THE TRUTH IS ALWAYS THE TRUTH
Friday, July 1st 2016
These letters are for you Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice (Ishijima), and anyone who loves you…
Good morning Bella. Another quarterly installment of missives begin. Seven years of letters to you. Seven years waiting. Seven years hoping. Every letter of those 2555+ days brings me a little closer to you, and every moment wasted, a little farther from your heart. 84 months… have you started reading these letters online, or have you yet to discover how much your Dad really loves you? 61,320+ hours waiting – surely as each hour passes, it must bring us closer to again meeting… But as each hour passes, another hour is wasted.
I am always here Phi. Always here for you…
It is also FIVE LONG YEARS (this September) since your mother last permitted us to meet. What really has she imagined all these years? Ironically, her independently constructed fear stands opposed to the decision of your birth country’s Family Court. Even her own country’s highest court, the High Court of Japan, strongly urges your mother to follow the Family Court’s recommendations. The law of Japan advocates that we see each other… alas, we cannot, solely because of your mother’s self interests – but I will never give up on you. There is hope in truth.
Looking back, September 11th 2011, was the last day you slipped your small hand in mine. It has been seven years since you last met with your Australian grandparents. A year is a long time without your presence gracing my life and lives of your Australian family… five years an eternity of grieving every day. Still, your presence lingers in the homes of your cousins – your photo proudly displayed, and stories of your personality and gentle ways linger at every family gathering where I am present. Phi, you shall never be forgotten.
As disturbing as this struggle has proved, given my time again, I would never “pass” on the opportunity to have you as a part of my life. There have been moments of depressive wonderings when I have pondered not ever having met your mother, and to move on, but… How could a Dad ever give up on his own child? Never, ever will I pass on an opportunity to meet you again. NEVER. The adventures we shared will live with me forever. Each of those shared moments with you, Ophelia, still shine brightly, still passionately resonate, and still bring me a glorious inner smile. I am so proud to be your Dad… My love for you has not diminished – you are everywhere, and always close.
The times we shared provide me with the strength to continue writing to you, to continue willing myself that this pain will end one day soon. Writing to you is a therapeutical means of giving something back. The writing enables me to remember golden moments shared with you that I will cherish and will cling to for as long as I live. Our absence from each other’s lives must surely soon come to an end. You, my dear Phi, will soon turn 14 years old. As a sassy & independent teenager, truth awaits.
Our time together was gold. Of course we often look at yesteryear through a rose tinted lens, but really, in reflection, life did seem so perfect (though I didn’t always know it at the time). Numazu, our home, just the two of us. A garden for bbqs and your cubby-house. An awesome bilingual (immersion) education for you. Friends such as Bonnie’s family, Brenda’s family & Pat – friends to us both. So fortunate when I contemplate the kindness and generosity that surrounded us. Did I ever know? Did we ever realize how lucky we were?
Five years since our last visitation and still so many vivid memories of you float through my mind every single day. Photos of you on our walls, photos of you on our screen savers, photos of you in your cousins’ homes, your Nandee & Pa’s home. You, smiling and laughing. You, my darling daughter riding piggy-back or atop Dad’s shoulders. I can still see you thinking through your next picture to draw. I can still feel your hand so calmly, lovingly slipping into my own as we walked the main thoroughfare away from Tokorozawa Station during that final visitation together. I can still sense your imagination alive and free, and I pray that very soon we will once again be safe and secure together.
Renewing our relationship, probably won’t be easy, but I know in both our hearts, we trust. From little things, big things grow… The life we shared, and the moments we remember will help us rekindle, embrace and bring the memories of our soul back to life.
When I think of the past, sometimes my eyes fill with tears that threaten to explode. Whenever I think of these thoughts – sometimes when I imagine you returning to me (like I did when I hoped to see you at your school in June this year), I imagine you smiling shyly then hugging me, both of us afraid to let go for fear the other will be gone from our lives again. Am I right to believe? Will this hope, this dream, this omnipresent vision eventuate? Will this gift that was taken from me ever be given again?
I love you Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice (AKA Ophelia Ishijima [sic])… I always will… XoXo…
Phi, here’s a classic KD Lang song for you:
*So many times, to so many people, your absence remains incomprehensible. In many, many hearts you’re a constant. Our thoughts are with you, and hopefully knowing you have our support, you will one day soon find the courage to contact us. When you’re ready, you could call me, or Skype me at: gerardmorice. Initially the voice may not sound like the voice of the Dad you remember in your dreams – you may hear the quavering in my voice and see the tears in my eyes. Whatever you are comfortable with – you can write too: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, July 3rd 2016
How’s my princess this hot humid morning? Had your workout this morning? Apologies, it seems I’m always writing to you about health & fitness – but diets & fitness binges will never reap any longevity rewards. Your decisions must be lifestyle choices. Being happy and healthy starts with you, and only you can make that commitment. Forgive Dad’s forwardness, but staying physically & mentally fit has to become your lifestyle choice. A sense of WELLBEING is paramount to happiness.
Giving more than receiving also helps build a healthy mindset. A recent study that resonated with your Dad gave one group of adults & children $5 or $20. The money was in an unmarked envelope and provided every day for two weeks to spend as they wished. Sometimes there was nothing in the envelope. To a different group of people, the researchers gave the same monetary envelopes, but instead of keeping the money for himself or herself, each recipient was told they had to donate/give the money away. They could simply buy a friend a coffee or lunch, or they could donate to charity, but the money could not be used on themselves. The research showed that the group that received the cash for themselves showed no increase in happiness (wellbeing), regardless of whether they received 5 or 20 dollars, but the group that gave away the money showed a significant increase in how they felt about themselves.
Be grateful. Be appreciative. Give thanks. How lucky are we who have legs to run?! So, long-legged Ophelia Morice, what was your workout like this morn’? Your Dad was up at 6am to beat the sun’s rays and ran 10 laps of Victoria Park. Your 48 year old Dad mixed it up by doing some old man interval training = 30 chin-ups, 100 crunches, 100 push-ups & 3 x one minute planks. Not too shabby.
