My mother devoted her life to her children. I was more important than anything, given all her time and showered with love.
As for me, I totally internalized her constant refrain of "You can do it!" and took off for my dreams of Tokyo as soon as I was out of high school.
With me far away from home, my mother's love had nowhere to go. Even my tenderhearted father could not bring her round, and she grew lonely in her Hokkaido country home. I knew nothing of all this and did nothing but think of myself.
It was during this time that my mother started a local movement to clean up the sea. She started it all alone, but she slowly gathered a group of very nice, like-minded people. The initiative was recognized by the local community. She was asked to teach a class at the local elementary school and got invited to Hokkaido events on volunteering.
This year marked the tenth year of her movement. Her volunteer group "Virgin Seas" was given a national award. I attended the awards ceremony with my mother. When she was onstage to get her award, it looked like her face was shining.
Afterwards, while we were drinking some of our favorite Ebisu beer, I asked why she'd started her cleanup movement. She looked up at me shyly and said, "It was when you got so tired that you had to come home for a while. It was watching the beautiful sea that healed you and set your wings to beating again."
It seemed like I was always at the root of her decisions, even if this time it was to take her own road. Past thirty, I'm still running after my dreams. My mother continues to speak to me, but now through her actions rather than words.
"You can do it!"
I've been so loved. And the model of my mother spurs me on. I'm really a very lucky daughter.
The child I was carrying in my belly died.
He was only 13 weeks.
They'd just told me at the hospital that his development was normal. That same afternoon my waters suddenly broke, prematurely, and I miscarried.
My eight year old daughter had been so thrilled at the idea of having a little sister or brother. I had to tell her the baby was gone. She didn't say anything. She asked no questions. She just stood silent and tears began to run down her face.
That day was a turning point when all the world's colors dimmed into monochrome. No matter how good the food was, the scenery beautiful or the joke funny, the world never seemed to come back to the way it was. I made efforts to get things back on track. I signed up for all kinds of activities. But the more I tried, the more I felt it was all useless. In the end, each new activity wore me down a little more.
Then one day, my daughter brought home some origami she had made at school: 4 small fans and 4 small pianos, 4 of each.
They were well made right down to the smallest details. I was inspecting them and thinking how clever my daughter was with her hands when she piped up triumphantly, "There's one for Papa, and Mama, me and for Shōchan too!"
Shōchan was the name of the baby we had lost.
It's the name our daughter had chosen for him.
Just as naturally as could be, as if there were nothing extraordinary about it, she had made origami for everyone in the family. That's why she'd made four, she told us, beaming with happiness.
I was shocked for a moment, and then I just lost it in tears.
Lining up the origami, I asked, "Will Shōchan really come home?"
My daughter looked at me as if I was babbling.
"But Mama," she said, "Shōchan is here. ...Shōchan isn't going anywhere. Because he's family,” she told me.
"Oh!" I blurted, and I held her in my arms and cried.
And I knew that what she said was right.
So let's re-do this world's colors.
Papa, Mama, you and Shōchan.
It won't be like it was, but it will be a new world, with new colors.
And we'll be a new family in our own new world.
My body resisted inception and it was only due to the miracle of modern medicine that, after five years of marriage, I was able to give birth to a son. When he finally arrived and without mishap, I was so happy I burst out in tears right in the delivery room. I was really, really happy. That treasure that had been bestowed on me, I brought him up with my own hands. I felt I was there just for that. He was more pampered than most. We bathed and slept together until he entered eighth grade. We were a tight, little family. Rebellion? Bad conduct? I never thought I'd see the day. I was a nursery school teacher. I should know something about how to bring up a child. Certainly, my own son... It was during his eighth grade summer vacation that my mother-in-law who was living at the house announced that she'd seen him smoking. Soon enough, the risk behavior spread.
Late night hell-raising, smoking, shoplifting; I became a regular at the local police station. He began skipping school and his grades dropped. One day, he turned on me, screaming out, "It's your fault! You're dumb! You're really bad!" and knocked a hole in the wall. For the first time, I realized that the upbringing I had such confidence in had been too narrow and dry for my son.
