Do you want to know how I got these scars – Part one

I have a hidden disability. It is not readily apparent or visible to most people. I do my best not to call attention to it unless I have to. I’ve adapted to it, mostly. Some days I can almost forget it’s there. But it’s always there.

In 2008, I began to lose the hearing in my right ear. At first I thought my ear was “plugged up,” as sometimes happens when one has a cold. But after it persisted for several weeks, I figured I should go see a doctor and have it checked out.

(At this point in the story, I want to say that I’m thankful that seeing a doctor was even an option for me. I fortunately had medical insurance through my employer. There was a time in my young adulthood when I had no medical insurance for several years. If this had happened then, I wouldn’t have gone to the doctor, because I couldn’t afford even a simple doctor’s office visit, much less any treatment.)

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The C-shaped scar around my right ear. Sometimes people mistake it for a bad haircut, or a bad-ass scar from a bar fight (I wish). But it’s actually from a translabyrinthine craniotomy to resect an acoustic neuroma, i.e. brain surgery to remove a benign tumor from my acoustic nerve.

That first doctor’s examination was relatively uneventful, as far as I knew at the time, being relatively young and having never had any significant health issues before. After asking me a series of typical diagnostic questions, the doctor looked in my ear and reported seeing nothing out of the ordinary. She told me that sometimes temporary hearing loss is caused by a virus, and then prescribed a steroid treatment. (Taking steroids was an interesting experience, to say the least — but that’s a story for another day.) But before ending the examination, she told me that she would schedule an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) test, just to be certain.

I, in my carefree way at the time, didn’t find this alarming. Doctors run tests all the time, just to rule things out. I figured that the MRI was just that: ruling out anything more serious than a virus. I had medical insurance. It wouldn’t cost me anything out of pocket, I reasoned. Tests like this are what we pay premiums for. Plus, I was taught to always follow the doctor’s advice.

When I arrived at the MRI department the following week for my test, I was juiced up on steroids, which again was an interesting state to be in, but that is beside the point of the present story. It was at the MRI exam that I first realized that my condition was potentially very serious.

The MRI technician was a no-nonsense man, middle aged, serious in mien, wearing a lab coat, apparently of eastern European descent, rather gruff, and my first impression of him was that he probably cranks out fifty MRI exams per day, every day, and he has no time for pleasantries nor any bedside manner because those things are time consuming and are not necessary for the accurate scanning of people’s body parts.

The thing I remember most about that experience wasn’t the oddly comforting feeling of being nestled inside the futuristic-looking MRI chamber, nor was it the technician’s clipped, rather stern verbal instructions over the intercom reminding me to hold still, nor was it the incredibly loud and knocking racket the machine made. What I remember most came after the test was done and I was getting dressed to leave.

Next to the big room where the MRI machine stood, there was a little booth filled with controls and video screens where the technician sat and did his work. As I moved from the MRI room to the little dressing room, I caught a glimpse of the main screen showing a scan of what appeared to be a human head, apparently my head. I marveled at the technology as the technician tersely ushered me through the curtain.

When I emerged from the dressing room, I saw him seated in his booth looking intently at the screen. When he noticed me coming out, he stood up and came over to me, standing in such as way as to subtly block my view of the screen. I was holding my coat in my hand, and as we exchanged words to wrap up the session, I began to put it on. To my surprise, he began to help me put on my coat. The way he held up the coat and helped me put it on was striking. He was suddenly very kind, even adjusting my collar. He told me that the doctor would review the test results and get in touch with me. But in his eyes I sensed he was telling me more than his words. I knew that he could not tell me what the scan showed, and I didn’t ask. But it was in that moment that I knew this was no virus.

Part two: www.cityliteral.com/2017/09/02/do-you-want-to-know-how-i-got-these-scars-part-two

Front row seat

Hayward’s new library is taking shape. Crews have begun installing massive glass panels for the three story front window. Primarily built of steel, concrete, glass, and terracotta and powered by solar energy produced onsite, the 21st Century Library is the most environmentally sustainable public building ever to begin construction in Hayward. I feel incredibly fortunate to have a front row seat to its construction – from the window of my office in the old library across the street.