Oh, by the way, I think it’s your cousin’s Allie’s b’day today – or perhaps it’s the 5th… She’s in grade 6 this year, very tall like yourself, and just like her cousin, loves horses – in fact she has her own horse called Abby! Wouldn’t it be grand to be riding horses alongside Allie up at Lancefield (that’s where Aunty Rach’s parents have a farm)? She’s doing well academically, your cousin Allie. She has a real presence about her. She’s inquisitive, well spoken, intrinsically motivated, and already ambitious. And, she’s never forgotten you. I love that about my niece, your cousin. Someday, you two will be more than just cousins.
In great news, Dad’s aunty Den (Den is Nandee’s sister) is out of intensive care (ICU). Nandee & Pa have driven to Sydney to help out with Mike & Den. I hope your Nandee will be okay – it’s a long drive to and from Sydney, and she’s not the most robust grandmother these days. We will Skype your Aussie grandparents in Sydney later this evening. I’ll say hello and “ganbatte” from you.
Aunty Den will surely ask, “How’s our Phi? Any news?” I wish I could deliver the news that we’ve all been waiting for… the moment our souls are united again, alas, I cannot… but I know our reunion can’t be too far away.
Sometimes as I dream of that first moment when we’re reunited, I feel I’m being indulgent, fantasizing that everything will be okay. I have to snap myself out of La-La Land because I feel secretly ashamed, unrealistic, and somewhat narcissistic. Am I right to believe in a future for us, together somewhere, happy somewhere? Still, I wait for that miracle because I believe in the bond we once shared. In so many ways, we were inseparable. Our feelings, our thoughts, our stories came so naturally. That moment, when you find the audacity and courage to contact me will ultimately arrive… even if time moves ever so slowly on the reunion-front. It goes without saying, each morning I wake and ponder whether today will be the day that my Ophelia contacts me.
In some ways, time helps, grudgingly so. Time, and my C, a wonderfully supportive family, and a great job, ease my burden. But these precious days that pass by us both, these weeks without each other, these months without your touch, these years without our commitment to one another, the pain is always there. Ingrained. Deep within. It hurts to know we’re being deliberately kept from each other. Why would anyone deny that love? Time. Time so precious. Time I wait to see you again. Time passes agonizingly slow.
The cold hard truth of reality is I know that when you do actually reach out to me, things will be different. I know. You know. Seven years is a long time. You will likely be subdued, I will probably be hesitant, certainly quiet. It’s understandable that after all this time, we will be unsure of our next steps. What was once totally natural, will most likely feel unnatural, even somewhat tense and strained… let us be patient, generous and understanding of one another…
One would have thought that with all this time, your Dad could plan a smooth transition to our eventual meeting. Seamless and without tears, I think not. There is much unanswered. Much to be gained in our first embrace. Much to be lost in every day that has been taken from us.
Will you stand next to me not knowing the truth? Or will you forever be afraid of the ghost of the past that someone conjured on your behalf? These letters perhaps hint at the truth, but the sad reality is that as much as possible, I have tried to spare you. If you seek the entire truth, you should access the truth of your mother’s actions through the Family Court of Japan. It is your right, should you seek to know what really happened after your mother strangled custody from me.
So much has happened, so much time has passed, so many missing pieces that questions alone cannot fill.
I love you Ophelia… Dad… XoXo…
“Our nature lies in movement; complete calm is death.” Blaise Pascal, Pensees
Tuesday, July 5th 2016
Hey Phi-Fai-Pho-Fum, how are you doing?
Keeping fit? Strong mentally? I hope you’re running amok, running hard & fast, and livin’ the life of a runner! Because baby, you were born to run! Why walk – when you can run? Just remember that effort matters more than performance. Someone wise once said, you can fool a lot of people on talent alone, at least for a while. But hard work and consistent effort develop a character that lasts. At the beginning of every x-country or track season, I tell my runners that I’m only interested in those runners willing to genuinely pursue personal bests. I look each of them in the eye as I tell them that if they’re content with last year’s times, even if they were ranked #01, they might as well walk away now. Perseverance, resilience and sheer determination are gold in my eyes.
Your Dad ran for 40 minutes around the yacht club and then onto Victoria Park earlier this morning. It’s an awesome feeling exercising while the rest of the world continues to snore… Zzzz! Your Dad also threw in 50 chin-ups, 100 crunches, 3 x one minute planks & 50 push-ups. What you got gal, hey!?
Yesterday and Sunday Dad drifted to the Causeway Bay library and spent three hours writing to Kyoko Sensei (lawyer) and tidying up letters to you. It was good to finally find some time to revise my letters to you. Usually I just write to you and then leave the letters to ferment. Weeks, and sometimes months later, when I’m in the best of moods, I revise, edit and delete some of the anger my selfish side still saves for your mother. I don’t want to blame or undermine your mother. Revenge is for the weak minded. It’s wasteful, twisted and hopeless. Hopefully, my revised letters to you Phi, don’t sound like they are penned by an exasperated, vengeful, disgruntled & single-minded dad… After all, I’m just a dad who loves his daughter – and even after all this time, I still can’t quite believe that I am living without you everyday of my life… My hope is that I am a good model for you, but you will one day see that I fall a long way short of perfection. I am what I am. Forgive me when I let you down. Allow my imperfections to shape you for the better.
Again, I sometimes worry that my inability to move on is just some form of narcissism, that I cannot imagine you not needing me, not needing to confide in me. Do you? Can you even remember me? Are there remnants of the joyous times we shared still in your heart? But I keep writing as any parent who loves their child would. It’s the right thing to do – the force & connection is still strong young Ophi – Jedi Knight.
In a short time you will be fourteen years old – selfishly, I sincerely hope there are some sassy genes that bubble to the surface and seek answers. Unsolved mystery – the disappearance of your Dad. Answers to calm your identity. Resolutions to sooth your soul. It can’t be easy for you kiddo, not knowing, not being in a position to discover how much I love you… Everyone talks about the resilience of children (especially educators & doctors), how kids adjust to new lives, how they survive, and move on. But can you really move on from this? How can you move on when your mother has unlawfully prevented us from seeing one another? Will things ever be the same again?