I became so confused that I passed my days contemplating suicide. But this child who had come to me and chosen me for its mother, if I were gone who would watch over him? I ended up in the hospital for stress-induced hyperventilation. It was there that my son visited me one day and haltingly said, "Mom, once I grow up, I'll make all this up to you."
He fought hard to get into a good High School, but finally was asked to leave. Then he turned over a new leaf and got his diploma by mail while holding down a part-time job. Every year, he sends presents for my birthday and his grandmother's. He may not be an adult yet, but he's already paid me back ten-fold. To see you healthy and involved, to know that you care, these are enough to fulfill any mother. No other child could ever make me happier than you do. The day of your birth is the most precious day of my life. Thank you for being the son I always wanted to have.
I'm sorry & thank you,
I can say them now.
I've never been particularly docile and I've stirred up my share of trouble. In high school I was always getting taken aside by the teachers, repeatedly got home too late and never much bothered to study.
Through it all, I didn't once apologize.
You put out my favorite foods every day, backed me up when I suddenly decided to be a beautician, then listened to me attentively when I doubted how far I could go and tearfully admitted it to you.
Through it all, I didn't once thank you.
Now I run my own shop and interview the novices. And, I've been thinking recently, this has been my own way of growing up. Why was I so weak and awkward a person for so long? I'm appalled when I see it now.
And that's why
I say I'm sorry
And that's why
I say thank you
And that's why
I will go on to say this to you for the rest of my life
Since I was lazy and didn't like strangers, I never liked going to school. To get me to go to elementary school, my father looked at me and, with the utmost determination, explained, "Look, here is the character for school [校] and you can see the character for father [父] is inside it. Since your father is already there, I think you should go there too."
My father was a teacher.
He'd leave the house before I was up, and come back when I was already asleep.
That's why I have hardly any memories of playing with him when I was young.
And my father was quick off the starting blocks. He stopped doing homeroom classes and went into the administration at 34. Then, at 49, he was certified to be a principal. But, contrary to his expectations, it was years before he was ever made principal of his own school.
I remember that back then, I had noticed something. There was indeed a father in the character for school, but if you look at it closely, you'll see it has a lid on it. The day I saw that, I was so troubled my heart ached.
Back when my father was a homeroom teacher, I'm sure he wanted to reach out to and help even more students. Isn't that why he wanted to become principal and work for the whole school? But they'd put a lid on his passion, and I'm sure he suffered from it.
After my father's model, I too became a teacher.
"Don't do to others what you hate having done to yourself."
"Be thankful to all those around you, because you can't make it alone."
Without even being aware of it, I found myself in my class repeating phrases my father had constantly said to me when I was young.
After all, there really is a "Father in school"
Today, I'm still as lazy and shy as ever, but you can see me on my way back to school everyday, rubbing my tired eyes all the way.
Di da di daa da
Di da di daa
Lilting, bright and noisy: the music I was hearing matched my character.
Our countryside pachinko parlors, set up here just at the edge of town, are just as riotously noisy as any of the downtown parlors. They could have been ripped right out of the city and dropped off here directly.
Whenever I hear a military march, I think of my father.
My father loves to gamble, but unlike the old guy who lost his house to the speedboat races, he never actually does gamble. My Dad has a lot of interests and just never gets around to that one. That seems to be the way it is. So we'd have to give him top grades as a father.
I was having a birthday party at the house when I looked up, saw my father there, and blurted out, "What are you doing here?"
But he lives at the house so why shouldn't he be there.
It'd just popped out of my mouth.
Next I knew, the party was over, and I noticed my father was gone.
It worried me so much that I went to ask my mother. Apparently, he'd headed out to try the pachinko parlor, the place he never went. And he didn't seem to be coming home any time soon.
So, for once, our positions were reversed, and it was the daughter who was waiting for the father to come home. I began to feel he would never come home for the rest of his life.
Just when it started to get really late out, my father came through the door.
"Where have you been!?" I raged just like a stressed-out parent with a round head and little triangle eyes. My father looked at me and burst out laughing.
