I can think of no other words to better describe the feeling in my heart as I think about one of the dearest souls who has passed through my life, and into God’s hands yesterday. My grandfather’s cousin, Keiji Tsutsumi, was the most lovely of the loveliest souls. He was one of the people who passed through my life when I needed it. God appointed. I probably didn’t mean very much to him, but his influence upon me was life changing.
For those who know this about me, a slight few, you’ll know how difficult this is to express. I am a grandpa’s girl. My grandfather, Fred Masao Kaizuka, was such a force in my life. Not a day has passed where I don’t think about him. Yet, I can barely utter his name without crying. He passed away when I was living with him in LA when I was 19. It was incredibly tragic. Just prior to his passing away, his cousin, Keiji, and his wife, Chigusa came to town to visit on their way to their son’s wedding in South Carolina. I met them and was embarrassed as all get out to say anything Japanese. I said, ‘hajimemashite (nice to meet you)’ and that was all I could scrape together from two years of high school Japanese. We met them at some lovely Beverly Hills hotel. I had known their son, Shigeru, since I was 8. He was like my older brother. He spent every holiday with us since that time. I lived with Keiji and Chigusa when I was 19 for 6 months in the fishing village, Kada, that my grandfather was from, immediately following his death. I was seeking him. I found a lot of him in Keiji Tsutsumi.
Papa Tsutsumi, as we just called him, ‘Papa’, was a truly amazing individual. He had to do compulsory factory work in Kobe during the war, then went to Keio Univeristy, where he played rugby, quite competitively. He served as mayor of Kada, Wakayama for many years. He was a community leader. He was a leader. He was dignified and true. Every decision that he made was true to him. If there was a stone path to be made, he would make it himself, researching everything related to path building in the process. He was most gracious to everyone around him. He ran or biked every morning before dawn and he studied, alot. He possessed a soul that was entirely unique. I am so blessed to have been influenced by him. I think of him alot when I think about how busy we are in our lives. I think about how he would harp on the fact that if you got a dishwasher that it would make your life THAT much busier. All of the modern conveniences that we think of being convenient, he would mock. He wouldn’t eat okra. It was a ‘post war’ vegetable. He was true to consuming only pre-war vegetables. Most of which were grown by his cousin, Mrs. Hayashi, who is 94 years old and far sharper than anyone than I know. A lot of time when I insist upon making everything from scratch, it is because of this man. A memory of his soul resides in me. When I am cooking, I refuse to take short cuts. I want to learn the lessons behind creating things from scratch. I feel like by creating time to do these somewhat laborious tasks that there is time in there to contemplate. Very little in modern life allows for simple time to contemplate. Traditional life does. It allows you to contemplate your next move and your previous one as well. To see it in a different perspective. We lack that entirely. There is no contemplation that occurs now. It’s all about moving on and forward and being entirely overwhelmed to the point that we all need hand held devices that sync our calendars so that we can literally be in two or three places at once. Is that what this has all boiled down to? I will miss this dear man but feel greatly blessed to have been touched by his soul. Thank you. ありがとうございました。