The Force is strong in Saipan. It can be difficult to feel, but when you are able to get away, able to find a place untouched by Google and MTV, you can feel it. You can call the feeling what you want, whether it be religious, spiritual, or even creepy, but you can still feel it. We've all felt it at some time in our lives, a connection to the past and to something greater than ourselves.
I have been back in Saipan for just over a year now. I joke that the planets aligned to bring me back to this island, but I feel that they did. The Force brought me to Saipan.
Returning to Saipan was never in my life plan. My mother escaped with her two kids from Saipan when I was three years old. After he divorced her, my father moved on and started a new family. My mother raised my brother, Alex, and me as a single parent. I received the occasional letter from my father, but I saw him no more than once every other year. I was raised as an American, visiting Saipan exactly five times during my childhood.
Even when I was about to graduate from college, no one was asking me what I was going to do when I returned to Saipan. I don't think anybody ever even considered me coming back.
In my final week of college, my father suffered a massive heart attack and was evacuated to a hospital in Honolulu. I flew to Honolulu to be with him, his wife, my four brothers, and my sister. I missed my college graduation so that I could be there with them. It was worth it though; it was the last, and only the second, time my father's six children were all together. I don't know if that will ever happen again.
When he stabilized, we brought him home so that he could die on Saipan. We didn't expect him to live long. I thought he was going to die on the plane, but he hung in there for five and half years. During that interval, I went back to America, earned another degree and continued on with my life.
Alex and I had an unspoken understanding that we would go back for his funeral and then we would probably never return to Saipan.
Well, that changed.
I made plans to visit Saipan in 2005. I was moving to Japan and before my job started there, my girlfriend at the time and I decided that we wanted to pay a visit to Saipan and my family. We were scheduled to arrive on December 17, 2005.
I moved to Japan on November 18, 2005. It was an exciting time; I was living in a new place and things were going very well.
Then my world was turned upside down.
On the morning of December 1, 2005, I woke up and opened up my laptop. I immediately started getting chat requests from Alex in Florida. I plugged in my camera, accepted the chat invitation and saw Alex bawling his eyes out. My father had died the night before.
Alex already had a ticket to Saipan. I told him I would meet him in the Narita airport.
Now, if my father had died at any other time, I would have purchased a ticket to Saipan, stayed for one week, buried him, and I would have left Saipan behind forever.
But he didn't die at any other time. He died 17 days before I was going to see him for the first time in five and a half years.
So instead of coming for one week, I came for one month. You can read the archives of this blog, but after burying him, I was able to rediscover Saipan. I was able to see Saipan for the first time as an adult. I was able to see the island through my own eyes.
Three months later I was living on Saipan for the first time since I was three years old.
And you know what I have discovered?
I belong here.