Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Wake--Part 2 Guest Blogger, Julie Novotny

I asked friends who knew Hide as I did for memories and got this rather thoughtful piece from Julie so I am posting it here...with pictures of the man himself.  Julie was smart enough to get photos of him...This is a continuation of mine below

Photo by Julie

It was late and the house was quiet.  The boys had already been ushered off to take their nightly bath, and Kuniko was rousing Sachi from beneath the kotatsu (I loved those heated tables on cold winter nights) to go to bed.  With cigarette smoke curling around his face, in halting, clear English Hide said, “She loves you,” and motioned to Kayo, then five years old, who lay curled up on my lap.  I looked at her, my eyes instantly misty, brimming with love, and busied myself by wrapping my arms and a blanket around her as she slept.  I nodded back at him and smiled, not saying anything for fear of waking her.  He continued, “Thank you.”  The words seemed to hang in the air with the billowing smoke as he looked at me full of gratitude, and I remember being amazed that he was thanking me … for bonding with Kayo and her brothers and twin sister?… for reading bedtime stories to them and playing in the park?… for piling in the van with the family, Hide at the wheel, and having Kayo snuggle into my lap while on the way to and from long, leisurely picnics on Sundays when the weather was nice to see cherry blossoms, temples, festivals?...  for the pleasure of staying up all night talking and drinking wine with Kuniko?...  I knew it was me who needed to thank him for sharing his beautiful family. 
And with Hide I felt a quiet bond.  Perhaps it was not as clear as with the rest of the family, but it was still there…  Like when I would sometimes sit back and enjoy listening to the lively banter at dinner, he would often smile and nod at me once we noticed our shared amusement.  Or for my birthdays with the family-- now years and years ago--- he would usually give me pottery, which I still use and love, after mentioning to him once that I loved Japanese ceramics.  Or when a relative sent the family baked crickets as a delicacy, and while even the kids could eat them without any hesitation, he was greatly amused by the expression on my face as I ate only one (the crunchiness was okay, but I did not like the scratchy legs).  Or when the family would drive me to the airport—after so many times it is hard to count-- he would always drive and would tear up with the rest of us when it was time for me to leave. 
Yet, perhaps I felt this bond because I could also be quiet, so I sometimes understood his struggle to connect with the people around him.  There were many nights at the house when he retreated into his own world, trying to drink away his sorrows, and shared stories about himself and the past to the person sitting next to him.  In the beginning I was frustrated that I could not follow his stories, and often felt trapped by their length, but nonetheless, I could feel the sadness or anger behind the words.  As my Japanese improved, I came to understand his childhood stories, and the resulting pain and loss from which he still suffered.   
Over the course of 20 years, I’ve watched the family grow, sometimes with years apart, but I was lucky enough to reunite with them several times before Hide became ill.  I would go to lunch with Kuniko and Hide, and he was fully engaged in our conversation, something that I had not always felt when I was living in Japan.  He asked about me, my husband (he seemed amazed each time I saw him that I was married), and in return, simply updated me on how he was doing.  Had my Japanese improved?  Definitely not... but I felt that I could understand him better, that he was happy to see me and made an effort to reach out, and that touched me.  The last time I saw him he told me, beer and cigarette in hand, that he had just been to the hospital seeing various doctors and was awaiting test results.  He looked fine, perhaps just a little tired, so I did not worry.
Two years ago, while visiting Jeff, Kuniko and Megumi in Turkey, Kuniko learned of the news... by phone that Hide had cancer.  I could only offer hugs and hold Kuniko’s hand for support at the time, but with my eroding Japanese, I never did reach out to Hide.  I heard from Jeff when he visited Japan later that year that Hide was in remission and in good spirits ... and in my mind that’s where he remained... in good spirits. 
I wish I could have been there to see him one last time and to be there with the family.
I miss you, Hide.  You and your family are so interwoven in me and my life... I hold all those memories, and feel lucky to have been there to share those moments... so many beautiful moments.  Perhaps all those years ago I didn’t say “thank you” and express the gratitude I felt as we sat in the family room around the kotatsu with Kayo in my arms.  I hope you knew how much I cared, how much I loved all those shared moments. 
You will always be in my heart...    

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If I am crying, as a person who didn't have the chance of knowing Hide, and just by reading your words, he probably knew about your appreciations and thanks.