my children who hopefully will remember their sacrifices and struggles with their children and so on.