My Dad, Iopu Taesali · October 26, 1926- 2001
'Ua alu atu le afi - passing the fire. A Samoan chant for important social events.
My Dad was born in Pago Pago, American Samoa, the youngest of fourteen children. I once asked my Dad many years later why he would leave paradise and he said; "Daughter, what can you know about the world from an Island only 7 miles wide and 14 miles long?" He used to go back and forth from here to the island. I later found that he had become disillusioned with Samoa. He believed the American dollar had destroyed his island and after awhile he had no desire to go back home again.
But how did he get to America? My father was a brand new immigrant from Samoa, just 18 years old when he got to America. The story goes that in 1945 he stowed away on a cargo ship from Pago Pago harbour, the heart of American Samoa, with 8 others boys. When they finally got caught on board ship it was too late to turn back so they were all put into the brig and on their way to America. But my Dad had a secret. A stolen bottle of Tabasco Sauce from the galley which he kept hidden the whole trip. On the morning of their arrival to America my Dad drank the little bottle of contraband in it's entirety. He thought he would get hot and appear to have a fever, which he had learned would put him in quarantine for at least 21 days, buying enough time for a relative to come and claim him. It worked, but he paid a greater price than expected.
Actually all the boys that stowed away on that cargo ship became American citizens. They were scattered throughout the United States. All the boys kept in touch with each other and learned about their families, marriages, deaths and divorces. They even had a few reunions and teased my Dad incessantly about the Tabasco sauce every chance they got. They knew when he enlisted to the U.S. Army, because they did too. They knew when he got married, because they did too. The "boys" knew of my birth and the births of my brothers and sisters, Dad's divorces and all of his trials and tribulations just as Dad knew of theirs.
My dad died of a massive stroke at 75 years old.