Conversations with My Dad – Turning 30


I am finally 30 years-old. I feel great.

My husband, Josh, and I were having a night time picnic under the stars on my birthday, when I got a call from my Dad. I couldn’t remember the last time my biological father ever wished me a Happy Birthday. I looked over to Josh and he said, “Go for it honey, pick it up.”

He missed just about every single birthday, Christmas, school play, parent-teacher conference, and major milestone in my life. So, it came as a complete surprise when he called me.

“Hey Dad,” I said.

It didn’t take long to realize that he wasn’t calling to wish me a Happy Birthday. Josh was looking at me eagerly, and I shook my head at him. I smiled at Josh reassuringly.

My Dad was calling to see if I had some time to help him with a job application, and it made me smile knowing that he was still looking around on his own. Yes, of course I’d love to. I listened to the excitement in his voice, brimming full of hope at any opportunity to better himself. My heart was warm for him.

After I got off the phone, I grinned at Josh and said, “He was so close, right?!” I wasn’t disappointed that he didn’t know it was my 30th birthday. I wasn’t hurt like I use to be when I was little. Instead I felt this wonderful sense of gratitude that my universe gifted me with the opportunity to hear from him that night. He is healthy, he is hopeful, and he is living his life to the best of his abilities.

As I leaned into Josh and laid there looking at the stars, I realized how far I’ve come in my own personal journey. I held onto so much of the pain and disappointment of my childhood and felt crippled by my past. It prevented me from being able to love and trust those who were close to me. I’m so glad that I’ve had such supportive friends, family, and mentors who have helped guide me to where I am today. And now wanting to reach out to others who need the same.

I met with my Dad this morning to help him with his online job application. At one point I playfully leaned over to him and asked, “Dad, do you know what’s in the month of July?” I couldn’t help but poke fun while he started thinking. Then it clicked — he laughed and said, “Your birthday is on the 22nd!”

I laughed at him and said, “Noooo… it was a couple of days ago… but you did call me that night.”

I asked what he thought about my turning 30, and his response was, “Wow… When do you graduate?!” It felt so good to sit there and create new memories together, and see him continuing to stay healthy both mentally and physically.

I shared with him that I had visited Grandma’s grave on my birthday. I was at her memorial service, but never managed to visit her grave until a couple of days ago. There were still things that went unsaid between us before she passed — her agony in not knowing my father’s (her son’s) fate, and the relationship we had together. It was a very difficult time for everyone. I wanted to feel closer to her in the place that she knew she would rest while she was still alive. As I combed through the graves of others laid to rest, I found myself talking out loud to her.

“I love you. I am sorry for the pain that you experienced while you were still here. I know you understand my heart now, and what I was trying to do. He will be okay. We will be okay.”

I have learned a lot about life, love, acceptance, letting go, and appreciating what we have today. Every day is a challenge, every day is a new day. As I shared all of this with my Dad, I asked him what he thought about the afterlife. He grinned at me and said, “We’ll find out someday, won’t we?”

Yes. Yes, we will. Our bodies will die, but our minds and spirits won’t. This life is a gift and I am so grateful for all of it — the good and the bad. Bring on the 30’s!!! I’m looking forward to continuing the journey and following my heart.

Until next time…




24 thoughts on “Conversations with My Dad – Turning 30

  1. Diana, I was so moved by your compassion for the homeless and encouraged by the strength your father had for survival on the streets and the amazing second chance at life with you. Best wishes… Love from New York


  2. So much identification with your sharing on so many levels. Your writing touches my heart, and I am sure, many others as well. Yours is a story of courage, the ability to forgive and thank God! to find peace.
    Bravo and gassho


  3. Wow this is great! I saw an article on you for NBC: Asian American’s site. I think you will be an inspiration to my friend. She is is about to embark on a similar journey to find her mentally ill Father in NYC. He also abandoned her family as well when she was young. I can’t begin to relate to her and explain how her father with a Phd ended up on the street. Thankfully because of your journey, she will be able relate and ignite hope.


    • Serena,

      I am so glad to hear that sharing my story will help ignite hope for your friend… Wishing you and your friend the very best in this life journey. And I’m also sending positive thoughts and prayers to your friend as she embarks on her search for her father. Healing begins with ourselves. Thank you for sharing.

      Mahalo nui,


  4. Aloha Diana!

    Thank you for sharing your photo documentary and video of you and your dad (shared by a friend in social media). When I shared it on my FB page, I titled it, “Humanity: forgiveness and faith”. And for some of my friends, they say HOPE. This idea of hope is universal and your work has the capacity to instill it in your viewers. POWERFUL.

