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The Japanese Wife

November 7, 2012

The japanese Wife



     All those years ago I knew her, I’m told.  I was busy being a child then, some three or four and don’t really recall; I heard about it later.  They said she liked me and baked me cookies.

     Her story has ridden with me a long time now, waiting to be written, waiting for me to be up to it. I’m not, yet.  I never will be.  She needs a Sophocles.  She deserves a Sophocles.

     All those years ago during the Korean War an American soldier fell in love with a Japanese girl.  He must have been a decent sort to have married her; marrying a Japanese girl wasn’t the easiest thing for a white American in those days.

     It wasn’t easy for her either.  Her parents didn’t want an American son-in-law.  Perhaps they were still angry about the war.  When she married him they said she was no longer their daughter.  Their daughter was dead.

     This speaks volumes about her, that in Japan of the 1950s she had the courage to defy her parents for love, to cast away her history and travel west to make her own.  In another time she would have shaken her sword at the Mongol fleet.

     They came to America then and his parents definitely were still mad about the war.  They didn’t want a Japanese daughter.  They didn’t tell their son he was dead to them.  The told him his wife wasn’t welcome in their house.

     He still had parents anyway.  She had no one in the world but her husband.

     When I met her she had a husband and didn’t.  We lived together for a short while in a boarding house for women whose husbands were in the Memphis Veteran’s Hospital.  This was a place for veterans who’d hurt themselves badly, so badly they were hardly alive anymore and would be a long time getting better.  Many, like my father, would never really get better and it would take them a long time adjusting to futures they’d never dreamed of.

     My father had had polio and the Japanese wife’s husband had injured his brain in a car wreck.  He lost a lot to his injury and one of the things he lost was her.  He didn’t know who she was.  He didn’t know who anyone was.  So she found herself with no parents in a country mad at her because of the war and the only one in the world who cared for her had his brain broken and didn’t know her name.

     I was visiting my father when we met and, they tell me, I took to her the way kids sometimes will and this made her happy and she baked me cookies.

     And when her husband’s parents visited him she had to leave his room and sit in the hall so they could pretend she didn’t exist.

     I wish I could find a Sophocles for her, all those years ago.



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