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The Heart of Red String

As of this post, my dad, Sam (Isamu), is 92 years old. As age does to all of us, his mind is not as sharp and his movements not as swift, but he is in good health and spirit. He is the last of his eight other siblings to still be alive, and when he passes, a generation will have come and gone. And when that time comes, the world will have lost a great man. To learn more, please visit Generations.

I cannot put into words the respect and love I have for my dad; it is only something that comes from a lifetime of observations and reflections. One of the things I most admire about my dad is his authenticity and genuinely good heart. It is an attribute that I wish I had inherited.

Dad came from very humble beginnings and worked hard all his life. Six days a week for over 45 years, he worked. Every morning he would wake up at 5:30, wash up, get dressed in his uniform, and put on his boots that he kept in the laundry room. He would get to the station by 6:30, open the garage doors, switch on the lights and hydraulic pump, turn on the gas pumps, and start the first pot of coffee in the old coffee maker urn. He worked 12-hours days. The first customers would start arriving around 7:00. The last around closing time. The station was always scorching hot in the summers, made even hotter by the heat from the cars' engines, and freezing cold in the winters. When he had time for lunch, he would walk over to the Prawn Shop Cafe that was owned by an old friend, Gilbert Matsumoto, or across the street to the Far East Cafe run, at the time, by Sammy Leong. At closing time, he and his employees would clean up, put the tools away, scrub down the garage floors, and empty the garbage. At night, he would do his bookkeeping, manually writing down the hundreds of checks and credit card receipts he would get daily - the days before computers, Quickbooks, and paperless banking. He used to pay my brother and me 10 cents for every pack of credit card receipts we completed (I think we were duped).

Being a mechanic was a tough and dirty job, but not once did I ever see dad complain. He treated everyone he met with respect, honesty, and humility; always had time to talk to customers and friends; willingly dropped everything to help fix a car of a stranded customer, day or night; and would do anything for family and friends. To this day, no matter where we go, even far away places where I couldn't imagine anyone knowing us, there is always someone who recognizes my dad and comes to say "hello". This is a reflection of the kind of man my dad is.

I often wonder how my dad got to have such a good and kind heart. It may be just in his nature, but I think a lot of it came from his very humble and meager upbringing; overcoming the many adversities and hardships; love of friends and family; and working hard everyday to make ends meet. He is a great man and a wonderful father, and it is my hope that Red String will come to have, at its core, the heart of my dad.

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