Probably not, but one thing will never change… I love you Phi… forever waiting… Dad… XoXo.
THERE ARE ALWAYS TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY
“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less travelled by.” Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken and Other Poems
Thursday, July 7th 2016
Hey Possum. The old man was at it again this morning. Sweaty, salty, red in the face, feeling grand! Exercise. It’s a damn fine medicine. Fancy some? Dad ran through Victoria Park here in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, and continued his old man interval training. 30 chin-ups, 125 crunches, 50 straight-legged kick-ups, 100 push-ups, 3 x one-minute planks, and a 40 minute run. Gotta love your lifestyle!
And now, another attempt at an epistle for you my daughter. Once upon a time the enormity of losing you loomed so large it blocked everything else out. In many morbid ways I lost confidence in who I was. In numerous other ways I shrank inwardly, and to some extent away from family and friends. I allowed myself to wilt professionally, retreating from committees and presentations to faculty, unable or unwilling to give of myself as I once did. And though I dived into the Saint Maur Tsunami Relief Committee, I was really only treading water. As much as working as a volunteer reinvigorated my soul, it still couldn’t match the energy you had provided me. With you by my side, I felt I could have been anything. Your smile, your energy, your goodness was all the spark I needed. The way you lived your life, even as a child of six, made me ever so proud. But after losing you, despite the mask I tried to hide behind professionally, I slipped, and refused a Curriculum Coordinator position, and on another occasion, a Middle School Principal position. Not reluctantly, I balked at the idea of extra responsibility despite believing I was the best person for the position. Administration and leadership positions would have to wait while I figured out how best to manage the situation with your mother. C came to the rescue, running helped, and I somehow managed to breathe through it, pretending to those nearby that life was normal.
Normalcy came through writing to you. I have Aunty Maur to thank for that… God bless her monstrously magic heart! When I write to you, nothing else matters. As I write, if I keep you front and centre, I needn’t address your mother at all. Most often, it’s calming sharing my thoughts with you. There are moments when I reminisce that bring me brief joy. Sometimes it hurts, especially if I allow my mind to drift to, “What if…”. Even so, I feel it’s my own personal therapy, a rehabilitation of the heart and soul, and a strengthening of the mind. All of which, I owe to you & C… thank you Phi… thank you C… XoXo.
You may not be beside me as I write, not even in the same country, but I feel your presence and believe that the end is nearing.
Always awaiting you… Dad… XoXo…
THAT ROPE EXISTS
“It’s an old sailor’s idea that every ship has a rope with one end made fast to her bows and the other held by the loved ones at home.” Bruce Chatwin, In Patagonia
Saturday, July 16th 2016
Hey Phi, this time last year we were preparing to leave for Hong Kong. Another year with no word from you, another 365 DAYS lost to us. At the time we were packing our bags for our next adventure, you were twelve, and I guess Dad was hoping that around October 2015 when you became a teenager, you might begin to wonder about the gaps & contradictions in your mother’s side of the story and reach out to Dad. Not yet, but perhaps soon… There are always two sides to every story.
Dad has just finished his first week of Summer School at the Tai Tam HKIS campus. I’ve been teaching ‘Critical Thinking’ to G4 – 6 students. It’s a great mix of kids from different local and international schools. I teach a morning & afternoon session from a classroom with the most amazing view of a bay on the southern end of Hong Kong island. From the classroom window we can see the Dragon’s Back Mountain in the background, and in the foreground there’s a mighty gum tree. Unbelievably majestic.
This time next year, Dad will be packing up his classroom at Repulse Bay and moving alongside his colleagues to the Tai Tam campus. The plan is for the school to renovate the Upper Primary campus (where I teach now), so we’ll all be shipped off to the Tai Tam campus for 12 months… hope I get a classroom with a similar poetic view!
Thursday night, C went out with her JP mates, so Dad caught up with Maurice & Sophie in nearby Northpoint. It was good to catch up, talk a little footy and chat about our Tokyo days together. It’s a small world Phi – Sophie’s father was one of my lecturers at university. You even met Maurice & Sophie’s daughters, Mave & Dara, when we visited their family in Melbourne.
To prevent me from getting soft, I also ran home from the Tai Tam campus Monday & Wednesday afternoon. It’s a grueling run in the afternoon heat with the humidity feeling like a blanket, but it’s character building! My plan is to continue the trend, running home twice a week, what do you think Phi? Care to join me? Great hill training for aspiring runners!
It’s been another horrific week in world news. What’s the world coming to??? Yesterday we awoke to the devastating news from Nice, France, and the mentally deranged rampaging truck driver. Then this morning, we’re listening to the attempted military coup in another of our favourite countries, Turkey.
But, let’s finish on a positive. Here’s a little dedication especially for you – Spice Gals givin’ gals some power:
Love forever and ever and ever… Dad – XoXo… Kick like a girl – STRONG!
Sunday, July 17th 2016
Hey Little One! What are those long legs made of? This morning your Dad was at it again. Exercise – should be the single most prescribed medicine in the world! Ran for 40 minutes, did my mandatory 30 chin-ups, slipped in 100 crunches, banged out a 100 push-ups, threw in 60 kick-ups, followed that with three x 1 minute planks, and finished it all off with a few lunges. The glutes might be a bit sore tomorrow; haven’t done any lunges for a while. And you? Strong spiritually, mentally and physically? I can’t wait for the day when the two of us can exercise together… what do you say Ophelia? Sounds like a plan, right?
After breakfast and coffee with C, it was off to the library to polish up a letter I had penned to our lawyer. Here it is:
Hello again Kyoko Sensei,
Ishigaki was fantastic. As it’s only two hours direct from HK we plan on visiting again. Perhaps next time we’ll visit Iriomote. Do you recommend any nice (reasonably priced) places to stay?
Thank you for getting back to me with an action plan.
Firstly, there are a few things that you may need to know:
- My wife & I haven’t lived in Japan for more than three years (from July 2013).
