One of the most difficult things to deal with emotionally is regret. Some failure or missed opportunity in our past hurts at the time and for one reason or another, that pain just doesn’t go away.
Usually, we are able to just set aside the feelings and move along with our lives. But like weeds in a garden, regret tends to pop up again long after you think they’re gone. When one man had a life-changing event, it would bring up feelings of regret so strong he would have to take action…
Beginning with the End
In the darkness before sunrise, in the parking lot of the Pentagon, there was an Air Force Colonel lying on the ground thinking “this is where it ends.” Col. Hollywood hadn’t been struck down by some enemy combatant. He’d been hit by a far more pervasive — and silent — killer. He was having a heart attack.
Thankfully, he was quickly spotted and as he lay in the back of an ambulance, rushing to Walter Reed Army Hospital, his mind was focused on 2 major regrets: He wouldn’t be able to help his son with college applications and he’d never met his birth mother…
Col. Hollywood had been adopted in 1960 by an American military couple who were stationed in Japan. Unlike many adopted kids, it was never a secret that his mom and dad weren’t his biological parents. “I always knew I was adopted because I had Asian features and [my father] was an Irishman and [my mother] was a Norwegian lady,” he said.
Plenty of Love
Still, he grew up in a home full of love. “[My parents] always told me ‘We picked you out special, so you’re even more special than everyone else.’” His mother had encouraged him to reach out to his biological mother, telling him his birth mother’s family name and ever offering to pay for a flight to Japan. Col. Hollywood always declined…
I Want to Find Her
When his adoptive mother passed away, that encouragement stopped and it seemed he would never begin the search. That all changed with his heart attack. Once he recovered, Col. Hollywood wrote a letter to tell her how great his life had been and to express his gratitude.
Life Is Good
Col. Hollywood planned to tell his biological mother “I lived the best life ever. I’m a colonel in the United States Air Force. I’ve got beautiful children. Life is really good,” but first, he had to track her down. Armed with limited information, he would need help…
Col. Bruce Hollywood gave what little information he had about his adoption to the Japanese Embassy and US Embassy in Tokyo but it wasn’t enough for them to find her. When hiring a private detective proved just as useless, the colonel wanted to give up. “I thought, ‘You know what, I’ve tried. I’ve made all the effort that I can make. It’s just unfortunate,’” he said.
If it wasn’t for a chance encounter in an airport bar, with another military man, he would have let it go. On the way to a military conference in Germany, he found himself sitting down with Adm. Harry Harris, whose mother is Japanese. After the two shared some stories, the admiral said “Bruce, I can help you.”…
We Found Her!
Bruce gave the admiral all the information he had but after his experience with the 2 embassies, his hopes for success weren’t high. Ten days later, the colonel was sitting at his desk in the Pentagon when he got a phone call from the Japanese Embassy. “Col. Hollywood, we’re really pleased to tell you that we found your mother, Nobue Ouchi,” said the person on the other end.
Better Than A Letter
Col. Hollywood was understandably ecstatic. When he asked for help in writing her a letter, he got another shock. “There’s not going to be a letter. She’s going to call you at this phone number in 10 minutes,” said the embassy worker, “and she doesn’t speak English. Good luck!”…
Tearful Phone Call
After a series of urgent emails, Col. Hollywood found someone who could interpret a conference call. Moments later, the phone call came and Bruce heard the sound of his biological mother’s sobbing voice. Taken by the moment, he tried to tell her how happy he was but Nobue could only reply “I’m sorry. I don’t speak English,” in his language.
Over the next few minutes, Nobue poured her heart out in Japanese. After a pause, the interpreter said “Tomorrow is your mother’s 65th birthday, and the birthday present that she dreamed of her whole life is that you would come back to her,” said the interpreter…
Nobue had never married, “because she said in her heart there was only room for one man, and it was you.” said the interpreter. “She knew you would be back.” Col. Bruce Hollywood also found out that her mother had her own business, a restaurant and bar that she’d named “Bruce.”
It was jaw dropping to the adopted officer. “This is either the most incredible story I’ve ever heard or this woman is crazy, and these things aren’t true,” Hollywood said. It turned out that his adoptive mother had met with Nobue before they moved back to the US and given her a photograph of the baby. She told her they’d named him Bruce and promised to give him a good life…
When the interpreter told Bruce that his mother wanted to come visit him, he said “no, it’s my mother. I will go see her.” Ten days later, he was in Shizuoka, Japan, meeting the mother he’d never known. She told him the story of his birth and adoption that only she knew.
Mom And Dad
Bruce’s biological father had been an American military man Nobue had been dating. He’d started the paperwork required to marry her but was unexpectedly shipped back to South Carolina before the process was complete. Nobue had believed him when he said that he would call as soon as he could…
But as the weeks went by and his call never came, Nobue was heartbroken. When he finally did call many months later, she refused to talk to the man she felt she could no longer trust. She never told the American that she was pregnant.
Nobue’s father, a fisherman, was willing to help support the new single mother but she knew life would be especially difficult for a fatherless, mixed-race child, so she gave him up for adoption. But her love for her son never wavered for an instant. The 65-year-old refused to even let him out of her sight during that first visit, going so far as to trail behind him on a bicycle when he went for his morning runs…
After that first visit, Col. Hollywood went often to visit his mother in Japan and Nobue went to visit her son in Washington. She studied English, him Japanese, and the 2 became so close, you’d never suspect they’d been separated for decades. Unfortunately, 3 years after their reunion, Nobue died of a heart attack.
Though he wished their time together could have been longer, Col. Hollywood was grateful for what little they had. Not only did he learn about his past and get to experience a second mother’s love, he gained another aspect of his own identity, becoming deeply involved in the Japanese American community. “Before that, I had no Japanese American identity, I just had Japanese American features,” he said. “But as I got integrated in this community, I ended up becoming incredibly proud of this heritage I had.