Family

My Bio and Thoughts on Social Networking

-By Caoimhín Ó Laoghaire

Social networking and having a blog can help me connect with an audience if a topic comes up.  It also help foster a better relationship with people I already know.   However, social networking can cause problems.  For instance, I have chosen to deactivate my Facebook account for an indefinite period of time.    Well, that did not work.  I have groups on there that I look after and many of my friends like to read the links I send.  It was because I spend far too much time on there and some of my own Facebook friends just do not behave quite the way I want them too.   So, now instead of deactivation, I will just post less and keep my chat function turned off.  I need some time to do some healthier things at the moment.

In the arena of the worldwide web, there is no shortage of sites to add your two cents, put your thoughts, musings and your opinions into writing.  We can all be thankful for this technology, but technology can be misused as we all well know.  Corresponding publicly online is not really for the thin-skinned and if your feelings are hurt easily you might not want to spend too much time in the internet jungle out there.  I do not mind someone pointing out a perceived inconsistency, irony or presenting a dissenting opinion of what I write.  What I do find intolerable is disparaging individual people and looking down on others.  A person who waits tables in a local cafe is performing an honorable occupation and doing what they need to do in our society.  The man who cleans gum off floors after rude people is no less a man than the astrophysicist who really figures out how things work.  My entire family is well-educated and each and every one of us has taken jobs in the entry-level sector as the need arose.  We are a proud people.   For this reason, you will likely not find me jumping on the band wagon to bash Walmart, GNC Health Food Stores, Hooters and library ladies which are areas members of my family can be found serving others.   I was surprised at how much arrogance is shown for people who work in the food industry as line workers.  Last time I checked, 100 percent of the population eats food.  Attempts to disrespect an individual in fact disrespect millions of others and their efforts.

It is intolerable for people to attempt to “out” others regarding deeply personal and private information they are not prepared to share.  If someone has a sensitive topic about themselves they wish to write about, they should have the privilege of the proper timing and the medium to do it.  I am completely comfortable throwing a Bio out there on myself and my immediate family members as I do below.  So people really want to know who I am and where I am coming from, here it is.

My name is Kevin Glenn O’Leary. I am named after my maternal grandfather.  I was born in Freeport, Illinois in 1963.    I joined the United States Navy after high school and served for eight years.  Now I reside in Japan.  I taught English for many years in Japan.  I still teach today, but I have other work also.  I even work in food production facility part-time from 11PM to 4:30AM. I made a successful language school in Japan when I was in my late twenties.  In 2007, my son took over as president of O’Leary Language Systems.

I have two older sisters. Diane was born in 1959 and Susan  was born in 1961. My father was a teacher.  He is from the Savanna area along the Mississippi River.  My father taught school for many years.  Although originally a music major, he chose early in his career to teach science and changed his area of interest to geology.   After leaving teaching mid-career he was engaged in sales and worked at Menards Home Center in Cherry Valley for many years. My mother is from a long line of early settlers to Oregon, Illinois.  Her kin still connected to both sides of Atlantic and are  is descended from Richard Chamberlin of Braintree, Massachusetts and her genealogy is traced back precisely prior to the Norman invasion of the British Isles in the 11th century.  Jon de Tancerville was a chamberlain and the family took the name.

We were raised in a very rural area of just south of the Wisconsin-Illinois border.  Our town only had 450 people, although the school system had an enrollment of nearly 1000 people.  This is because none of the surrounding villages had schools and our school served about 5 towns in the region.  Most of our neighbors were either dairy or grain farmers or somehow engaged in the agriculture business.  My father taught in the same school system and taught all of his own children.  My mother helped with church administration and worked for an insurance company in the nearby city.

I have three fabulous children which impress me every day.  This is what I live for.  I am in no way married to any specific vocation or corporation.  The eldest is my son, Kevin (born 1983) who is married to a beautiful Japanese lady named Manami who really looks after him well.  Next, is my daughter, Kristen Ai (born 2002).  She has just turned 11 years old and is as tall as I am.  Finally, Maria (born 2009) is a bright active child enjoying lots of friends in pre-school.  My wife, Yuko is a nurse-midwife at a local hospital.  Although the family homestead is Fukuoka, she was raised in Nagasaki.

photo

The above, biography is a formative part of what makes me who I am today, for better or worse.  My core values were instilled in me at a very early age and I have those excellent role-models to thank for that.  Over the years, I have learned what truly is of value and what is just a materialistic consumable commodity. I made an insane amount of money in my 30s but where is it now?  I still feel parts of my life represent wealth that is meaningful.  My family, my true friends, my spiritual journey and a rich heritage I can be proud of.

