Onsen (温泉) In The Land Of The Rising Sun

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I have been asked numerous times to write about my experiences living in Japan, the Land of the Rising Sun. So, I thought I might start a new series here chronicling how things were while living in Misawa Japan. Yes, it was the United States Air Force that brought me to Japan, but I want to talk about living there and not so much working there. The easiest place for me to start this all off is to tell about certain traditions that I chose to be a part of while living in the local economy. We rented a house deep in the heart of farm country, nothing new for me since I grew up in southeast Texas. The great thing about the location of this house was straight out the back door and across the parking lot there was an onsen (温泉) (public hot bath). This was important because the bath tub in the house was the size of a postage stamp. We were informed of what exactly it was and the traditions around the onsen there locally by our realtor.

My (ex)wife decided that going to the onsen was not something she was going to take part in. My wife was never real keen being naked in front of other people, high school gym and sports classes proved that fact to me years before. Which is strange because she was quite the quiet exhibitionist when it was just her and I out in public places. She was a closet tease to say the very least. However, that is yet another story altogether. We had it explained to us that the onsen setting was not unlike group showers in American high schools or in public and private gyms. Fair enough, seems like the Japanese got the whole keeping clean thing under control because most local neighborhoods had an onsen or three. Not to mention the large resorts that were centered around the very ornate onsens inside them. We were lucky, we lived in billeting (on-base hotel) for close to two weeks because of the snowstorms that had blown through. This time allowed our belonging to meet us in Japan and gave us time to purchase the other furniture we needed. All we shipped were our clothes, a television, a vcr, towels and wash cloths, dishes, pots and pans, a hand-me-down couch, and my king-size water bed.

The day arrived where we took possession of our rental house. It was brand new, one of eight houses built-in this courtyard style block. It was a townhouse, like the rest, we all shared a common “drive” which all of the houses faced with a one car car-port to the side. We were the first people to ever live in the house since it was built. It had a layout we were familiar with which was way different from other houses we looked at. On that same day our belongings arrived and were hastily unpacked by 2 very fast men. Also, the other furniture and furnishings we purchased were also delivered and set up. After some unpacking we needed to go back to billeting to gather our belongings and check out. It never crossed my mind, looking back, to grab a quick shower after such a long day. When we got back to the house she was tired so she laid out on the couch for a nap. I looked in our bathroom for the bath tub, I wanted to soak my cold bones for a while. What did I find? Well, the entire bathroom was a shower basically, if that makes any sense, and in the corner there was a tub created out tile set around three feet into the floor. This “tub” measured 30 inches by 30 inches square. No way to lay out in that tub for sure, it wasn’t happening.

I needed to get cleaned up however, so I told my wife I was going next-door to check the onsen out. It was the 2nd week of January, the temp was about 3 degrees farenheit, the wind was blowing at around 40 mph, and there was close to 4 feet of snow on the ground. I grabbed my wallet, flip-flops, shave kit, my shoes, a towel, walked out back across the parking lot. I had no clue what to do and everything was in Japanese. We lived far enough from the base that they didn’t see too many Americans on purpose. Luckily, the women who was clearing the water and snow from the entrance “showed” me where to remove my shoes, place them in the cubicle, and put on my flip-flops. Then she pointed me in the direction of the lobby. In the lobby there were a multitude of vending machines that sold everything, and when I say everything I mean anything from food, drinks, toiletries, clothes, cars, a date, porn, and tokens to the hot bath of course. I was surprised, the token for the hot bath was the U.S. equivalent to about 65 cents. As soon as my token dropped I heard a grizzly grunt at me who was the man behind me holding his hand out pointing that I should put my token in it. So I did and he then led me the men’s side of the bath house.

It had a typical look to a locker room I guess. Benches to get undressed, sinks and mirrors, and toilet stalls as well. As I was getting undressed I wasn’t sure where to put my belongings so I had to look around like a pervert stalker to see what others were doing. Okay, it’s really simple, place all of it into what looks just like a laundry basket, and then place that into one of the cubicles. I found very fast that I had to get over my trust issues because nothing is secured or locked up. I grabbed my stuff out of my shaving kit and placed it in a small plastic container which I then took with me into the next area, following others as I was unsure of the “process”. Watch and learn right. The next room was the washing area. Reminded me of once when I was in 4H of the washing stations for the livestock. There were three double-sided concrete barriers which had numerous “stations” that included a mirror, a shower head, and the faucet. One sat down on a 6″ tall stool to bath. But watch out, I found out by being smacked in the leg, not to put any body part in the trough that ran at the base of the wall, which served as the drainage that led to a large grate down at the end. Who knew. I had picked a cozy spot right in the middle. I found out later that the desired spots are those at the top of the trough. Lesson learned.

