Until I wrote this blog post today, I did not know that my girlfriend Michio’s name is typically a male name. Pronounced mee-chee-oh, it means "man with strength of three thousand" in Japanese. I wonder why she had a male name? I knew Michio and her Italian-American husband when they lived in Normal, Illinois (sister city to Bloomington, Illinois), but they moved back to Hawaii a few years ago. Her husband had very serious health problems, and Michio was his sole care-giver, may she have all the strength that she needs. Michio and her husband encouraged me to play video games on their Wii console, and I liked it so much that I bought one. I became particularly enchanted with the Nintendo Endless Oceans video game, spending a year(s?) playing within that game. It helped ease my stress when I was learning how to be the sole care-giver for my housebound parents.
“Endless Ocean is an underwater exploration through the pristine waters of fictional Manoa Lai Island. From the moment players experience their first dive, they’re introduced to a magnificent world of sun-pierced water, vibrant color, and flourishing sea life. With no time limits, point systems or possibility of failure, it’s a pick-up-and-play game for the entire family to enjoy. Intuitive controls and the game’s encouraging “explore at your own pace” approach create a momentary retreat.”
Three particularly charming features of Endless Ocean are: 1) you SCUBA dive in all the oceans of the world, including the Arctic with narwhales, the Red Sea with turtles, and the Antarctic with penguins and even microscopic creatures under the ice; 2) you have a medical tool that heals animals and makes them sparkle; 3) if you do this often enough, gold coins will appear on the ocean floor, you pick them up and put them in your treasure trove. You can buy SCUBA gear to suit your fancy.
Michio did not suffer fools gladly. I remember once when Michio served a Japanese lunch to me and my best friend Kathy, we were giggling because some of it seemed very odd, odiferous. Giggling in that way, even if you are in your silly sixties, is very rude but we had all been friends for quite a while and we became too relaxed. Then it was difficult to mollify Michio’s hurt feelings. When she moved back to Hawaii she gifted us with traditional Japanese food implements, giving me green tea, a little old wooden bowl, and a little old wooden whisk with which to prepare it. She also gave me a piece of the clear resin jewelry she made and sold at trade fairs, a pretty oval pendant with a silver clasp on blue gauze ribbons. It was a dreamy meadow scene with golden dragonflies over queen anne's lace.
Michio was also accomplished in the Japanese art of flower arrangement, Ikebana. She taught it at the Normal Senior Center, and it was a very popular workshop.
Each week Kathy and I alternated driving Michio, and sometimes Michio’s daughter when she was visiting from Hawaii, to Streator, Illinois which was an hour away, to take watercolor lessons from Noriko, whose specialty was painting flowers. Noriko had a special talent for it. All of us tried very hard to master Noriko’s technique, and she was very patient with us, but she could see that we were not gifted, so it was mostly a social event. We would arrive early in the morning, paint to the best of our abilities, then go to a buffet. It was very pleasant gathering in Noriko’s garage which her American husband had converted into a studio for her, she told some stories which I enjoyed, but which are not mine to tell. Just before Michio moved back to Hawaii, Noriko had all of us over for a Christmas tea, and gave each of us one of her wonderful floral watercolors.
We three senior citizens made several daytrips together, but Noriko, who was a few years older, said she had had enough of walking around. We drove to Starved Rock State Park (voted #1 outdoor attraction in the State of Illinois); where I took my last-in-life long walk in the woods; following the dancing energy and enthusiasm of Michio’s daughter who led us up and down, two miles into LaSalle Canyon, to walk behind the waterfall. Afterward, tired but pleased to have seen it one last time, I enjoyed our lunch at the lodge. Michio’s daughter wanted to see Eagles’ Overlook and Lovers’ Leap, but we could not totter any further. So she skipped lunch and ran to see them both. We only had to wait about ten minutes for her. It was fun to see her having fun.
The last time that I saw Michio, I mentioned that I had seen King Kamehameha’s remarkable statue in Honolulu, Hawaii. She was flabbergasted. “What!?!” I repeated that I had seen it, enunciating carefully, “King Ka-me-ha-me-ha.” “Oh no”, she seemed appalled, “It is pronounced Ka-may-ah-may-ah,”, stressing different syllables. She seemed offended and titillated all in the same uncomfortable moment. When she asked me to repeat my errant pronunciation, and I could see her memorizing it, I knew that she was preparing her own life story to tell.
Caption: The Great King Kamehameha of Hawaii, (1756-1819),
unified the Hawaiian islands under one rule.
Photographs by Annmarie Throckmorton, Hawaii 1998.