Tears on Both Sides of the Ocean (part 3)
He arrived in Japan and he was full of emotion. Never having traveled, a history that was starting to haunt him, new sites and sounds...at times it was overwhelming.
Anyone who has driven on highway 99 from Delano to Bakersfield once, let alone every day of your life, knows that landing in a place like Tokyo was going to be quite a shock. Between Delano and Bakersfield, even the rattle snakes and prairie dogs don't want to be there. It is barren, it is dry, it is hot and the word "beautiful" does not exist in the local vocabulary.
Carlo exited the plane and then the fun began. The airport was exceptionally busy with wall to wall people as Carlo attempted to follow the Japanese passengers that were on his plane to their luggage. His first hope - that would lead to his own. As luck would have it he was right and within less than 20 minutes he was out at the curb waiting for the hotel van.
The drive into Tokyo was quite an experience. Carlo had never seen so many people. And the cars amazed him. It was like a NASCAR event at every corner. If there were two lanes, cars would line up as if there were five and then gun their engines on the turn of the light and miraculously speed (like in an sped up old movie) back into two lanes and continue on their way. And all around him were people saying "hi, hi, hi..." as they acknowledged the words of the people sitting next to them. On the one hand Carlo was fascinated by what was taking place but on the other hand he was beginning to wonder "oh my goodness, what have I done?"
The hotel was smack dab in the middle of downtown Tokyo. The brochure had done it justice as Carlo recognized the neon sign as the van turned the corner. The hotel was very clean but he noticed everyone walking around in the same robe with what also appeared to be pajamas. He tried to ask at the counter "what's going on" but they just nodded their heads politely with a smile and pointed to the elevator. Once Carlo reached his floor and opened the door (he had to bend down to get through the threshold) to his room he discovered the rooms were relatively small but just like the lobby, very clean with typical tatami mats in place of carpet and bedding that would roll out onto the flooring and a place to keep his shoes with slippers to put on his feet. There was even a toothbrush and toothpaste waiting for his use in the bathroom.
Once settled, Carlo was finding that he was exhausted. That hour or so of sleep on the plane was just enough to keep him awake from the airport to the hotel but now he was starting to feel travel weary and soon rolled out his bed saying "Sayonara my sweet! I'm coming for you soon!"
It was now August 27th and Carlo had to get a plan. He was to board the train to Wakayama at 1:15 that afternoon, arriving shortly before 3. Then the real journey was about to begin. He hadn't heard from anyone. He didn't know a soul. And all he had was the last name Suki and an address that hadn't responded to his mail since May and he stood out tall and clear.
Carlo's father left when he was 3 years old. He was raised by his mother and grandmother who lived just three blocks down the street. His father never called, never sent a birthday or holiday card and as far as Carlo was concerned up until he turned 16, his father didn't even exist. But out of the blue on his 16th birthday he answered the phone at home and there he was - Manuel Jose Gonzales. "Is this Carlo, this is your father ' happy birthday son." Carlo didn't know what to say. He had only asked mom one time about his father and where he lived and she didn't know and so his name never came up again. And now here he was - Manuel Jose Gonzales.
Carlo talked to him like he would any caller ' polite but distant as his mother had taught him. Manuel asked Carlo about his life, apologized for not being there and asked if they could meet some time and just talk. Carlo was not sure that he wanted his father in his life. Mom and grandma had done just fine in bringing him this far and he just wasn't sure he wanted that complication. But then there was a side of him that wanted to at least know something about his other grandparents and possible sisters or brothers. So after taking a week or so to discuss the phone call with his mom, grandma and two trusted friends, he agreed to meet his dad at a local park to just talk for a bit.
They met that following Saturday and what started out as 1 hour soon turned into 4 as Manuel talked all about his travels and the family and even Carlos's mother whom he claimed to still love very much. There were no more children, in fact, his father had never remarried. He traveled the world as a free spirit admitting that raising children was something he just could not do as a young man and although he regretted leaving Carlo and his mother alone, he also admitted that he just was not ready for marriage ' a kid in a man's skin - and settling down and did not awake to what he had done till several years later. And by then he knew it was too late to enter back into Carlo's life and present that sort of confusion. He chose his sons 16th birthday since then he would be close to a man.
As Carlo boarded the train for Wakayama he thought of his dad and his travels and wondered if he too might be headed for a same fate. Here he was in a foreign country by himself trying to convince parents of someone he loved to let their daughter come back to the United States and marry him. What if he were to find out after having children that he was not ready? Could he actually walk out on his family? Was he honestly being fair to Eke and her mother and father? If she came to the United States with him and then he left her she would be alone in a foreign country with sad parents 5100 miles away. Tears began to form in the corners of each eye as fear of the unknown took hold. (...to be continued)
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeff Gustafson and MyHATT, An international dinner club concept where people get to know people one bite at a time...thank you to The Daily Buzz and my entire MyHATT contributing staff for the educational content for world culture, the history, world traditions, the international menus for this family activity... http://www.myhatt.com