May 5, 2012

"Atchi-baa-chan" by Paul Rector

“Paul and Keiko dropped by the other day. Can you believe it? They’re still calling me Atchi-baa-chan. That’s’cause I spent most of my time in the kitchen, the laundry, or in some other room (atchi), and I guess I was an old lady (baa-chan) to them.”
“Seems that Paul and his daughter, Jolene, decided to drop by for a visit during obon about 20-odd years ago. But they never made it. Somehow they made a wrong turn and ended up at the wrong cemetery. And the small Christian mausoleum they found certainly wasn’t ours!”
“Rumor has it that while they were there, Paul told Jolene all about me. He told her how Keiko’s mom and brother and sister could only see him as this graceless gaijin who could barely squeeze his knees under the kotatsu. He also told her how I treated him as simply another face at the dinner table. And he pointed out that his halting Japanese had seemed to confound the entire family, except for me. “
“And now, here he was, squatting awkwardly right in front of our mausoleum apologizing for what had happened years ago. I told him I was proud of him. I told him it’s the effort and intent of the visitor, not the results, that count up here. So what if he may have been a few kilometers off track? There was no unpardonable error. Dropping by like they did, even if it was at the wrong cemetery, was thoughtful. He and Jolene actually made quite a reputation for as far as any of us were concerned. And in the process they generated more smiles and laughter in this oppressively somber setting than there’d been here in years.”

Link to RLS
This link is probably broken. Paul Rector passed away in Gunma Prefecture, 23 Sept. 2012, at the age of 65.