The Goddess Speaks
Book inspires longing for family history
I recently read Mitch Albom's book "One More Day," which tells the story of a man who tries to take his own life and ends up back at his family home to find his deceased mother cooking him breakfast. He was given a second chance to say all the things he wanted to his mother.
Reading the book started me thinking about whom I'd most like to spend time with if I had just one day. As far as the living are concerned, the choice would be easy: my children. I would tell them how proud I am to be their mother, and I would thank them for the honor. As we ended our last day together, I would give them a hug and an "I love you," because this is the last thing I want them to hear their mother say.
But is there someone already deceased I would want to see? I think that I would want to meet my grandparents. All four grandparents died long before I was born, so I never had the privilege of spending time with Grandma and Grandpa Kitayama or Ikuma.
I want to ask them about my parents. I want to hear stories about my parents' childhood. Was Papa a cute kid? Did he have good motor skills, and is that why he became an auto mechanic? I would tell them about their great-grandson and his future in automotives.
I want to know what my mother was like as a teenager. Did she have a curfew and did she keep it? I would tell them about their great-granddaughter sneaking out of the house after coming home "at a reasonable hour" to continue her fun and games.
I want to know what it was like coming to Hawaii from Japan. Did they long to return to Okayama and Hiroshima? I want to know why they came to this unknown land. What did they hope to accomplish? Did they know that this great adventure would forever change future generations and create generations of Americans who look at Japan as truly foreign?
I just want to see what they looked like -- do I look like them? Do my siblings?
I want to ask my paternal grandfather why he didn't keep the family together after my grandmother died. Did he worry about his daughters?
I want to see how tall my grandparents were -- I'm 5 feet 2 and my son is 5 feet 10. I want to know what would make my grandmothers laugh. And would they be hearty laughs, or would they hide behind their hands and giggle self-consciously?
It's been a long time since I was so moved by a novel, and it made me realize that I do really mean it when I say to my daughter that she is so lucky to have met all four of her grandparents. And yes, Zach, if your Popo were still alive, she would have bought you a brand-new car for your 16th birthday.
Carol Chun works at Punahou School.
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