How My Mother Conquered Her Fears to See Her Son
"I Don't Think I Can"
Those were the words she uttered to me every time I asked her to come and visit me in Tokyo. For several years now, I've been trying to get my mother to come as her last visit was more than three years ago. However she had decided that she was simply too old and frail to travel on her own.
After more than a few failed attempts, I learned to accept it and decided not to push it. After all she wasn't young anymore and no matter how hard it was to admit, that was the reality. So last year, as I was anxious to see how she was doing, I went to visit her in Hawaii, where she currently lives with my sister.
Now I hadn't seen her for over a year and, as my sister kept pointing out how thin and frail she had become, I was a bit apprehensive to see her in person. So as soon as I arrived at the airport expecting to see a small and weak version of my mother, I saw a rather energetic woman running towards me with a huge flower lei, embracing me in a strong bear hug. She was thin for sure, but she'd always been on the thin side. After she let go of me, I got a change to look at her more closely and was surprised to find that she really hadn't aged that much or for that matter, changed much.
After a couple of weeks with her, I also realized that she seemed healthy and full of energy, in fact even more so than the last time I'd seen her. The biggest surprise and the one that made me happiest, was when she blurted out how she wanted to visit Tokyo one more time.
*Photos taken by myself unless otherwise noted.
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Mother Overcomes Her Fears
It was obvious she really missed her birth country so after a bit of persuading and encouraging from my sister and me, she finally found herself on the plane bound for Tokyo. Seven hours on a plane is not an easy task for a 78-year old lady that's for sure, but she did it and I'm extremely proud of her.
She did take some precautionary measures before her trip and there were some things that she did differently this time, such as ordering wheelchair assistance from the airlines. They basically made sure that she made it to her destination safely with minimal hassle and had a representative from the airlines escort her from check-in counter all the way out of baggage claim. She's never done that before and although I believe she didn't really need one, it seemed to make her feel more secure and gave her the confidence to travel by herself.
When I saw her being wheeled out of the international arrivals gate, I was so happy to see her, I literally jumped out of excitement. I guess I was worrying myself sick, wondering if she'd make it in one piece. However, there was nothing to fear as I finally saw her being wheeled out of baggage claim, with a big smile plastered across her sweet face.
After thanking the airline representative who escorted her out, she immediately jumped off the wheelchair, walked over to the restroom to freshen up, and asked me if there was anything to eat. As we walked over to one of the kiosks selling food, she complained about the bad airplane food that she barely touched. We got her a couple of rice balls and a bottle of green tea to eat on the train ride home.
After the 7-hour flight, the 90-minute train ride into the city and finally a 20-minute taxi ride to my apartment, I was afraid that she would be exhausted, especially since she hadn't managed to sleep a wink on the flight over. Once we got to my apartment doors, she surprised me once again, by showing me she still had lots of energy left, asking me if we should go grocery shopping.
In fact, I don't remember her being this energetic the last time she was here three years ago.
What About You?
How often do you see your mother?
"Will I Have the Energy to Clean My Son's Apartment?"- A Near Impossible Task
My mother had planned her entire stay here in Tokyo weeks before her arrival. Her mission was basically to clean my apartment from top to bottom, making sure every shelf was organized and every surface dusted. In other words, she was on a mission of magnificent proportions. Saying that my apartment was a mess is an understatement times ten! Seriously, after trying to juggle three different projects at the same time, it was just easier to let it go.
To make sure she got out of the house at least once a day, I took her on daily walks around my neighborhood. It wasn't so difficult to do because she adores Nogata, the town I live in. In fact, she'd rather just stay around this area than to go into the city.
My apartment is not a big one, which makes it easy to clean but difficult to organize. In fact, one reason why my house is so messy is due to the fact that I have very limited space to put my things. Still being that my mother is the Japanese version of Martha Stewart when it comes to cleaning, by the end of her stay, you could literally eat off any surface in my apartment. How she does that I have no idea. Perhaps it's because she snacks on Kit-Kats throughout the day?
Did I mention that Nogata, the neighborhood I live in, is a great place to visit while visiting Tokyo? Click on the link below to discover Nogata, which is just a hop, skip and jump from Shinjuku, the busiest train station in the world.
Is your mother as neurotic about cleaning as mine?
"Do I Have the Energy to Survive Tokyo Itself?"
Tokyo is a monster of a city and even with the super-convenient and efficient transportation system, it can take more than an hour to get from one place to another due to the city's sheer size. Add to that, the numerous stairs that wind its way up and down to get to train platforms withlots of walking to do in between.. For local Tokyoites, commuting for up to 90 minutes by train is commonplace and because of all the walking involved in the city, it's no wonder we can eat so much and not worry too much about gaining weight.
At first I wasn't sure how she would manage as it all depended on how much energy and strength she had in her. Still, I wanted my mother to try to test her limits. She's always had problems with climbing the long set of stairs that one encounters here as well as the distances that one needs to walk to get anywhere.
