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Silent Father/Hidden Family

By Tina Portelli


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You can live with someone for years, yet not know them at all.  Until

they die.


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

was serious.


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.