Wednesday, March 14, 2007

My Daughter Is Going To Die Tomorrow

2007 March 13 Tuesday

My daughter is going to die tomorrow. She delivered this news to my wife and I when the three of us were dining together. She made her announcement in a matter of fact tone, delivering the message in just two words:

"Ashita shinjatta."

Despite having spent most of the past decade living in Japan, my grasp of Japanese is still shaky, and I wasn't entirely sure that I understood this statement. My working hypothesis was that "shinjatta" was a form of the verb "shinu," meaning "to die," and that the "jatta" conjugation conveyed the meaning "unfortunately."

(When I ran my spellchecker over this piece, it protested at one of the Japanese words, which weren't in its dictionary, and I realized that instead of writing "shinu" I had written "suru," which means "to do." That's how shaky my Japanese is.)

If so, then daughter Cornucopia's two-word statement means, literally, "Tomorrow I'm going to die."

The first word, "ashita," is definitely "tomorrow," and "shinjatta" means "going to die, unfortunately."

Cornucopia does not supply a pronoun to go with this statement, since one of the basic rules of Japanese grammar is that anything can be omitted, even the verb, providing the result is clear. The reverse rule applies in English, where it is illegal to delete any item. For example, the statement "Tomorrow I'm going to enter dead parrot mode" may not be legitimately reduced to "Tomorrow going to go dead parrot."

Cornucopia almost always deletes the first person singular, and, in fact, as far as I can remember I have only ever heard her use the word "watashi," the commonest option for supplying the meaning "I." When she has occasion to refer to herself, it is always as "Cornucopia-chan," ie "Cornucopia the Cute."

Puzzled as to why my daughter thought she was going to die, I asked her a question: "Why?"

The answer came without hesitation:

"Tomorrow it's going to be cold."

I looked at my wife.

"I think she said she's going to die tomorrow because it's cold," I said.

My wife affirmed that this was the case. We were both of us suitably amused.

It is highly unlikely that Cornucopia is on the verge of surcease, because my wife took her to see the doctor before dinner, the daycare having reported that Cornucopia had an earache. The doctor reported that the ear was just fine, and he certainly didn't suggest that our daughter was on the verge of the Ultimate Precipice.

Dinner tonight was very good, hamburger with assorted other stuff, including baked potatoes.

Our basic cooking equipment is a standard Japanese gas stove which, typical of the breed, features three gas burners and a sardine-sized grilling unit. However, additionally, we have a rice cooker and a microwave oven.

The microwave oven is a two-in-one unit, able to function either as a conventional microwave or, if the built-in heating elements are thrown into play, as an actual oven in which you can bake things such as sweet potatoes, cakes, and, of course, baked potatoes.

The baked potatoes are on the menu because, when I last saw my hematologist, he reported that my magnesium levels were low, and indicated that this was not a good thing. And the skins of potatoes are one of the things that can supply the body with magnesium.

At the time when I got the bad news, I didn't really take it seriously. My idea has always been that obsessing about your blood chemistry ("How are you cholesterol levels today?") is a cultural habit practiced, at least in the realms of my imagination, by effete Americans. Or, at least, by Californians.

But, after a photocopied medical fact sheet arrived in the mail from my mother, I started taking my magnesium deficiency extremely seriously.

Magnesium deficiency can really trash you big time, causing, amongst other things, insomnia, depression, and, most forbidding of all, kidney stones. If you were going to torture me by inflicting a horrible disease on me, then kidney stones is the one that I would run from the fastest.

In addition to potato skins, there are many other things that can supply magnesium, including almonds, cashew nuts, brazil nuts and peanuts. So, today, after work, I dropped by at the local convenience store, where I found packs of nuts containing three of the four, the missing item being brazil nuts.

There are also nuts in the Alara-brand deluxe muesli that my wife and I both eat for breakfast, but, as I've been eating this stuff daily for months, the nut quotient is obviously not magnesium-optimal.

Over dinner, my wife and I discussed a number of issues, Cornucopia's Cassandra-like prediction not being one of them.

One of the things we discussed was what present we might ask a relative for to celebrate the occasion of Cornucopia's upcoming third birthday, which will be next month. How time flies!

We are not, then, convinced by Cornucopia's prognostications. Rather, we expect that she will still be alive and kicking, and sufficiently flu-recovered by then to enjoy her new toy, a tricycle, which she has not seen yet, but which is waiting for her in the garage.

Ever since our return to Japan, Cornucopia has been using tricycles housed locally, thanks to the kind permission of two of our neighbors. This has worked out pretty well, but now she is going to have one of her own.

When my wife went to the daycare center this evening to pick up Cornucopia to take her to the doctor's, she saw the new play set in the daycare grounds, and was suitably impressed.

My wife took the opportunity to discuss my condition with one of the daycare teachers. I have trouble learning new things, and there will be new things to learn once Cornucopia moves into a new class and a new room in April. So my wife asked if the box for Cornucopia's things could be placed in an easily identifiable place, such as top left at the end of a row, rather than being placed in Japanese a-i-u-e-o alphabetical order.

The teacher thought this would be doable, and she said she would discuss it with the principal and the teacher who will be the bosslord of Cornucopia's new class.

Today I asked the head teacher of Waniguchi Gakko if my holiday request for April 2, the day scheduled for the daycare's start-of-the-new-year ceremony, had been granted or not. He said he would have the answer for me tomorrow, and I hope the answer is yes, because the daycare is a very important part of our household ecology, and I want to do anything I can to consolidate that relationship.


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1:12 PM  

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