Thank you Grandpa!


It’s a little after 1 a.m. and I’m im bed alone with the girls. Akinori is on his way to his parents’ house. We got the call about 30 minutes ago that his grandfather died. I’m so sad. I only met his grandfather for the first time a little over 5 years ago when his grandmother died and I came to Nagano with the intention of meeting her before it was too late, but she passed the night before I was supposed to meet her. So instead I met her for the first time in my in-laws living room, which was quite shocking for me. I met her husband, Akinori’s grandfather the next day.

His grandmother was in the hospital in poor health for several weeks when his grandfather had a stroke and was also hospitalized. They were in the same hospital, different floors. No one wanted to worry his grandmother, so they didn’t tell her about grandpa’s health, and said he had a cold when she asked why he couldn’t come visit. His last week of hospitalization  he was finally allowed to use a wheelchair, and he sat with his wife everyday. The day he was discharged, they sat holding hands, looking at each other, and didn’t say goodbye, they just said “thank you” to one another. It was the last time they saw each other.

Grandpa was moved to a home as the stroke had impaired his walking and Akinori’s parents’ house has  a long flight of stairs up to the entrance. About a week or two after he arrived, his wife passed. After being moved to the home he demanded to be brought home and to see his wife everyday, until the day she died. No one told him she died. He just stopped. This last point has always sat uneasily with me. My in-laws decided not to tell grandpa of grandma’s passing because they knew he wouldn’t want to go on living without her. In my mind, that should have been his choice to make, not theirs. Of course I never said that to anyone but Akinori.

About 2 months ago, grandpa came down with something that sent him to the sick ward in the home for a few weeks. He got better once, but soon after caught the flu, which turned into pneumonia and sent him to the hospital, where he’s been for just over a month now. At first we were told to prepare for the worst, but then miraculously he started getting better, to the point where they were talking about discharging him. And then, out of nowhere, we got a call from Akinori’s dad a little while ago.

Grandpa was 91 years old. Such a sweet, funny man. He adored his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I’m so glad he was able to meet Akinori’s children, as Akinori is the oldest son of the oldest son, and that’s quite significant in Japan, and especially in a family of craftsmen. Akinori was overwhelmed by the news and could barely catch his breath after hanging up the phone. I’m a little worried about him driving to his parents’ place alone. I feel incredibly sad, but also a little happy for Grandpa, as he now gets to be with his beloved wife for all eternity. I remember my grandmother, who lived to be 88, telling me quite often “old age is a terrible thing”. Maybe it was just her, and she missed my grandfather, and suffered from painful arthritis. I know Grandpa must be happier where he is now, instead of being chained to an immobile body. It will have to be that thought that helps me get through the next few days.

I attended grandma’s wake and the burning of her bones, but not her funeral as I couldn’t take anymore time off work. The whole funeral process is all so complicated here in Japan. I know I’m going to mess up quite a bit, but at least I’ll have the excuse of looking after the girls to give me some leeway if I don’t get everything right. I just needed to get this all out before I try to go back to sleep.

RIP Kaneta Kakuji.


About Brenda in Nagano

Originally from Chicago, I knew I was destined to spend the rest of my life in Japan the moment I set foot in the country at the tender age of 16. However, I was quite intent on spending that rest of my life in a major city with a full on career, until my Japanese Prince Charming came trotting down from the mountains of Nagano to sweep me off my feet and whisk me away, turning my whole life plan on its head. Two months after moving to Nagano I gave birth to our little Princess Charming, so now I am officially a SAHM and teach a little belly dance on the side.

2 responses »

  1. I agree with you. As sad as it is to have someone from the family die, it is still a good thing for him, because he can be with his wife now. But even so, you can be sad to have lost him.
    I also agree, they should have told him about his wife’s death. But I guess once you care for your parents and make decisions for them, the image of them as parents (as in you have to respect them) blurrs. So maybe they didn’t see his right to make his own decision as clearly as you could? Just thinking….

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