By Marsha Aizumi
Recently, my husband, Tad, and I took a trip with my brother, Marty, to Las Vegas to celebrate the birthday and retirement of a second cousin. As I get older, these long drives aren’t as much fun as they used to be. All of us (except the driver) are on our smartphones reading emails, playing a game or watching a video. The time goes by fast, but something feels missing. We don’t talk and connect with each other now that we can be entertained by technology.
At Barstow, my husband asked for a driver change, and my brother volunteered to drive the rest of the way to Vegas. Then Tad asked, “Who is going to sit in the front seat while Marty drives? Tad looked directly at me with eyes that said ‘your turn,’ since I had been in the backseat catching up on emails. I happily said, “I will.”
As Marty was driving, I put away my phone, and we began to talk about our childhood. I laughed about the time he hit me over the head with the butt of his cowboy pistol — I still have a dent in my head! He learned this from watching Westerns on television.
I paused for a moment and wondered what other things young kids are learning from television, movies and the Internet that are not good, as I rubbed the dent in my head.
Marty told me things about his childhood that I would have never known. Things like our dad letting him jump off the roof of our house … Yikes! Meeting the famous actor Edward G. Robinson because Dad got to be friends with the school music teacher who was a bit actor at Paramount Studios.
I also learned about my grandfather, who wanted to come to the United States so he answered an ad to work on a plantation in Brazil. When he arrived in Brazil, he ended up being a slave. My grandfather and six other men decided to escape and traveled to Mexico hoping to make it to the U.S. Only three of them made it … the others died.
I have a newfound respect for my grandfather.
Listening to my brother’s stories, I realized how much we miss because we are so consumed by technology. Listening to my brother, I also realized how we have become the parents we are today because of what we learned from watching Dad and Mom.
Marty shared that he felt he was a disappointment to our dad because he wasn’t good in sports or music … two things our dad was good at. I am not so sure that Dad was disappointed in Marty, but he probably never told him how proud he was of him. It wasn’t our parent’s way to praise us because they wanted us to remain humble.
But as a parent, Marty says he never wants his kids to feel they are a disappointment, so he encourages them to follow their heart, and he makes sure they know how proud he is of them.
I think my brother is a wonderful father. He took everything he observed and felt, then decided the kind of parent he wanted to be and became that parent. In a way, by doing the best they could with what they knew, our parents helped Marty be the best parent he could be. Maybe they didn’t do things like we would do it, but I am sure if they thought a different way was better, they would have made that choice.
Today, I see so many gifts my parents gave us just by being themselves. And Marty, just for the record, I remember Mom and Dad saying how proud they were of you after hearing you speak at a Visions for Keiro event.
I always believe I got the best from both of my parents. Dad taught me to work hard, respect others and that anything can be fun with a good attitude. Mom filled our home with so much love. She taught me that being gentle, kind and gracious draws people closer to you. I am grateful for all the ways my parents were role models for me, so I could be the mother and advocate I am today.
Because of this road trip, I am vowing to spend less time on my “smart”-phone and more time with all the “smart” people around me. Instead of dreading traffic, I am going to relish those times in bumper-to-bumper gridlock with Tad, so I can capture some of his stories for a book (or maybe just some notes in a binder) for our children.
I never really appreciated the stories that my parents shared with me, but today, I wish I had more. And so, in hopes of documenting some of the things that have made Tad and I who we are today, I hope to give our children a blueprint to follow or do differently, so they can be the best parents they could possibly be.
“On the road again,
just can’t wait to get on the road again,
The life I love is making music
with my friends
And I can’t wait to get on the road again.”
— Willie Nelson
Marsha Aizumi is an advocate in the LGBT community and author of the book “Two Spirits, One Heart: A Mother, Her Transgender Son and Their Journey to Love and Acceptance.”