With the medium of social networking, I can found often commenting on issues of the day like politics as I see them.   I had been a conservative GOP supporter for most of my life.   Now my politics are undecided or Independent blurring the lines of the Democratic and Libertarian parties in many areas.  Who can argue with an Independent for just being and Independent, right?

In addition to politics, I write a great deal on life in Japan as I see it.  I came to Japan in 1989 and have been here since minus a one and half year hiatus to the United States.  A reader can certainly disagree with my approach to something, but cannot deny that I really observed something.  As a teacher, I have come up with a lot of ideas over the years and found it was important to archive the most useful information in the best way possible.  Many of these were done on You Tube.  That wasn’t any easy thing to do because I have always been very shy and somewhat sensitive about my appearance.  But, when I heard from other English teachers that it was very helpful to them, I was pleased and motivated to continue.  If it is useful, great.  If not, thanks for checking anyway.

https://www.youtube.com/user/kebunsha/videos

These are things I am comfortable about writing about and will continue to do so.  Dissenting opinions are welcome on my blog even questioning the wisdom of judgement of the author.  I have a very liberal policy.  I do not accept overly vulgar language and will certainly not tolerate anyone disrespecting a member of my family or another person who posts a comment.  I am on a quest to become wiser myself and want to hear from you all.  If you agree with my basic idea, great.  Please visit my blog site often.  If not, there are plenty of other sites on the internet that are dedicated to hate, every sexual perversion you can think of and just downright weird stuff.   Here it is just my ramblings whenever a light bulb appears above my head and I feel compelled to share.

Whether you believe in Christianity  or not, please heed Luke 6:31
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Memories of 20+ years in Japan

classroomtowaThe past couple weeks have been spent moving all my language school material from my home to an office in the center of the city. At one point in time, O’Leary Language Systems had 150 individual students, a dozen client on-site programs and a total gross income of over 13,000 $USD per month. That was is in the crazy rip-roaring 90s.

Looking back and assessing everything, I could without hesitation classify myself as truly poor in the years 2008 though 2011. I simply could not possibly earn enough in the economic climate to pay my most basic obligations. Downsizing and decline is never a painless process. I can remember back in the day, my computer would go a fritz, and I would say, “Oh dammit, now I have blow my whole afternoon at the computer shop buying a new machine.” Imagine the luxury of only worrying about how much free time you are going lose by shopping and not worrying about the 2500 dollars coming out of your wallet that afternoon for a new computer. Today, I never spend more than 700 dollars on a replacement machine but it is real financial burden compared to back then.

During the course of my move, I am laying my hands on teaching materials, equipment, office supplies and furnishings I haven’t touched in a decade. A box of teacher sized flashcards cost 100 dollars, my fold away conference tables on casters were about 500 dollars a piece. Nearly every one of my well over 200 English textbooks in my library cost about 25 dollars a piece. I never gave it a second thought back then. Even in my school’s heyday, I did not teach a full load of classes. It was not practical for me to do so because I had to keep my full-time teachers on a 20 lesson per week schedule. My pocket-money always came from teaching company classes and culture classes for other companies. The concept is simple, OPM. Other people’s money. I really never owned anything privately because everything I needed in my daily life could be attributed to my business. My mini van was owned by my school, my school was on the first floor of a three floor home. Life was good but it did revolve around my school 24/7.

For more than a decade, I always thought how I would rebuild from the ashes of destruction. I hoarded useless objects and outdated teaching materials in hopes than someday hundreds of students would fill my classrooms with excitement and broken English chatter. In reality, that never happened. I could not part with my “treasures.” But, it was not because of strong sentimental value. It was out of practicality. As a newly minted pauper, I just did not have spare change lying around to purchase a new Disney Song CD, a colorful vocabulary poster or even replace those flashcards that had been repeatedly ripped and sneezed on by 5 year olds.