    I am a director of a federally funded program for Asian American and Pacific Islanders at a community college in California. Some of my students come from different parts of Hawaii, including Maui.

    Recently, eight of our students each created a digital story to share their narrative- talk story, if you will, about an aspect of their life (themes of family separation, migration, family health issues to name a few). As photography represents another media outlet to tell one’s story, you remind me of my interest in photography (despite my limited skills).

    If you are ever in California (Southern), might you be interested in talking with our students? In case you are, please don’t hesitate to email me. You can also check out our website listed above just to find out a little more about us.

    Mahalo nui,



  5. Thank you for the article on the NBC News website. I took photos of my homeless, schizophrenic loved one on Saturday because I feel he won’t live much longer. He’s been suffering with his torturous illness for 35 years. I read your article yesterday and it was just what I needed on this often lonely road. I wish you and your father all the best.


  6. Oh Bless you & your Father & Family. What a heart-rending-then-warming story. I see so many homeless who are in the same boat as your dad and it is devastating because many could be helped but the resources don’t exist publicly for them and they don’t have family. Thank Goodness yours has turned out more positive.

    All the Best, JL


  7. Diana,
    I just read an article about you on Yahoo parents. You have had quite a journey during your 30 years here. You are a beautiful soul who has much to give to this world. I have saved your blog on my favorites list. I will be following your story as it continues to unfold.


  8. Most are ashamed of their relative(s) who live on the streets of Honolulu. I’m surprised that you have the courage to make your story public. I know people whose family members are drug addicts or mentally unstable and are homeless in Honolulu, that essentially go on with their lives ignoring their homeless members. Sad and cold, but that’s the way it is.

    I tried helping some of the homeless many times, but it was a failure for me. The drug addicts and mentally ill won’t change til they want to change.
    Keep up the good work,


  9. Hi Diana,

    Just read the story on Yahoo about your dad. I’m glad your dad weathered through a period of homelessness. Even though he was battling with mental illness, in those photos I saw a man with a strong sense of fortitude.

    I never been on the streets but always have a soft spot for those that are. I can never drive past someone living on the street without offering help. It’s inhumane to ignore the ones that are dealing with adversities in life. I’m glad this world has people with a warm heart. I’ll be checking back from time to time to see the progress of your mission! Take care!



  10. Hello Diana,
    Just read your story on, went on the kickstarter website to support your project but wasn’t sure how to, also wondering if funding time has ended? What you’re doing to address the issue of homelessness is admirable & inspiring. I may not be able to contribute significantly, but pls. let me know if/how to help.


  11. what a touching journey. I’m so blessed to have found your story. Such a great story that has brought awareness to many about the true picture of homelessness. Thank you for being transparent with your life.

    God bless


  12. Your story is beautiful. We need more people like you to help the homeless and poor, and to put smiles back on their faces. I collect donations for the homeless at the elementary school I work at and you’re right, it makes a difference. Sometimes I’m questioned about what I do and they sometimes don’t understand why I do it. In time I think they will. Keep doing what you do, don’t stop 🙂


  13. I stumbled upon your story on the Facebook. A friend posted the link to it. It’s not easy for me to be moved to tears reading stories. But yours did it to me. Not least because I am also a dad. At 59 years old, a part of me wonders if my own daughters would do what you did with your dad, if I were in the similar situation as your dad? Any way, your blog is now my favourite. I can feel your heart in your words. It’s a beautiful one.


  14. I’m so glad that the mentally ill who live on the streets of Honolulu are getting attention. My sister is severely mentally ill and has lived in Chinatown off and on for about 6 years. The situation recently became dire due to the fact that she became pregnant. Hawaii has no laws to help the families of these people to get help, and also provides no facilities for them to go. The typical answer I receive when begging for help is, “Why don’t you help her?”.

    I don’t think that people truly understand the impossibility of getting someone struggling with psychosis and under delusion to even acknowledge reality. People use phrases like “they have to want to change” implying that they even have a choice in how their brain chemistry is attacking them. The lawmakers here deal with our mentally ill and homeless by pushing them to different areas of the island, doing nothing to solve the problem. Families and loved ones should have the right to petition a judge for help in getting their loved ones treated.

    Thank you for bringing attention to a subject which isn’t discussed enough. Aloha.


  15. I’m amazed at the strength you have and how you have managed to look past all of this. I have bore a grudge against one (actually two) person for a long time now and can’t say I am ready to forgive.
    You must have a big heart. 🙂


  16. Dear Diana,
    I am so touched by your stories and wanted to thank you for sharing them with us.
    I hope all the happiness with you and your dad.
    Cheers from Seoul♡
    H. Choi

    Liked by 1 person

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