Monday, September 10, 2007

Grandparents' Day

Yesterday was Grandparents' Day, which, I gather, is sort of seen as a made-up, Hallmark non-holiday even though it isn't. In honor of the day, I thought I'd post this link to a snippet of video of The Pumpkin's grandmother (my mom) talking about my grandfather (her dad, The Pumpkin's great-grandfather, whom she'll never meet).

On this past Father's Day, my parents accompanied us to the opening day of the Japanese American National Museum's exhibit on the influence of Japanese American gardeners on American landscaping.

My grandfather, Koichi Tsunoda, a nisei born in Northern California to immigrant parents, was one of those gardeners. He passed away when I was in middle school, but unfortunately, I don't remember a lot about him. For most of my life, he suffered from Parkinson's Disease, and what I remember are after-school visits to the nursing homes he lived in, and holiday family dinners for which my dad picked him up from said nursing homes and at which I always made sure to set up a t.v. tray in the same spot in front of the sofa for him. I "remember" pictures, photographs of him and me on a family trip to Solvang, or to Disneyland, or out to Indio to visit his old date-farmer friends, but I only know they happened because of the pictures. By the time I was old enough and aware enough to want to ask him about his life, his pre-war childhood as the son of issei farmers, about internment and what made him break with the rest of his family to become a "no-no boy" and take his new bride with him, just the two of them, to the Tule Lake camp for "the disloyal," where my mother was born, or about being a gardener in LA at a time when all the gardeners were JA, it was too late.

At the opening of the JANM exhibit, some folks from the museum's online community history project, Discover Nikkei, were asking folks who were related to or knew JA gardeners to talk a bit in front of their camera. It being Father's Day, I basically pushed my reluctant mother into the booth. "Do it for Grandpa," I said.

I didn't know until the other day, when I was randomly looking at the website, that they had put her clip up. She hadn't told me. But you know, she has nothing to be embarassed about. She simply shared a memory of her father, my grandfather, and in doing so, made that memory permanent, for me, his grandson who never got to know that part of him, and for her granddaughter, who will know the love and legacy of that part of her family through her grandmother.

Happy Grandparents' Day, Grandpa, and to you, too, Mom.

View clip and read transcript here.

6 comments:

SoulSnax said...

I would really really love to see his garden(s). Do you have any memories or pictures?

daddy in a strange land said...

He was a solo residential gardener, doing the lawns, etc. of private homes, until he got a job working at the Rose Garden in Exposition Park in South Los Angeles (near USC and the Coliseum). I've been googling, but while I can find contemporary shots of the Rose Garden, I can't find any from the period when he would've been working.

As for my personal memories, as I said, I don't really have memories of him pre-Parkinson's. He must've retired when I was little, if not before--I do have vague recollections of my dad and his friend inheriting his lawnmower and tools, with which they did their own lawns and my mom's folks'.

honglien123 said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing a bit of your family history. I wish we could see that exhibit. My husband's grandpa and great grandpa were gardeners before WWII. I'm not sure if they kept it up after the internment but I know that J's grandpa's home garden has the biggest most beautiful dahlias I've ever seen.

Lois Lane said...

Your mom is articulate and so sweet in sharing her fond memories of her dad. Thanks for this post, disl.

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islandgirl said...

That was really wonderful! Tell your mom she did a wonderful job!