- After I parted ways with your expertise, I used a less expensive lawyer. It was not successful. After which M. Otani became the third lawyer to represent me. Perhaps you know of her; she’s quite famous and has just been appointed the first Japanese independent expert to be elected to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. Sad to say, I feel that she used my case more for her own interests than for my daughter’s wellbeing (and mine). Indeed during the time Otani Sensei represented me, the visitation rights you had fought so hard for, were not protected by the Family Court.
- My last visitation was Sunday, September 11th Within seconds of leaving her mother, Ophelia took my hand. I’ll never forget that moment. Her warm and loving act brought me much strength. The visitation was for 90 minutes. The next day, Monday, September 12th 2011, Ophelia’s mother (via telephone) told me that my daughter did not wish to see me. It’s genuinely impossible for me to believe that the Ophelia who took my hand just 24 hours earlier, smiling & laughing, did not wish to see me again. Nevertheless, this September, it will be five years since I’ve seen my daughter.
- When I was living in Japan, I used to attend Ophelia’s school festivals. On Saturday, October 13th 2012, I attended with my parents. They had flown from Australia to see their first grandchild. We were denied access to Ophelia. The presents my mother gave to Ms. Ishijima for Ophelia were thrown to the ground by Ms. Ishijima before my mother’s eyes. For no reason, Ophelia’s new family threatened to call the police if we continued to attend her school events.
- On Sunday, October 28th 2012, I arrived at Ophelia’s school with my wife and a family friend who had known Ophelia from birth. Shortly afterward, Ophelia’s family contacted the police. Six police officers surrounded my wife & I and escorted us to the front gate. Originally they accused us of attempted kidnapping [sic], but it soon became apparent to the police that we only had the intention of passing presents to Ophelia. From that point on, one undercover officer seemed to sympathize with our predicament and he personally took the presents and passed them to Ophelia’s maternal grandfather.
- On Wednesday morning, June 22nd 2016, I visited Ophelia’s school. I spoke with a teacher at the door of the faculty room. The teacher informed me that if I returned during the lunch hour I could see Ophelia. Upon return, the school gates had been closed. I was met and denied access to Kamiyamaguchi Middle School. On the school’s website it stated that the week was designated as “Open Week” for parents and other interested parties. I spoke with the Kyoto Sensei and the year 8 Middle School team leader by the front gate. They told me that the presents I had delivered to the school had been taken by Ophelia’s grandmother. They also told me that Ophelia didn’t wish to see me. I suspected it was the influence of Ophelia’s Japanese family that brought this decision, even so, I remained calm and respectful. I informed Kyoto Sensei that I too was a teacher, that I didn’t want to cause any trouble, and that I understood the difficult position they had been placed in.
Secondly, I am only interested in the wellbeing of my daughter. I want to do all I can to support her. I want her to feel comfortable and proud of her identity as a beautiful and proud bicultural person. I want her to realize the love of her Australian cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. And I want her to know that a day never goes by without her dad thinking of her. Indeed, even though Ms. Ishijima denies me access, I write regularly to my daughter. You can view seven years of letters at: opheliaanddad.com
So, I am not interested in monetary compensation or any sort of revenge; I just want what is best for my daughter. I believe my family and I can only do good by Ophelia.
Despite the fact that the Family Court has only given me grief upon every occasion, I guess the most sensible avenue is to follow your first idea (1). To let the Family Court urge her mother to follow the judgment of the High Court and allow me to see my daughter.
We also seek your advice in liaising with Ophelia’s Middle School. My wife & I are preparing to send Kyoto Sensei the same court documents we forwarded you. I want them to realize that I am a reasonable person. I’m not interested in causing them any trouble, however, at the same time, the courts have urged Ms. Ishijima to continue visitation, communicate school events, and to keep me up to date with Ophelia’s school reports; all of which she ignores. Is it better that this communication comes through you?
And so, we must continue to fight the good fight. Truth always wins – sometimes, it just takes time – ask Nelson Mandella. Integrity is everything – doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.
I love you Phi… XoXo…
ONE MUST ALWAYS BELIEVE
“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” Jimmy Dean
Thursday, July 28th 2016
Hey Buddy, how’s the summer vacation treating you and your friends? Are you headed to the beach, a swim in a mountain river, some camping & a barbeque? Perhaps you and your friends will all dress up in your yukatas and watch the fireworks… an alchemy of unimaginable teenage passion – wish I could be there with you, not to interfere or be constantly in your face, but just to play a small part… bless you… XoXo.
Tell me about your friends – are they kind, considerate and generous? Hadyn said something profound to me recently: we are the average of the five people we see most in our lives. Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future! The idea that we are in good measure a reflection of our soul mates, resonates deeply with me. The more I think about it, the more I know there is truth in the five people we choose to surround us permeating our hearts & mind. We allow each other freedom, we support one another, we listen, we compromise, we give, and we’re honest with one another – and if they don’t, we owe it to ourselves to ask: do they truly have our best interests at heart? Are they truthful with themselves? Are they generous of spirit? At the same time, everyone needs a second chance – perhaps they’re just having a bad day…
Back to our journal together – our journey in print (crafting each letter with my two-finger typing!). So, today was Dad’s second last day of three weeks of Summer School. It’s been an interesting change for me, as I’ve been teaching at the Tai Tam HKIS campus. The short story is – it’s been great. I’m a lucky person to love teaching and children so much! Adding to the fortunate fun, we have an unbelievable classroom overlooking a gorgeous bay. Not the most swimmable bay, as it’s quite full of sharp oyster producing rocks and somewhat on the murky side, but from our angle – high above on the 6th floor, it’s a glorious view. Beyond the bay is the famous Dragon’s Back, a hugely popular hiking ridge with views of the bay and ocean down each side.
