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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 6, Number 2, June 2012

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Satoko Murate
Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Japan


A Letter from You

"How many children do you have?" you asked me at the Sunday dinner table. Stunned, I pointed at my children in turn, and said, "One, two, three! These young guys are my sons, and this old one is yours!"

You stared hard at my husband, "Oh, is he my son?" Then as if nothing had happened, you began to eat again.

I glanced at my husband. He frowned and kept eating without a word.

And then, excited by the family gathering, you laughed, "Don't take away my bowl! I want more!"

your flushed cheeks
over the sukiyaki pot
I laid down my chops sticks

With your Alzheimer's, you walked with a stoop. I'd put my arm on your shoulder supporting you. Whenever you talked about your childhood, your memory was vivid and your eyes were shining. As you repeated the same story many, many times, I could easily imagine the kind of person you had been.

In your youth, you were a lively schoolgirl. Although your parents prohibited girls from riding bicycles, you secretly rode your brother's bike. Every day, you walked for an hour along the country road to school. You belonged to the tennis club and played all day long and you almost won a national championship. How vexed you were at being defeated in the final stage!

sounds of a white ball
a burst of your laughter
echo in the mountain

As your disease progressed, you confused me and I got irritated. Sometimes you became a tyrant, at other times an infant. You often forgot that you had eaten a meal, and requested yet another meal. You became incontinent and, one night, I found you hanging a dirty diaper on the rail of your bed. Probably you wanted to dry it out. But I got angry and scolded you.

Late that night, I went to your room. Forgetting that you had been scolded by me, you stretched your arms toward me and said, "Hey, mommy! You are my mommy!"

Warm feelings flooded me and I gave you a hug. "Okay, I am your mommy. So, I will protect you forever!"

"Really? Will you protect me, mommy?"

"Yes. I promise."

innocent eye
peeping from a quilt
I became your mother

Three months later, one spring day, you passed away. After your death, I felt a strong sense of loss and often sat in your room with a blank look. I had thought that I became your mother, but I realized that you were ultimately my mother.

One day, I was tidying your belongings. Without your bed in it, the room felt spacious. Bright rays of spring sunshine were streaming through the open windows. I happened to find a small post card in your drawer—a beautiful picture of your favorite flower, cyclamen, on one side. On the other, your handwriting, "I want to live as I am."

Maybe, you did.

sunny spot
in the vacant room
a lace curtain blows

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