Facts and Events
My mother tells me that as a child, she and her brothers would accompany my grandpa to upper Paia to drop off supplies to the sugarcane workers. Paia was a company town in those days and there were specific camps for Chinese workers, Filipino workers, Japanese workers.
I mainly knew my grandfather as a retired person and on our summer visits to Paia as children, I saw that his and my grandmother's days had a very specific rhythm. They would rise early, my grandmother would light some incense at the home shrine, they'd have breakfast, read the paper or listen to the radio. My sister and I would gorge ourselves on Hawaiian sweetbread which would we toast and ice cold fresh guava juice. We'd clean up and maybe do a few errands. Then it was lunchtime. At the hottest point of the day, my grandparents would retire to their bedroom for a nap. In the late afternoon, we might walk down to the post office to pick up the mail, say hello to people, and then it was time to make dinner. My grandparents would go to bed fairly early and sometimes watch the evening news before retiring.
My grandfather was very deaf which made speaking with him difficult. My grandmother would act as his interpreter, interpreting mostly what we were saying so he could respond. He had hearing aids but didn't like to use them. Looking back, our main connection was my grandmother. My grandfather had a tendency to disengage because he could not hear well.
Much later when my grandfather was unable to live alone, his children brought him out to California. He lived for a time with each of his children but he required much more care than his kids could provide working full-time and with families of their own. They eventually placed him in a home near my parents after a stint at Kimochi, a Japantown senior home in San Francisco. He really hated California. It was too cold and too alien. And he felt very lonely. My grandmother had been his main link to the world and she passed away in 1989, and he missed her as one would after a more than 50 year marriage. During his later years, he suffered from dementia and had a tendency to hit staff and try to escape the homes in which he was placed. I think he had a lot of anger about being made to leave Paia and losing control over his living circumstances. He passed away while I was traveling over the winter break in China and I didn't learn of his death until many weeks later from a letter my mother sent. Strangely while traveling in Yunnan, I had been thinking of my grandfather and how Yunnan was similar to the Hawaii that he loved. There was something about the verdant lushness and the flowery fragrance that transported me back. I like to think that he was thinking of me too.
Some other memories I have of my grandfather: On our visits to Paia, I would often observe him reading library books in Japanese. He also enjoyed fishing in his boat and driving his jeep to look at the ocean. On our visits, he often would take us out to the beach very early in the morning to gather seaweed and to see the sun rise. I remember looking down at my feet, being able to see the road below, underneath the rusting jeep floor. My mother told us that the sea salt was very hard on cars.