Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Beginning...

From the beginning of my life
I have been looking for your face
but today I have seen it

Today I have seen
the charm, the beauty,
the unfathomable grace
of the face
that I was looking for


One year and two houses ago, I lost my mom. Specifically, on July 16, 2010 she passed but on July 4, 2010 I had my last conversation with her. Since then, it has been a year of many changes. Many days I still speak to her and some other days she visits me in my dreams. But now I want to start a different journey, one where each day we have a conscious conversation.

Today is the first conversation.
The trippy thing about death and talking about someone who is no longer on the same plane is the slip of verb tense usage. Some days it’s, “My mom chopped her veggies so fast that I would cut my finger trying to emulate her.” Other days it’s, “Mom can make anything out of cloth and thread.” I stopped correcting myself when I use the present tense.
This is one of the many odd thoughts that go through my head. I often wonder if others have the same thoughts. I never really dealt with death before my mom’s passing and I was 35 at the time. It is a strange, strange thing that no one can ever prepare you for.
I suppose the best thing to do at the beginning is to talk a little about my mum. Her personality was so vibrant that it will take this whole project to paint the whole picture of who she was. Like many projects in the beginning, there is no way to predict how it will end. Here goes:

The specifics…Ritsuko Minami Fensom was born in May 3, 1943 in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan. She was married to my Pops and had us 3 kids. She left Japan to travel with her Navy husband and moved to the United States permanently in 1980. She had a slew of brothers and sisters in Japan and one sister that lived in Hawaii. She was so much fun…as these tales will illustrate. I am so thankful to have obtained so many of her traits…well the ones I loved anyways. There is one trait that I am glad I don’t have but still lament sometimes that I don’t carry – her ability to organize. She could straighten up Lombardy Street if someone asked her to. I recall growing up that I highly disliked this trait. We would come home from school and if we did not have our dressers organized, the contents of said dresser would be in the middle of our room - even the drawers that were neat. I think of that each time I do laundry and put away clothes…if I was organized I would have everything in their place. Alas, the laundry usually ends up on the spare room bed waiting until we are so tired of digging for clothes on the bed. (Or company is staying the night and we have to clean that room…this is more often the case).
My mum was one of the smartest people I know. She always said to me that it was 3 times harder for her to communicate in English. She first had to hear what was said, translate it to Japanese in her mind, come up with a response, translate it into English and speak the response. All of this had to take place so fast as to keep up a normal conversation speed. She did this while maintaining a wicked sense of humor. I did mock the language barrier as a child but it wasn’t until we talked about the triple conversation in her mind that it made me realize the difficulties of learning a new language fluently. I’ve always loved languages but never learned enough Spanish, French or Russian to be of any use. I couldn’t imagine living in another country with the ability to speak fluently while letting my personality come through.
Whenever us kids spoke about mom and her language barrier, we fondly recall the dinner of constipation.

At the time, my mum worked as a tailor for the Marine Corps. She would come home and tell us the new word she had learned. One night, she was excited to tell us her new word and as usual, she forgot the word. She grasped the meaning of the word and said, “You know…when you are working hard…and focusing…Oh Yeah!!! Constipate!!!.” She was really trying to say concentrate and the whole family erupted in stomach-aching laughter. I’m sure some Kool-Aid came out of our noses too.

My mum’s humor crossed cultural barriers as well. When we came to the United States, we first went to Kansas City, Missouri to visit with my grandmother. We spent a lot of time in front of the television watching Welcome Back, Kotter. I didn’t realize how much time we spent until after we had moved to Virginia Beach and mum took us to the commissary. We started shopping in the produce section and as my mum picked up a head of lettuce, she held it up proudly and in a loud voice said, “Looking Good!” I was a mortified 7 year old.
There’s so much of my mum waiting to come out but here is an introduction to the vibrant lady. I am looking forward to many more conversations with her and sharing the perspectives on life as we used to do sitting on the back patio.

Until tomorrow…

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