Japan · Life


Japanese people are not too keen on showing emotion.  Granted this is a generalization and I don’t mean to put everyone in a box but many Japanese people do not publicize their emotions for the wide world to see.  This can give the experience that Japanese people are quite cold.  I have experienced both warmth and arctic chill from Japanese people.  Hopefully, you are able to meet the warmer ones whose kindness and warmth is palpable.

Another reason I’m lucky is that my husband is such a warm and caring person.  I’ve also had some friends (one comes to mind) who have been the warmest kindest people.  On the flip side, I tend to work with some really cold people.  For example, my coworker was in the office crying about her lousy boyfriend.  I asked what was wrong.  He didn’t want to commit.  He didn’t know if he wanted to get married to her.  When I heard this, naturally, I tried to console her.  “Are you okay?  He’s scum!  What can I do to make you feel better?”  That’s what any good friend would do, right?

Today, my grandmother died.  I was in the office crying.  The same coworker as above shoved some tissues under my nose.  “Do you need tissue?” she asked.  I told her I was leaving for the day.  She said I needed to stay and work.  I sobbed that I already talked to my boss, and it’s okay because my grandma just died.  “Okay, okay,” she said tersely obviously trying to get me to shut up.  Japanese or not she could have handled the situation world’s better.  She could and should have asked me if I was okay or if she could help.  Anything other than here’s tissue and shut it.  She’s one of the unkind persons I previously mentioned.

Grandma was an old bird obviously.  She was 84 years old.  Within the last two years she developed Alzheimer’s.  At my wedding in 2014 she was snappy and coherent though she occasionally called people by the wrong name.  When I saw her this Christmas, she couldn’t feed herself and do simple tasks, she often fell, and didn’t talk much at all.  She was in a care center that specialized in Alzheimer’s care.  She wasn’t herself.  Her real self had been imprisoned somewhere.  Unfortunately, we’d never see that self again.

Grandma was feisty and strict.  Her house looked like an odds and ends museum but she had the most delicious grapefruit trees in the backyard which produced massive grapefruit.  She collected Cabbage Patch Kid dolls.  We always lamented we could never play with them when we were little.  They were displayed in a glass armoire always out of our reach.  Grandma liked her soap operas.  She was an excellent seamstress and made my aunt’s wedding dress.  She had the funniest laugh that would start off really loud and then bubble down.  She will be incredibly missed.

My mom is a wreck, and I’m thousands of miles away.  Around Christmastime she would randomly start crying whenever she thought about Grandma’s condition.  Despite the fact that there was nothing more we could do for Grandma (Alzheimer’s is lethal), it hurt to see her so so sad.  We must remember to think of our loved ones as they were in happier times, and not as disease deteriorated them.

I’m putting this here so I can let go of some of these sad thoughts and try not to stress about it further, so my body can return to its natural balance.  There’s nothing I can do at this point, and Grandma is in a better place and giving sass wherever she is.  I’m not religious and I don’t know what I believe about the afterlife but I am certain Grandma is free from the pain and torment of Alzheimer’s.

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