It was a fortunate thing that she came right smack in the middle of cherry blossom season. So on one weekend, we traveled all the way across town to Asakusa, a traditional part of Tokyo and one of her favorite places to visit since her younger days. She used to tell me stories of going there on school excursions and has many fond memories of the place, so I made sure this was in her itinerary. And despite the unbelievable crowds due to it being peak season for tourists, she survived the full-day excursion, which included having lunch under a cherry tree at a local park.
We also visited places she's never been to before, such as the beautiful Rikugien Gardens, which are known for their stunning weeping sakura trees, as well as a visit to Sugamo, a shopping and eating haven popular with seniors. I have to admit, I had a blast visiting Sugamo with my mother, as she practically stopped at every single store. In fact, it took us at least an hour just to get to our lunch destination, mostly due to her having so much fun navigating her way through the shopping street.
Just Having FunClick thumbnail to view full-size
You and Your Mother
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My Mother's Adopted Children
My mother is loved by many and it's not just her own children that love her, but also some of my closest friends. She's known them for years and treat each of them as her own and they love her for it. So it was natural that we all got together at my place to have a casual party in honor of my her before she left.
Somehow they've gotten used to her sometimes demanding personality and they even find it quite amusing as one of my friends said, she's absolutely adorable. You have to love my friends for that and as you can see from the picture above, we're just one big happy family.
A New Improved Mother Gets Ready to Head Back Home
There were many things my mother accomplished during her short visit in Tokyo.She not only had the energy and stamina to conquer Tokyo, but she gained a lot of confidence in herself, including flying on a plane for many hours, which is no small feat at her age. She also realized perhaps for the first time in many years, that her body is stronger and healthier than she previously believed.
Even though she'd been incredibly active during her stay, she managed to put on some weight which made her incredibly happy. I already knew for a fact that she wasn't eating much back home so I made sure she ate three square meals everyday. I also stocked the apartment with her favorite foods so she had something to snack on. By the time she left, her skin looked visibly smoother and plump, she probably looked younger too.
I must also mention that she learned how to send and read emails on an iPad, which I decided to give her since getting a new one. I made sure she knew the basics and it was cute watching her learn how to use something she previously had no interest in learning. I also bought her a beginner's manual so she can learn on her own back home.
She's never been good at learning new things, especially when it comes to technology. She only recently learned how to use a simple cell phone but only to make phone calls. Will she actually be able to send an email once she gets back home? Or would she simply forget the basics and give up altogether?
I guess only time would tell.
Come Back Soon
My mother kept me company for just a little over three weeks and the time went by faster than I wanted it to. For the first time in my life, I asked my mother to tell me things about her past that I didn't already know. There were many questions about the past that remained a mystery to me, especially things concerning my father.
While I saw a tinge of hesitation on her part, she eventually got around to telling me a lot of things that revealed much more than I knew or imagined in my mind. While she peeled away the hidden layers of our family history, I felt her feelings of innocence, betrayal and resentment. There was so much more to her life than what I had imagined and I think I finally managed to understand her just a little more. I saw the challenges that she faced, including raising two kids on her own. I understood the scope of the pain my father and his family caused her, but being the strong woman that she is, decided it best not to expose unnecessary information in order to protect her kids from further pain.
I appreciated her more than ever and despite being far from perfect, she really did try her best. For the first time ever, I saw her constant nagging and worrying over me as a sign of love - just her way of showing how much she cares.
I see my mother with new eyes - the same eyes that refused to see because of my ego. Eyes that see her more clearly than ever before. My mother is courageous, daring and stubborn as a mule. On the other hand, she is also incredibly kind, considerate and has a beautiful heart.
But there was also something else I saw. A young girl with hopes and dreams of one day, becoming a dancer, a faithful wife, and a good mother. Hoping that her children would one day, become happy and content. Of achieving whatever they want to achieve. For her children to stay healthy and live a long a fruitful life. That's all she really wanted all along. For her son and daughter, who she raised the best she knew how, to attain the happiness she never managed to achieve in her own life.
She'd promised me that she'd be back again next year, perhaps around the same time to make sure my apartment is clean. I can still remember the day of her departure back to Hawaii as she held a dirty rag in one hand, trying to spot any remaining dirt to wipe off, looking sad as she knew it was time to leave.
Her last day was a sad one for me and my mother. I could feel her sadness even as we drove to the airport. It took every ounce of willpower to hold my tears in, trying to lighten the mood. Finally I couldn't hold back any longer and gave her a big hug while we checked her in.
I looked at her and said, "Mom, I'm going to miss you so much."
She gave me an accusing look and whispered, "Please don't say that. You know i hate goodbyes."
I wanted her to know how much it meant to me that she came to visit. How much I appreciated her for being alive and for loving me so much. As the airline representative wheeled her away through the gates, a tear rolled down my right eye. I refused to shed a tear in front of my mom but I could no longer hold back.
I went up to the viewing deck and stayed until her plane pushed back from the gate an hour later. Although I knew she couldn't see me, I waved goodbye until I could no longer see the plane. I know she'll be back next year. Still I can't help it and I burst into tears.
My Mother's Visit 2014 - Guess what mom. I made a video!
Introducing my directorial debut right here on Squidoo! OK, this video is far from professional quality, but I did the best I could with photos and videos I took during her stay with us. The video was made just for her to take back home with her, but I thought I'd share it with the world.