Now, the funny part for you. I’m 6’8″ in the land of the little people, which got me more than one funny or cross look. This place was not built for people my size for sure. Now, it was allot like being at home, I shaved, brushed my teeth, washed my hair, bathed, then rinsed off. I need to mention the water had one temperature, freaking scalding hot. About midway through getting clean a very, very, old man, my guess was he was well over 100 years old, sat next to me. Standing to the rear of him was a young girl, I figured about 16 or 17, completely nude as well, began washing the old man. First thing I noticed is he took out his teeth and handed them to her to clean, which she did with what looked like Lava soap and a brush one would scrub floors with. I’ll admit, she had my attention. I think more so because we were on the all male side of the hot bath so she was quite an unexpected surprise. Perhaps she could see the confusion in my face because she squatted down next to me and began to talk, in great English I might add. She explained she was the great, great grand-daughter of this man, and it was tradition for the youngest to assist the eldest in daily tasks. She also explained that girls up to the age of 19 can assist on the male side and boys up to the age of 13 can assist on the female side. Interesting tidbit of information to say the least.

Nobody, and when I say nobody I mean nobody, paid her any attention whatsoever, except for me it would seem. More out of curiosity than anything really. Here I had only been in Japan for just a few weeks and I already have seen my first live nude Japanese female. I know what you are thinking, and yes she was young, but it was hard not to stare. I got up to go to the first sitting pool which was so hot I sat on the edge with only my legs in it at first, which were turning bright red as I sat there. The girl walked over her grand father to pool I was trying to get the courage to get into and helped him straight in up to his neck. Damn. She then scampered off to do her cleaning. When I forced myself down into the water, which took my breath away, I couldn’t help but to notice she was back. She entered the pool right at my eye level and tended to him. She sat with the old man for a while. I had seen others get out and move to the next pool, so I followed suit.

Now, I only thought the first sitting pool was hot, this one had it topped by at least 500 degrees, but I was able to slither right in because I was already cooking. The men sat in this one for a short period and then moved on. Like a lost puppy I followed them to the next pool. There should have been a sign on this pool, something that reads “Caution. Water Will Melt The Skin From Your Bones. Caution.”, but there was no warning for this Gaijin (外人) (look it up, it was the nickname the Japanese called the servicemen) and I found out the hard way. But, damn, did it feel good after the shock went away. One didn’t sit in this one very long at all. Then, they head to the steam room, a quaint, small room that had a 2 minute egg timer because it was so damn hot. So, in and out it was. I couldn’t breathe, my lungs were on fire, and I wanted to just die right there. Yea, clean up in the sauna please. When I exited the sauna I was basically grabbed by the arm to stop me from walking, I was shown to watch the man in front of me who was in a small “tank” which he was squatted in up over his head in the water. He was out and I was in. One fluid motion until the water covered my head, it took my breath away because it was a temperature just above freezing. Out of there just as fast as I went in. A quick wash off and I was on my way out.

After getting dressed I felt drained of all of my energy and will to live. I don’t think I have ever been that relaxed in my entire life. When I left the dressing room I was guided over to some tables where I was sat down. Soon after I was brought a cup of warm herbal tea and a bowl of some of the blandest noodle soup I have ever tasted. Come to find out, it was ginseng root soup and they weren’t noodles after all. It was to recharge a person, to put a little wang back in your step before you left. It was relaxing and it does bring the energy back. Come to find out it is all included in the price of admission. So far, I’m liking the onsen just behind my house. It was one hell of an experience and became my daily bad habit. I probably went there almost every single day for close to the five years I was there. When I went back home after my first time I really wanted to talk to my wife about it, but she didn’t show an interest or really care because she wasn’t ever going to try it out for herself.