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The construction of the new library is progressing nicely. Crews have begun to install the massive glass panels that will make up the building’s three story front window. The building was designed using sophisticated computer lighting models to maximize the amount of natural light that flows into the building.
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The windows are important features that will help the building achieve its Net Zero Energy goal by reducing the need for artificial light. (They should provide some pretty cool views, too.)
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Some have asked me, what is that blue-green paint we see being applied to the new library under construction? Great question! That is a weatherproofing treatment to seal the concrete supporting walls and keep moisture out of the concrete. After the weatherproofing is complete, the next step will be to attach terracotta panels, which will further protect the structure and give the building a beautiful brick-like appearance.

My heritage

 

These photos are of my grandmother when she arrived in America in 1950. My maternal grandmother was born in Japan; my maternal grandfather was American, of Louisiana Cajun French. My grandparents met during the Korean War. My grandfather served in the Army during that time. He met my grandmother, all of 18 years old at the time. They fell in love and he brought her back to America with him as his wife. These photos were taken shortly after they returned to America for the first time. After the war, my grandfather was stationed at Ft. Sill Army Base in Oklahoma. They later were stationed in Germany, then Oakland Army Base. My grandfather was honorably discharged from the military from Oakland. My grandparents, like so many other young veteran families of the era, sought to buy a home in the East Bay Area and raise their family there. Unfortunately at that time (early 1960s), discriminatory legal “covenants” prevented any and all non-whites from buying homes in many neighborhoods. My grandparents tried to buy homes in San Lorenzo and San Leandro, but were turned away when the sellers or realtors saw my grandmother and realized her race. My grandmother still vividly recalls and occasionally tells me the story of how my grandfather once had made all the arrangements to buy a brand-new home in San Lorenzo. The deal was basically done, but when my grandfather and grandmother arrived to sign the final paperwork, the realtor took one look at my grandmother and literally waved them away. Eventually my grandparents were able to buy a home in unincorporated Hayward just outside of San Lorenzo village, where the covenants were not in effect. Even then, my grandparents and their family daily faced shocking racism and prejudice. This is how my mother’s side of the family came to settle in Hayward. Many years later, I rented that same house from my grandmother and started my own family there.

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My maternal grandmother arrived in America by sea in 1950. She and her father, a Japanese restaurateur and political dissident during the fascist era of the 1940s, were forced to flee their home in Japan to Manchuria in the 1940s. They later settled in Korea, where my grandmother met my grandfather, an American serviceman serving a tour of duty during the Korean Conflict.
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This is my grandmother in front of an Oklahoma barracks shortly after arriving in America in 1950. My grandfather was stationed at Ft. Sill Army Base in Oklahoma when this photo was taken. They later were stationed in Germany, then Oakland Army Base. After he was discharged, the family tried to buy a home in the East Bay Area. At that time (late 1960s), there were discriminatory covenants in many neighborhoods that prevented non-whites from buying homes. They looked in San Lorenzo and San Leandro, but were turned away when the sellers or realtors learned my grandmother’s race. Eventually my grandparents were able to buy a home in Hayward. This is how my mother’s side of the family came to settle in Hayward.

 

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My grandfather and grandmother in 1950. He was from Baton Rouge, Louisiana; she was from Saga Prefecture, Japan. He was overseas serving in the Army when they met. They were married and he brought her home to Louisiana. Later they relocated to Oakland, then bought their first and only home in unincorporated Hayward.
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My grandmother with her children in Oklahoma in 1958. My mother is the little girl in front, along with my aunt and uncle. This photo perfectly captures their personalities! Unfortunately prejudice against Japanese-Americans was intense and pervasive when this photo was taken. My mother, aunt, uncle, and grandmother have shared with me many stories of discrimination, fear, and hate that was daily aimed at them back in this time.