Lost In Translation

I know you’ve all been waiting for a journal entry entitled “Lost in Translation,” I’m just sorry that it has to be such a depressing one.

I was smoking a cigarette and drinking some hot chocolate while watching my friends play pool on Wednesday night, when Kaori comes up to me, phone in hand and says, “you need to call home. You mom called my mom and she says that your grandfather died.” After recovering from the initial shock of hearing it like this, I spent the next several minutes sitting around smoking a cigarette and drinking hot chocolate while Kaori frantically tried to figure out how to make an international call from her phone (since I thought I didn’t have mine). While I was looking for some change to use the pay phone, I discovered that I did in fact have my cell phone, and called my mom. At this point I’m rather worried and trying to figure out whether I need to return to America or not. When I called my mom I was prepared to hear the worst (considering that I had already heard it), but she told me that my grandpa was actually still alive, but critically ill. She said that between some broken Japanese she found on the internet and Akemi’s limited English, she attempted to explain the situation, but it got translated as “dead” instead of “will probably die.” In my relief I was actually quite amused.

At first they thought he had a stroke, but they ran a cat scan and that turned out not to be the case. Then they discovered that he actually has an infection in his lungs, which is resistant to antibiotics. My grandma is waiting for the rest of my mom’s siblings, my sister and AB (Mom is already there with her oldest brother) to arrive so that everyone can say their goodbyes, and then she will take him off the life-support. I have been instructed to stay here in Japan since no one feels that it makes sense for me to come home. My mom says she’ll call me again in a few days “when it’s all over.”

I went to my first real funeral when I was 13. The mother of one of my gymnastics buddies had died in a car accident. I didn’t really know my friend’s mom and my friend was surrounded by other people who were taking care of her, so I wasn’t sad or worried. A couple of summers ago, my Jiichan passed away and he was the first person in my family that I actually knew to die. I remember being scared when my dad broke down into tears when he told us and stunned when it was my mother who was the one to comfort him. It made me realize how much of a kid I still was. I couldn’t think of anything to say and I didn’t consider it my responsibility to make sure that my dad or my baachan or anyone else was “okay.” Now my grandpa is dying and already I am more worried and sadder than when my jiichan died. I think it’s because I’m closer to my mom and I care more about her well-being and it is more for her sake than my own that I am sad and worried. But still, it is my mom who will see me through this and not the other way around. No pun or whatever intended, but my mom wouldn’t let me take care of her even if she were on her deathbed. Perhaps it’s the realization that, as you get older, the people that die are closer to you than the ones that died when you were younger, that makes me sad. Right now my grief is manageable because I don’t know my grandparents very well and while I am sad, my loss is not that great. But in 30 years or so, it will be my parents and in 70 years it will be my friends, my significant other, my sister, me.

Right now my thoughts turn to my grandpa and what shred of consciousness he has left. My mom says he’s “struggling” and that he’s not aware of his surroundings. I wonder if he’s scared, or relieved or if he even knows what is happening to him. Does he know when his family is by him? Is it like Grandma Death says? That “everyone dies alone?” It must be – no one alive can know what it is like to die (maybe with the exception of that guy on the Frisbee team). I think my grandpa knows what is happening. I hope he doesn’t feel it, but I do think he knows. And I think he’s excited for his last great adventure.

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