Archive | July 2014

Love You Big As Sky…..


This is a hard post to write, and I’m pretty sure that I’m not going to get through it tear-free. Bear with me. It’s not that I’m too strong to cry, or that I “hold it all in”… it’s just really hard to type and think when your eyes are leaking and your hands are full of Kleenex. (lol eyes and nose “leak”, according to Diva.) By the way, that’s not the best pic of Nana, but it’s the one I have for now without rummaging thru photo albums. Maybe I’ll change it later.

Today was my maternal Grandmother’s birthday. She would have been 78 years old today. She preferred the grandchildren to call her Obasan, which is Japanese for Grandmother, to honor our heritage. Some time in my teen years, I started calling her Nana, and I have no clue why. No one else called her Nana, and she didn’t try and change me. I remember her telling me “I don’t care what you call me as long as you call me.”

I’m the oldest biological grandchild. I was blessed to have Nana all to myself for the first 4 years of my life. Mom said that when she was 9 months pregnant with me, Nana stopped by the house early in the morning on her way to work. She told Mom that “there is something wrong with the baby, but it is all going to be ok.” Nana didn’t know what, but she knew something. I was born later that day, via emergency C-Section, and I had the umbilical cord wrapped tightly around my neck. Had I been born naturally, I could have suffocated. How did Nana know? I’m not sure. But I do know that anytime I was with Nana, I could typically be found in one of two places: in the toy room, or under Nana’s wing.

Each of us grandchildren had a special bond with Nana, and she loved each of us differently. Not UNequally…. just differently. My bond with Nana was typically in the kitchen or at the grocery store. When we went to the store, we walked arm in arm, mine in hers when I was little, and as I got bigger, hers in mine. I remember times that I felt weird holding arms with OMGMYGRANDMOTHER, especially as a teen and when someone looked at me funny. But what I wouldn’t give to have her arm using mine for stability as we walked the grocery store…Anyway (I’m avoiding tears…) If she was cooking, I was in there too. Nana’s house has a tiny kitchen… two people in there was too much. Nevertheless, I learned several of my favorite recipes from being in there with her. I also learned to cook the way I do now… without a recipe, or using a recipe as a guide only. I remember Nana telling me “you just have to taste it” when she was making seasoned rice for Inarizushi, or adding salt for rice balls. Well, rice shapes… Nana would often squish rice into different shapes because it was fun. Triangles were ones she made most often. Sukiyaki, basic sushi, barbeque chicken and rice, and many other delicious things came out of that tiny kitchen. Several of the recipes were not her own, they are just ones I remember eating almost exclusively while we were visiting.

Nana was born in Japan. I’m told that her home city was Hachinohe, in Aomori Prefecture in the Tōhoku region of Japan. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but that’s what Google says when you look up the city. I do know that Hachinohe is on the northernmost segment of the big island of Japan. She was born on the island of Hokkaido, and they moved to Hachinohe, and that is where she grew up. Nana worked in the Japanese school system as a teacher’s assistant in her younger days, and she always had the patience to show that she was good at it. I don’t recall her getting upset or flustered at much of anything, and even her “angry” was not done with an elevated voice. WE knew we were in trouble when the middle names were used. If our last name ever followed, we might as well never come home again. I will NEVER forget how she said my name.

Nana worked in the hospital for over 30 years. She was happy at her job, and good at it. Towards the end of her tenure, she said that her boss knew she would be retiring soon, and “just let them know” when she is ready. One day, she walked into her boss’s office and said “I’m done. I’m ready to retire.” The boss asked when, and she replied “At the end of today.” There was no question, no fuss, no two weeks notice. Just….done. Like that. She was so good and faithful that the boss didn’t have any issues.