Di da di daa da
Di da di daa
When I hear that kind of music, my heart aches.
Daddy, please forgive me for that night.
Di da di daa da
Di da di daa
I like to be in the car when Mom is driving. Whether its a short hop for some groceries, a long ride far away or just to get dropped off at school, I always feel so safe and snug when she's at the wheel, as peaceful as falling into a deep sleep. And not just that: she's a good driver! Our house doesn't have a garage. The car gets parked between the house and a wall where there's barely enough space for a mini-car. My Mom can park there like putting on a shoe. She also keeps an eye out for me while she's driving, like putting an arm out to block me if there's any sudden braking. Maybe you think that's overprotective, but I always liked it cause it made me feel loved. And then, she's not just a good driver, she also takes really good care of the car. Once every two weeks, we go wash the car. Mom keeps at it till the car shines like new. It's a lot of work helping with the car wash, but it's fun going home in a newly sparkling car while swaying to music from the CD. You hear people talking about how cool guys can look when they're driving, but my mother's in the same class. That's what I think, but maybe I'm over the top when it comes to my Mom!
J-POP is a series of Mix-CDs produced by a father & kids collaboration team. Jiro's my father's name. He's a big music fan. It's a real passion for him. Every year, my father, my big sister and I put out another family production. Now we're up to 10 years and 10 CDs!
My father chooses tunes that captivated the family over the last year.
Hit songs, TV themes, Dad's own favorites, every year we put about 20 of them on a CD. Our first job is to make the right choices, that's where my big sister comes in. She works with my father suggesting different songs and working with him to finalize our line up. Once that's done, she makes the CD.
But that's not the end of it. One of the specialties of J-POP family production is Dad's special commentary page. "Uptempo number that sets you up and doesn't let you down. It's been a while for this kind of hit." Short and sweet, maybe even abrupt: people must wonder who this critic thinks he is.
We try to be professional, so we do a cover design too. That's where I come in. Every year we use Dad for our model and put it together in Photoshop. One year we did a Pirate's of the Caribbean theme. Another, we made up as members of KAT-TUN, and another the characters from a TV series. We're always changing, and Dad does an incredible job of getting himself to look on-theme.
When it's all done we send out our J-POP CDs to friends and family. The crazy thing is that so many people love it and look forward to each year's new delivery.
To tell the truth, I don't often listen to our CDs, but when I do, every number brings back its own set of memories. Family events and moments, programs we've watched together. I can't help but get sentimental re-listening to each year's crop.
My father left his hometown in Niigata after finishing middle school. He went to work at a food processing plant in Yokohama. Then he stayed there till he retired after 40 years of work, out of the house every morning at six, never back home until eight. My father was straight as could be. He worked hard for his wife and family and never uttered the least complaint. From the time I was small, his shoulders looked huge to me.
I on the other hand, wasn't much like my father. When I started middle school, I was picked for track, but opted for table tennis just because you didn't have to turn out for morning exercises. That's the kind of easy-going kid I was. My middle school teacher told me, "If you don't make a little more effort, you're going to really have trouble if you're ever get in a clutch." And actually, year's later, that's just what happened. For example, at the Table Tennis Championship in High School. In a key match that would have brought our team to the National Championships, I was taken down in an upset defeat. Or, writing the wrong date on an exam for a job at the company I really wanted to work for. I took everything lightly, and couldn't handle the pressure to perform when my back was to the wall.
Nonetheless, I eventually got a job, married and made a family. However, about two years ago, at the age of 46, I lost my job when my company downsized. I made up my mind to take a job at a factory that manufactured drinks, but I'd barely started working when I started to get terrible pains in my lower back. By the time I went to the hospital to check it out, I could barely move. They diagnosed a slipped disk and told me to give up any idea of doing physical labor. I spent some difficult moments when I finally wondered if this was all just more punishment for my light-hearted attitude.
And now, I do part time work while looking for a permanent post. In these hard times, my father came by to visit and handed me an envelope, "There's not much, but please use it if you need it." When I looked inside, I saw what looked to be a considerable sum of money.
