Sports Day

I’d been dreading Sports Day, but not for the usual reasons (an entire day confined to the schoolyard, crowds, dirt, the yearly lunchbox showdown with MIL.) It was in the wee hours of the morning of Sports Day last year that I got The Call.

As soon as the phone rang, I knew. I’d been expecting it, to be honest, but I wasn’t ready.

My sister didn’t even really need to say anything, the fact that she’d called at that hour was all I needed to know.

That call led to other calls, which ended two hours later with three plane tickets, seats unconfirmed, leaving the country the next day.

I focused my energy then on fixing the giant lunch box.( I wasn’t used to that yet last year.) I got the kids ready. Brother was nen-cho, this Sports Day was a big deal for him because he was in the last year of preschool and his grade were the main stars.

It was cold, and it started to rain. I hoped they wouldn’t cancel, we would be gone tomorrow. We couldn’t wait another day. Dad may not have another day.

Brother had already missed the big overnight party to be with Grandpa; I would feel awful if he had to miss Sports Day, too, after how hard he had practiced. The phone rang. My heart jumped to my throat. Sports Day was still on.

Fast forward one year, and I’m up at the break of dawn again, but this time it’s because Me Too has woken up way too early. I’ve actually been awake for hours, trying to gather the strength to face this day, afraid that when I do get up I’ll realize I don’t have the resources to deal with this and crumple into a lump on the floor, Wicked Witch of the West style. Hmm, actually, that might not be so bad…

A few hours later, Brother has gone to school already to get ready (they make them go in their street clothes and change immediately upon arrival. Time management is not the forte of Japanese education.) Sister, HRH, and I make our way to the elementary school, the opposite direction of the way we walked last year.

On that road, in that direction, I called Dad on the way. I talked to him on the phone. “Heard you’re having a bad day,” I said. Lame, lame, lame, but what do you say to your Dad when you know that he’s dying? He’s still trying to be all John Wayne manly man strong. I go along with it, what else can you do?

We get to the school grounds; we spread our picnic sheet. The day is overcast. Everyone else is excited and energized, ready to cheer their kids on, getting the video cameras out. My melancholy, this sadness I’m carrying around inside of me, it’s invisible, but it seems almost tangible. If you touch me, I’m afraid you would feel it, cold and sharp.

It’s strange how you can still smile at a time like that. I don’t want to ruin this day for my kid: not last year, not this year, not the Sports Days left to come.

The loneliness, the grief, I guess it will last a lifetime. Time makes it less immediate, but no less intense.

The music starts, the kids march out, and I realize that sometimes pretending to be John Wayne strong is just as effective as actually having the strength. I guess I learned that from Dad.



3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. gaijinwife
    Oct 06, 2011 @ 08:53:10

    :( Good effort for getting through the day at all. To be honest I can’t even remember the exact date we got the phonecall about mum – it must have just been a normal day which is good. Found out about dad on his birthday though which will be a double joy in years to come, no doubt starting next year.

    What part of the bento does MIL do? Is she up at half 4 in the morning making tamagoyaki and the likes?


    • hamakkomommy
      Oct 06, 2011 @ 10:53:53

      MIL does her own separately. This year she made inari-zushi shaped like bears and hamburgers with smiley face veggies on top. (Of course the kids picked off the veggies.) I just did our usual: a whole bunch of sandwiches cut to fit in the box, sautéed carrots, French fries (I made them, so they sucked. Better to go with the frozen stuff,) sausage. BUT I added a container of grapes and one of COOKIES, so I WIN.


  2. Margeee
    Oct 07, 2011 @ 08:29:07

    I’ve had this feeling for the last week or so that I’m on some bizarre countdown. I look at the calendar on my desk and say “this time last year…” and I have a feeling of apprehension, like something is going to happen on “that day”. But I know that life will just keep on like normal, I’ll go to work and make all the usual small talk and banalities, while inside nothing is normal. I know what you mean about the sadness – sometimes it just comes over me at the most unexpected times. It’s just such a tragedy, he had so much to contribute to this crummy world. I’ll be with you in spirit..


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