About a year after my daughter was born my parents came to Japan to visit as their big summer trip. This part of the story I have been forbidden to ever tell my mother because, in my dad’s opinion (because he is old-fashioned), he saw things that he should feel guilty for seeing. Anyway, going to the onsen became my everyday, twice a day, habit because everyday that tiny postage stamp size bath tub got smaller and smaller. My dad made the comment that he wished to retire for the evening and was going to get washed up before bed. The look of horror on his face will remain forever priceless when he entered the bathroom and just as fast came out asking where the shower or tub were. So, I explained to him what I knew, well, not everything, but I explained how things were here. You see, he is 6’4″ @ about 265lbs, which makes it hard for him to squeeze into anything. After a brief discussion, we collected our things to head to the hot bath. I gave him one instruction, which was to just follow my lead and follow what I do so he doesn’t embarrass me.

We made the walk across the parking lot, it was fairly warm this time of year so the walk was pretty leisurely to say the least. We went through the “tourist” mode where I had to explain everything in the lobby to him. After 1 1/2 years I have really gotten good at reading Japanese and knew a handful of phrases to always get me on my way. After getting our tokens we entered the area to change out of our street clothes to get ready. Shortly after sitting down to begin the washing of ourselves I get a nudge on my arm from my dad. When I looked over to him he was 12 different shades of red with embarrassment and was holding his wash cloth over his privates. He was showing me that there were young females in the room so I had to go through the ordeal of explaining the traditions and protocols here. He played it off but I could see he was pretty bothered about it all. I remember my first time and after that it became common place, even routine enough where one doesn’t notice it as standing out any longer. We continued with what my routine had become, it really gets shortened to about a 30 minute trip as time moves on because one gets in and gets out. We did sit and have the tea and soup when we were done, sitting there in silence except for one simple command, “never speak of any of this to my mother, not even at her grave”. Unfortunately for my dad, this was his first and last trip to any of the hot bathes in Japan, he decided he could and would make do with the facilities we offered at the house.

Over the years I frequented a large sampling of onsen in my extended local area, my absolute personal favorite was a resort on the edge of town that was very cool. I didn’t go there too much, 3 or 4 times, because it was a fair drive and much more expensive. I was wondering how to explain the one at the resort because it was out of this world. Minecraft players or those familiar with Minecraft will understand better. Imagine taking the elevator down, getting of said elevator, and entering through some very large opaque glass doors. The changing area looked like all the other ones I had seen, pretty basic, but going into the hot bath area was incredible. Imagine opening a door and being in a very dense forest, looking up you see the tops of the trees and the stars in the sky. This place looked like being outdoors the way it was done up, it looked so real it made you touch the fake trees and the walls just to remind yourself you were a few stories underground. It’s just hard to explain I guess, but it throws all your senses for a loop with the big waterfalls and whatnot.

My (ex)wife never went to an onsen the entire time we were living in Japan, however, my daughter went with me on occasion once she started toddling. I learned allot while I was in Japan, beyond the language difference, beyond the cultural differences, and beyond the cuisine differences. Tradition is complex and deep-rooted, everything, and I mean everything when I say everything, had a meaning of some sort. The people I interacted with where I lived locally became to know me all to well. I would get invited to a stranger’s house a few doors down for snacks or people would bring local cuisine or gifts to my house as gestures of our “friendship”. Fortunately for me, I chose to immerse myself in the culture and get to know as much as I could. The hot baths were just the tip of what I would take away from Japan when I left. Ask my (ex)wife and she would only be able to tell you the tourist places we went to go visit. Its sad, but very true, but then again, she never got over being roughly 6600 miles from her mother the entire time we were there.

So, this was interesting and fun for me. It was nice to take a trip back in time to a place I really enjoyed living on the northern tip of Japan. I look forward to writing more of these specific subject related posts about living in Japan. Who knows, maybe I will expand and just write about everywhere I have been. Well, I can’t write about “everywhere” I have been, but I can give some insight about place x and place y without giving away the actual place or why I was there. Everywhere I traveled in the world was a “challenge” in its own special way. Until we meet again, thank y’all for taking the time to read a little bit about my life in Japan.

