Dad was a natural family man, both as a husband and father.
One of many aspects that I cherish about dad was his loving partnership with my mom. Their relationship was about love and intellectual companionship, pushing past historical cultural biases.
The bad blood and history between China and Japan had a great impact on the reaction of my mother's family to her dating and eventually marrying a person of Japanese decent. The opposition to the relationship was so fierce that the threat of leaving the family was discussed. Luckily, in spite of all the stereotypes and ill feelings toward his heritage, dad won my great-grandmother (my mother's guardian and matriarch of the family) over. On the other hand, dad's parents accepted my mother from the start. They got married when my mom was a few months away from graduating college. So they married secretly in City Hall and intended to make the announcement upon graduation, a promise she made to her grandmother.
It was always a running joke in the family that my mother is his sensei, since she took her black belt test and gained ranking before him. But in reality, they both were avid students of Aikido and had gained recognition and respect with equal footing. My dad was more of methodical, while my mom was more intuitive, whether it was in Aikido, or the ways they approached life. Somehow, they complemented each other well. They maintained a check and balance relationship that kept their lives both pragmatic as well as creative.
Aikido was a glue to their relationship, apart from the farm, their politics and later on parenthood. Here the daily practice and early morning routine, helped them to respect each other's discipline. Both had invited a large group of dojo friends into their lives, whether having breakfasts together or other celebrations. These folks became their family members. My dad was always gregarious and open to friendships, while my mom was more cautious and reserve. In their life, it worked.
My dad had a soul of a little boy. He still held on to many of the interests he once had in his childhood: comic books, watching sports, playing outdoor sports. There he shared his interests with me, by taking me regularly to the comic book store in the Village, buying Legos so he can play too, or building blocks so he can show me how to build things. Perhaps this was why I never got into playing dolls. Legos and blocks were more fun.
My dad was humorous in his own way. He often wore tee shirts with funny messages or hilarious cards to cheer me up. At work, he wore Hawaiian print shirts (more Don Ho like than shirt and tie stiff). My mother always commented that he and I played more like brother and sister than father and daughter.
Dad was also a caring son. My grandfather died in his 50s and so my father would call my grandmother weekly as well as send thoughtful cards and gifts. Overall, my dad was a big bear with a big heart who cared for family and friends.