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"Grandpa! Your leg! What happened?"
Terrible impact on my son
Three children - 9 years old, 6 years old and two and a half - were too heavy a burden for me. Would it be possible for me, a single father, to raise them by myself? The youngest child, Hidehiro, began to stammer, obviously because he was shocked by his parents' divorce. A child at his age definitely needs a mother.
I got up at 5 a.m., prepared breakfast, did laundry, and sent the two elder ones to school. I opened my shop at 8:30. I had to prepare supper from around 5 p.m. I often failed to cook in time, when I was busy with customers. The children used to come to the shop, saying, "Dad, we're hungry." I tried to make a sign with my eyes, but they did not stop complaining. Hidehiro would start crying and his elder sisters would follow. It was hard.
Hidehiro was the biggest problem. He ran outside while I was working. It was not safe because of the cars running by. I wondered what to do and went to a nursery attached to a nearby temple, asking for help and advice. The Buddhist priest in charge of the temple and the school had been a good friend of mine since childhood. He willingly accepted Hidehiro. He recommended that I go to City Hall for formal procedures to have Hidehiro taken care of by his nursery. I went to City Hall and heard that it took 3 months for a child to enter a nursery. I tried to persuade them in vain. And I remembered that Mr. Motoshima, the mayor, had been one of my liberal arts teachers at the hairdressers' school. I called him on the phone, in front of the clerk in charge, who was stunned and compromised, saying, "No, Mr. Komine, you don't have to call the Mayor. You can send your child to the nursery, starting tomorrow." I usually prefer not to use such unfair tricks; however, it was needed in such an emergency.
My son always rubbed my chest when we slept at night. My left nipple is as three times as large as my right one. And he would mumble "Mom" while touching me. He might have been dreaming. He must have missed his mother. How often did I burst into tears and hugged him at midnight? In winter, when I put duvets on my daughters, I sometimes found tracks of teardrops on their faces. They might have tried hard not to worry me. They must have been missing their mother. I felt so sad and cried so often. I wished my children would tell me everything.
Hidehiro often caught cold with high fever in winter. I got worn out taking care of him. When I tried to leave him and sleep alone, he grabbed me at whichever part of my body. Therefore, I could not leave him even after his fever went down. He would wake up and cry when I tried to leave him. I wanted to cry, too. During the day, I kept open the door between my shop and the room he slept in. I had to watch my sick child while working on my customers' hair. On some occasions I had to ask my customers to wait while I took Hidehiro to the hospital because his fever seemed too high. I would run to the hospital carrying him.
One day, as was often the case, I was working while sick Hidehiro was lying in the next room. My eldest brother came and said, "Look at what you're doing! I'm taking Hidehiro with me; I can't ignore what you're doing to him." His sisters kept crying for Hidehiro through the night, when he was taken away. After that, until Hidehiro turned 5 years old, my brother and his wife, who had no children, virtually kept custody of Hidehiro. My brother is 15 years older than I.
I was accustomed to waking in the middle of the night to take my son to the toilet. I missed my son at night and wondered if my sister-in-law was annoyed by his bed-wetting. I blamed myself for everything I did wrong. Who caused his stammering? Wasn't I responsible for taking his mother away from him, then his father? I was not capable of doing things right. I could have done something better to prevent the divorce. I remembered my wife worriedly saying, "Isn't it because of the radiation?" whenever I felt sick. Didn't I victimize her? She must have lived uneasy days while she was with me. Different thoughts troubled me. After all, I felt so sorry for my son. Night after night, my pillow was wet with tears.
Once a month, I brought money to my brother for taking care of Hidehiro. When I said "hello" at the door, Hidehiro would come running and cling to me. Whenever I sat down, he tried to sit on my lap while looking into my face. I used to say, "Go to your aunt," and pretended to be indifferent, because I hated to hurt my sister-in-law's feelings; but he always stuck to me. I could not stay there longer, because his sisters were waiting for me at home. When I was leaving, Hidehiro often said, with stammer, "Already, you're leaving? Can't you stay longer?" with his hands tightly holding mine. I said, "I'll be back soon. Be a good boy and wait until then." Then I would jump on to my motorbike. Hearing my son screaming "bye-bye," it was hard to keep running with my eyes full of tears. Before turning 3 years old, he already knew his situation. I thought I would feel better if he had been with me. I tried many times to persuade my brother to return Hidehiro to me, but he did not compromise. I can see that he knew how hard it would have been for the little boy to live with me.