Onsen, as defined by Wikipedia:

  • Onsen (温泉?) is a term for hot springs in the Japanese language, though the term is often used to describe the bathing facilities and inns around the hot springs. As a volcanically active country, Japan has thousands of onsen scattered along its length and breadth. Onsen were traditionally used as public bathing places and today play a central role in directing Japanese domestic tourism. Onsen come in many types and shapes, including outdoor (露天風呂 or 野天風呂, roten-buro or noten-buro?) and indoor baths. Baths may be either public run by a municipality or private (内湯, uchiyu?) often run as part of a hotel, ryokan or bed and breakfast (民宿, minshuku?). Onsen are a central feature of Japanese tourism often found out in the countryside but there are a number of popular establishments still found within major cities. They are a major tourist attraction drawing Japanese couples, families or company groups who want to get away from the hectic life of the city to relax. Japanese often talk of the virtues of “naked communion” (裸の付き合い, hadaka no tsukiai?)[1] for breaking down barriers and getting to know people in the relaxed homey atmosphere of a ryokan with an attached onsen. Japanese television channels often feature special programs about local onsens. The presence of an onsen is often indicated on signs and maps by the symbol ♨ or the kanji, 湯 (yu, meaning “hot water”). Sometimes the simpler hiragana character ゆ (yu) is used, to be understandable to younger children. Traditionally, onsen were located outdoors, although a large number of inns have now built indoor bathing facilities as well. Onsen by definition use naturally hot water from geothermally heated springs. Onsen should be differentiated from sentō, indoor public bath houses where the baths are filled with heated tap water. The legal definition of an onsen includes that its water must contain at least one of 19 designated chemical elements, including radon and metabolic acid and be 25 °C or warmer before being reheated. Stratifications exist for waters of different temperatures. Major onsen resort hotels often feature a wide variety of themed spa baths and artificial waterfalls in the bathing area utaseyu (打たせ湯?). Onsen water is believed to have healing powers derived from its mineral content. A particular onsen may feature several different baths, each with water with a different mineral composition. The outdoor bath tubs are most often made from Japanese cypress, marble or granite, while indoor tubs may be made with tile, acrylic glass or stainless steel. Different onsen also boast about their different waters or mineral compositions, plus what healing properties these may contain. Other services like massages may be offered. People often travel to onsen with work colleagues, friends, couples or their families.

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Bow Our Heads For Words Unknown

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Saturday became the day that was decided where many people who are otherwise too busy could get their schedules together and spend time with one another. I hosted this get together of family and friends. The purpose? Nothing more than for everyone to get together, eat, maybe have a drink or two, let the kids run wild, and for everyone to catch up with what is worth catching up with. I spent the morning preparing all of the meat, smoking it all to perfection, and all of this was paired with side dishes brought by many people. I would say in total there were 60 men, women, and children all spending their precious Saturday together for absolutely no reason.

Finally, it was time to feast. I look all around me and see my family and friends and it dawns on me that there are many different faiths attending my supper. At this moment my father stood up announcing that I would be leading us in prayer and for everyone to rise with heads bowed low. Immediately in my brain I’m yelling wait! I don’t pray so how will I be the one to lead the prayer? I stood there, frozen, for what seemed to be eternity, and then my mouth opened. It was like the dam opened and I couldn’t, no mater what I tried, stop the flow of words coming out of my mouth. It was like me standing outside my own body watching me deliver this prayer before our meal.

When it was complete all I heard was a rumbled amen, then seeing everyone sit, and everyone plowing into the food. I ate there quietly wondering what in the fuck just happened. What did happen? What did I say? Why would my dad take it upon himself to announce me at the prayer giver? The whole meal I was thinking of what I was going to say to the man who put me on the spot in front of so many people. I could have declined leading the prayer but with my wife at my side squeezing my hand I wasn’t going anywhere fast. In fact, when it was done I got a wink of approval from my son across the table. What did all of this mean? Was this an intervention? Was this going to be a forcible conversion? Was there going to be pain and blood? Did I just die?

After the meal everyone was mingling on the back deck, the kids were running amuck in the yard playing hide and seek, and I found myself standing alone stoking the outdoor fireplace. My fathers actions still weighing heavily on my mind wondering what he could’ve possibly been thinking. My dad ended up walking over to where I was, standing beside me, resting his arm around my shoulders. We stood there for a moment. The silence spoke volumes. He started talking to me where he thanked me for taking the opportunity to leading the prayer, acknowledging that I did it perfectly. When I ask why he laid it out for me in his own special way. He told me this meal was being served at my house and traditionally the male head of the house leads the prayer for meals. I told him he had put me in an awkward position because I don’t pray. He said he knows but knew I would have something inspirational to say.