Dad has been teaching ‘Critical Thinking’ to students from G4 – G6. They’re an interesting bunch of HKIS students, students from other international schools in HK, students from some of the local public schools, and even a few students from China & the USA. Twice weekly, around 4.30pm, I have managed to brave the 34 degree Celsius heat and humidity and run the 12km home. C enjoys joking with me when I arrive home – by the time I push the key in our front door, it appears I have just jumped into a pool, such is the sweat. Yeah, sorry Phi, probably not such a pretty sight. But it’s a great workout and I drink around two liters each way – the sweat cleanses the pores and the soul!
Tonight, Felicity, a fellow summer school teaching colleague has invited us to the HK Football Club to sit around the pool, enjoy a drink, and then enjoy dinner. I think I’ll order fish and chips! Felicity & Chris have two younger kids – fancy playing babysitter for an hour or two?
Last Friday our Lamma Island friend, Janet, popped in for a pre-dinner drink. She’s also a dog lover. Phi, you would just love her. She even brought back a dog from Thailand that had been left for dead after injuring its two back legs. Janet has spent a small fortune ensuring it’s healthy & loved.
Then on Sunday, we took Toro on the ferry across to Cheung Chau Island (kind of between Hong Kong Island & Lantau Island). Aboard the ferry, it was about a 50 minute crossing to an island shaped like a bone – a very doggish day! We were expecting something remote and less developed than Lamma Island (our usual go-to island retreat), but right in front of the ferry terminal was a McDonald’s! There was even one of Dad’s favorite HK stores – 759. Despite being on an early ferry, thousands of other island hoppers had joined us. To escape the hordes of holiday makers, we walked to the far side of the island and took Toro for a dip in a small bay. This is something I love about Hong Kong – we could have been on any beach anywhere in South East Asia. Happy days! After our dip (Toro isn’t too keen – he has to be strongly encouraged and pushed to swim), we found a bar/restaurant and ordered some fish ‘n’ chips! While we waited we ordered an ice-cold beer each. Lovely! By 1.30pm, however, the sun was doing a number on your Dad, so we were back on the return ferry for HK island.
Life is good now. C & Dad feel settled, safe & comfortable. It’s just the two of us, three if you count Toro, and hopefully one day soon, you’ll join us from time to time. I often feel brave & bold with our life-changing moves. Japan, Egypt, Hong Kong. I hope you don’t feel betrayed by my apparent optimism as C & Dad explore this world. Malaysia, India, Saipan, Ishigaki, Turkey, Spain, Switzerland, France, UK, Italy, China, Kyushu, Thailand, South Africa, Austria, Belgium, New Caledonia, Australia … so many places, so many stories to tell you one day soon, so many spots I’ve found a moment to think of you – call it prayer, remembrance, call it what you will – when I think of you nothing else matters. Usually, it’s a smell, a song, a child’s voice as they call their dad that brings me a smile as I remember you in a similar light. Even so, sometimes my happiness feels dizzy and hollow because somewhere in there, there is a hole in my heart.
FLASHBACK – Yesteryear, your Dad was very much the extrovert, ambitious, outspoken and willing to lead. Over time, not reluctantly, I have let my world of once many friends slip away from me. There were times I felt empty without you beside me, but I soon became used to that feeling. There were even occasions when I felt I couldn’t or wouldn’t recover from my self-imposed misery. But, as the Blue Man in Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven says, “Fairness, does not govern life and death. If it did, no good person would ever die young.”
I LOVE YOU… XoXo…
Monday, August 1st 2016
Hey Phi, how’s it going sleepy head? I woke early, always do now that I’m old and wrinkly. Your Dad seems to rise every morning around 5am, even before the 5:20am alarm. It’s good & bad – the good is I can largely beat the heat and get some exercise in while the rest of the world sleeps; the bad, well, your Dad is often in bed with his book at 9pm. Even so, the early bird catches the worm! The streets are deserted, there’s no Cairo-esque feral dogs to battle, and by 7am I am back home enjoying breakfast and writing to you. My core, my cardiovascular system, and my wellbeing get some cleansing, and I have the whole day ahead of me. Life is a celebration of health & wellbeing! Being fit mentally & physically has enabled me to push through everything your mother has thrown at me, and not only survive, but prosper in happiness beside C and my family & friends.
Yesterday (Sunday), your Dad ran again, joined the 100 Club by banging out 100 push-ups, 100 crunches, 30 chin-ups (I think my arms might drop off if I ever attempted 100 chin-ups in one session), and 100 kick-ups. Later in the day, I ventured into Central and bought a new sports jacket from Zara – kind of pink, red & white – very chic for your 48 year OLD Dad! I’ll send you a photo!
Saturday evening Maurice came over for homemade Dad sausage rolls and a game of footy. Sophie and the gals are back in Australia, so he got a home cooked meal. It was good to finally catch up and watch some footy together – Boomer’s 427th game for North Melbourne; a new record.
Friday night Dad enjoyed a couple of drinks with Rob & Felicity to celebrate the end of three weeks of Summer School. The three of us worked from the Tai Tam campus to save a few extra bucks for rainy days. Each week my goal was to run home twice from Tai Tam. Last week, I ran home Monday & Wednesday. Lucky one of my kids gave me a Camelback! It’s an awesome backpack that comfortably holds 3 liters of icy water – it’s a long run back to Causeway Bay in this thick humidity! I skirt the Tai Tam reservoir and then hit the hill to Park View. It’s a good long hill, very steep in some parts, so when the body is crying out in pain, I picture you and start a conversation with you – you usually start. It goes something like this:
You start, “C’mon Dad! Is that all you’ve got?”
“Puff, huff, puff,” is all you get from me. And a grin.
“Dad? It’s not that steep. C’mon, pick it up.”
My eyes smile, I grit my teeth and think of you beside me, or just in front of me egging me on. “You know I’ll be 50 the year after next?”
“What do you want, a medal?” you wink at me.
“Nah, just a day with you,” I pant. “A whole day.”
There’s a pause, like you’re teasing me. “That would be great,” you respond.
And so it goes. Before long, I’m at the top of the mountain and feeling pretty good about myself and life.
