By Carolee Okamoto
There you are, Mom,
Back in Jerome.
The swamps of “Redneck” Arkansas
The place forcibly called “home”
Turning 18 on the day of arrival
I can see on this day
Your existence, your sheer survival
Your young life so unfairly delayed
And that tar paper siding…
Trapping in all that heat
With all seven of you crammed inside
Wasn’t it stifling? And hard to beat?
And cousin Kawano in uniform there?
Were you forcibly drafted to fight
the front lines?
Or did you bravely volunteer?
And did you live? Or did you die?
And Auntie Mary, your hand in support
Head held high, smiling away.
Ever the loyal sister
Never going far or astray
And there… Grandma Kameyo
With that smirk on your face.
You held on and together…
A true picture of grace
And, Mom, looking ever so gay
Your words and my heart collide
“Laughing is better than crying,”
But, I felt your tears held deeply inside
So many thoughts racing asunder,
Rushing through my head
So many questions left to wonder
So many explanations left unsaid
You lived a good life
You kept your smile big
You made the most
Out of slivers and twigs
Carolee Okamoto is Sansei, a third-generation Nikkei, who submitted this story to mark the Day of Remembrance, February 19. She doesn’t know what became of her mother’s cousin Kawano, and now lacks anyone to ask. Carolee’s story is in the November 25, 2020, NAP.
Editor’s note: According to the Sons and Daughters of the 442nd RCT, a chapter of the 442 Veterans Club, 33,000 Japanese Americans served in the US military during World War II, of which 18,000 were in the 442nd and 6,000 in the Military Intelligence Service. Of these, 800 gave their lives during the war, including two Kawanos. https://442sd.org