Some of y’all are probably wondering why this is even a point to write about. Some of y’all have been around here long enough that y’all know why. In the end, it’s over and I learned a valuable lesson. Part of that lesson was that I will never cease to amaze myself what I can pull out of my ass to sound like I know what I’m talking about. I have never had a problem speaking to a crowd, large or small, but I felt uncomfortable this time because this isn’t part of who I am. Out of respect for my family and friends I did dig deep, real deep, and tried to make things appear normal. Normal? What’s normal anymore? Overall, we all had fun, we all ate well, and nobody burst into flames. Yay me!

Update Explaining My Absence

SKDT1113Due to all the e-mail questions and comments about where I have been since last week have not gone un-noticed. I admit, I have not been paying attention to The Sting Of The Scorpion for the last several days. I have been distracted with some family health issues. Just know I will get all caught up this morning. But before I do I wanted to go over why I have been out of the loop for a while. Mid last week we had quite a family scare and it has set most of us into panic mode because of everything we didn’t know. Here is what happened.

My dad, 66, had been feeling quite a bit of abdominal pain, outright discomfort, nausea, and complete loss of his appetite. He let this continue, not in total silence, but what he had dismissed as gas, until finally this past Wednesday when I convinced him to contact his physician. He went in to his appointment in the late afternoon where blood tests and a physical examination were performed. The doctor made the observation on how dehydrated and pale my dad looked and recommended different ways to combat this from worsening. The doctor the released him and sent him home to rest. Later that night the doctor called my dad at home and told him his tests were back and he would like him to meet him at the hospital in the morning for some further testing. When my dad arrived he was met in the waiting room by a nurse who was going to expedite his admittance. After being admitted he was subjected to a battery of tests after he had to have an ultrasound done just to get an IV in his arm because he was so dehydrated.

We waited the remainder in his room in the hospital while we eagerly awaited all the test results. Shortly after 9pm the doctor came in to explain it all to my dad and all of us. The short version was that his gallbladder had shut down. He promptly let my dad know he had a 7am surgery to remove the gallbladder. We are all a little relieved now, my sister and I said our goodbyes and let him and my mother know we would be out this weekend to check on him. At 10am the following morning, Friday, my mother called to inform me that it was more extreme than a simple gallbladder removal, it was consumed by gangrene. At this point I headed back out to the hospital to check on my mom and dad. At this point this was all the information my mother had. I sat with my dad the remainder of the day and into the evening. He was given a whole slew of antibiotics, pain killers, and other medications throughout the day so he was not really aware of too much going on. My mother didn’t want to tell him that it was gangrene because she felt it would be better coming from the doctor.

Saturday morning rolled around and I was in the hospital by 7am. He started asking questions about his release and the nurses would tell him they didn’t have any orders for that as of yet. He was told he would go home the next day and now he is being told something different. To say the least he was getting a little agitated. By noon time I had time to convince my mother that we needed to tell him how extreme the surgery actually was so he will know why they are keeping him in for further observation. He took it pretty well and knew that sooner or later the doctor would actually come in to talk to him personally. The day pressed on and at 6pm Saturday evening the doctor made an appearance. He had a very informative talk with my dad and also explained to him sternly that he almost waited to long to be seen. Luckily, in the doctor’s best opinion, he explained that all the gangrene had been removed. He also explained that it had not passed into his intestines, other organs, or the bloodstream. Since he was recovering nicely he would be releasing him in the morning on Sunday.

For the first time in many, many years, I saw tears in my dad’s eyes because he knew he had just cheated death. He promised us all that in the future he would not be so stubborn when it comes to going to the doctor. The doctor had explained the gangrene is not something you want to screw with. We were all pretty taken with this ordeal. We all have sat back and given many things new attention, like our wills and family affairs. I took my dad home Sunday morning, got him all settled in, and called it a day myself. I hadn’t really been home in the last 5 days so I wanted to spend some time with my wife and kids. Lucky for me there was some icing on the cake Sunday evening, I got to Skype with my oldest daughter and my 2 y/o granddaughter who live in South Dakota. There is no better feeling than your young granddaughter to tell you she loves you and it will be okay grandpa.