When I exercise the endorphins bring a good deal of positive energy, but at night if C is working late on one of her translation jobs, I’m not always full of hope. I lie in bed, alone, wide awake and hope you can read my heart. I really wish you could see my heart – then you would know, know everything, sense the loneliness I feel everyday without you. Put your hands on my shoulders, look into my eyes and feel the warmth, hope and love. I wish you could pull me close and feel my life rush into you. Feel the depth of my commitment and the way so much of my life still evolves around you. You would see that your Australian family has not forgotten you. My life is no waste, nor are these letters I pen for you. Each week I put aside a little time to write to you; it’s a small sacrifice to make, and it’s never enough – you deserve much, much more from me and your mother. But, it is my time to sit and think of only you. Just the two of us. Wonder how you are doing. Wonder what you are thinking. Wonder when we will meet again. I am not alone, you never have to pity me or feel sorry for me. This hardship has made me a better person – stronger, a better listener, a deeper thinker. It’s not fatal, or a dream set for self destruction – life is about becoming a better version of yourself. Be the person your dog thinks you are! As the Blue Man says, “The only time we waste is the time we spend thinking we are alone.”
Sacrifice. You’re making one. I’m making one by playing fair. Sometimes I regret not fighting aggression with aggression, but usually that’s a selfish person who puts herself/himself in front of you. I don’t want to be that person. You come first, it’s only fair. I want you to see that I am waiting for you. Waiting for you to realize the truth. The truth is not far from you now. The truth is always the truth.
The truth is that you, my dear Ophelia, lived with me for the first six years of your life. If I close my eyes I can still see you sleeping. Your mouth open, your cheeks rosy, your hair tangled and matted with a little perspiration, your innocence – your noble, heartbreaking innocence. Your beautiful face, so peaceful in sleep.
I love you Phi… XoXo…
“Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.” Farrah Gray
Sunday, August 7th 2016
How’s my gorgeous daughter this evening? Thinking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? We should visit together some day. I miss you… can’t help but think of you each time a school year begins. I know you won’t be starting your second term until later this month, but here, on the international school scene, we’re gearing up to start another academic year. I always wonder what might have been if your mother hadn’t taken you and alienated you from your Australian family. If I ponder the now impossible, it only gets me down – so, let’s just smile – we can both hold on Bella!
Dad spent Thursday, August 4th & Friday, August 5th setting up my new classroom. School for us teachers doesn’t officially start until Tuesday, August 9th and I think the kids don’t arrive until next Monday. I’m still in fourth grade, but I had to move rooms, so there was plenty to move, organize and rearrange. I’m on the 7th floor – talk about a vertical school! After two solid six-hour days of organizing, sorting, discovering and tossing, the new classroom looks pretty tight and neat. It’s a good feeling to have my classroom setup pretty much ready to go. Alone, I accomplished a good deal, but I could have done with your help Phi. You’re pretty artistic, right? When you were little, you were quite the artist – hope that creative streak has been encouraged. You could have helped me with some of the finer touches on the anchor charts I’m preparing for literacy and math.
Missing you Phi… time for Dad to enjoy a scotch with a little ice… Oyasumi nasai…
Love Dad… XoXo…
Sunday, August 14th 2016
Hey Ophelia Morice, did you think of me today? I had a day away from the classroom, so I found some time to run, do 100 crunches, walk with C & Toro, and write/revise some letters to you. Usually, I just write, spew my thoughts to you, unleashing all of my emotions, dreams, hopes, wishes and feelings. I write from the heart, and at least from my biased point of view, I at least endeavor to keep blame, misery and sorrow from creeping into my writing and your heart. But, if I’m honest with myself, that’s quite impossible. Writing to you is in some ways my therapy, a healing that enables me to better accept reality. So, once written, I let my words & thoughts rest, and then weeks later, with fresh eyes I reread and revise, doing my best to erase or soften any of my words that might hurt or undermine your mother. Some of the words I leave to ferment, and hopefully with time and wisdom, I can deal with them properly. And sometimes, I leave the wording as is. I know I’m not always successful in shielding you from what your mother has done to us and the relationships you once treasured with your Australian grandparents, cousins, uncles & aunts – and for that, I’m sorry.
Alas, let’s drink to hope, second chances, forgiveness and family.
Tomorrow, my new bunch of G4 students will join me in the classroom for a quick orientation with their parents. Tanoshimi! I’ll get to meet them and their parents and get a feel for what this year holds for me, and my 22 new students.
Cheers big ears! Love Dad… XoXo…
“Remember no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt
Sunday, August 28th 2016
G’day Gorgeous. Sorry it has been two weeks since I put pen to paper. First impressions of Dad’s new class are super encouraging. They’re absolutely wonderful, and I don’t mind one bit spending a good deal of my weekend actually at school planning and preparing the classroom & curriculum.
Working Saturday isn’t such a chore; in fact, it sets me up for the week, and usually I find some time to write to you, let you know how I am, what’s happening and the sort. And, I guess, it keeps me busy – my quite remarkable adaptation that has enabled me to not only survive, but to flourish!
So I adapted, but I haven’t moved on. It’s impossible to forget what happened to us. It’s possible to forgive, but at the same time, we both know things will never really ever be the same. Still, you don’t win anything by being the saddest the longest. There’s no prize for being the most miserable. I am not betraying anyone by trying to live a better life. And I am not giving up on anyone, especially you.
Mostly, I do try to make the best out of an impossible situation. A long time ago I decided I cannot spend the rest of my life being angry with your mother. When you were taken away from me, the foundation of my life was shifted. I had to start from zero again. Once upon a time, every time I blinked, I hoped that I would wake from the nightmare I was in, but every time I opened my eyes, every day, every week, every month, the unimaginable horror remained. I guess in some ways I have moved on, and though I have my obstacles to happiness, none of them are anywhere as difficult as losing you. I sleep well most nights, because unlike your mother, I don’t bed down to a dark, immovable wall of truth. What she did changed your life in an irreversible way. Her lies, alternative facts, and deceitful actions blackened her own soul… I feel sorry for her, I really do – when we lie, we only cheat ourselves. As horrible as it sounds, she really has backed herself into a terrible hole.
