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The Last Call with Father ー A Story of "80-50 Issue" ー

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80-50 Issue

One of the main problems caused by the aging of hikikomori. It refers to the problem that arises in a family with hikikomori, of which parents are in their 80's and children are in their 50's.

 

Written by Vosot Ikeida

 

 

My parents put my family registry at their home in 2004 while I didn't know.  So I can't get into my legal permanent address.


For some reason, I had to travel through the urban space of March 2020, filled with coronavirus and flying pollen, to get a copy of my family registry at the municipal office near their house.


The copy told me they were still alive, my father is 87 and my mother is 84.  I haven't seen them for over 20 years.  I remembered the last time I spoke to my father on the phone. . . 

 

The Illness of Family

About 20 years ago, I was still trying to overcome my hikikomori situation somehow.  By changing my way of thinking, I was trying to become a person who could work normally.  I thought what I needed was psychiatric care.


But I found it strange that I go to a mental clinic alone.  If I had a problem, it had to be a family illness, not my illness.


However, we discussed it at our family meeting, and they refused to join the treatment with me, so I had no choice but to go for family therapy alone.

 

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A picture I took during the days I was expelled from my family. At that time, I could see Mt. Fuji from my window, which was a great consolation to me. - Photo by Vosot Ikeida

 

Two years passed, and the treatment for me had entered the phase where my family, especially my parents, were to join. My psychiatrist asked me to bring my father to his consultation room.


Because my mother was the main cause of my family problems, my psychiatrist, who claimed to be a family therapist, avoided her. I imagine he had adopted a strategy of burying the outside moat first to attack the castle.

 

I was thinking:

"He doesn't understand. My mother would be in a bad mood if she found out that things were going on behind her. It will be worse. So it's better to approach Mother directly, not Father now, with that kind of message. ' The psychiatrist is interested in you.' "


However, I got the wrong idea at the time:
"I'm just a patient, and the experts would know better. »
So I decided to follow the psychiatrist's instructions.
He said:
"When you call your father, don't push too hard.
Tell him like this:

If you are afraid to see my psychiatrist, you can just talk to me for five minutes in a café near the clinic, so would you come to Tokyo for me? ' "

 

After all that, I called my parents' house at 8 p.m. on Friday, November 23, 2001.

 

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Yokohama Harbor by night. My parents moved to Mother's hometown; Yokohama in 2004. It was 5 years after they cut off contact with me. At the same time, they moved my family registry there, so I can't enter my registered address even now. In March 2020, I went to Yokohama to get a copy of my family register. - Photo by Vosot Ikeida

 

The Call to Father

Calling my parents after a long interval was not an easy task.

If I dialed the number, it would automatically connect to their house, but it wasn't certain if Father would pick up.

"What can I say if Mother picks up?  What will happen if Father is already dead?  Even if Father is still alive, what shall I do if he is not capable of speaking properly? 

What worried me was that I had no idea what was going on over there.

I was sure that many people would call their relatives first in such a case and get the latest news about their parents. But I couldn't do that.

Since my childhood, my mother had never been in close contact with our relatives, therefore our family had always lived in "Splendid Isolation".  This is why I had no relatives that I could easily call once I became an adult.

So I worked out scenarios in different cases, and then I finally got my handset.

Luckily, Father took the phone.

He wasn't dead at all, and moreover, he had a much more lively voice than I'd imagined.

I was secretly happy about that.

I didn't dislike Father. I just felt sorry for him, he was always at Mother's mercy. I couldn't bear to look at him, so whenever I met him, I was hard on him.

The story of a daughter who feels sorry for her mother, who is oppressed by her father, and who has similar feelings to mine for her mother, is often told in society.

But the story of a son like me is never heard, even though there must be many others beside me.

Father had a voice more energetic than I had imagined. I quickly calculated his age in my mind. He was 68 years old.

 "I'm sick. I'd like you to come to Tokyo to see my psychiatrist."

That's how I started. Father asked carefully.

"What is the name of your illness? " 

The name of my illness...?   I mumbled it to myself.

"I wonder what it is? Come to think of it, I've been a patient to this day without knowing the exact name of my illness.  I've never heard of it, even from my psychiatrist. I have never felt the need to think about it."

Earlier on, I said "family illness", but that doesn't tell anything of the name of my illness at all.  The symptom I suffer from primarily is depression.

But today, no other illness is considered to be a "fake illness" as much as depression.

Depression seems to be at the No.1 of the list of fake illnesses that are appealed by those who want to say "I don't want to work, I want to be lazy".

I don't want to put such an unconvincing illness name.

I don't want to keep saying excuses like "I'm depressed".

Then what's this feeling of "blockage"?

What is this frustration that I feel that my brain is tied up and stopped by something?

What is that disgusting feeling like I'm biting sand and looking at the whole world through a grey filter?

If only these are improved, I don't care what the name of my illness may be.

After all, the name of the illness is just a thin thread that connects me to the insurance system. 

But Father on the phone only wanted to know the name of my illness.  With that, he would feel like he had a complete picture of my life situation.

If I told him here that I had terminal cancer or an illness that would kill me at any moment, he would come to see my doctor at my request.

He probably would have thought, "I'll come to see his doctor at least before my son dies, so I can keep my face on as a parent." 

Even depression was an illness by which one could die quickly enough, but a mental illness wouldn't work to convince everyone.

Nevertheless, I didn't want to pretend to suffer from a serious illness in order to scare Father into coming to Tokyo, because then I would become the same as Mother.

Mother had always threatened us: "I'm going to die", to make us accept her selfish demands.  I called her the Queen of Lies.

