The Japanese have a saying: Keizoku wa chikara nari. The English equivalent is: persevere and never fear.
Ojiisan was short enough that when I turned around to see who tapped me on the shoulder his eyes weren't much higher than mine. It was like he was playing cards at all times, always maintaining a steady poker face. I stood up to greet him, but before I could get out a word he sang, "O ma darin o my darin o my daaarin....". And for a moment I felt as awkward as the first time we met when we were face to face in the bathroom. Seconds passed like hours before I felt the big "ahhhhaaa" moment starting to swell inside of me. I picked up where he left off and sang the rest, "Oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my daaaarling Clementine". A smile cracked the stoic nature of his face and stretched from ear to ear.
A friend of Ana's from the University was standing near by. She had also made a connection with Eikosan and had been invited to enjoy the festivities. She had a wicked talent for speaking Japanese, English and of course Korean. "Now's my chance!" I thought. I pulled her aside and asked her to translate a message to Ojiisan. I looked at him and spoke slowly, "I greatly appreciate being welcomed into your home. Thank you for treating Ana I like one of the family." Before she finished relaying the message, like a magician his hand shot out of nowhere to shake mine. With an excited voice he said "I like America!". That got me fired up, kind of like I was about to play in some big game where we had a lot on the line. All I could think to say was "Alright! That's really great!", while making a motion of encouragement with my fist.
Ojiisan then did something that i'm just not capeable of making up. He cocked both his elbows and put his hands near his hips, then he made the gesture of pulling out two pistols from their holsters and pointing them at me. His voice shot out like bullets, "Bang Bang!". For a moment I wasn't sure if I should play dead, try and dodge the bullets or return fire and head for cover. Being that he was still smiling I took this to mean that he liked westerns. "Ahhhh, me too!" I returned fire. We both nodded a few times acknowledging one another's interests, yet lucid that niether he nor I had the vocabulary to continue the conversation. After one final awkward moment he gave me a small bow, did another about face and headed in the opposite direction. He may have been a old man, but his spirit was still as young as ever and his intentions pure at heart.
Not long after my encounter with Ojiisan the night had begun to wind down and Ana and I began saying our goodbyes. Before being escorted by Eikosan and her two daughters to the front door, I approached the small table of men and thanked them, "Ari-ga-to go-zai-mas" I repeated several times. I shook Kobayashi's hand again while secretly hoping we would one day get the band back together. Once at the front door, we removed our slippers and dipped our feet back into our street shoes before heading out the door. As it was closing behind us, the mother and her two daughters stood alongside one another waving and wishing us a good evening. "Kon-bon-wa!", they shouted. When the door clicked shut I felt the bizzare notion that I although I was far from Minnesota, I was very close to home.
Thanks for taking a moment to check out life in Japan. Your comments are a blast to read and always appreciated. Be well and see you soon!