"I'm sorry Dad. I'll work hard and get this money back to you," I said with my eyes trained on the floor.
"I know you're doing everything that you can. Take care of that back!" he answered. "So I'm really doing all that I can?" I wondered. Anyway, that's what my father said. Maybe I've finally put everything I've got into this life.
Later, I saw my father off at the train station. He didn't seem as huge as he had, but there was no doubt that those shoulders could still hold all they had when I was young.
Looking forward, I honestly can't say what life the future holds for me. I am often anxious. But, I believe that the closer I get to matching the power in my father's shoulders, the more I'll make my own way to my future.
On Sunday mornings, my husband lounges in the living room even if the kitchen is free. Usually he'd be in his own room or out in the fields. But on Sunday's, he just sits in the living room and waits. And he listens with all his ears. Then comes the bark. A bark that is crazy with joy and that gets my husband up as if his lover just arrived. Still showing the signs of the stroke he had in his forties, he impatiently gets his legs into action.
"C'mon Dad let's go," rings his son's morning call.
More than 20 years ago, when our sons were in middle and high school, this was all something they could never imagine. Back then, my husband was a drinker, and once he'd drunk, he'd line up the kids and preach at them. All they ever thought about was how to get away. The less shrewd of them would invariably get trapped. Particularly sever sermons were followed by a beating. Finding him after he was thrown out of the house or after he'd fled led to repeated night searches. Then, between my husband's sudden stroke and my sons' growing up, so much happened.
Sometime after one of our sons got married, he suddenly said, "Back then, sending three kids through college must've been a terrible load to carry." And after that, he would help his invalid father to go places and started stopping by on Sunday mornings.
They didn't chatter or go shopping like a Mother-daughter team, but after having breakfast together, they'd watch the Shogi program on TV. Sitting silently side-by-side and exchanging scattered comments, a father and son happy just to spend time together.
My son has his own children now, and I think the time has come when he can finally understand his own father. A father who was never any good at showing love is finally going to understand just what that love is all about.
After my father died, my mother slipped into dementia. Two years ago, she wandered out into the street, stumbled and broke her thighbone. Now she lives in a nursing home. She hadn't been there long when she started calling all the male help "Mr. President". At first, people at the nursing home couldn't make heads or tails of it. It was the last resort of a woman who just couldn't remember a name.
The woman in the wheelchair is my mother. She's in top form. The help at the nursing home answer her calls for "Mr. President" with wry smiles and attentive care. After a meal together with my brothers and sisters in the dinning room, we go back to her room. I notice a calendar by my mother's bedside. The name, Yamamura, is written across it in fine pencil. When I lean over to fluff Mom's pillow, I find an envelope from a letter I'd sent to mother under the pillow. On the back: another "Yamamura".
Of course, I have to ask, "So who is this Yamamura?” Mom got a little bashful, then reluctantly admitted, "A young, 19 year-old boy. He takes such good care of me. I didn't want to forget his name..." I thought it was so cute, this old woman, my mother, falling for one of the male help 70 years her younger. But then, after all, anyone or anything that moved her heart and made her happy wasn't that for the better?
Mr. Yamamura, please keep an eye in my mother!
Once, on a school holiday back when I was in middle school, my father said, "Let's go out somewhere! Anywhere. We can have a picnic in the park!" My father seemed really enthused by the idea of a family outing, but personally, it turned me off. We were under a lot of pressure in middle school, and I felt ill at ease about going out to play. I was so overrun with club activities and study, that if I was going to do anything else, I thought it should be sleep. After all, this was a holiday.
But finally my mother, who was going through menopause, found the proposition tiresome and said, "No, let's just be calm & quiet and stay at home."
Now, years later, I work. I spend every day facing a computer. Just thinking about it makes me choke. Sometimes I sit there longing for that far away weekend to arrive. At least on the weekends, I want to get out. In fact, if I don't get out by the end of the weekend, I feel distraught.
