An unusually quiet morning … no bustling city noises, only a hushed stillness. I opened the curtain. No wonder I didn’t hear any sounds this morning. The white snow covered every corner of our backyard. No cars, no public buses or any people in the street. Our winter break had just begun two days ago, and I was grateful that I didn’t have to go to school today.
Our house was bitterly cold without sekiyu stoubu (kerosene stove). When we went into our futons for the night, we never used the kerosene stove to avoid causing a fire. I hated the caustic smell of the stove, but we had no choice. We only had one kerosene stove and a kotatsu (table with electric heating element underneath) to keep our house warm. Every morning in the winter season, my mom had to ignite the stove first. Until our little house got warmer, I would endure the stinging icy pricks of a thousand pins and needles all over my skin.
After my mom lit the kerosene stove, she attended to her next responsibility within her morning routine. Mom would pour water into a doll-house sized cup, then put steamed rice into a matching, equally miniature bowl. The water and rice were for my dad’s asa gohan (breakfast). This ritual was important for her. My dad couldn’t eat them of course, but my mom put them in front of my dad’s Buddhist altar. Then she closed her eyes, and prayed to my dad’s spirit, that he would comfort us and keep us safe from any harmful influences.
My father had loved music, especially the trumpet. Although he didn’t play, he loved to listen to solo trumpet pieces. He had a substantial cassette tape music collection, and I listened to his music every night. I felt that the sounds of the trumpet were truly the voice of my dad. They comforted me and eased my sadness and pain. My mom followed her own morning ritual; this was my nightly ritual. The trumpet was a comforting lullaby to me, songs from my father to soothe my own spirit.
Nearly every evening, after my brother and I went into our futons, I would hear my mom sobbing quietly from time to time in her bed room. She was not just sad and missing dad, but was also anxious about feeding us. Her health was not good and she could not work. We had only a small amount of savings, and she was pinching every yen.
My younger brother was only ten years old when he lost his father. My brother and our dad were playmates. They played card games together, went fishing together, and were always laughing together. My poor brother, just ten years old … suddenly losing his dad, his favorite buddy. From that point, I noticed he didn’t say much about his daddy. But I knew that his little heart was broken into many pieces and no one could gather them up for him.
I felt totally abandoned, forsaken by my own father. The police told my mom that when my dad’s body was discovered, they saw he had on his lap a family photo, one which was taken the time when the four of us went to a zoo a couple of years before. He wanted to be with us in his last minutes of his life, I thought. Even so, that didn’t offer any answers to all my questions … too many questions. Why did he abandon us? Why did he forsake me, his daughter?
And so, even five months after my dad’s funeral, all three of us were still grieving from his sudden death in our own personal ways.
If I could, I would have told my fifteen-year-old self, “The Father who made heaven and earth, He was with your father when he took his last breath. And even if your father forsakes you, your heavenly Father will never leave you nor forsake you.”