We all had the crap scared out of us this past week and we owe our thanks to the doctor who was wise enough to do a great job with my dad. I know, for myself for sure, I will always be in his debt for giving my dad another chance in life. He’s not done yet because he is a stubborn old fart who just don’t know how to give up. I know now that he will take his aches and pains a little bit more serious and not dismiss everything as “gas”. I didn’t know too much about gangrene before this last week, but after allot of reading it scares me to know that my dad was riding that razor’s edge and didn’t even know it. Anyway, that has been my last few days, I just wanted to let everyone know I didn’t fall off the edge of the planet or something.

Explaining My Three Fathers

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Explaining my three fathers to my children has always been stories I enjoy telling. Sometimes it is like going down the wrong rabbit hole because it can be just a wee bit confusing. For those of y’all who just started playing along then I would guess y’all are at a bit of a loss. My recommendation is to search The Sting Of The Scorpion using the terms adoption, adopted, and biological. Then, perhaps y’all will be up to speed. Let me give a very brief review. I’m adopted, I’ve known my entire life. The fact that I was adopted was never the secret. In fact, until I turned 18 I never knew there was even a secret that people wished I never learned. In my case the records were sealed due to the circumstances of the pregnancy. Fortunately I was able to get them unsealed and have spent the better part of 25 years piecing together everyone’s dirty little secret, me.

On the backside of my property there lives an enormous oak tree. I find that when I’m in the presence of this oak tree that I tend to think of my family tree. My family tree is really twisted. If one was to look at it analytically I am actually the part of three family trees, if not more,  each in a separate way that leads into a different direction. Confused yet? We’ll get back to that. I have had “family”, specifically my biological family, on my mind recently since we (my wife & I) are planning to visit my oldest daughter (23) in Rapid City South Dakota over spring break this coming March 2014. Most of my biological family lives in the state of South Dakota, as well as my biological father and adopted father are both buried there also. For the purposes of explanation in this post the following will be the reference points when I discuss my three fathers, BF = Biological Father, AF = Adopted Father, SF = Step Father, my BM (biological mother/birth mother), and my AM (adopted mother/mother). Refer back to these abbreviations during this post if needed.

Everyone seems to want a piece of me when we go on the trip when all I really care to do is spend time with my daughter and my 2 y/o granddaughter whom we haven’t seen in some time now. Now, personally, my “agenda” will be to spend time with my wife, kids, and my granddaughter. Now, will that happen? Your guess is as good as mine. As my younger children get older they have began to have questions about family because my side of the family is kinda complicated. Recently I, for the second or third time now, tried to explain things to my son, who I finally now think gets it. Me being adopted is not what is in question. How this fits into my life as well as my kids life is what always seems to be confusing. And, when I explain it here I might go out-of-order and bounce around a bit so just try pay attention. Like I mentioned above, from this point further I will address my fathers by their relationship to me. I needed to explain all of this to my children because they have never met my BF (biological father) or my AF (adopted father), all three of them only know my SF (step father) and all three of my children will be meeting my biological family (many of them but probably not all of them) in March.

So lets see where to begin here. I was born 06 November 1968 in a little town in the southeast of South Dakota. I was placed with my adopted parents within days of my birth. My adopted parents were divorced by the time I was 6. I will get into that another time. By the time I was turning 7 my mother was re-married and we all moved to the southwest side of Houston Texas. My AF remained in South Dakota where I visited him every Christmas break and summer vacation until he died at the end of the summer in 1983. I remained being raised by my SF and still to this day consider him to be my dad. Anything y’all read around this blog about the current happenings with my parents is about my mother and step father, which he is never referred to in the real world. There was never any secret of me being adopted, I have always “known” because I was told early on. Why? I don’t know. Before I start the next part, let it be known that my SF and my mother (AM) have always loved me and raised me if I was their own blood son. Their loyalty to me as a son has never, nor will it ever, be in question.