With life changes, new doors are also opened.  As a successful entrepreneur, my personal education background was not a pressing issue while the cash is flowing in.  I simply hired people who were a whole lot smarter than me, with thick credentials to maintain the sterling reputation of my language school.  Now, it was me who needed to hit the pavement with a pretty thin educational background and make my self appear employable.  Since I still had a sizable enrollment in my school during the downsizing, I reinvested in myself.  I wrapped up the final requirements of my bachelors degree and entered a Masters program through the University of Leicester.  My long time affiliations with teacher training and development and my friends who stood by me helped me a great deal.  As I worked through my graduate school work, I was able to gain part-time lecturing positions at several universities and even taught at two high schools part-time as well.  However, ever year the income would decline lower than the previous year.  Finally, after two of my universities offered me a schedule that was not going to work out well, I decided I needed a break.

In April 2007, I left Japan to work in the United States.  I worked for the Lowe’s Regional Distribution Center in Rockford and operated Stateline Realty Solutions in Freeport, IL.  I did this for one and half years and then returned to Japan.  April 2007 is also when I officially ceased being the president of O’Leary Language Systems and turned the operation over to my son who had come of age.  Under his leadership, the school survived and since last year has basically turned the corner.  There is lot more to go.  The business is not big enough to use as an exclusive source of income.  I teach a little and my son teaches a little.  We both have to maintain OPM.  For him, he is a paraeducator for special needs students with Okawa City School System.  I work with food and lots of it.  I work for Watami Merchandising at their distribution facility doing cutting.  I also work for a local bakery in the early mornings.  I still have a lot of pride in teaching.  This is one reason when I fail to find enough teaching opportunities, I still refuse to give away my expertise for small compensation.  I do not mind earning entry-level wages as long as I am not teaching.  If people want Kevin the teacher, I still charge a fee commensurate with my preparation time and experience.  Private English lessons are 5000 Japanese yen per hour.  Group lessons are only 4800 yen per month but if the group is not full, my son and I close it with little regret.

What do I hope to achieve after more than 20 years in Japan?   The answer is simple, relevance.  I am experienced.  I am loyal.  I am dedicated.  I will leave no page unturned for my students.  I will work tirelessly for my students whether they are part of another school I am employed by or my son’s school.  As an experienced teacher, I want my skills recognized and used to help others become better English speakers.  I have kept my competions advertising flyers in my desk drawer since the beginining.  And I don’t mind inviting skeptical people to try them instead because we know we are good.  If they want to spend their education money elsewhere, it is their loss and not ours.  We know we can find students who will come to understand and embrace our system.

After backbreaking work moving 20 years of history downtown, there are at least 10 boxes of treasure in the closet that I will not have time to go through for many months.  But seeing things for the first time in more than a decade, I discovered something.  I am truly a man of great wealth.  I am generous man and I hope I can help others find prosperity through proficiency.  I don’t know what the younger generation thinks of me putting all those old things on the wall like pictures over the past 20 years.  Maybe some of my fellow old salty expatriate teachers will stop over for a Dr. Pepper with me gazing at the walls of the O’Leary Museum and reminisce about the great Japanese Bubble years.

A Glimpse into How America Wrecked Health Care

By Kevin G. O’Leary

Looking from the outside in can give one a unique perspective on many of the ailments the United States is experiencing.   Having worked in the United States for 12 years and worked in Japan for 20 years, I can see in many sectors how the American society has spun out of control like unmanageable fireball.

Let’s look at the health care debate raging in this election year.  I am no expert on public health care or insurance other than being a consumer, an avid  reader and a careful observer.  Japan has stark contrasts to the United States.

First let’s look at litigation and liability in comparison.  The Japanese do not traditionally sue their mentors, educators, community leaders and healers.   And no, they do not sue their EMT or the fire departments often either.   Yes, it does still happen in certain cases, but far from commonplace.  Nevertheless, court litigation rates are a fraction of what they are in the United States.  Some years ago, there was  a case of  blood tainted by HIV and the Japanese courts and government held some health care providers and suppliers culpable, and monetary compensation was awarded.

