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08. Remembrance

My father was diagnosed with dementia in July of 2022. My brother was the one who shared the news saying he and his wife had taken our father to a specialist. This had me thinking about memories and consciousness. How do we share memories if we can’t remember? Did we even have the same memories to begin with even if we experienced things together? 


I started with the lyrics. I wrote about running jokes I had with my father and my brother growing up, catching crawfish in ponds in Tokyo near our apartment in Kokubunji, my father’s Sunday special natto omelet breakfast, the times we'd go to the beach in Chiba, how we'd play in the water all day and our sunburned skin would hurt in the bath. How my father would go buy kakigori after we had slipped under the futon, how I insisted I'd get the same flavor as him even though matcha was too bitter for me and I really just wanted the neon red strawberry.


I worked on a melody with the lyrics and set it to a bass line and drums. This ended up mellow and sappy at 90 BPM in e minor, then, as fate would have it, my GarageBand crashed and I lost the entire piece. I took this as an opportunity to turn it upbeat, 125 BPM, and in G major, a key I always associate with brightness, color of sunshine. This turned into a different way of conceptualizing the "same story" from various perspectives compared to “Heron in moonlight.” I kept the mellow acoustic sound of the original lost recording in the first 16 bars while pushing it to become an 80's pop/dance tune. The piece existed as an instrumental track until I finally recorded the vocals in January 2023, seven months later, upon my return from Japan, after seeing my father for the first time since dementia diagnosis.
















買ってきた かき氷 









Catching crawfish
with dried squid
Taking them home 
like some treasure.

Natto omelet
Playing catch
walking the dogs.

Every summer we went
to the sea at Iwachi
Playing with waves all day
our skin acrisp.

Futons lined up, tuckered away
You went and got us kakigori
I said I wanted the same flavor as Dad.

But matcha was too bitter
I wanted strawberry instead.
We all laughed at the end.

Dad, do you remember?
I hope you don't forget.


I’m writing this and the three following paragraphs at Seattle Tacoma Airport on a layover from Haneda, Tokyo. It's January 14, 2023 and I’m on my way back to San Francisco from my first trip back to Japan since 2019. I had just seen my father, my brother and his wife, my niece and nephew, for the first time in four years. First time meeting my nephew, actually because he was born in 2021. My mother also flew in from Minnesota. Since my parents are divorced and not on good terms we did not all get together. I saw my brother’s family with my mother separately from my father. 

My brother has been taking our father to his dementia specialist appointments and informed me that he was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease the week we arrived in Japan. My husband and I met my father at the north gate of Nakano station. He seemed smaller and rounder, a little shaky, not remembering when I was going back to the US despite repeated emails, unable to clear old messages on his answering machine, voicing his concerns about the efficacy of the oral medication for Alzheimer’s he just started taking. Still, he seemed happy to see me, meet my husband Thor, and talk over lunches and walks. His English was excellent, displaying no loss from twenty plus years of living back in Japan. We talked about his early days in supercomputing at Cray, about books, about food, about my childhood friends. We did not talk about my mother because he doesn’t like talking about her. 

I realize now that what I was worried about wasn’t my father’s loss of memory but the loss of our shared past. And that maybe our shared memory hasn’t been the same long before his dementia because he has been blocking out my mother from his memory. He might remember how I begged him to get me the same kakigori flavor he was getting at the beach but may not want to recall my mother offering me her strawberry flavor once I started crying.  Maybe we haven’t had the same memories since our family changed even if we experienced something together. And maybe what we need to do is to make new memories together even if we won’t always remember. So we can be together. At present, anew. 

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