Fumi Ishiwata - May 5, 1906 to January 8, 2008
My maternal grandmother died this morning. She was 101, or thereabouts. According to my cousin, back in that time birthdates were not accurately recorded.
The photo above is the only one I have access to at the moment, and I hesitated to post it. But I have to admit, it makes me smile.
Although we corresponded by mail, I never had the privilege of meeting her - she lived in Japan, and the flights are so expensive. I always meant to go, but I never managed to save up the money, and it is considered highly inappropriate in that culture to just arrive at someone's house for a visit. It must be prearranged and, in my case, include an interpreter.
My cousin confirmed what I already knew of her - she was raised in a wealthy family. Her father worked for the emperor. She even had the opportunity to attend university and acquire a teaching certificate, something that mainly only males accomplished in that era. My grandmother's mother insisted that she finish school, although my grandmother wanted instead to accompany her father to Germany.
Grandmother's father was from "old money." My mother spoke of being reared on her mother's father's plantation. They owned slaves (a distasteful but fascinating fact). Much was lost during and after the war.
My grandfather was a soldier, and he died during World War II. I was told that my grandmother also lost both of her sons - one to illness and one to an accident.
My grandmother urged my mother to attend university as well, and that was the plan until my mother fell in love with a young man from a family with "new money." Both families saw to it that the young lovers never married. My mother is a stubborn women (a trait I am told she inherited from her mother and with which I am quite familiar), and she became determined to move away from her mother. So she set her sights on a blue-eyed cowboy stationed at the army base nearby, and some time later she married my father. They lived in Japan for several years, moving to the states when my father's tour there ended.
For reasons too melancholy to mention, my mother never returned to Japan, never saw her mother or her family again. She passed away at the age of 58 - too young to leave us.
If what I believe is true, than my grandmother and my mother are catching up on old times as we speak. They are butting heads and raising their voices. And later, when the dust settles, they will grin at each other and know what it means to be with family again.