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"Grandpa! Your leg! What happened?"


I want my mother


I turned 40 in 1980. Takae was in the 7th grade or the first year of junior high school. Satomi was in the 4th grade. Hidehiro came back home to live with us again. Junior high students had to bring a lunchbox to school. It was harder than I had expected. We need at least 4 items to make a good box lunch. It is not good to repeat the same items. You need to be careful about nutrition, too. It also needs to look good. I wondered if I could continue the difficult task until Hidehiro finished junior high school.

I knew that a girl has her first menses when she is around her 6th grade. And I had bought what might be necessary for Takae. I tried to be careful about her health because she was slim and she did not look very strong. However, I always had to watch Hidehiro and could not pay enough attention to her. A little while after Takae entered junior high school, Satomi came to me and said, "We're running out of underwear." I replied, "There should be some more." I looked through the drawers and found no shorts at all for my daughters. Sanitary items were also gone. "Takae's period has started." Satomi reported. I was stunned. And I felt so sorry for my daughter because I was not doing enough as a parent.

In Japan, rice with red beans is usually served to celebrate a daughter's first period. I asked a neighborhood woman how to prepare the red bean rice. She often advised me on cooking what my children want to eat. I seldom did it well on her advice, though. After closing my shop for the day, I called Takae into the shop and said, "I'm happy to hear that you're having your first period." She cried sadly. Then she loudly stated, "I want my mother." She repeated, "I want a mother." in her softer voice with a serious expression. I did not know what to say. I should have known better than simply congratulating her. I was ashamed. I tried hard to understand her feelings. She wanted her mother. There must have been a lot of complicated feelings behind her words. I was again learning about my incapabilities. I could do nothing more than hugging her. I tried to accept her as she was. But what else could I do? Rather than feeling pity for her, I realized that a father cannot be relied upon. Some mothers can devote their lives to their children. Can any father do that? I was actually getting nervous about being a father. Takae was leading a more difficult life than I; I was learning that I had to try much harder to understand and help my children. Takae later told me that she was using toilet paper and tissue paper after she ran out of sanitary items. It must have been very hard to stay in school that way.

In 1981, Hidehiro entered elementary school. I was happy to attend the entrance ceremony, thinking that my hardest task as a parent was coming to an end.

Mondays were off for me and other barbers. Every Monday I went fishing, leaving all the housework to Takae. I would start before dawn. On the seashore, I heard some early birds singing by the rocks, saw beautiful stars in the sky. Then the mountains come out and the lights are turned on in nearby houses. I felt calm and enjoyed the scene. "Don't call me a romanticist, but, how beautiful!" I used to say to my colleagues at the dawn. "There you go again." they replied.

Sometimes I was greeted by rain on arrival to the shore. I sometimes wondered why I had to go fishing in such bad weather. Fishing is like life, life is like fishing. I was able to make some good friends, with whom I enjoyed eating the fish and drinking.

One day, a really fit and healthy-looking man came to my shop. "Komine, I heard that you opened a barbershop in this neighborhood. Finally I found you." he said. I could not recognize him for a while. "Don't you remember me? I'm Morooka." I remembered that he was so good at school that he had been able to go to a university-affiliated school from the second year of junior high. He ran an orthopedic hospital. He was a respectable person who later helped me on different occasions. Now he is a board member of local doctors' association. Despite the fact that he is busy, he sometimes calls me on the phone.