Your mother may never be able to right this wrong, but she can save herself by being truthful to herself and her own heart.
WISDOM FROM HADYN’S FRIDGE
Listen twice as much as you speak – most people get this backwards and talk twice as much as they listen. That’s normal. But watch what happens when you start to listen more – you’ll display how much you care and people will develop more trust in you.
Sunday, September 4th 2016
How’s life in Tokorozawa? Living this far removed from you, I can only imagine an infinitesimal number of life’s possibilities thrown your way. Do you have any international friends? Where are they from? Is Japanese your common medium, or has your English survived? I so hope that you are still bilingual – it’s such a rare gift to be as totally bilingual as you were as a six year old. You were the envy of many, so naturally switching in and out of English/Japanese. A silky smooth communication skill! Do you still identify with being bicultural, or has someone wrestled your identity from you?
So many questions, so many wonderings… I know you’re in the track & field club at your Junior High School, but even before that fact was revealed, your genes meant at some stage you would try your legs out on the track. So, how fast can you actually run 5km? Your cousin, Billie, who is 11 is preparing to run in a 5km Fun Run next month – wouldn’t that be neat, running a Fun Run with your cuz & Uncle Sean!
Books! Who is your favorite author? There are so many books I would love to read to you, so many titles that I feel you would just love, especially when you hear Dad talk about said books with such passion. Here a couple you might like to try: Walk Two Moons (Sharon Creech) & The School for Good & Evil (Soman Chainani) Do you have a favorite book series? I have a sneaking suspicion you’re a Harry Potter fan, or should I say, a Hermione fan!
More questions… Do you still help around the house? Have you kept that wonderful sense of responsibility and initiative? I was always so proud of your efforts to pitch in and help out where needed.
What can I help you with? Homework and building a schedule/routine? Running & building a strong core? Carpentry & gardening? English and writing? Math and the fact that it’s everywhere? Saving your pocket money? Poetry and wicked books? Friends, initiative, lifestyle & Leadership? I so wish I could be a part of your life – right now, today, this very moment – when you get a chance, seize the moment and please contact me. Or you could contact Nandee – her number is 61 3 9879 2367 – please, she would LOVE to hear from you.
And me, well, school is crazy busy, but Friday night, the fourth grade teachers all went to the Yacht club for some bowling, dinner and a drink. It was a nice way to finish the week, because Thursday evening was Back to School Night (BTSN). BTSN is a grand night where most parents come along for an hour with their child’s teacher. I had 26 parents, and stressful as it is, the evening went smoothly.
Missing you, my Little Bo Peep… LOVE Dad… XoXo…
LET US NOT ALWAYS LIVE IN MOTHER TERESA’S SHADOW
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.” Mother Teresa
Saturday, September 10th 2016
It’s evening here in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. There’s a glorious sun setting on our spectacular view of Victoria Harbor. It’s breathless, wordless, and its energy inspires hope. Hope. We both have hope for a future together. Belief. We just have to believe that we will one day soon be reunited. Strength, like this mighty sunset that engulfs us all – swallows us and our pessimism. Its grandeur can’t help but build a growth mindset, edging us closer to that first conversation together. A bridge. A bridge to acceptance. That first hug will bring acceptance – we cannot change the past… we can only move forward.
And so, let us get on with life. Let us set goals and show gratitude. Envision that moment when we will once again be totally comfortable in each other’s presence. In the meantime, let’s be grateful and appreciate each and every day – each and every sunrise, each and every sunset.
What was the highlight of your day? Let’s see, for Dad it’s often the simple things in life; it might be the pleasure of a cheap haircut that brings a smile to me – this morning at 10am I had a 60HKD haircut (that’s about 1000 yen). A quick & easy 10 minute cut – not too shabby. Another highlight was grabbing a post-haircut coffee and writing to you my darling Ophelia. Actually, just 20 minutes ago, as I ordered my latte at the counter, a little girl of perhaps 5 or 6 excitedly called, “Daddy!” It brought me joy to hear her faith. Her loving voice took me back to yesteryear with you. Do you still dream of Dad?
Perhaps you still have memories of Dad & Allan watching the footy. Last night was an incredible game between the Cats & Hawks. Plenty of bash and crash and the Cats just won by two points after the lead changed all night. In fact, the Cats purring victory was halted when a Hawk player had a chance to kick the winning goal after the final siren; he tragically missed, but as Dad was supporting the Cats, it was a fitting finale.
BTW, your uncle Hadyn was with us during the week. Hayd joined us Thursday night after he had flown in from Thailand for a breezy 24 hour visit. C cooked gyoza, miso soup, a cool French salad, and amazing individual portions of chocolate pudding with vanilla ice cream for each of us. It was grand to see Hayd. Did you know we’ve been mates since grade 3 in primary school? We played footy together, camped with each other’s families, hiked here, there & everywhere in Victoria, traveled the Europe & North America together, ran & exercised here, there & everywhere. And Thursday evening, we sat back and leisurely enjoyed the view from Elizabeth House, Causeway Bay, laughed, reminisced and drank sparkling wine. What a gem your Uncle Haydy is!
During the week it was your Uncle Richie’s b’day (Wednesday, September 7th). I miss my brother, his warm and quiet ways, his calming influence and his wisdom on so many issues. I’m lucky to have brothers like I do – your uncles are fantabulous!
Busy at school, you? Do you already have loads of tests to prepare for? How’s your English teacher? Is there any communication involved, or is the esoteric ways of teaching English in Nippon still prevalent? Do the teachers still stand on the podium at the front of the classroom dictating their monologue? Are English sentences broken down like they are some sort of mystical equation? I really hope that English teachers have stopped teaching to the test. If the test is still the primary concern, there is no transfer of learning, no meaningful takeaway, and as the evidence of reality shows, very few students graduate from high school (after six years of everyday English tuition) with any genuine appreciation & understanding of English as a tool for communication. Oops, what a rant… back to Dad.
