I kept waiting for the front sliding doors to rattle and the sound of laughter followed by a shout to echo into the house.

There was no such noise.

It was different.

Sometimes you don’t fully comprehend someone’s absence — until one little trigger sets it off. It could be the smell of something wonderful that reminds you of this person. It could be seeing a headline in the paper of this person’s most passionate human rights issue. It could be passing by a stranger who looks “exactly” like this person from the back.

The trigger always varies.

My a-little-over-a-week Japan trip during New Years was my first visit to my grandparents’ place since my grandpa died (about two years ago). The last time I was there was three years ago. It was the first time I was there, and not seeing him.

The usual dialogue of “What?? You’re going to Japan! That’s awesome!” stated by a friend, coworker or acquaintance followed by my “Yeah, I’m going to visit my grandparents,” was slightly different. My response this time was “Yeah, going to visit grandma.” I was going there to visit just one person.

Even though he had been retired from official work for some time, he still went “into work” daily — volunteering. He would come home in the evenings, always rattling that door and making his presence known with a happy greeting and chuckle.

His former students would always send gifts of assorted Japanese sweets — but usually beer — to my grandparents’ house. My dad and he would always drink a beer together at dinner. This time, my grandma bought beer from the store and my dad drank solo.

There was definitely an absence. And, I noticed it.



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