Some time ago an Ochazuke was written entitled “Brothers Three,” which was about my three brothers. On Feb. 29, I received shocking news, one of the saddest I have received in years. I learned from my niece in Michigan that her dad, my older brother, Iwao (Iwa), had passed away early that morning at the age of 90. Iwa was not only a brother, but a mentor and friend. I loved him dearly.
I lost my mother on Feb. 1, 1982, my sister on Feb. 28, 2010 and now my brother on Feb. 29, 2012. It seems the month of February and even years take their toll. I miss my sister so very much, even after two years. I say to myself, “Why did God call my older brother so soon after the passing of my sister?” But then I have to keep reminding myself that God has plans for each of us.
On March 10, my brother would have been 91. He married at the age of 23 and would have celebrated his 68th wedding anniversary in June. He was a good husband to Mary, father of four daughters, grandfather of seven, great-grandfather of three and brother of four. He loved his family and they loved him.
We grew up in San Diego and even as a child, he always looked after me, encouraged me and advised me. I used to call him “Nii-san,” “big brother” in Japanese. He was only four years older than I, but seemed more mature because of his wisdom and caring attitude toward me.
Although he was my brother, he was one of the most handsome men I knew. He had a slight wave to his hair, large brown eyes and a beautiful and ready smile. He stood 5’10” and had a good physique. He was not “sports-geared” as my other two brothers were, but enjoyed ballroom dancing and was an excellent dancer. He enjoyed games of “challenge” where one had to really concentrate to win. The mothers of the girls he dated often told me how impressed they were with Iwa and what a gentleman he was.
He and I had somewhat opposite characters and personalities. Our mother often said to me, “If Iwao’s weak qualities were your strong qualities and your weak qualities were Iwao’s strong qualities, I would have had two perfect children.” In other words, what Iwa lacked, I had and what I lacked, Iwa had.
To give an example, I had a temper and would, as they say,”fly off the handle.” Iwa would calmly look over the situation, never lose his temper or raise his voice. He, however, always managed to get his message across. This is also how he interacted with his wife and four daughters.
Since he lived in Michigan, it had been a while since I had seen him, but I was able to visit with him by phone and letters. I loved “teasing” him and he would swallow my bait. One of the teasing incidents was when I received a letter from the redress committee shortly before the $20,000 redress checks were sent to those who were incarcerated in concentration camps. They asked me if I knew the whereabouts of an Iwao Ishino. I phoned Iwa and said, “I will tell them I never heard of you.” Iwa immediately said, “Don’t you dare.” He and I had a good laugh.
After he acquired his Ph.D. in cultural anthropology, he not only taught in the United States, but in Japan and Okinawa. God gave Iwa a great gift for teaching and a keen sense of intelligence that he used to the utmost. Mary told me over the phone that at Iwa’s dedication service, 100 people from Michigan State University came to pay tribute to him. Iwa will sorely be missed by his family, colleagues and friends, but I know that the wonderful memories of Iwa will be comforting at this time.
Thank you, Iwa, for being such a wonderful big brother. I won’t say “goodbye,” but “I’ll be seeing you.” Amen.
Maggie Ishino is a Rafu typist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Ochazuke is a staff-written column. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.