My mom came to the United States in the early 1950s from Yokohama Japan. She spoke almost no English and spent many years just struggling to get by. Over the years, she married and had children. Mom spent decades working as a laborer in many factories to put food on the table and clothes on our backs. Despite working in frigid cold and humid hot environments, she never complained. She pretty much always put her family first. She’d work overtime if I needed extra money for a school trip or for an extra-curricular club. Even when she got diagnosed with Stage III lung cancer, she insisted I finish up my final year of college. She really lived for her family, and even now, years after she has passed, whenever there is a holiday or a reunion, we always reminisce about her and wish she was here and tell her grandchildren stories about her so her memory lives on.
I don’t fully understand why she left an affluent family in Japan to have a life here in the United States. Growing up, I saw people discriminate against her because of her nationality in a small rural northern Wisconsin town, because of broken English, because of her different customs and religion. I also saw that she had the strongest will of anyone I have ever met in 40 years. By her example, she taught me that being different was okay. She taught me integrity. She taught me to be a good person. She was simply the best.