December, 2013

This page is written monthly
by Harumi Okochi.
Sometimes Harumi's friends join.
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Father in his 50's

Memories of Father's gifts

Come December, I always sigh a deep sigh. This sigh is a regret sigh, a relief sigh, and an adoring sigh.

My father passed away on December 8, 1995. It was a sudden death. Heart attacked in the bath tub.

My regret is that I did not call out Father when I passed by him by chance on the street on the day before his death. I was in the car, and it was on the other side of traffic line. I could not stop there. Even so, I should have stopped, called out and taken him into my car. Then, I might have felt some sign of his weakness if there was. He might have been quite alright as ever, but at least I could talk and smile and have another small happy hour with him. He was 89 years old, and I was planning a party to celebrate his 90 years on the coming New Year’s Day.  In Japan, people get one year older on the first day of the year. The New Year of 1996 was a mourning new year. It was an unhappy new year.

Nearly twenty years have passed since then. Mother survived him for 17years. Last year, she left us too.

Now they are together in the heaven. This idea makes me feel relieved. This 69 year-old daughter is still missing them, adoring them and needing them.

Today, I thought I would write about Father’s gifts, because this is the Christmas time, and Christmas is, in Japan, not an occasion of religion, but an occasion of gifts and family reunion.


My parents got married in Korea at the time when Korea was a part of Japan. My elder sister Yumi and I were born in Korea. There was a war, and Japan lost. We came back to Karatsu which was Father’s birth place. Father was poor because he could not get a job as a teacher, so he started a small business of selling dried fish and dried sea-weed. He worked hard and our life gradually got better. Now we could sometimes receive gifts from parents on birthdays, Christmas, or for some other reasons.


Father’s gift #1

A kimno for Yumi

In Japan, there is a tradition that family specially celebrates children’s 3, 5, and 7 years.

Yumi got her first Kimono on her 7 years’ celebration. I was too small and have no memory about this happy occasion. Only I can guess how happy Yumi was, to see her still cherishe this kimono. Yumi’s daughter Megumi wore this Kimono when she got 7.

I wonder how Father knew that Yumi would be blessed later with a beautiful girl.

Father’s gift #2

A  Guitar for Mabumi

Mabumi is our younger brother, the baby of the family.

When he was about 10 years old, for his birthday Father bought him a guitar. It was not of high quality, but it was not a toy. Sounds were born when touched on the strings.

We were all surprised to see the gift, because until then, Mabumi had never shown interest in music instruments.

At that time not many families had a piano, and young people were not playing guitars as much as now.

Mabumi had never asked for an instrument. He really wanted a baseball glove. So he was quite disappointed. He said he did not need this guitar, and he gave it to me. I was glad to gain something new, but after three days I was tired of it. I gave it back to Mabumi.

After one month or two, we were surprised again to see Mabumi playing the guitar very well even without learning from anyone. His fingers played a beautiful tune.

“What is that song?  I’ve never heard it.” I said.

Brother said, “I don’t know either.”

That was Mabumi’s first composition.

Mabumi is 67 years old now and lives in Tokyo. As a jazz musician, he still is active. He plays the tenor and alto saxophones. He has a reputation somehow. All his life, he has done only what he loves most. Music.

Father’s gift was a cheap guitar, but it was not just a toy. It was Music. Father bought this gift for Mabumi because he knew Mabumi was born ‘gifted’ in music.


Father’s gift #3

A typewriter for me

When I entered the English Language Department of Sophia University in Tokyo, Father bought me a second-handed typewriter. His business was at that time getting worth. People were not eating Miso soup and rice every morning any more. His dried fish and dried sea-weed had been a must for miso soup in the morning, but less and less housewives wanted it. Modern fashion was ‘toast and coffee’. Even we children wanted bread for breakfast. Father said nothing, and we children had toast and instant coffee for breakfast.

At my school, I had to type all my reports, so Father’s gift, a small ‘Hermes’  from France, did a good job  for me. Second-handed though it was, this machine was of quite good quality. It moves smoothly even now. I don’t use it any more, though. Computers and word-processors are much comfortable and easier to delete or reserve documents.

I have long forgotten about this typewriter. It was on the top of the shelf , covered with dust.

When I thought I would write something about Father for my Greeting page of December, I suddenly remembered this typewriter.

 Oh, ! I have long forgotten about you, my dear Hermes, forgive me!

The Father’s gift for me was this green small metal box with 50 keys of alphabets, but I now know the real Father's gift was ‘English’.

The language has always helped me in my life so much. It was also a pleasure. Through English. my world got larger. I have many wonderful English speaking friends. I have experienced many amazing happenings through English. Little though my English knowledge is, I even had some miracles by English communications.

Father himself wanted to be an English teacher, I guess. He longed for knowing the world, admired western pictures or music, just like other young men of his generation called ‘Taisho Modern Boys’. Born in the end of Meiji Era, grew up in Taisho Era, their generation was so dreaming, sensitive and culture-loving. My father was one of those Taisho Modern Boys.


I am proud that I was born as a daughter to you, Father. I am so grateful that you were the person who knew his children’s aptitude best.


Father’s Last Gift

Angel Mother

Three years after Father’s death, Mother got stroked. She once recovered, but three more years later, she was attacked again. This time she got paralyzed, and her memories began to leave her.

Fortunately enough, her personality stayed. She became a baby, but she still kept to be our mother. She smiled to us in her bed, giggled if touched on the cheek, laughed happily when taken into a warm bath.

She always sought for Father, missed him, and asked me to make him come home quickly.

I fed her spoon by spoon, and this baby imitated me and tried to feed me back with a trembling hand.

Once in a while, it got too hard for me to take care of this heavy baby.  I had aches on the arms, shoulders or back. Mother tried to reach out her half-paralyzed arm to pat me softly on the stiff back. 

Mother was an angel to me in the meaning that the babies are angels for their young parent.

She is gone now and became another memory.


Come December, my memories come back to me with a faint sorrow, at the same time with a

sweet warmth.

This December 8th is the 18th memorial day of my father.
I will go to his grave with camellia flowers which Father loved best.

Thank you very much for joining me.
I wish you a happy new year!
I hope you will visit us again next month.

 Mail to Harumi Okochi