Then I replied to Father, "As for the name of my illness, I want you to ask my psychiatrist directly. "

It was like we were playing tug-of-war on the edge or trapping each other.

Father reluctantly withdrew,

"Well, I'm coming"

"How is your physical condition, isn't it bad? " 

I was asking with concern. He replied:

"Yes, I still have high blood pressure and uric acid levels, but that's not a problem when traveling to Tokyo. " 

His saying made me feel his faint intention to come to Tokyo and to see the psychiatrist. 

"Well, then, when are we going to do it? » 

"Well, I'll adjust my schedule, so call me at the same time next week. »

 "All right. 8:00 on Friday then. »

Thus, the first call ended in a normal way.

It was like a conversation between a very ordinary father and son.

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The Wall of the warehouse at Yokohama Harbor
Photo by Vosot Ikeida

The Second Call after One Week

Exactly at 8:00 p.m. the following week; on November 30, 2001, I called my parents' house again.

This time, I knew Father would answer the phone, so it was easier than before.

"Good evening, I'm here. Have you thought about a date to come to Tokyo and see my psychiatrist? »

Then I was only amazed and surprised by what Father answered. He simply said, as if the conversation of the previous week had never taken place:

"Ah, that one. I can't make it. »

The expression "I couldn't believe my ears" must have been created for an occasion like this.

I couldn't believe my ears and said quickly:

"You can't make it? What the hell do you mean by 'I can't make it'? "

“Well, I may not be feeling well or so.”

He sounded somewhat ambiguous and idle.

I mumbled to myself:

"Not feeling well?

Hadn't he just said his high blood pressure and uric acid levels were not problems at this time last week?

Even now, his voice doesn't sound like a sick person at all.

Besides, what do you mean, 'or so' ?

If he really doesn't feel well, he should clarify what is exactly wrong with him.

No, wait. I mustn't get angry here. "

 

So I decided to follow the advice of my psychiatrist here.

A baseball manager, who is sending the best pitcher he recommends to the mound with his full confidence, must feel this way.

 

If you are afraid to see my psychiatrist, you can just talk to me for five minutes in a café near the clinic, so would you come to Tokyo for me? ' "

 

He said:

"No. Impossible."

He didn't give me any clues to catch.

I was panicked.

I had no choice but to panic because my secret weapon was so easily repelled.

"You say 'impossible' ... but what on earth is impossible?  » 

"Well, I'll call you back one day."

"Call back?   When?  Will there be a 'next time'?

By the way, do you know my number? "

Neither Father nor Mother were supposed to know the phone number I was calling from.

Moreover, I was calling without notice of number.  If he was really thinking about calling me back, he would have to ask for my current number.

"Well, I have to go. I'm gonna hang up. Take care of yourself. Don't get sick or anything. »

Don't get sick or anything?

 "Wait a second... I'm calling because I'm sick. I'm calling to ask you to come to my clinic. I'm asking you to come to my psychiatrist. »

"Oh, is that it? Anyway, I have to hang up now. »

I wondered if my father was a person who understood the Japanese language.

While I was still holding the handset to my ear, he hung up suddenly, as if he was being urged by someone.

 

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Port of Yokohama - Photo by Vosot Ikeida

The Scenario Repeats

In just a week between two calls, what went through his mind?

Actually, it was easy to imagine.

I assumed that Mother must have threatened Father like this for sure.

 "He didn't tell you the name of his illness, did he? That means it's something mental.  If you go to the clinic as he asks, I'm sure that someone like a psychiatrist or counsellor will be waiting for you there, and you'll end up disclosing everything that's going on inside our house.  What would happen if the psychiatrist feels that something is wrong with our family? You'd be taken to a place like jail right away and you wouldn't get out, you know that?" »

I could well imagine the conversation between Mother and Father, because it was a pattern that had always been repeated in my family.  And I was confident that my imagination was absolutely right.

Mother was not the type to honestly ask Father, "Please don't go to his psychiatrist, because I don't want to be blamed even a little. »

Mother always acted as if there was no weakness at her side, saying, "I don't mind, but.... » 

If she does you a favor, you'll owe her one.  So she pushes through with saying "It's for your own good." She intimidates you, makes you feel guilty, and then she claims herself as a victim. She is a woman who has lived her whole life with a combination of those strategies.

Manipulated by her, Father could not get out of being a slave. 

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Port of Yokohama by Night - Photo by Vosot Ikeida

What the Document tells me?

As expected, my father never called me again.

That was the last time I heard his voice.

19 years have passed since then.

The copy of the family register given to my hands by the city officer now showed that my father was still alive at 87 years old.

This fact brought me relief. And it seemed to me that there was a small possibility of meeting them again and having a dialogue with them.


I would ask Mother.
"In fact, you know what you've done, don't you?
Or you really don't? »


I would ask Father.
"You know you always pretended not to see what was going on at home, don't you?  Or have you always believed with all your heart that what Mother said was true? »

 

And I would ask them both.
"Ever since I was a little boy, you've always beaten me with yelling like this:
' One must take responsibility for everything they say and do.  Take your responsibility! '
Now, have you taken responsibilities for everything you've said and done? "


But at the same time, it seems to me that, knowing that my parents are alive, I have just undertaken another big problem.
The most disturbing thing is that I am not sure what the problem is.

End

 

...To the Japanese Version of this article
...To the French Version of this article

 

Vosot Ikeida A hikikomori in Japan, living in Tokyo. Born in 1962. Started hikikomori in 1985, since then staying hikikomori on and off with changing its style. Founded GHO (Global Hikikomori Organisation) in 2017.

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