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"Grandpa! Your leg! What happened?"

3.Family burden:Struggle to raise children


I had not attended a meeting of the Atomic Bomb Youth and Maidens Association since 1956, despite repeated invitations from Mr. Sumiteru Taniguchi. I knew that he was a man one should respect, but I was not tempted to go there.

By the time Hidehiro started to toddle, my wife and I started to have occasional discordance and arguments. In one such quarrel, I heard her say, "Your foot is rotten. Decomposed foot!" I could not believe my ears and said, "What did you say?" She clearly repeated, "This rotten foot of yours!" I just had to keep silent. After that, she repeated the phrase, almost every time when we argued, just like triumphant shouts. She was going too far by showing off how merciful she had been to marry a Hibakusha. I tried hard to see the matter objectively. I began to wonder if she was qualified as a wife, mother and housekeeper. I was not sure if I should live with her for the rest of my life. I had had some unpleasant problems, mostly because I was a Hibakusha. I thought I had learned to endure. However, I was not mentally strong enough to forgive such abuse.

One day, I said to her, "Noriko, let's get divorced. I can take care of the children." "As I kindly got married to a Hibakusha, I deserve a lot of compensation." she replied a little jokingly. Sometime later, she said, "I want to work outside." I said, "OK." I had become quite desperate. She added, "I'm going to have an evening job."

The three little children seemed anxious when they saw their mother happily getting ready to go to work in early evening, putting on make-up. They would say, "Are you really going out again tonight?" She used to say, in reply, "I'll buy you some clothes when I'm paid."

Before long, she did not come back until morning.

"You stayed overnight somewhere. Why? If you do that again, that means divorce." I said to her. And I meant it.

In April, she stayed out for another night. She did not come back in the morning; she might have gotten self-conscious, afraid or felt a little guilty. I closed the shop for the day, went to see my mother and my second-eldest brother and asked him to accompany me to Noriko's parents' house. They, especially the father, understood. He repeated, "Hidetaka, you've been very patient. However, one thing I regret is that you allowed Noriko to work at night. That's what you shouldn't have done." His remarks linger on.

On the same day, I went to the City Hall to submit the notice of divorce. Coincidentally, the clerk on duty had been one of my classmates in junior-high school. She said, in a surprised voice, "What's this?" "Take a look," I replied. "You know what it is." She was further surprised and tried to persuade me, saying, "Komine, think twice! You'll surely regret this. Think about your three children, too." I had to explain that it was the final conclusion after thinking again and again. The report was finally accepted.

Not only I, but everyone has something that can never be explained to anyone else, when it comes to the issues between a husband and wife. I wrote as if my wife had been to blame. I know I was the most responsible, because nobody else but I drove her into a helpless situation.

My children often cried, looking for and asking for their mother. At night, after putting my children to bed, I remembered that first night, when Noriko turned away and cried, and I was just looking at her shoulders and back shaking. I also remembered my mother saying some years before: "You were just predestined to be a Hibakusha." My destiny? To hell with destiny! Am I destined to be unable to lead a happy life like everybody else does? Is the atomic bomb the only factor? No, definitely not. Something is missing within me. I was not able to find out what it was. I am not religious, but what I could do was to keep on living, following the guidance of a god or whoever supernatural that showed me the way.