Finally one day when I was at the office, it struck me that my father must have felt exactly the same way. Now he's retired, but back then he must have put up with a lot to put food on the table. Work can be a terrible grind. When work is more like a battle, you really want to get out on the weekend. I finally understood what was going on in my father's head that day when I was in middle school, and I felt bad about it. Not once had my father ever said anything like "You've got all this because of me." He continued to work until retirement as a well-considered employee.
I'm sorry Dad, about how selfish I was that day. Though I can see it now, I never considered what you might be thinking. Next time we meet, we're going out!
"Grandpa, let's play with this next!"
"Oh that, sure, come on over here."
Ever since I can remember, I loved my grandfather. When I was three, the whole family went to spend some time at Grandpa's house like they did every summer. When we were all sitting around the dinner table chattering away, my mother came over to me with a smirk on her face and, pointing to Grandpa's head with its circle of fluffy thin hair at the crown, said, "You know what Grandpa really is?"
"He's people like us."
"No, not really... He's a Kappa!"
"What?" I screamed in a fluster.
"You know that when the dish on the Kappa's head goes dry, he dies!? ...and just look! Time for a drink!"
The words had hardly gotten out when, in one clean sweep, I threw my orange juice on my grandfather's head.
Grandpa was of course the most shocked of all. And, since I was all in a babble, wailing "You said Grandpa would die...," no one was about to get mad at me.
After that, my mother told me what the truth was. And it made me a little mad. "I didn't think you'd really do it. I'm sorry. Your mother told you a lie."
"But it was like a new door had opened, and my anger wouldn't let it shut. "You're my mother but I'm still mad. I'm mad that grown-ups can lie. From now on, no more lies."
Still, I was relieved that Gramps wasn't really a Kappa.
"Mom, who's up tonight?" —#3
"I don't know. Look at the calendar." —me
"Look. It's the thirtieth. It's a YTR day not a TRY." —#1
"So, I was right. I'm next to Mom." —#3
"Where am I here, which place is this?" —#2
"Tea here! Down the hatch!" —#4
This dialogue may look like a riddle, but it's what you can hear every night at bedtime at our house. It's not some special code or something. It's just the end day melee where sleeping positions get fixed. And there's an order to who gets to sleep right next to me.
Starting with my sixth grade daughter (#1), our family roster also has three sons: #2, #3, and #4. We use a list of the first letter from each of the children's names, top to bottom according to age, and a daily rotation. That'd make
If you saw the calendar at our house, you'd see there was a big letter written for every day "R・Y・T・R・Y・T・R・Y・T..." Each child in his turn at my side, every third day, tells me stories of what is going on for him. I can feel them confide in me more and more. There are "Yea, I guess that's the way it is." days, and there are "What!? Did that really happen!?" days. But each child makes fills me with wonder. I fall asleep thinking how lucky I am. On the other hand, I feel sorry for their father, who is always getting home too late. He's missing out on one of the best parts while I get my fill every night.
"Dad, what's akaguchi mean? It's printed on the calendar for my birthday."
You, my son, were pointing to the 27th on the calendar while spilling your breakfast on the table. Every day you'd look for characters you could read and then ask if you didn't get their meaning. Up till now, I'd always been able to answer. I suppose you thought I had the answer to everything. Unfortunately, levels of auspiciousness from the ancient Japanese calendar were a bit out of my league. Daian, Butsumetsu and Tomobiki were part of common usage, but as for Akaguchi, Senbu and Senshō, I wasn't even sure how to read them. And you could see it in my face, you'd stepped on the wrong pedal. Then when we pulled out the dictionary, I can still see the unsettled look you gave me, disappointed I suppose, by the discovery of your father's ignorance.
You, the one with all the questions, you've got your own son now. You've taken on the mantle and I've heard you use logic like "Finish your plate or you won't get bigger." You probably don't remember how you hated peppers and tomatoes and how it vexed your mother.
Boys mimic their fathers. Whether it's playing catch or kicking a ball, you're not as good as your father when you start out. That's why sons are always thinking their father is something else.
