few days ago, I wrote that I wouldn’t be posting too often, but writing is good for the soul. There are always things I wish I could have done, should have done, earlier, sooner, promptly. These are the classic words of a procrastinator. I am president of our local chapter.
in the twilight years,
life has been too short
Although this sounds like the senryu of an old man, it was composed by my father back in 1941 when he was in his late 20s at a time when he thought he was nearing death. When he returned to the US from Japan in the early 30’s, there was little work, and he sought work where he could find it. He lived on a lemon orchard, picking lemons and living in a squalid shack with no plumbing. Later. he moved to Long Beach (CA) into his cousins house and began working in a fruit market where he packed more lemons. He can’t say for sure, but he believes it was during these months he contracted a debilitating disease that he simply referred to as fudobyo 風土病, an endemic disease.
My father never knew the exact disease–although he was born in Idaho, he spent his formative years in Japan, and his English was never proficiently native–but it not only sapped his energy, it caused his tendons and cartilage to degenerate. As a kid, I used to stare at the parts of his body that had been affected: a short middle finger, grooves in his forearm where tendons used to be, an indentation at his solarplexes. (Maybe someone knows a name for this illness?)
In any event, he had spent most of the 1930s bedridden in hospitals and convalescent homes recovering. Indeed, this was the time when he made the fateful decision to bequeath his inheritance to his younger sister. As the eldest and only son, he was primary heir to the family farm in Fukushima, a relatively vast amount of land by Japanese standards. However, as he lay in a hospital bed wondering if he would live or die, he overheard his two elder sisters bickering over how to divide the property when he died. Furious, he wrote a letter to his father instructing him to transfer all rights to his younger sister who still lived in Japan. This, as you can imagine, infuriated my aunts, but later after my father recovered, he expressed no regrets. He would rather give away his inheritance to charity than to siblings who seemed more preoccupied by his death rather than his life.
This had a profound effect on him. After my mother had her heart attack in the late 80s, I had a new appreciation for mortality, and so asked my father a couple of times if he had a will, life insurance or any documents that laid out his wishes. He would reply by asking me if I was waiting for him to die. I stopped asking… I felt it was the prudent thing to do, but I can’t help but think that he viewed me as he viewed his sisters. I would try to talk to him about it but he never responded either way.