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"Grandpa! Your leg! What happened?"

My daughter's delinquency

Takae behaved much worse when she entered the 9th grade. In the beginning, I walked around and looked for her at night, but I soon became too tired to do that. She used to receive a phone call and went out until late. I just had to stay awake and wait for her.

One night, she came home staggering and fell on the floor. She looked very pale, with disheveled hair, eyes staring vacantly into space, mouth half open. She was breathing long, deep breaths almost every 5 seconds. The next moment, the smell of thinner stunned me. I was so upset that I almost hit her hard. "Takae! Look what you are!" On the verge of beating her, I came back to my senses and realized how little it would mean to teach her such a lesson when she is senseless. "Takae, go to bed. Sleep!" She nodded and went to bed. I was so confused that I could not sleep. The next morning, I knew that I had to express something to Takae, but I did not know what to do.

I was very scared because I had heard that your bones get weak if you keep inhaling thinner. I had passed her that information and warned her not to sniff thinner. How I wished she would take my advice! She repeated sniffing; twice or three times a month. I tried to think of somebody I could consult. Without a solution, I felt helpless every day. The days passed without any improvement. I often found myself just staring at my daughter when she looked horrible after sniffing thinner. I felt so painful that I thought of abandoning her. I was losing my confidence and I could not think properly.

One day, I was taking a nap in my shop, sitting in one of the chairs. I was recalling my childhood dreams; I used to have a dream of myself flying in the sky. On that day, I dreamed that I was walking on the ocean. I wondered how I could walk on the water. On the water, I had no idea about how far I'd gone. I just wanted to find land. I got so tired and sat on the sea, then I heard someone calling me "Grandpa!" from far away. The voice got louder and closer. Then a little girl came up. To my surprise, Takae was beside her. Takae did not look old enough to be the baby girl's mother, only as old she actually was: a junior-high student. At the end of my dream, I was losing sight of them, trying to catch them up, calling out: "Takae! Takae!"

After the dream, I had to face the reality. On Monday, I went to a psychiatrist. I was diagnosed "normal." A caseworker kindly spent about one hour listening to me, and said, "Your burden must be too heavy. It would be better to share it with someone. One way is to go to city hall or a public office to ask for help. I can introduce someone as well." I was not ready for any quick decision. I knew I had to do something to put my daughter back on her feet. She should never waste her precious time by repeating such a silly thing. She should be revived as an innocent girl. I thought of a solution, which normally might be regarded as a shameful one.

Otonashi Koban, a small police station, is only a few blocks away from my shop. I had known a very kind officer named Hayashida there. I went to talk to him.

"Mr. Hayashida, My daughter Takae has recently been doped with thinner. I really don't know what I can do about it. I'm getting crazy. I've come upon an idea… I can guess where she is sniffing thinner now. So, could you come with me to catch her red-handed?"

Officer Hayashida replied, "I knew there was something wrong with Takae. I didn't know about the thinner problem. OK. I'll do what I can do for you, Komine-san."

It was a bold step.

Takae was arrested several times. After each arrest, I had to go to the police and the family court a couple of times. I had to close the barbershop on each occasion.

One night, at about one in the morning, Urakami Police Office called me. "Mr. Komine, Takae is under custody. Can you come and pick her up?" It was the fourth time. When I got to the police, I found five young ones, including Takae.

A woman ran hurriedly after me and came in to the police station. "It must be a lie. My daughter is not such a girl." A policeman replied, "Look at her, sitting there." The mother touched her daughter's chin and lifted it up. The next moment, she broke into tears. I guessed that she did not know this side of her daughter. The mother might have gone out for her evening job, when the daughter might have cheerfully said "Good night, mom." I understood how she wished it had been a mistake. In reality, the daughter with lipstick acted like a grown-up girl and looked much older than she was.

The policeman had to stop her from grabbing other children's necks and screaming, "You are the one who induced my daughter, aren't you?" I sympathized with her and felt pain.

After about one hour, my daughter and I left the police office. It was early February.

"Shall we walk home, Takae?" I acted a little funny. We walked together. In my heart, I prayed that it would be the last time for me to pick her up at the police. I knew that there would be a court hearing and judgment, because it was the fourth time for her case to be brought to the court. I had never walked with my daughter at midnight. "I must apologize, Takae. I had to do a lot of things for Satomi and Hidehiro, so I didn't spend enough time with you, Takae. I love you most. I hope you can see that. You are my first child." I said to her something meaningless. Takae nodded meekly. We walked with my hand on her head, under the moon light. Some dogs were howling far away. That was our last visit to the police.

When we were on our way to the court, nosy neighbor housewives said, "Hi! Where are the two of you going together?" Instead of saying, "None of your business!" I said, "Just a short walk." An investigator, who now works as a judge, was waiting for me.

I talked about the way I tried to rescue my daughter, about how I had cooperated with the police to catch her red-handed. The investigator said, "Mr. Komine, I respect you. Most parents try to hide their children's wrongdoings. They are usually afraid of investigations. I can see how serious you are. I'll do what I can to help you. Only about half of those who are sent to the institution will get back on the right track, though. Your child will surely understand and appreciate your seriousness." I did not expect such encouraging words.

Takae's school often summoned me, as she was often caught by the police. A teacher showed me a list comparing junior high schools as to how many and how often their students are caught by the police, and said, "Sadly, our school is at the top of the list."

How I wished I could escape, abandoning everything! I was in a long dark tunnel, unable to see any light from the exit. With two other children, I could not afford to give up.

The day of the judgment came. The investigator had told me about possible solutions. I felt sorry for my daughter who had came along with me. I cannot write about that day any further in detail, because I get upset and my hands tremble when I remember. I was losing my head.