Doctor Tanaka was right: she didn’t need to know. When they casually asked whether she wanted to catch up with any acquaintances, Grandma shrugged and continued peeling her imo sweet potato, roasted black and wrapped in yesterday’s Yomiuri Shimbun. Still, Auntie felt obligated to make every weekend count, so every Saturday morning at seven they drove from Tokyo to far corners of Honshu to catch dragonflies whirring over a rushing river or blooms of sakura crowding Spring skies. We would never know if Grandma had had a word herself at the surgery to lock in these jolly trips, for it was eight years later that Grandma was finally laid to rest by a devoted and exhausted, but well-travelled, Auntie. Perhaps the miracle at Iwaya shrine had worked too well; they had bundled a confused Grandma to explore the stalactites in the cave renowned for prolonging life during one excursion. She had complained about the smell of mould; they had told her that some things in life were worth trying, even once. Or maybe it was Grandma taking Auntie on the trips, to show her that life didn’t stop at fifty, that her sales job at the Mitsukoshi department store wasn’t the be all and end all, that nature in its glory could teach her things about the world and herself. She didn’t need to know.
Tamiko is a half-Japanese mother of two. She read Latin and French at New College, Oxford. When there’s no pandemic, she’s hired as a wedding pianist from time to time.
Photo by Charles Postiaux on Unsplash