Since the early 1960s, the Japanese have had universal national and social health insurance coverage.  There are still some people, often foreigners working in Japan that are not enrolled in the national or social health insurance program and must pay for their care up front in cash.  However, even in such an instance, medical care is significantly more affordable even without insurance.  An MRI would cost 200 dollars in Japan. The same MRI would cost as much as 1800 dollars in the United States.  Japan is not a third world country and has an extremely advanced medical system.  Is there any justification for care to cost 9 or 10 times more in the United States?

Several months ago, while surfing the internet, I ran across an excerpt from a doctor’s memoir written by a long-lost cousin I don’t remember ever meeting in person.  It was for her father, my uncle with whom I also share a name.  I contacted the publisher who got me in contact with her and got my hands on my own copy of one of the most informative books in my library.  My uncle was a general practitioner in a small town in Warren County, Illinois.  In other words, a typical small town house-call making family doctor of yesteryear.

Below, taken directly from the Wild Rides and Shiny Dimes book  are some informative insights how regulations, out of control lawsuits and general micromanagement of our medical professionals has chased people like this doctor out of the practice.

It was not common for people to have medical insurance to pay for their medical care 50 years ago.

“Farmers, sometimes paid their bill with sweet corn, tomatoes and other produce.”

What a coincidence!  It was 1961 when half-way around the world the national social insurance was established in Japan.  We were basically on the same street at this point in history.  His daughter, who went on to become a psychiatrist at the famed Mayo Clinic in Minnesota recalls instructions he gave her.  “A colored farmer would come to the back door of the clinic with produce.   Presumably, he was not literate and she was to write his name down on a piece of paper so her father could adjust his bill for his medical treatment.  As he was an older gentleman, it was assumed that was the way he was raised using the back doors although the front door was more accessible.”  Fortunately, there wasn’t any mention of livestock being brought to the back porch.

Uncle Glenn began his medical practice delivering babies, setting simple fractures, giving anesthesia,  performing minor surgery and assisting  in major surgery.   Some years later, he had to give up obstetrics when a specialist came to town.  The malpractice insurance rates made him drop fractures that had to be reduced.  If the fracture was on that a cast could be put on and did not need to be reduced, he could still do that.  He also decided to drop minor surgery for insurance reasons.  The final years he practiced, he did not even assist in surgery because of the insurance costs.

The final two years of practice they did so in arrangement with a hospital.  Up until that time, all the doctors were independent.

He did not really want to retire at age 65, but his malpractice insurance was due to run out. Things by that time had really begun to deteriorate with the new government regulations.  It became very frustrating to comply and to understand the regulations.  To ensure doctors complied, a very severe sounding penalty was attached.  So every time you do something wrong, it is $5000 and five years in prison.  Even if the nurse makes the error, it is hanging over their heads all the time.  There was always the fear of lawsuits.

After my uncle retired, his partner, another good doctor thought he would continue.  He only lasted six months.   The system had successfully removed two good doctors who just wanted to help people get well.

Today, the two countries could not be farther apart in serving their patients.  Although advances in medical technology have moved forward at rapid pace, making care accessible to all has not.  In the United States, the working poor are particularly excluded from affordable care.  The truly destitute can get free medical care through programs and charities.   Believe me, if you have ever visited Rockford, Illinois there are more than a few destitute people.   The rich can pay for the large insurance premiums.  The middle class and those who are working two jobs are increasingly left without affordable health care options.  Japan, on the other hand has maintained its system for universal coverage for all.  Even as a traditional fiscal conservative, I am thoroughly enjoying my “socialized” medical care in Japan.   I had mini-stroke in 2009.  Lucky for me I was in Japan and six months of blood-thinning medications and monitoring did not destroy my livelihood.  I paid less out-of-pocket for a damn stroke than I did in 2008  for a dental abscess with Aetna Insurance from my employer.  I had to pay my co-pay out-of-pocket insurance back to the hospital in installments.  Let’s face it.  We wrecked our system in the United States.  I have no choice but to support Obamacare after experiencing what I did.  They do have to remove stupid stuff from the Affordable Care Act, however.  I vehemently oppose provisions for birth control and abortions that may be funded with tax payer dollars.  As a practicing Catholic and an American, I expect my religious freedoms not to be trampled on.  After all even in Japan these provisions are not covered.   I hope both the conservatives and the liberals learn not to put polarizing items in something so important as basic health care.

