"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Blessed in unexpected ways: The 3 Ms (Part 2)

Moto's daughter Riri (Lily) Fushima Mishima
Poring over the route of the Phoenix.
     One of Moto's daughters, Riri Mishima, came into our lives by mail a year or so ago, sending us the few photos she had of her father on the Phoenix and asking us lots of questions, as well as she could in the English at her command. He had passed away just a few years before and she was hungry for information about him.
     Jerry had just digitalized about 3,000 slides of our trip around the world so I was able to go through them and send her the ones with her father in them. Riri wrote back that seeing them was "as if I meet my father again."
     We reached Hiroshima on Friday. On Saturday, an excited Riri came to see us at WFC, bearing photo albums she had put together. She had pictures of us at her parents' wedding, of us with her as a baby. (I'm ashamed to say I didn't remember being at either occasion.) She had photos of Moto by a palm tree or against a thatched house or a sunset and wanted to know if I could identify where they were taken. (While we were talking, someone handed us the day's Chugoku Newspaper, with an article about Riri and me, saying we would be meeting each other at the unveiling ceremony the next day "for the first time in fifty years.")
     Riri struggled to tell us that her father had not talked about his trip with us, had not even hinted at it until she was ten. Until the day of his death, he had hardly told them anything about it. 
     I was stunned. Moto hadn't even told his family about traveling around the world for three years on a yacht? I thought about the night watches he would have reveled in, phosphorescent  foam hissing under the Phoenix's forefoot, the landfalls of South Sea Islands, the parties with the "Hiroshima Prefecture Clubs" in cities we visited. Had the whole experience been that bad for him, perhaps soured by the way it ended?
     But Riri put her finger on it. "He was shy," she said. I think she meant he was humble. He didn't want people to think he was bragging or felt special--or even different. I told her what a kind, considerate man he was, how fun-loving, how much we liked him. She drank my words in like rain water on parched soil.  
Our family with Riri's father, Moto Fushima, c. 1957.
     I had thought a lot about what gift I could take Riri. I wanted something from the circumnavigation, something personal, something, if possible, which had belonged to her father. I remembered this picture of Moto with our family, probably taken in New York, and thought of the inflatable globe we had toted with us around the world, marking the latest leg of our route in red each time we completed it. I could take her our globe. It was grubby and had a slow leak but it was part of the Phoenix. 
     As Riri and I sat looking through her scrapbooks of pictures and ours of newspaper clippings--with no time to read them--she was entranced with our route, fingering it and pointing out specific ports whenever we came to a map. She hadn't noticed the globe Jerry had inflated and set nearby. He picked it up and handed it to her without comment. She was amazed. Something actually from the Phoenix! Then we told her it was hers to keep. She was overjoyed, couldn't believe it, expressed her gratitude over and over. I had wondered if it would be enough, wished I could give her more. But it was a hole in one. She even had me autograph it.
Riri's husband, to right, came and paid for all of us.
     Then a bunch of us decided to go around the corner for lunch, for Hiroshima's signature dish, okonomiyaki (a kind of vegetable omelet), and we invited Riri to join us. She was thrilled. She asked if her husband could come and we said sure. I anticipated her scheme but not soon enough. When her husband reached the restaurant, we were just finishing up our meals--and he paid for them all! Very sneaky, Riri! Arigatou gozaimashita!
     The next day, the day Riri and I were to meet for the first time in 50 years (!), she brought her elder son, Yuuto, to the ceremony to show us he looks just like his grandpa Moto. Riri said her wish had come true to talk about her father.
Riri and her mother, Ikuko Fushima

     An extra blessing: although Riri's mother, who had been hospitalized some time ago with a heart condition, could not attend the ceremony, Riri told her all about it. A hibakusha, as I mentioned, her mother said she was very moved by statements I made and told Riri they gave her a lot of encouragement. PTL.
January 10, 1960
     At my request, Riri mailed me photos of her parents' wedding and of her father late in life. I have added them below.

1 comment:

  1. I'm just beginning to realize how many blessings this trip brought you!!!I'm in awe!!