I am crazy busy too, but I’m conscious of the fact that my fitness is good for both body & mind. Your Dad ran home from school in Repulse Bay Tuesday & Thursday this past week, and he coached his fitness class for teachers Monday. You should join us and attempt the 100 Club – 100 push-ups, 100 crunches, 100 lunges, 3 x 100 second planks & 100 squats. What do you say, Phi?
Last weekend Dad went to school on Saturday for the fourth Saturday in a row. It was a bit of a non-event. I need to spend more time with my lovely C. Shame on your Dad – I need to help out around home too. What about you? Helping out when you can?
Alrighty Angel, the sun has well & truly set on this letter. Good night Phi… XoXo… Dad.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
Sunday, September 18th 2016
Hey Bella, sorry it’s been a while. How’s life back at school after your summer holiday? Uncle Milton is here at the moment. Tonight we visited two of his former Japanese colleagues here in Hong Kong. Together, we enjoyed a Chinese meal in Kowloon. Milton is on his way to Spain after HK. He’s thinking of buying a home by the Mediterranean. Actually, C & Dad have been talking about it too. I’m not that comfortable about living in Australia, and I think your mother will make life for all of us difficult in Japan. So, what about Spain? Have you been to Europe? You’ll love it, so rich in history, landscapes, cuisine, culture, festivals & surprises. But the best part will be, you, me & C sitting down to some exotic cheese, a fresh still-warm baguette and a glass of local wine. Talk, listen, talk, listen, smile, laugh, love… How would you like to study Spanish or French? How about it Phi? If you’re not keen on wine, we can exchange the vino for fresh pomegranate juice!
I LOVE YOU – Dad… XoXo…
“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” Plutarch
Sunday, September 25th 2016
G’day Phi. How are you doing? You’ll be 14 in just over two weeks… hard to imagine that my baby gal is turning fourteen. Any sign of summer ending in Nippon? It’s still just as hot here – probably have to wait until late October for any real noticeable change to the oppressive heat & humidity here. Can’t complain – pretty much all day your Dad is in air conditioned comfort at school Monday to Friday.
Sitting here on the couch with our stunning view of Victoria Harbour enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon. Wish you were here beside me. I’m watching Bosch. It’s a US cop show. The central character, Bosch, has a daughter who is probably about high school – maybe a year or two older than you. They have a good relationship, although she lives with her mum, who incidentally is a professional gambler in Las Vegas. The daughter calls him on Skype. Sometimes she can’t cope with her mother, or she just wants to chat with her dad. I love it when she calls. It always makes me think of you. Always.
Also Saturday, Dad went into school to act as a moderator for student council. There are 18 fourth graders, two representatives from each class. The kids seem great – very motivated and generous in their thinking. I learned one member, Ariane, has prime ministerial blood in her veins. Her grandfather was the president of Korea and until he past away, a friend of the UN’s Bung Ki Moon. Pretty impressive, huh!?
Here’s a letter I sent to the schools Booster Club as part of one of the Student Council’s initiatives:
Dear Booster Club,
The G4 Student Council met this morning for three hours. Saturday? Yes. You could say we’re super keen.
Our moderators (S K & Gerard Morice) were astonished at how quickly we moved away from me, myself & I ideas to ways we can serve the community. This year, one of our goals is to embrace our fourth grade themes of persistence, empathy, integrity & forgiveness. As student councilors we have to show initiative in ensuring we & our peers are cognizant of our Student Learning Results, namely:
Chinese Culture with looking at ways to properly show appreciation to our Chinese neighbors.
Contributing to Society and recognizing and rewarding the contributions of oftentimes unrecognized workers.
Character Development by developing an understanding and recognition of how others contribute to our own lives, and also the courage to stand up for what is right.
Spirituality by showing kindness to others as demonstrated by Jesus in the Christian faith.
As student councilors we seek to promote spirit events for the greater good of the HKIS community. We recognize the fact that we as students, teachers, and family members of HKIS are a privileged few. At the same time we are aware of HKIS’s core values: learning thrives in the presence of mutually respectful relationships. We also acknowledge that there are many around us, who constantly support us, and yet in many ways, they are not afforded the same privileges.
At HKIS, we are encouraged to develop a mindset of empathy and service, and so, the G4 Student Council has two proposals we seek your help with:
- We wish to recognize the wonderful job our support staff do at the UP. Every day they arrive before us and depart after us, cooking, cleaning, maintaining, repairing… the list is endless. And so, we would like to serve them a special ‘thank you’ lunch. We will interview each of them to learn more about them, and then write a biography about their lives. This biography and a thank you card will be presented to them on their special ‘thank you’ day. We would also like to have some door prizes that some of our luckier support staff might be taking home with a smile at the end of the day. We (not our helpers) also acknowledge that we will need to prepare most of the food & beverages ourselves, but we will need to purchase a good many things to help make this day a success.
We are also keen to celebrate and acknowledge the work of all ‘helpers’ affiliated with the UP campus. Their often stoic, gentle & quiet ways go largely unnoticed, and so as citizens of HKIS, we wish to show respect and compassion by organizing an afternoon tea for all our helpers. Further, we would like to encourage all our families to help make this day a special day by granting their helper a holiday.
- The Student Council hopes to welcome our family helpers to a special afternoon tea, catered and served by us. To make our celebration more exciting, we would again like to give thanks by providing lots & lots of door prizes, chocolates, flowers, etc. The details of this special day are contingent on consultations we will have with student council members and the initiatives towards this goal that they would like to pursue.
The student council initiatives will have students recognizing & embracing the Student Learning Results that form the priorities for our whole child teaching at HKIS.
Please help our fourth graders in their action plan to help build a harmonious local & global community. We are hoping that with your financial support/donation of goods, these two events will grow & blossom year after year.
From little things, big things grow.
Thanking you in anticipation,
Gerard Morice & S K (Fourth Grade SC Moderators).
Wish us luck Ophelia!
Phi, your beautiful cousins will be arriving soon (October). Ally & Chris… wish you could join us on a hike!
Love always & forever,
SOMETHING TO REMEMBER
“Control your own destiny or someone else will.” Jack Welch