When we would leave Nana’s house, She would stand out on the end of her yard and wave. She would wave until she couldn’t see the car anymore. We all had our hands out of the windows, waving back. The entire time that I was growing up, I thought this was just something SHE did. I found out a few years back that it’s a traditional Japanese thing. Not everyone does it, but it had something to do with back in the old days, people couldn’t visit often, so the waving until you couldn’t see them anymore was like hanging onto every last second you had. I do it now with my family members, and it’s just something we do.

The funniest story I have was when Nana came home from work one day and said that she and her close friend Mrs. Acosta were teaching each other their respective languages (Mrs. Acosta is Hispanic). Neither one had English as a first language, and they both spoke with broken English at best, so we weren’t sure where this was going to go. Someone asked Nana what she had learned so far, and she said, “I learned the word chit.” Much juice was spat all over the room, as Nana DID. NOT. SPEAK. with vulgarity. “WHAT did you say?” She calmly replied with a smile, “Chit. C-H-I-T. It means that you chit down in a chair.” All of a sudden, every one of us in the room KNEW that we had been taken for a ride. Nana then smiled really big and simply said “I made a funny!” and went into the kitchen, while we sat there picking up our jaws off of the floor.

Nana passed when she was 70 years old. She said that she had some heartburn on March 13th, and lay down to sleep and sometime in the early hours of March 14th, she never woke up. The coroner said the signs pointed to a heart attack, but we didn’t do an autopsy. There was no need to. That was a very hard trial to go through, and even now it still hurts really bad. The biggest thing that Nana did with everyone she held dear was make sure that we knew she loved us. Every birthday, Christmas, or other holiday card, anything signed by her was always done in the same way, in the same handwriting, in the same broken English…

Love You Big As Sky.

And now you know how it all began.

This entry was posted on July 27, 2014. 3 Comments

Please Love Your Family….


So yesterday was Samurai’s birthday, and not too long ago was HotRod’s birthday. They are 16 days apart, give or take a few years. 🙂  Anyway, both of them wanted to go to the lake today to celebrate. Sure, why not? Samurai’s mom went with us, as well as Hopefully Ariel. The lake we like to go to is around 45 minutes from town, but it’s smaller, a bit nicer and not crowded. At most there’s maybe 4 families enjoying the lake at any given time. Plus, it’s got a low grade angle in the water, so you can go out quite a ways before you get in too deep. This allows for more “playing room” for the kids to splash around.

Anyway, we had been there a couple of hours, and hunger starts to set in, so Samurai’s and his mom get out to make sandwiches. This is typically something I do, but I was busy trying to get Diva to acclimate to her Body Glove full body floaty suit… she has decided that she is NOT comfortable when she can’t reach the bottom, NOR does she like water in her face, NOR does she want to wear the suit, BUT she WILL be in the water up to at least her armpits. I figured the least hated option was to fuss with her wearing the suit. She had a death grip on me for a while, and cried and whined, but over time she learned to trust herself and things got better. HotRod can swim, and Bird has just learned the basics, but both of them know to stay in the shallows. Diva thinks she can go wherever-she-pleases, Thank-You-Very-Much…. Thus the need to wear the suit.

