It’s not at all unusual for those of us living here in Japan for our parents to come visit us at some point. For them it’s a nice vacation and for us it’s a chance to show the folks where we live and work. Since Japan is a safe and developed country, we only have to worry about our folks ducking under too-small doorways and whether or not they can stomach raw foods.
However, I’d been here for over 5 years, and my parents had not yet come to visit.
This was mainly because of my mother, and her paralyzing fear of airplanes. She used to fly – she was in the Army at one point, and had been stationed overseas. I always thought that she’d watched too many airplane distaster movies on the Lifetime Channel, but as she explains it, one day she was on a small plane and they were hit with heavy turbulence. Not the kind of shaking that you blow off as a part of air travel, but the kind where oxygen masks drop from the ceiling and you start to see the flight attendants freak out a little. My mother prayed, and said “God, if you let me off this plane and on the ground safely, I swear I’ll never get on one of these things again!” Up until now, she’d kept good on that promise. She’d said that she would only brave the airplane and come to Japan for two occasions – my wedding ceremony, or to see her grandchild.
Well, one down.
With me getting married here in Japan and no plans for a ceremony stateside, Mom was forced to put aside her fear of planes, and for the first time, my folks came to visit me in Japan.
I’m sure many of you may be expecting wacky adventures and hilarious hijinks, but there just weren’t any. They weren’t able to stay for very long, but while they were here, everything went smoothly. Despite the language barrier, they got along wonderfully with my wife’s family – something that doesn’t always happen even when the two families speak the same language.
It was also nice to see that they hadn’t really changed much. My Dad is former Army, and while you can take the man out of the military, you can’t take the military out of the man. Even though he’s in his 60’s now, he keeps up a steady training regimen and healthy diet – I wouldn’t hesitate to say that he’s stronger than me. “I’d fear your father much more than I fear you,” one of my former co-workers said to me. Considering that I’m considerably taller than my father who is about average Japanese height, I think that’s really saying something.
Mom is the quintessential worry-wart. The day after the wedding ceremony, I bicycled down to their hotel room just to spend some time with them. However, the whole week had left me exhausted, so I fell asleep on their bed. When it was time to go home, Mom worried about me.
Mom: Are you going to be okay on the bike?
Me: Yeah Mom….it’s a bike. I only live 2.5km away.
Mom: But, you’re really tired. I don’t want you falling asleep.
Me: …On a bike?!
Mom: You fell asleep driving…*
Me: That’s entirely different. It would take a new level of genetically-engineered super-fatigue to fall asleep on a bike.
Mom: I dunno. Maybe you should stay here for the night.
*That’s a whole ‘nother story there.
My parents have a talent for saying extremely embarrassing things, especially sexually, but this time no incidents happened. The only thing that came close was Mom referencing an incident in the past. My brother-in-law was wearing a shirt that said “Trojan Records”. At a first glance, my Mom thought it read “Trojan Condoms”. Luckily, we got that sorted out in a hurry, but it did remind her of the time that she sent me condoms. This is a story I’d never told my brother-in-law, so Mom told it from her POV. “I was so embarrassed,” she says, “I tried to wait until the line at the cashier was completely empty before going through, and I had nothing else to buy so I had to pick up some beef jerky and a soft drink.”
I didn’t have the heart to explain to her that, from the cashier’s POV, now she was buying condoms, a Coke, and beef jerky, and he probably spent the remainder of the day wondering what kind of night she would be having.
Considering that this happened a full two years before I met my wife, and the condoms were used on a woman who isn’t her, this could have turned all sorts of awkward, but luckily it did not. My wife knows the story and can laugh about it as well. I think maybe that’s because I still have a box or two of Mom-sent Trojans at home. She sees them and perhaps figures that I didn’t really use them all that much. What I didn’t tell her is that the boxes I have now are the 5th or 6th generation. Ignorance is bliss, right?
Mom did however make sure to point out that she hadn’t brought along any new condom boxes with her this time. “Its time for grandchildren,” she said. I didn’t bother to translate that one to my wife and her brother.
But as it turns out I didn’t need to, as apparently the brother shares the same sentiments. A few weeks later the two of us were having drinks in a bar, and he says to me, “You know, grandma and I really want to see your kids.” I try to explain that now isn’t the best time, what being jobless and all, but he has his heart set on it. “We just really want to see your kids, I’m sure they will be adorable.” The message is clear; you need to knock up my older sister immediately. I promised I’d do what I could.
Maybe it’s just because I’m an only child and therefore do not understand the intricacies of sibling relationships, but I can’t imagine telling my new brother-in-law “C’mon man, why haven’t you knocked up my sister yet? Where are those kiddies?”
At any rate, my parents enjoyed their time here (Dad is now a huge fan of Japanese beer) and returned home safely. They both want to return, but with Mom asking about possible boat trips over (it takes 3 months one way. She didn’t seem to mind so long as the boat didn’t go airborne). I’d love to have them come back, especially to show them more things I couldn’t this time around. I guess the only way to get Mom back on the plane now will be to see her grandkids. Which, apparently, I’d better get cracking on.