A sad anniversary

Ten years today. It’s been ten years since my Ojichan died.

Since my mother’s father died when she was a year old, my Ojichan was the only grandfather that I knew. My maternal grandmother remarried (twice, but that’s another story), and my step-grandfather is a wonderful, wise and kind man. He is Auntie’s grandpa, since they were married before she was born. I was a candlelighter in their wedding. But for many many years, the only grandfather I had was my father’s father, my Ojichan.

If there’s one thing that I remember about him, it was how much he loved us, his grandkids. Since he was a pretty typical Nisei (second-generation Japanese-American), those words never came out of his mouth. But they were lived in so many ways – from the trips to Wendy’s for a Frosty, to the fruit-roll-ups and Trident gum that he kept in the pantry, to the countless hours he spent with us, either watching us play or turning a jump rope for us.

I watched his health slowly deteriorate over the course of my childhood. He smoked from the time he was in his early 20’s (and in internment camp, which is where he picked it up) until I was 2 and my brother was born. My dad asked him to stop smoking around me and my brother, because at age 2, I was starting to imitate him with french fries and pencils. He stopped cold turkey and never looked back. While I’m sure the years of smoking contributed to his eventual ills, the real problem was his rheumatoid arthritis. It literally crippled him from the inside out. He retired before I went into kindergarten because it was so bad. The up side of this, of course, was that he had a lot of free time for us. He was our baby-sitter over the summers while our parents worked. He came to baseball games and school concerts. He pushed us to do our best. And when Auntie was born, he absolutely doted on her. She was the bright light in his declining years. She barely remembers him now, but the ways he used to spoil her are now legendary.

He took a very bad fall down the stairs in his and Obachan’s home in January of 1995, which was really the beginning of the end for him. He needed a walker (which he hated), and the downstairs family room was set up with a hospital bed for him. But his body was giving out on him, and he ended up in the hospital more than once. My parents, uncles and aunts and Obachan were preparing to move him back home for hospice care when he contracted pneumonia. In his weakened state, he couldn’t fight it.

I was a senior in high school. I got a message from the school office – call your mother at work. When I did, she told me the straight facts – he was dying, and he wasn’t going to live through the day. Did I want to be there?

Yes, I did. I called in to work (the yo-yo factory), and because of the way my senior year was set up, I could leave right after 5th period (lunch was after 5th and I didn’t have a 6th period the last trimester of my senior year), so I drove straight home, where my uncle picked me up. He then picked up my aunt, and we went to the hospital. My parents, Auntie (who was 3 and fast asleep on the window seat), my other uncle, and Obachan were all there already. Ojichan died without waking up less than 30 minutes after I got there.

I was seventeen then. Yesterday, I took Obachan to the cemetery, as I have done so many times (she doesn’t drive and I lived with her a couple of years while I was in college). I also had the Munchkin and Baby Boy with me. The Munchkin was more interested in the decorative water fountains and the flowers we had brought from our garden at home. Baby Boy was in his infant carrier, wide-awake and solemn, looking around. They will never know their great-grandfather, my Ojichan. But there is one thing I do know – he would have loved them so much.

4 Responses to “A sad anniversary”

  1. Linda
    April 11th, 2006 07:12

    Such a beautiful Tribute to your beloved Ojichan.
    Grandparents leave great ‘Prints’ in and on our lives. I remember all of mine with love and memories that are as fresh today as they were a year after each passed on.
    Thank you, Deanna, for this loving Tribute and account of your Grandfather. He is very proud of you.

  2. Little Cousin's Mommy
    April 11th, 2006 08:12

    Your forgot to mention the fudge-stripe cookies and the Oreos in the canister! Or how we would sweep the garage and get $5! Going to the neighborhood playground near their house, him trying to trap us between his feet as we walked by his recliner, putting golf balls into old coffee cans, and how he knew all the prices on “The Price is Right.” I miss him too.

  3. Laurie
    April 11th, 2006 08:35

    I remember that difficult time for you. What a nice tribute to him, and a way for your children to remember. Take care, sweetie.

  4. Juliet
    April 12th, 2006 19:42

    Wow, it hardly seems like it’s been ten years. You have to save this blog entry for your kids to read when they’re older. I’m sad that whatever kids we have won’t meet my grandfather, who was such a big part of my life too, but it’s good to have so many memories to pass on.