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"Grandpa! Your leg! What happened?"
Hidehiro's summer vacation project
Takae was taken to an institution for rehabilitation only a few months before finishing junior high school. Satomi and Hidehiro were anxious to learn why their elder sister did not come back home. They kept weeping. It took so long to make them sleep. It was a quiet night, with an empty space on the floor where Takae used to sleep. I remember her crying face, when her hand was grabbed by the officer in charge, on her way to the institution. "Sorry, Takae." I softly repeated. My heart ached. I actually felt pain. I wondered why and how it hurt that bad. I thought that the pain showed me my inability to raise a child. I felt that I lost something irreplaceable. I kept repeating, "Sorry, Takae." in tears and stayed awake all night long.
When Takae came back from the institution, she was completely different. She looked purely normal. After finishing junior high school, she started to work at the Hibakusha' souvenir shop near the Peace Park. Soon she changed jobs and started to work at a coffee shop where she kept working until she got married. She seemed to find it comfortable to work there.
It was one of the hardest periods in my life. I felt I was victimized. However, I was able to learn a lot of things in those several years. The most important thing I learned was that my children had an even harder time. I have been feeling guilty for having given them so much pain.
The second thing I learned is the responsibility of parents. Many wise people say that society and schools are responsible for worsening delinquencies. Now I can say that parents should take more responsibilities. Whatever happens, parents should never forsake their children. Two of Takae's friends fell. I can see that their parents deserted them. What a pity!
In 1983, I frequently took part in meetings of atomic bomb sufferers. I made a lot of friends. Mrs. Teruko Yokoyama, especially, helped me a lot. The Youth and Maidens Association had 55 members. I was lucky to have a lot of elder brothers and sisters there. However, I felt that the organization was losing its power. Many people were falling sick. I clearly remember about Mr. Nobuyuki Mitsuishi, though I did not know that he was a member.
Mitsuishi's mother was wounded when she was pregnant. I remember that he entered my elementary school when I was in the 6th grade. He was remarkably small, and was often bullied. I tried to protect him a number of times, as I remembered how hard it had been when I was his age. Later, he became one of my regular customers. My son liked him a lot when he was in the 2nd or 3rd grade; he even stayed at his house a couple of times. Mitsuishi had to earn some money to survive, but he needed a day off after working a full day, like many other Hibakusha. He remained weak and poor all his life, until he died at the age of 49 in 1994.
In the past half century, I have lost some of my Hibakusha friends. I feel sad.
Mr. Yamakawa, my son's 3rd grade homeroom teacher, was an active member of teachers' union. He was serious about peace education. When he learned that I was a Hibakusha, he advised Hidehiro that he should stick to his father for days and weeks, until he hears enough about the past. On September 21, 1996, at the reception to celebrate this book, Mr. Yamakawa showed us Hidehiro's essay, "The story I heard from my father."
"My father was wounded by the atomic bomb in Karimata of Nishimachi. He was 5 years old. On that day, he was climbing a loquat tree." Hidehiro's 4-page essay starts with what I experienced on that day. "My father's body was festering all over. In some spots, maggots were breeding, like on dead animals. When my father moved, the worms moved too. My grandfather picked them out with chopsticks. He managed to survive, but ugly keloid remains."
Then he writes about how hard it was to go to school, especially in the first year, and the discrimination because of the keloid scars on my legs. In conclusion, Hidehiro said, "My father's voice got louder when he said this: 'I survived. It was not only because of a miracle. Your grandpa and grandma did all they could to help me.' My father did not study very hard, and he began working after finishing junior-high. He wanted to become a barber, though he was not sure if he could keep standing all day long. He thought he would try hard. Every day, it was very hard. But he got his license in 5 years. My father says 'You can do any difficult thing if you are really determined.'
However, he often has pain in his foot, because hairs get into the scars between his second and third toes. They swell and hurt. When that happens, he cannot walk. He has to crawl over the tatami floor.
During summer vacation, I listened to my father's story for many days. It was hard to finish this essay. I hate atomic bombs. I want them to be eliminated from this world, because they torture and kill thousands and thousands of people."
After the summer vacation, there was a meeting of all the students of the school in the gym. Hidehiro represented his year-grade, and read this essay in front of them. He had never done such a thing before.
I admire Mr. Yamashita. He has kept Hidehiro's essay for 13 long years. It was the first time for me to read that composition, and I thought about a lot of things. I hoped that the school children and junior high students who listened to my story in those days receive my message in similar ways. As Mr. Yamakawa pointed out, that essay is the original of my story-telling and autobiography.
My mother, brothers and sisters advised that I should own a house. I was lucky enough to take their advice. However, while preparing the budget, they learned about my secret debt of about three million yen, which I had borrowed for drinking. My elder brother shouldered it. I was so embarrassed for many years after that. I cannot write any further in detail about that debt. Of course, I have fully paid my brother back by now. I paid back my housing loan, too.
By the way, a little before that, in 1982, another serious issue was the flood. On the evening of July 23, the rain poured so much that we were wondering if it would ever stop. The interior of my barbershop got wet, too. Takae was at home. So I had her cook rice and make rice balls, because we anticipated some kind of emergency. Then she said that one of her friends lived below a steep hill, and that the parents were not at home then. I went there in my rain suit. Takae's friend and her little brother looked scared, so I tied them to me with a long rope and kept pulling it while I led them to my house, as the muddy water was washing us. The next morning, I visited Mr. Morooka's hospital. I heard that the water had come up to one meter above the floor. I helped them clean all day. At the lunch break, Mrs. Morooka jokingly reported that some fish had been swimming up to their front door. "No kidding!" "I'm serious!" It was serious but I enjoyed the way she talked.
The flood in Nagasaki killed 299 people.