Since sons see their father as omnipotent, they start out by meekly listening to everything he says. And you too will walk on air every time your child does as you hoped he would. But, it doesn't last.
Your kid would be shocked if you ran at the community athletic meet and fell on your butt. All at once, your almighty airs would evaporate. But, don't worry. The real you may be less grandiose than the false one, but if you shower your son with love, there's more than enough room there for everyone.
"I'm on my way!" With those resounding words my mother was off to circle the world on a cruise ship. After years as a teacher, she'd set off to fulfill a cherished dream. Just a year before her jaw had dropped at the idea it would be by a "b – b- boat!?" She'd grown up on the island of Sado and found the two and a half hours back and forth to the mainland were enough to make her seasick. I didn't see how she could make it, but she went behind my back and steadfastly set up her voyage. My father, ever deft at family affairs, said she should go, while all four children whined with uncertainty. All this only served to harden mother's resolve, and soon enough she was on her way, and in great high spirits.
On departure day, she met her roommates: 2 women, practically the same age and from different prefectures. Each had come separately. "So, we're birds of a feather," chirped my mother. "All the more reason to be friends." She was sure it would be a wonderful trip.
It's been a month now since the send off. Whatever it is I'm feeling, I can't quite get a grip on it. She was often at our house, to look after and play with my daughter, her granddaughter. The abrupt loss of all that liveliness leaves a vacancy. Sometimes there's something I need to ask her or want to talk about, but I can't even reach her, either by mail or by phone. Is this how a family feels when confronting sudden loss? Off in the world on a boat somewhere, I was forced to see how much my mother brought us. I had the feeling that I had never really shown enough appreciation for everything she'd done and began to feel badly about it.
Today, after three and a half months at sea, my mother docked in Yokohama. Of course, as soon as I heard her carefree greeting, "I'm back!" I felt relieved. And I was sincerely surprised to hear that she hadn't had a single bout of seasickness. When my daughter came home from kindergarten, she flew into her grandmother's arms. I was so touched that I did the same.
Thank you, Mother. Please stay well. And continue to chase after your dreams with all the happiness I know you're capable of.
I hadn't seen my father for two years and looking at him, he seemed to have aged quite a bit. The furrows in his cheeks had gone a level deeper. His head was all silver fluff like a dragonfly. He'd always been short on words. He never complained. But between his work and looking after my great-grandmother, you could see that life had taken its toll.
I had spent two years in one of the most unstable countries in Asia. My father had never said anything about my plans. In school, whatever results came back from my tests, good or bad, he never scolded or praised me. Nor did he seem to take any particular pride in being a father. At the time, I assumed he just didn't care about me.
There was only one time I ever saw him express any feelings. It was when I was in third grade and went to school wearing my brand new pair of piping white sneakers. A school bully stomped all over them and threw them into a paddy field. When I brought my sneakers home, they were without laces and covered in mud. My father said to me, "Tell me who did this?"
To hide the fact that I'd been bullied, I answered, "It was me. I did it." My father looked at me and shouted, "I'm asking you who did this. Tell me." I had never heard my father shout. I was so shocked that I blurted out the truth.
My father took me by the hand to that bully's house. We were met at the door by his father, a tough looking character, but my father wasn't intimidated and let him know what happened.
That night, I crept into my father's bed. I was frightened we'd incurred someone's enmity and my father would be murdered in his sleep. I was so worried I began to get pains in my chest. I hung on to my Father for dear life. "Please don't let anything happen to you," I said. And my father held me a little tighter.
Since leaving home, I've been out of touch with my father. But he'd be there in a second if I were in a clutch, just like it was yesterday. That's my Father. I can only hope to become such a fine person.
The other day, looking in a mirror, I happened to see my first, silver hair.
