Silent Father/Hidden Family
By Tina Portelli
You can live with someone for years, yet not know them at all. Until
My father was from Wyoming and my mother from Japan. A mix of very
different cultures. They met during World War II when my mother was
in a US camp during the war and my father a soldier in the army. She already
had two children, he had none. I was the one addition to the family
after they had married.
Getting married was the logical thing for them to do, since they were
blind with love. However, my father knew very well that his mother would
Grandma was a farmer, not open to mixed marriages, and that is just
what she considered this to be, a mixed marriage. It was told to father
that if he married this Japanese woman, he would be banished from the family.
Especially a woman who already had two children. He knew his mother
His decision was to move, marry and never tell. How he pulled it off
for forty years I still find an amazing feat.
My paternal grandmother died when I was an infant, I never knew her.
Growing up, as far as I knew, my father did not have family anywhere.
So I thought. What a surprise to learn years and years later that I had
aunts, uncles and cousins across America! My mother was kept blind to
these facts as well. He never discussed his past.
Neither did Father ever tell his family that he had a family of his own,
which included three children. They accepted that he lived out of
state, but he was very mysterious about his lifestyle. They might have thought
he was a traveling salesman, with no roots, no permanent home. They never
knew he had married the girl from Japan against his mothers wishes.
I grew up with my step- sister and brother, with mother and father at
the helm. That was it. No relatives except the few in Japan that we would
never meet. My mother never questioned him as to his family or the
history of it. We all assumed he was completely on his own, the sole survivor
of his ancestry in the dry flatlands.
This past year, before he died, my father revealed his secret, not only
to us but to his family in Wyoming as well. Two families being brought
together, when neither knew the other existed was quite a shock for
I have visited the place he was born, have met his siblings and feel
more complete because of it.
Without Dad in our lives, Mother, my brother and sister, nephews and I
are finally getting to know the other side of silent Dad. Meeting his
sister for the first time was thrilling, she looks just like him. We are not
upset about not meeting his mother.
We can never go back and capture those lost years, but we can make up
for lost time.
Knowing our Father's roots and having his family in our life is like
having a part of him with us, and that is what soothes our souls.