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Ask the Expert

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'Want a piece of gum?'

FIRST-PERSON

Posted: May 11, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: May 11, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Violet Uzawa Dorio with her grandchildren at Thanksgiving. Courtesy photo

 

My mother was born in Canada over 92 years ago. Her father immigrated from Japan in 1910 to escape political persecution.

Violet Uzawa Dorio grew up on a farm in picturesque British Columbia growing apples (she still makes the best apple pie!), and spoke perfect English with an occasional “eh.”

After World War II, my parents met in occupied Japan as they both worked for the American Red Cross. Married, they moved to New York City where my father resumed his public role in government.

Together they had three sons but because of political persecution were forced to move -ending up in Los Angeles.

My mom experienced her share of prejudice, especially after the war, but living in communities in New York and Los Angeles that were predominately African-American, Latino, and Jewish, minimized discrimination.

As a typical rambunctious child, I remember being with my mother and brother in court for a minor traffic violation, and afterwards outside a women wagging her index finger condescendingly in my mother’s face yelling “those are the worse behaved children I have ever seen!”

The angered tone of voice did not make my mom waver as she calmly turned to us and asked, “Want a piece of gum?”

Another time, she took me to visit a home that we were interested in buying, and upon arrival told the gentleman, “I’m Mrs. Dorio and called to see your house.”

Of course, seeing she was Asian he immediately responded “it’s not available,” slamming the door on us.

I was only 11 years old, but knew it was because of prejudice, so I was angry.

Mom recognized that I was upset, and calmly asked, “Want a piece of gum?”

These are just a few moments of life she tended to ignore, as she saw evolving changes in our society that personal prejudice could not halt.

Somewhere along the line in New York, she and my father knew and were involved with Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, and Don Newcombe integrating baseball.

Fighting for rights and equality for all was what we were taught.

My father passed away in 1989, but mom continued to work and be active.

After retirement and losing her ability to drive she was relegated to a less independent life.

She still has her cat and garden, and relishes visits from her grandkids and great grandkids.

Getting up in years, health problems have impacted her. Last year, because of a hospitalization and illness, I decided I would honor my mother’s family by including her name in my writing “byline.”

Not long ago while watching TV in her living room, a PBS station was showing clips of New York political strife during the late 40s and early 50s.

As I noticed her intently looking at the screen, I asked “are you looking for dad?”

Without a flinch in her glance she said emphatically, “No, I’m looking for me!”

As most readers know I am a physician in Santa Clarita; as is my brother.

Our youngest brother retired several years ago, but still teaches lawyers and judges Workers Compensation law.

The importance of having the influence of two parents in our life has been intricate in our success.

Coming from an apple farm, to baking apple pies, to overturning the applecart of political persecution, our mother has contributed not only to her children, grandchild, and great grandchildren, but to the fabric of our society and nation.

Happy Mother’s Day mom.

And thanks for the gum!

Love, your son

Gene Uzawa Dorio, M.D.

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