By Tamara Shimozono
I had an epiphany this morning: not only am I married to a researcher – interpretation: single-minded, obsessive focus – but a researcher raised by his Japanese-American mother. Betty is the epitome of graciousness who embodies the Christian virtue of putting others first. Like most depression-era people, including my own parents, she is a thrifty minimalist who often scoffs at how much stuff her grandchildren “need” to survive. Then, there is the other, deeper level of understanding: realizing that she was a child of the post-Pearl Harbor internment. Her father was a prosperous, hard-working farmer in central California. After her family was moved into internment camps, squatters took over the house and farm. Neighbors stole the home furnishings. Nothing was ever returned to them. Penniless, Frank Fukuda succumbed to suicidal post-internment depression. His first wife (Betty’s mother) had died shortly after Betty’s birth. His oldest daughter died of illness. After the government interned the Japanese-Americans, Frank’s second wife returned, with her mother, to Japan because post-war life in America was too hard for her. Through all that, Betty still thrived, graduating with top academic honors from UCLA with a degree in biochemistry.
To survive with a mother, to watch your own government steal all of your life’s belongings, to watch your father become mentally and physically ill, I imagine my mother-in-law truly had to internalize the truth of Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where you treasure is there your heart will be also.”
Betty’s treasure was in heaven. She did not parent her children to put much worth into pretty homes, stylish clothing, or other externals. She preached character, taught her children how to stand alone in a crowd, encourage them to learn and think and, above all, pursue Christ. She taught them how to forgive and let go. She knew that people would die, houses can be stolen, health can turn bad, governments can change. When all that is gone, where do you anchor? Betty taught her children to anchor to the character of Jesus and His unfailing love and unyielding hope.
Understanding that this part of who my husband is… somehow it helps. I still get aggravated when dishes aren’t washed, the doorknob falls off, weeds are more numerous than grass blades, the paint is peeling and the trash is not dumped. But, understanding some of the “why” somehow helps me cut him some slack. When times get tough and emotions get high, Mark knows where to anchor our family. That anchor is better than a clean, perfectly maintained house, any day.