A final point worth mention.  Today, America’s hospitals are increasingly being operated by health care corporations with obvious financial incentives to overcharge and over prescribe pharmaceuticals.  Across the ocean in Japan, hospitals remain firmly in control of doctors and only doctors.  I ask you which system is working better?

I will return to the United States, and assuming this debate won’t be settled, I have a plan.  Should I be catastrophically ill, I will pump myself up with whatever drugs I can get over the counter at the local Walgreens or CVS pharmacy.  Then, I will board a plane in a semiconscious state bound for Japan.

Mystery of the Phantom Deer

from the Rock River Times

By William W. O’Leary

In the June 9-15 Rock River Times article, “John Deer: From foe to friend,” I wrote that there were no signs of deer in O’Leary Forests. My questioning of people in northern and central Illinois only netted a sighting of 25 deer in Ogle County by one person. This article is an update with corrections and reason why we don’t see the deer.

Since the June article, several people have reported to me that they have seen a deer or two at several locations in Winnebago County. A poacher/trespasser shot and field dressed a deer in Stand Three of our forest.

National Geographic and Animal Planet (television channels) rate deer as the most intelligent big game animal in North America. I believe the deer have altered their lifestyle to be more secretive to survive. Although I haven’t seen deer, I find the tracks of what appear to be a doe with fawn and a large buck in the main trail of our west forest and two lines of weeded trees in Stand One west. I believe the doe to be “Jane Doe” who can identify our planted trees. The large buck is probably a new recruit. Their tracks and trails were fresh in the first two weeks of July 2010. This is encouraging.

In the spring of 2009, I was hand-weeding trees on my knees. I stood up and nearly backed into two buck deer. At first I wondered why they were so close to me. When I looked toward our north fence and saw two men with guns, I got my answer. The bucks were using me as a shield. I regularly hear gun blasts in our west woods. The trails are paved with spent cartridges. Until recently, Sunday mornings were a time when poaching occurred in our west woods, which is in the City of Rockford. Poachers would park their cars among the church-goers at Silver Hill Church (license plates removed) because they knew that our family and staff would be off to church. This changed when City of Rockford Police began patrolling on Sunday mornings.

Although numerous people have contacted me to let me know they read my article in The Rock River Times, no one has brought me an orphaned fawn. I am repeating my request to save deer from extinction:

1. Put a moratorium on deer hunting for two years.

2. Prosecute poachers.

3. Contact me if you have an orphaned fawn.

While I can’t guarantee that poachers can be entirely controlled, we will do all in our power to protect the deer. The deer are free to roam.

William W. O’Leary is a resident of Rockford.

Goodbye Cheery O’Leary, Hello, Cherry O’Leary.

My name is Kevin O’Leary, Kevin rhymes with seven and O’Leary rhymes with cheery.  Well, so I thought.  Throughout my childhood, people always called me O’ Larry.  Just like Larry the Cable Guy, Larry King or Larry Hagemann.  I used to be amazed at how retarded or just plain lazy others were that they couldn’t take the courtesy to try to get my name right.  Hey, hey we are the O-LEE-REES! 

Well,  based on new information that has just come to my attention through the indispensible tool of the internet, I learn almost a half-century later I was wrong.  I now humbly take this opportunity to apologize to everyone for those icy glares and my condescending pronunication instruction I have given you all when I thought you were mispronouncing my name. 

In the Cork and Kerry areas of Ireland where the name originated, the name is pronounced as O-LEY-REE or something similar to that.  Our name ryhmes with scary, hairy or fairy.   This corresponds with the Munster dialect which is most likely spoken by O’Leary’s in the great Emerald Isle.   Based on that, it is completely understandable that young immigrant schoolboys did not want to set themselves up for taunts by their classmates.    Since I am all grown up now and can kick anybody’s butt, I think I’ll be cool and start introducing myself pronouncing my name to rhyme with cherry.   

My first name being of Celtic origin also comes from Ireland.  It would be Caoimhín Ó Laoghaire.  Thankfully, I never had to spell that out.  The anglicized version is Kevin O’Leary.  I have learned my first name is pronounced as KEE-VHEEN in the Gaelic language.  I do not not like sound one bit, by golly.  I’ll go American on this one.

