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"Grandpa! Your leg! What happened?"
Father's last words
My youngest sister got married in 1972. It seemed that my father felt that his duty had been completed. He started to complain about some physical problems, including a chronic slight fever. He went to a doctor in the neighborhood. Seeing no sign of recovery, I recommended that he go to another hospital. He came back with a letter of introduction to Genbaku (a-bomb) Hospital, which made our whole family anxious. It was the beginning of the long hard battle against his disease. Summer passed. Fall came and it got cooler. However, my father did not get any better. He was getting weaker and weaker. He was diagnosed with cancer. He would live for 3 more months at most, according to the doctor.
Humans are mortal. We cannot do anything about it. However, I felt terrible to learn that my father had cancer. He had frequently visited near the hypocenter in search of medicine for me, soon after the nuclear attack. That means he had had a lot of secondary exposure because of me. I felt so bad about it. My father died on December 20, at the age of 63.
The day before his death, my second-eldest sister said to me, "Father wants you to be by his side."
He knew the meaning of the bed he lay on. It was the one only for those who were dying. Only a little before you passed away, you were brought to that bed. It was really well-made for the moment you die. He had resisted being put on it. I understood how he felt when he had to accept that he was dying. I wanted to comfort him and touched his leg. I was shocked that his skin was already lifeless.
A little later, he told me to come closer to his side. I took his hand and said, "You've been sleeping well, haven't you?" He was staring at me for a while and whispered, "You are the one I'm worried about." My mind went blank. What could I have said? I wanted to cry! It was so hard to hold on.
My father's last word lingered on. Was he worried about the way I lived? Or, was he referring to the possible effect of the atomic bomb? If I had to think anything about the atomic bomb, I could not help regretting that I had not been killed instantly by the blast. If I had been killed, my family would not have worried about me. If he wanted to say that my way of living was not proper, how could I change it? I was at a loss.
A week passed. I still blamed myself for having shortened my father's life. One day, I said to my mother, "I regret that I'm the one who shortened father's life. I feel terrible about it. How can I apologize to everyone?"
"I was wondering what was going wrong with you these days. Silly one! You don't have to think about it that way."
Mother's reply was not powerful enough to set me free from my confusion. Father's last words kept lingering on.
Yet, there seem to be some nice spirits who made me forget about anger and sadness as time went on.
A couple of years passed. Takae and Satomi grew bigger and bigger. Life went by without any big troubles or changes. We were a little better off, and I went fishing quite often. "Dad, you got a big fish!" My daughters would say, looking into the cooler. I prepared sashimi (sliced raw fish) and some other dishes. Everyone enjoyed the fish saying, "It's good."
A boy was born to me in 1974; we named him Hidehiro. People say that it is difficult to raise a boy. Hidehiro also had occasional troubles: we had to take him to hospital in the middle of the night because of a high fever. As the father of three children, I worked harder than before. I even worked for a bus company, guiding buses early in the morning. I felt it was natural for me to work hard. As a Hibakusha, you can't tell when you might fall ill. Therefore, I thought that I had to work as hard as possible while I felt fine, so that my family could have good food and wear nice things. I thought I would let my children go to college if they could. Each day was so precious to me.
In 1976, the 31st year after the atomic blast, I turned 36. Takae was in the 3rd grade. It seemed that she was all right, without suffering from bullies like me. In the morning, I would hear her cheerful voice, saying "Bye!" when she went to school.