August 31st 2017. Tokyo City, Shibuya hospital second floor
There is an incredibly ominous feeling that accompanies knowing the exact place you are to die. I have been lying in the same spot for nearly a year now. Tubes snake their way under the blankets, latching onto me in humiliating places, shackling me to the bed. I am alone most of the time. My wife of over fifty years comes to visit me as often as she can; she cares for me but I can tell it drains her, so I ask her to come less often. To an extent though, I feel that she comes for my company, not to give me hers. She wishes to avoid the bleak isolation that comes from living alone in your own home. Every day she wakes early, fretting, sick with the possibility her husband may be dead. Once off the phone with the hospital, she feels relieved for an instant, her one shining moment of optimism. However, then the depressing reality of her life comes crashing back down onto her, almost driving her to the floor. Yet not quite. She will grab something quick to eat if she remembers. Otherwise she drives to the hospital to spend time with me. However, during these visits I am still alone. My wife is there, my carers are there, yet I am never more isolated than in these moments. My decrepit form can, from a distance, still fool people that some vestiges of its old inhabitant remain. Under closer inspection, the harsh truth cannot be denied – only a withered husk is left. These doctors make sure I have a pulse, but not much else. But perhaps I am too harsh; it is not their fault that I am in this sorry state – age and a steep flight of stairs can be blamed for that.
My current situation is so humiliating that reasonably I should wish to die. I even assigned my daughter the task of ending my life if I was to ever fall to such a low level of existence, even if the doctors forbade it. It was her duty as my eldest. However I spoke rashly, eons ago when I felt invincible, when a situation like this was nothing but a nightmare. It was such a cruel thing to demand of my own child, and though I know she has not forgotten her promise, we both know she could never carry it out. She cares too much, my darling daughter, as all my children do – they care so much that, despite them being scattered across two continents, life without me is still inconceivable. But this is a good thing; in a way they are even correct. Despite my situation being as dire as they are, they still need me to cling to the last dregs of conscience, so that I can sort my affairs, and help with theirs.
For me, being paralyzed from the waist down was the worst sentence I could have been handed. I was raised to be active, full of vitality, to not waste a second. I fought in the Second World War. I never thought I would envy the friends and family I lost, yet at least their death had some sort of purpose. I am simply left out in the open, sentenced to dissipate into the dust – a cracked memory of me to be all that remains. It is painful, seeing yourself fall through the cracks of society. To slowly fade into obscurity. No matter how our lives are led, even as veritable titans in our trade, it seems we are destined to eventually dissolve into shadows of our former selves. This seems to be the reward for outliving our compatriots.
After the war came to a close, there was a forced return to normality. It seemed absurd to expect to live a normal life – going through the motions seemed to be the closest thing we could aspire to. But life did move on, and dragged us, willing or not, with it. I married, had three daughters, and lived a wonderfully happy life. Being traditional, I had always wanted a son, and my daughters perhaps felt that to an extent. However I never resented them, and maybe even cherished them more than I would have a son. With a boy I would have been obsessed with moulding him into an heir, a man equipped for the outside world. Those expectations could have buried him, snuffing out any individuality. With my daughters I have only wanted to protect them, a strange nurturing instinct I was quite unprepared for. And despite this – maybe because of this – they have all blossomed and thrived. They are successful, and happy for the most part. It only makes me prouder knowing many of their achievements are solely their own. Perhaps all parents feel this at some point, the momentous feeling of seeing your child as a person in their own right.
I still have a loving family. My daughters and my grandchildren visit often, and my wife still loves me despite all the trials we have faced. Somehow, we still face them together. Maybe my family are right when they say my guilt is unfounded, I have tried to ease the burden of myself time and time again, yet they refuse to let me go.