I live in Japan now.  Japan is a backwards country that cannot afford extravagant consonants like Ls or Vs, both of which I need to say my name in Japanese.  I am known as ケブン オレーリー here.  Pronounced as KAY-BUN O-RAY-REE.  I never would have imagined that through Japanese my name was closer to its original form than I had in America.

Meanwhile, my sister claims to have discovered we might be black.  Well, fer land sakes.  That’s cool by me.  I wonder what a black Mr. Bean would look like. 

Now that I have finished my educational research into Ireland and watched back to back episodes of Mrs Brown’s Boys, I’m up and ready to go and bone up on my Eboneics.

Thanking a WW2 Veteran for Our Freedom

-by Kevin G. O’Leary
 
 Late last year I got an email from my cousin in Oregon, IL that our uncle would be taking an honor flight to Washington, DC with other World War 2 veterans.  The Honor Flight Program has been taking place across the country for a number of years.  Volunteers, businessess  and organizations have generously given their time and resources to thank those who made the sacrifice for our freedom. 
 
On November 3, my mother’s elder brother Bob Chamberlin took one of the honor flights from the Quad Cities Airport in Moline.  The veterans are flown free of charge to the nation’s capital to personally visit the monument made in their honor.   One of the highlights of the return flight is the “mail call.”  Friends and relatives of our heroes were asked to write a letter to our special veteran that is delivered to them onboard the plane.   Below I will share the letter I wrote for our Uncle Bob.
 
 
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Dear Uncle Bob,

I am thrilled to learn you are taking this flight of honor.   It is important that people enjoying the freedoms in 2011 do not forget that these freedoms do not come with a lot of personal sacrifice by young men and women who answered their country’s call to service.  I thank you for serving long before I was even born to ensure that I could grow up in a free country.

Today, nearly seventy years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, generations have grown to embrace peace when possible but be prepared to fight when necessary.   But, now  these nations are our stanch allies.  It would have been unimaginable that I would one day be working in Japan.      Incidentally, until last week I was working in Sasebo City which is was a huge center of Hirohito’s Imperial Navy and where Japan’s leaders projected their horrific tyranny.  Now, it is the site of huge Dutch Theme Park and Flower Kingdom.  How  peaceful is that!  

Washington, DC is an amazing place.  I’m not sure which of the three airports you will land at.   I have lived there twice from 1981-1984 and again from 1986-1988 when I was a Navy petty officer stationed at the Naval Air Facility at Andrews Air Force Base.   You will be able to see many memorials and and landmarks each which is a historical building block of what made the United States what it is today.  It was amazing experience to live in Washington during that time.   Ronald Reagan was president then.  When I was in the Navy in Naval District Washington, I was able to participate in some of newer monument dedications and events.  One was the final farewell funeral parade for General Omar Bradley another was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial dedication as well as the the  Tomb of the Unknown where a fallen solider from the Vietnam war was briefly interred.  A few years later, he was positively identified and and returned.  It’s hard to see everything, but you can never get tired of visiting our capital.  

In 2011, there are many things to grumble about when talking about our country.   We can openly and critically question our president, our leaders without fear of punishment.  In contrast, these were liberties that Hirohito, Hitler and Mussolini’s subject could not even imagine.  As a result of their defeat by brave World War II veterans like yourself, you not only guaranteed our freedoms in the US, but brought freedom to nations of oppressed people.  We all owe you and your fellow veterans a debt of gratitude.   I thank you for being there for me and our country.

Enjoy your flight.  Your nephew and all your kin are cheering for you!

Kevin

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Today many young men and women are making the huge sacrifice in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Seventy years from now will the next generation remember what they did for us?  Let’s hope so.  Freedom is never free.

She Did It Her Way

-By Kevin G. O’Leary

It has been a long time since I posted here.  Family business took priority.  We finished one of the most important journeys of our life last month.

On April 10th, Tomoko my mother-in-law passed away peacefully in her own home at age 67.    She was diagnosed during the summer with Stage 4 bile duct cancer.  It was non-resectable and non-treatable.  What makes this type of cancer so deadly  compared to others is that unfortunately the diagnosis is most often made at a stage when medical treatment is futile.  The prescribed course of treatment was to simply go home, stay as active and healthy as long as possible and enjoy the time left on earth.

