Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Friday, December 13, 1945. The day my dad was born.

Today is my Dad's 60th birthday.

In Japan, your sixtieth birthday is referred to as "kanreki".

60 years around the wheel, back to the beginning.

When you go to a Chinese restaurant, check out your placemat. It usually has the Chinese zodiac listed on it. You know, the twelve animals (rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and boar). I, by the way, am a snake.

Each year is assigned one of the animals, and every twelve years, you come back to your "year": Year of the Dog, Year of the Dragon, Year of the Monkey...

But what makes kanreki special is that you've come around to the same day that you were born on, according to the Eastern zodiac.

It's the 12 animals plus five natural elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water). Each day gets a combination of the two. For example, today is Rat Wood, and tomorrow is Ox Fire, and so on. So even when it's your "year", your birthday's combination is not the same as the day you were born on. 12 X 5 = 60. So when you come around to your 60th birthday, the cycle matches up, and the combination of animal and element is the same as the day you were born. It's not only your "year"; it's also your "day".

Kanreki is seen as a time to reflect on your life until now, and a chance to start anew.

Dad's birthday was coming up, and I didn't know what I should get him, so I asked Mom.

She said, "Do they do anything special over there for a person's 60th birthday?"

So I told her about kanreki.

She asked if there were any special gifts that were given on a person's kanreki. I didn't know, so I asked around, and found out about something called an akai chanchanko (red sleeveless vest). It's traditional clothing worn by the person who is celebrating their kanreki. There is some play on words, as akai chanchanko and akachan (baby) sound similar, so the idea of "returning to the state of one's birth" is included in giving this gift. Also, red is a color that wards off evil spirits, and as one's kanreki is a happy time, but also a time of great change and possible adversity, the red is supposed to help protect the wearer.

So I went to the local department store and found one for him. He said he'd wear it in to work today. Should be interesting...

So as of today, my Dad has made one trip around the wheel. Somehow, "Happy Kanreki!" just doesn't pack the right punch.

So I will close off today's post with a short message to my Dad.

Dad, I couldn't ask for a better guy to call my Dad.

You've been strong for all of us, and you've done your best to make sure we were well provided for.

You've taught me a lot about life, and the way I should live it.

You've always tried to show me the difference between right and wrong.

You've done a pretty good job of it.

You've tried to show me the value of a dollar. I'm still working on that one.

You've always been the first one on the phone every weekend. I don't always sound so happy when I answer the phone, but our weekly talks mean a heck of a lot to me.

Here's something I haven't told you before:

When I was teaching English at the elementary schools in Izumo, sometimes I would teach students how to say what they wanted to be when they grew up. Sometimes the kids would turn it around and ask me.

Since, "Umm, I'm 27 and if I don't know what I want to be by now...I could be in trouble, and WHY DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND THAT THIS IS MY JOB?!" doesn't work as a valid response, I thought it over a bit.

Here's what I would say: "I want to be a person like my Dad."

You've set the bar high, Dad. But that's what I'm aiming for.

Happy 60th. Wish I could be there to celebrate with you.

Love ya.


Blogger Megan said...

You are a good son.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005 4:28:00 AM  
Blogger Havok said...

Thanks, Megan. I try.

Thursday, December 15, 2005 12:54:00 AM  

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