After graduating from the ESL (English as a Second Language) program, Kazuko was informed she could attend school two years further to obtain her high school diploma. Two more years! She was almost 36 years old at the time!
Kazuko thought back to what her life would’ve been like if she’d never come to Canada. As a child, life was difficult due to rations. No sugar and no oil were available. Rice and corn flour made for extremely dry meals. She remembers food getting caught in her throat because it was so dry.
Kazuko excelled at swimming; a winner of many trophies for breaststroke in Tokyo. She was encouraged to advance to University but couldn’t afford it. Through her uncle, she had the chance meeting of a Canadian man. The man was visiting Japan on business in the Tool and Die industry. She was attracted to the man, and the feeling was mutual. Kazuko’s family, even though poor, thought the Canadian was in the “wrong class.” He was “below her”.
Kazuko told her parents she desired to marry this man and move to Canada. Her Dad’s words still haunt her: “If you go to Canada, you are no longer my daughter.”
She thinks she would’ve had an easier life living in Japan- a spoiled life, she called it- but she did not like the government. She knew things to be good in Canada. She made her decision to marry the Canadian and leave her family behind.
And, then it happened… a widow at 33 years of age with a son and little English skills. Kazuko told me she had to “start from zero”. A while after graduation from English school, her son enrolled in boy scouts. His little boy scout friend invited him over for supper. The young friend told her son to bring his Mom along, too. The boy’s father had been divorced for two years apparently.
Kazuko went for dinner with the man several times. They hit it off well. She ended up marrying him. Their marriage has been wonderful and long-lasting. She’s now 80 and he’s 83 years old.
Kazuko shared with me the second thing the hospital chaplain told her after her tragic car accident. He said, “God has a plan for every person and you are on a path right now that is where you’re supposed to be.”
I gave her a big hug. She said excitedly,” You know, the next summer Olympics are to be held in Japan. I’m going back. I want to see the swimming.” Kazuko will be 84 in 2020. How admirable to keep looking ahead!
I told her, “The first time, I saw you, I could tell you were a great swimmer from your shoulders and your arms. Those are swimmer’s muscles you have there!”
Kazuko already had perfect posture. She stood even taller now.
“The doctor told me I look young on the outside but my bones are very old and in poor condition from the accident. When I started with pain three years ago, I began exercising every night. I swim every Tuesday and Friday.”
It was getting late for me. I told Kazuko I needed to run errands but thanked her for sharing her story.
“I will see you on Friday!”
Well, how about that? Cramped changing rooms can lead to wonderful stories.
Japanese Wedding Kimono.