Once I was out on my own, joined the United States Air Force, married, and had my first daughter I was asked about my family history so medical records for my daughter could be started. I was at a loss, I was actually crushed because here I brought a child into existence and I don’t even know if I passed something on to her genetically that had the potential of being bad. I struggled with this fact for a few months as I held my daughter in my arms wondering if there were going to be things about herself that she would never know. After a brief discussion with my wife and a long conversation with my mother (AM) the decision was made I was going to find out who I was. It was the thought at the time, it gave me hope for myself and my daughter. Since I was stationed in Japan in 1991 I had to do things the old-fashioned way, I had to write letters. I actually only wrote two different letters, form letters, which I used to inquire about my adoption records and my biological parents. I won’t lie, I hit allot of dead ends, I got wrapped up in allot of red tape, and I was at a point (after a year) where I was ready to give up because there didn’t seem to be any information to have. Then, out of the blue, when I was ready to quit, I received a letter from the office of the Judge that was over my case back in 1968. I was informed that they had the information I was seeking, but, since I was overseas I needed to provide all my personal information along with an affidavit from my commander confirming my identity.

I gathered everything I had, to include birth certificate and the letter from my commander, loaded it in an envelope and sent it on it’s way. For the first couple of weeks I waited very patiently, then a month rolled by and my patience was wearing thin. After 3 months I just gave up. Soon after I received another letter from the office of the judge informing me that he has reviewed my case and my request and is granting my request to have my adoption records unsealed. I was informed that they were ordered sealed due to the circumstances of the adoption and the biological mother as a request of her parents. I had no idea what all of that meant and was more confused than ever. The following day I received a package (large envelope) from the judge’s office that had a complete copy of everything that was filed in accordance with my adoption proceedings. It was worse than my worst nightmare, everything I wanted to know was blacked out like this was some kind of top secret document. All of the names, dates, places, agencies, and so forth were either removed or blacked out altogether. These documents read like a very well written mystery, with one exception, I never got to find out “who did it”. So, for now, the quest for information is dead.

I was divorced in 1998, we split everything up, she went one way, and my daughter and I remained. I put 90% of my stuff into storage where it sat for the next few years. In 2000 I was remarried, I welcomed with open arms my own step daughter (that will be the only time you ever hear me refer to her as a step anything) and finishing up the remaining time I had for active duty Air Force Guard. In 2001, after my son was born, we decided we wanted to raise our family in a house and not an apartment. I didn’t want just any house, I wanted a house we could grow into, grow old in, and not need to move any more, as I was tired of all the moving over the years being in the Air force, I was done moving. I spent the next 18 months designing our new house. My wife thought I was the obvious choice as the architect since that is what I have a degree in. So I did it, between working for my SF as a concrete contractor I spent the hours needed creating our dream home. Once we were happy with the design I submitted it to a Texas state licensed architect for the “stamp of approval” I needed to move forward. I found 10.4 acres in a large lot subdivision that we really fell in love with. For the next 18 months we watched our dream come true.

After we got moved in I announced I needed to make a trip to New Mexico to gather my belongings out of a storage unit there. So, my oldest daughter and I loaded up a trailer and made the road trip. It wasn’t much, mostly boxes full of records, pictures, and different things I had collected while I was in the Air Force bouncing around the world. When we got back home I went to unpack the boxes and noticed the one that had all of my adoption research in it. Not wanting to stop, I had my daughter just put the box in the master bedroom closet for later. After about a month of organizing I was at the computer paying some bills, checking the weather, and just when I was getting done my wife comes in and announces “we need to talk” with tears rolling down her face. (Fuck! What did I do?) I knew I have done nothing so that couldn’t be it, so what was it. I noticed in her hand a letter that I had written so many years before and she asked me when I was going to tell her. Tell her? I thought she knew I was adopted, I really thought this had come up in conversation before. It had, but my quest for information was never talked about. To tell you the truth the box was put in my closet to protect it from humidity damage, I had no intention of going through it because in my opinion the quest was dead and I had given up. I explained to her I had no interest in talking about it but she was free to read all of it if she wanted to.

