Thursday, March 24, 2022

Remembering Jiji

We were in New Orleans when we received word.

It was Kai's Spring Break and we were on our first spring trip since before the pandemic. We wanted to enjoy warmer weather, good food, and the unique qualities of New Orleans.

Earlier that evening, we had ventured out for dinner, timing our walk to the restaurant to avoid an approaching storm. From the weather radar, it looked like the worst of the storm would pass well north and west of us. We made it to the restaurant safely and just finished our meal when the rain really picked up and the power went out. The festive patrons in the restaurant cheered in the dark, and then several minutes later, gave a bigger cheer when power was restored. By the time we paid our bill, the storm had passed and we were able to walk back to our hotel.

We turned on the television and were shocked to learn that a devasting tornado had ripped through the city just five miles away. Kai got very upset at how close we were to the destruction.

We tried to calm him but thought the best idea would be to turn out the lights and try to sleep. A few minutes later, in the dark of our hotel room, Kai asked why Mom's phone kept lighting up. I figured it was more weather alerts and told Kai to go to sleep.

In the middle of the night, my wife woke me to say that she thought that something had happened to her dad. She had gotten up to use the bathroom and noticed that there had been repeated calls for her from several different people in Japan. At first her phone wouldn't make a call to Japan, but when she finally connected, she learned that her dad had died suddenly and unexpectedly.

My wife wailed in grief, and Kai awoke and asked what was going on. I told him that Jiji had passed away.

Like many with autism, Kai does not do well with unexpected events and this was the worst kind of surprise. His grandfather in Japan was the closest person he ever lost.

When Kai was very young, before I had come into his and his mother's lives, Jiji visited often from Japan to help raise him. Jiji was always thinking of Kai, his only grandchild. He brought fun gifts and loved to spend time with Kai.

Through the years, though they did not speak each others languages, they shared a bond like none other. Kai was always talking to Jiji, who did not understand most of Kai's words, but understood that Kai was enjoying being with him.

When he got older, Jiji stopped coming to the U.S. but we were able to visit him in Japan. Jiji still had plenty of energy to go around the country with us, but his favorite moments were seeing Kai laugh and enjoy himself.

Jiji always saw the best in Kai. He was never disappointed in Kai. No one adored Kai more than Jiji did. I think that will be my most enduring memory of him.

Jiji enjoyed painting, and his favorite subject was Kai. We have a mini gallery of his paintings of Kai.

In our last video Skype with him, Jiji showed us the latest painting of Kai that he had just completed.

Of course, Jiji's passing is most difficult for my wife. They had the best father-daughter relationship. He was always supportive and the most dependable father a girl could want.

Kai has been upset since we got the news. I think part of it is his own grief, but he has also has been upset to see Mom cry and grieve. Too often he has gotten angry, and seemingly made the whole thing about him. Being empathetic does not come easily to Kai. Still, there have been times when he has shown that he understands the grief that Mom is feeling.

I know that Kai may also be worried about what happens next. Mom will travel to Japan for several weeks to settle matters and support her mother. We will have to make do without Mom while she is away.

In the coming weeks, when Kai lets his anxiety come out in negative ways, I will have to do my best to channel Jiji and see the best in Kai. Every good person deserves to have someone who loves them unconditionally. Kai just lost one of his best supporters. I will have to make sure he knows that Jiji wasn't the only one.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...