The cancer was discovered while my family and I were away vacationing in the United States last July.   The official diagnosis was made in August.  After being told there was not much time left, our family began to make adjustments to our schedule to be available to ensure that Tomoko had the best quality of life possible.  I was at the time working as project director in Nagasaki and living on my own during the week.  I resigned my position in the fall and quickly returned to Fukuoka and took a night time job so that I could be available every day if needed.  My mother-in-law had always been a big help while I was away picking up my youngest daughter at the the preschool.   I had to look after my daughter myself from that point on while my wife was at work.   It was an easy decision for me.  My mother-in-law supported everything I did, the Nagasaki job, the year and half in the United States and was always there to help when I had my health problems several years ago.

I was very surprised how energetic and accepting Tomoko was of her prognosis.  It was like she was not sick at all.  There was one unexpected problem when she was particpating in Grandparent’s Day at my daughter’s preschool.  She went to pick up Maria and broke her back for no apparent reason.  I do not know whether the cancer had weakened her bones or this was just an isolated issue.  Since she couldn’t carry a 2 year old, she wasn’t able to do what she loved the most which was being active with her grandchildren.  Her back healed well and with the aid of corset brace she was able to stay active in her kitchen but avoid lifting whenever possible.  We enjoyed lots of homecooked dinners made by Tomoko, took some day trips and lived as normal of a life as we could until the end of March.

March brought on some changes as Tomoko was no longer able to enjoy eating.  I would bring curry bread over but it was mainly for my father-in-law to enjoy has Tomoko was only eating softened rice, soup and drinking.  She quickly dropped 30 to 40 pounds in several weeks.  Tomoko was always slender so this was significant.   But she was still enjoying her independence.

Around April 1st, with the weight loss, she had considerably weakened.  I went to the house and was very shocked by the changes.  I estimated her weight to be about 80 pounds.  It was the evening and the medical supply company had come over to bring in the hospital bed to set up as well as a wheel chair.  It was a sad time for me because it marked another loss of independence and the reality of decline.  She never used the wheel chair as it wasn’t really a practical tool since she could be walked the short distance to the sofa or the restroom.  Her 68th birthday was coming up on April 16th.  But the doctor had suggested if we wanted a birthday party we better do it this coming weekend.  Although she was so sharp and alert, her body had already begun to shut down.  The beginning of April is cherry blossom viewing time.  We set up a nice feast with the family and the relatives in her room looking our over the garden.  She stayed in bed and chatted with us.  When we brought out the birthday cake, we had to ask her, “Hey, where is that thingamajig spatula thing cake serving tool?”  Tomoko said from her bed, “Oh, its over there?”   Then she began to laugh and say “Well, that wasn’t very useful instructions, was it?”   This was the last transactional exchange I remember having with her and it was pretty funny they way it came out.  I thought this is great, in charge of her kitchen to the very end.  Some people brought her flowers for her room and she was very happy and was teaching us the names of the flowers.

The following Monday evening only 2 days after her party, April 9,  Tomoko was sedated with some pain medication that made her sleep all day.  She had complained of some pain that morning and the doctor thought this would make her more comfortable.  I was scheduled to go to work at 11PM that evening.  I really felt I should not have gone to work.  Although Tomoko was sleeping peacefully, her respiration was about 12 seconds apart.  When I returned to her room just a short time later, it was more like 20 seconds apart.  I knew the time was short, but didn’t really know if my wife or her brother really already knew.  Of course, they did.   My wife is a registered nurse.  They were just relaxed eating and drinking and talking.  I went to work and returned at 4AM.   Tomoko had already passed away at 1AM.  I still feel bad I went to work that evening but there were enough people there with her at the end.  It seems my family started a new custom.  When I returned, Tomoko’s hospital bed was out of the way and she was laid out on silky white futon on the floor.  Next to her head was her cell phone plugged into the wall charging.  I thought this was a little peculiar.  But people could call her phone and leave last messages for her.  That was so special.  A few days later, my wife would go to cell phone shop, cancel the contract and keep the memory card from the phone.

This was as successful of a dying process as one could be.  She did it her way.   She kept her independence up until the last couple of days.  Her pain was managed and she did not leave the world in the lonely halls of an impersonal hospital ward.  She left the world in her own room, surrounded by food, flowers and best of all people.