A few days later I was piddling around in the garage putting some shelves up when my wife comes out to let me know I had a phone call. Weird because I didn’t even hear the phone ring which was mere feet from where I was working. My wife holds her hand over the mouth piece as she whispers that she loves me in my ear. After I said hello there was an extremely long dramatic pause, so I said hello again. This time a woman said hello back to me. She went on to explain that my wife contacted her the day before and asked if her and I could talk. Okay, lets talk. She informed me of who she was, she explained to me that she was my biological mother (BM). I was at a loss for words. She told me she would tell me anything I wanted to know. She said we are older now so it was time for the truth to be told. Okay. She gave me a name and claimed it to be the biological father’s name but never kept up with him after I was born so that is all she knew. She then needed to go, this was too emotional for her, so we hung up. I was dumbstruck to say the least. Seems my wife is pretty sneaky. She told me she had “friends” who knew what to do with the information I had and in less than 24 hours had a name and a current phone number. Really? Really.

We found a number for the name she gave me and gave it a call. The plot thickened because the person she had me call was my BF’s good friend from back in the day. He put his name as the father and so forth to protect his friend’s marriage. This lie came between them a few years later and the friendship was severed, so he didn’t see the harm in giving me his name, the real name this time and he even had the phone number. After hanging up with him I called the number and asked to speak with the named person I was given and I was informed at that time by the man on the other end that he has been deceased since 1996. The man I was talking to was my BF’s wife’s new husband. He gave me the name and phone number of their oldest son if I wanted to talk with him because he might have more information. When I called him I got the answering machine. I left a message for him to call me and my information. When he returned the call we spoke for many hours because I knew things that nobody outside of their immediate family should even know. We were able to fill in each others blank spaces so to say. I offered up a DNA test to prove who I was and I was told that it wasn’t necessary he knew that I had to be genuine. The puzzle was indeed coming together for me and I basically unraveled everything he had ever known to be true. A few days later, his mother called me, she said she felt obligated since her husband had died before I could “confront” him in person. Yea, him being dead really did throw a wrench in it all for me.

I kept in telephone contact with my BF’s side of the family for a couple of years before it came time to go to my oldest daughter’s graduation in Rapid City South Dakota. She decided to go live with her mom, who guilted her into believing that her life was just too damn lonely without her. Since we were going to South Dakota for her graduation I had the bright idea that this would be the perfect time to meet my biological family as well as visit my AF’s grave that I have not seen since the day I buried him. I also contacted my BM and told her I was willing to drive to northern Idaho to meet her while we were on our trip. She declined as well as asking me not to contact her or her two other sons ever again. I have honored her request. I visited my AF’s grave, which was hard, it was emotional, and left me drained. The following day I visited my BF’s grave. This was hard as well but something I felt I needed to do. Why? I felt he needed to “see” me and “hear” my voice, I needed him to hear me and see me. I met all of his children, 4 sons and 4 daughters, and a whole slough of grandbabies, nieces, and nephews who had zero idea who this strange man was that was at their grandma’s house. The accepted me, it was like I had been on a long trip or lived far away and was finally returning home. Was it bizarre? Absolutely bizarre. by the time these 3 days were over my brain was mush, I felt like the wash cloth that gets crumpled up and left to dry in the corner of the shower, I was just done. But I had a graduation to go to, I had to get back on the road to drive five hours away to get to the next town for my oldest daughter’s graduation.

I talked with my daughter quite a bit about what has been happening. It involved her as well because the people I just met were here “people” biologically as well. I don’t think she was prepared for these talks but I know she walked away feeling better because now she had a few more answers that I could never give her before. The graduation was awesome, we were so happy for her because we know what an accomplishment it is to graduate. We spent the next few days with my daughter, doing different things, just her and I, it had been a long time since we got to just sit and shoot the shit together. The day came that it was time to head home, it was time to head back to Texas. I was out of energy, I was drained, and borderline torn if I needed to extend my trip so I could go to Idaho. Then, after a heated debate with myself, we drove back to Texas.

To this day I am close to my father (SF). He is close with all of my children. Until just weeks ago my 17 y/o daughter and my 12 y/o son didn’t know he was my step father. I had to explain so much to say so little. My son is looking forward to the trip to South Dakota to visit with people and to see the grave which bears the name of his grandfather which he has never met but was named after. It should be an interesting trip. My whole family will be involved this time in meeting all the biologicals, I’m told it will be a family reunion of sorts. I hope my wife and kids are up for the journey which is ahead of us. I will let y’all know if I was up to it when we get back. Until then, I guess this story is on pause. It’s not over, but it’s over for right now. I wonder what other people do when they try to explain their own family tree(s) to their kids. I bet allot of people are glad their roots aren’t so complicated.