This time of year always reminds me of something. Yesterday was the anniversary of my father's death, which seems like just a few years ago, but I just realised on the internet phone with my mother that it's been almost ten years.
My father was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2008 or so, when I was still in Oxford, and that was also why I moved back to Japan a little later.
I was supposed to back to Japan for a while, but I never came back to Oxford. I remember that I went back and forth a few times, but in the end, I just went back to Oxford for three days, packed up all my things and said goodbye for good.
My father had been running a business, but when he had a brain tumour, he had to transfer his responsibility, and in his safe box, my mother found her and father's plane tickets to Spain. My father had been planning a trip to Spain without telling my mother, but it didn't happen. After the brain tumour, he had problems with thinking and remembering, as he should have. At the time, I was in the hospital, and I talked to my father that I was wondering if I should continue to live my life only doing research. There was no way I would get a straight answer from my father, who had a brain tumour.
Eventually, during my stay in Japan, I was given the opportunity to work as a sub-chief/expert on the largest climate change projects for the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which ended my life as a researcher.
I think it was when I was still studying at university that my father asked me if I was interested in taking over his company. Even though my parents had paid for my schooling up to high school and I had relied on them for my livelihood up to that point, I was adamant that I would not be taken care of by my parents. So, of course, I replied that I had no intention of taking over the company. At the time, I thought my father was worried about my future because I hadn't followed the pattern that most people in Japan follow, which is to go to school and get a job. So I thought he was worried about my future. Maybe that's why I thought, "Don't be ridiculous". Later, my wife told me that she talked to my father about the future when she got married during my doctoral course because she might have worried. My father said, "You will be fine because Takeshi will be able to walk through life successfully even though he does not look like that". So, I don't think he was making fun of me.
Then, while I was in Indonesia on a JICA project, my father's health suddenly took a turn for the worse, so I went home for a while. At that time, he could not say a word. I am very grateful to JICA for allowing me to spend the last two weeks with him. Shortly before he died, he took my arm and squeezed his mouth close to my ear. He even said, "I want you to..." and fell asleep. I was surprised that my father could speak when he couldn't anymore, so I'm sure I didn't just hear mishearing. But at the same time, I will never know what he was trying to tell me.
When my father asked me if I wanted to take over his company, I said no. When my wife asked my father about my future before we got married, he told her that I was fine. When I was a full-time researcher and I wanted to discuss my future, my father was already unable to think properly. I think there was something he wanted to tell me when I was working as an expert at JICA: "I want you to...", but it became a mystery to me forever.
My father was telling me that I never know for sure that tomorrow will come. That is why I did not continue as the JICA expert and why I did not go back to being a full-time researcher. I set up su-re.co to get closer to what I had been told in my early days as a researcher in an African village: "Don't just study, do something".
However, what my father was trying to tell me is something that I will think about until the day I die, and I will never have an answer. So, if there is something important that you haven't told others, it's better to tell them directly or write it down on something. That's what I remember every year around this time.