On Shogun Sr.’s First Birthday Since His Death

Today would be Shogun Sr.’s birthday, and it’s the first one to pass since his death. I miss him a little bit every day, but today the missing comes on a little harder. I wish he were here with us to celebrate.

I think about cooking him his favorite foods for most of the nine birthdays I knew him, and how, after he had eaten, he’d always push back his chair, nod his head earnestly, and say Gochisosamadeshita,Β “thank you for the meal,” and then in English, he’d sometimes add “Thank you To-ray-shee!”

I think about the little baby inside me now, at almost 27 weeks old, who showed up unexpectedly in the last two months of Shogun Sr.’s life. How, when I told him I was pregnant as he lay weak in his hospital bed, saying “Otōsan, I have a secret; I have a baby inside,” and then I patted my stomach, his eyes went wide with surprise. He thought about it for a moment and then asked, “Does Toru know?”

I laughed and said “Of course!” and then switched into broken Japanese, explaining Watachitachi wa hontoni bikuri shimashita! Onaka ga warui deshita, dakara byoin ni ikimashita, to Isha wa, “Anata wa ninshin desu!” to itaiimashita, “We were both shocked! My stomach was bad so I went to the Dr, and the Dr said ‘You are pregnant!'”

And then Shogun Sr grabbed my hand and kissed it, and then he burst into tears.

I think about how we asked him to name the baby, and he said he would, but then he stopped speaking, and he died before he could tell us what name he had picked.

I think about how once, before he went into the hospital, he fell early in the morning in his kitchen. When the helper-san arrived, she couldn’t lift him, so they called. Toru was on his way to work, and when I answered the phone, Shogun Sr said quietly, To-ray-shee, es-oh-esu “Tracy, S.O.S”

After I got there, two other female helper-sans arrived, and the four of us women fussed around in a frantic rush of lifting, cleaning, tending, changing. Then, when one helper-san wheeled him out of his shower twenty minutes later, he took one look around his living room at the four us of women standing there, and he said Yare, yare, “Oh boy…”

When I feel the little baby kick inside me, I think about how happy we are that our baby finally seems to be making an appearance, and how sad we are that Shogun Sr won’t get to be here for it. I think about how the baby waited quietly through five years of medical treatments and miscarriages and general fertility-specialist fracas before showing up, as if waiting for all the fuss, all the frantic rushing, to quiet down before making a move.

And I think gratefully about how, in this assertion of that quiet, wondrous presence, she is so much like her grandfather.

11 thoughts on “On Shogun Sr.’s First Birthday Since His Death

  1. I hope you can get thru this so your sadness won’t affect the baby. Grandpa wouldn’t like that πŸ™‚ is there any female version of his name? Too bad he couldn’t make it to see her little face but I’m sure that news gave him a lot of happiness in the last moments


  2. Hi myhongkonghusband. Thanks for your reply! In Japanese culture, people don’t name kids after relatives who have died (unlike in Jewish culture, which is my ethnic background), so when I suggested the idea to my husband, he thought it was very odd!

    Thanks for pointing out that the news must have given him happiness. That’s why we told him so early, even though I hadn’t made it through my 1st trimester at that point.

    Hope all is great in your corner of the world!


  3. Thanks Leslie and svetasbooks! My husband’s family is not very traditional, so I know there are traditional ways to honor ancestors that we don’t follow, one being Obon (http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2286.html). One tradition we did follow was to have each family pick up, with chopsticks, pieces of a deceased relatives bones just after cremation and put them altogether in the box in which the remains will be interred. In fact, I just finished the last chapter of the book (in very rough form though!) that includes the scene where we did this for Shogun Sr. It was both very moving and very surreal, I thought. So many interesting traditional around death, I guess, across the world–and they say a lot about each culture, too, I think.


  4. So very beautiful. I know how much you care about Shogun Sr. The last paragraph just made me cry. So beautifully written, so honest..and so special


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