This spring I got in a terrible argument with my mother and smashed my television, game equipment and mobile phone. The argument was about my lifestyle. Everyday when I came home, I'd flip on the television, grab some snacks and play games. Finally, I'd get in a little homework just before I went to sleep. If I didn't keep up with the newest games by getting information off my mobile, get my game scores up to a good level and see the latest anime, there was little left to say to my friends. My mother had already forbidden me from using the net, but I'd actually continued on my mobile until she found out and blew up at me. I should have apologized and said I was sorry, but I just smashed my mobile, not even thinking about backing up its data first. After that I had such a head of steam up, I went on to damage my game console and television beyond repair. "I'm not going to use them," I declared, though I was a little worried about getting out of step with my friends. My mother fired back, "Do you have any idea how much I had to work and sacrifice to give you these things?" I'd made a big mistake.
My mother was suffering from more than one physical ailment. She took more than 9 different kinds of medicine every day, and her doctor had said that her illness would be chronic. No matter what she felt like, she never missed a day of work. The nails on her feet had been operated on, she'd broken a rib, but she never missed a beat at work or at home. Maybe she didn't want my friends to think, "They're a poor family, no father, and only a sick mother to take care of him." When I finally realized what a stupid thing I'd done, I felt really bad. My mother had put me before herself and given birth to me while under treatment for cancer. I should be doing everything I can to help her. I finally burst into tears and asked my Mom for forgiveness. She said, "Up till now you've been getting a lot of support from the people who are close to you. Please do not forget how much they care for you and make the right choices." It was true. I needed to show my appreciation and try to help them if I can. Doing so would show my gratitude.
My mother is a difficult person.
When she calls me, I get nervous. When she's in a bad mood, she's always got something to say to me.
"You're a housewife. I don't have your kind of leisure. You either work or you don't eat!" Mom had been a pharmacist for years. Now, at 83, she still went every day. When my father passed away, she started living alone. He had terminal cancer. He was a pharmacist too, but hated hospitals and managed to spend only the last 6 days there before passing away. When I rushed over to see my father, he was still able to talk. At night, while I was sitting by his side, he abruptly said, "Your mother may be frightened of vacuum cleaners. I'm sure she is. It's the noise they make."
Our family was always in the pharmacy business. When I was little, my grandmother and the employees did everything. But when she became bedridden and began needing nursing care, it was my father who took over. He prepared her breakfast and vacuumed, all the while continuing to work at the pharmacy.
Six months before his death, my father had suddenly gone out and bought the latest lightweight compact vacuum cleaner. He also got one of those round ones that move around the room cleaning automatically. But mother never touched them.
After my father passed away, my brother who lives nearby said he would take care of the vacuum cleaning. But he and his wife are very busy couple and couldn’t find the time to do it.
This year I went back home for the first Obon memorial since my father's death. My mother said; "Please come as soon as you can. You've got to help me with the cleaning! We need to go over everything with the vacuum cleaner."
She sounded vulnerable and I remembered my father say, "Your mother may be frightened of vacuum cleaners." He had mustered his last strength to say these words because he was concerned and wanted me to watch over her.
It appears that humans go through periods when their desire for knowledge is particularly peaked. The first time for most is between two and a half and four years old, a period of relentless questioning.
When it happens, you can't just write your kids off as brats. Things pop up at diner table discussions, come out of chatter during the bath; I try to stay tuned to how precious each of these occasions can be. But it's not always easy. Things have a will of their own.
Here's something that happened the other day.
Our family went out with some foreigners. One of their children was a little girl with blond hair. My 3 kids were intrigued with her. Hirosuke made a slow but deliberate approach and tried to speak with her. He was quick with the ladies.
"How old are you?"
"Where are you from?”
"What's your name?"
However, the girl just ignored him. Of course, she couldn't understand a word he was saying, but Hirosuke wouldn’t give up. Next, in his efforts to get her attention, he tried clowning around the way he does every day. On seeing that, his older brother Yōhei who'd been holding his tongue, interjected, "Japanese won't work, Hiro, you need some English."
"You know, like A B C..."
ABC? Oh right, the ABCs."
Hirosuke didn't need any more encouragement and immediately walked up to her and said "A? B? C?"
"? ? ?"
"A? B? or C?"
They say that mimicry is at the root of learning and that children can't wait to try out something they've learned. If they fail, then try try again. They also say practice makes perfect, don't they?