Well, I’m standing in water up to MY armpits, so I can hold Diva floating at eye level. (This keeps my arms from tiring, lol.) About 6 feet closer to shore from me was HotRod in an orange floating chair, and about 5 feet from him was Bird with his goggles on the top of his head. (WHY he was wearing goggles in a muddy lake, I’ll never know.) Hopefully Ariel was about 10 feet away in deeper water. Bird slips on a muddy spot and goes under. This surprises him, and he reaches out to grab something, but water is notoriously fluid…and he goes under a second time. By this time, HotRod had thrown off his orange floaty, Ariel swims over, and they both get to Bird, help him up, he’s coughing and sputtering. When we all realize that he will be fine, HotRod goes to look for his floating chair and saw the wind is pushing it out to the middle of the lake. Ariel and Samurai take off swimming after it, but a gust of wind was toying with them and kept it just out of their reach. They decide to let it go and start swimming back. Ariel gets winded and flips to her back to float for a minute to catch her breath. Samural is swimming back, and his leg cramps up. He starts screaming, thrashing about to stay afloat, and the only thing I can do is to holler at him to come closer… I was in armpit-deep water holding Diva-in-her-suit… HotRod grabs another float and trudges out for me to toss it to him, but the mud/clay/rock bottom makes your feet sink and stick. Ariel is floating, kicking her feet, and making it back in slowly, but surely. Samurai starts to panic just a bit, because when you can’t feel your leg, and you’re trying to swim, it’s not a good thing. Just in time, HotRod gets to me, and I pass the float to Samurai, who is finally able to calm down. I pull him in close to me, and Diva lays her hand on his cheek and starts rubbing his beard. I check on Ariel, and she has made it to shore and was walking back, but she looked very winded and tired. Samurai had aspirated some water though, and wasn’t doing so well. We get him to shore, get him to cough, and get him to sit in a chair. Ariel is there sitting in a chair as well. Please don’t call me a “hero”, I simply was the closest person and did what any other non-swimmer could have done.

Samurai’s mom decides to finish lunch for everyone, and after the kids eat and swim for 10 more minutes, we decide to pack up to leave. Samurai and Ariel were not doing so well. To be honest, Samurai’s mom and I were not doing so well either. The stress and fears were so very scary and so hard to process, even now, after it’s all over with. To just stand there, not being able to do anything…. watching Ariel float, knowing she is tired, and knowing that if she decided she couldn’t kick anymore, she could drown… and watching Samurai yelling for help…thrashing in the water because his muscle cramped up and he couldn’t swim properly…. and before that even, with Bird just out of reach, dunking under the water…. Damn, I felt so helpless. In a matter of minutes, I was presented with the very real reality of loosing three people that I simply just refuse to let go. And yet, before it got worse, all was saved. Ariel floated long enough to get her strength and breath to get out, and Samurai got a float to lean on while I pulled him to more shallow waters. Samurai’s Mom had already pulled HotRod and Bird out of the lake.

Those that know me know I’m not a Bible-thumping Christian. I believe the Bible has lots of good advice in there, and I believe that there is a God who loves us. I’m more of a spiritual person, and I believe that your own walk with God is exactly that…your own. My own chosen path is Taoism. But in the face of a potential crisis like what we went through makes me more thankful for what’s in my life. Not that I didn’t appreciate it before, and definitely not that the people in my life didn’t know I appreciated it either. We are a thankful and loving bunch who strive to not take each other for granted, and we teach manners and respect at the center of it all. I’m going to be so bold as to say that we try very hard to live our lives so we do not NEED a “wake-up call” like this. Nevertheless, as it is with any fallible human, we will experience them from time to time.

It doesn’t matter what your chosen faith is, where you go to church, what kind of car you drive, if you live in the Hamptons or the suburbs, or below the national poverty level. IT DOESN’T MATTER. It simply doesn’t matter what you have in your life to make it better or worse. What matters is WHO is in your life. Your family. Your kids. Your parents. Your siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, best friends, geez the list goes on and on. THEY are your life’s blessings. THEY are what make life worth living. THEY are the reason you do what you do day in and day out. If you don’t have someone like this, keep looking… Don’t give up! If you do have someone, cherish them. Don’t let a day go by that they wonder if you care. If you have someone that treats you badly, hurts you or others, or just isn’t right for you, GET RID OF THEM. Fill your life with love and as much happiness as you can. I know you’ll probably argue “well I can’t because…” and it’s your life. I’m not the one living it. All I know is that after almost loosing my son, my husband, and a sister, I’m thankful that my blessings are still here for me to love.

Please…. If you forget to do everything else this weekend, hug, kiss, call, write, text, email, or whatever to all of your blessings and let them know you’re thinking of them. It doesn’t have to be mushy, just a simple statement that lets them know you care.

Please, just love your family, whoever you call family. It doesn’t matter. Just love them.

Love You Big As Sky…..