CROSSROADS TO SOMEWHERE: Flu Shot Affects the Psyche


(First published in
The Rafu Shimpo on Sept. 28, 2011.)


[I’ve been stabbed. I feel faint. Unable to reach land line to call 911. Dumbski, why don’t you carry a cellphone? The pain is indescribable. But not inscrutable. I think my upper arm is going numb. If this is the end, amen and so be it. I leave you in good spirits and bravely. Where best and most appropriately than at the keyboard of my faithful Dell? Before it is too late and I fall into unconsciousness, let me finger the culprit: a flu shot!]

While not the bravest creature extant, I’m not a wimp either by any stretch of a cowardly imagination. “Women and children first” has always been the credo, whether it be catastrophe or Santa Claus. Only problem now is getting used to the deference category of “elderly.” I mean, geez, where once I politely stepped aside automatically without hesitation, now the sea of courtesy parts at the sight of a cane. Even at the airport.

What makes aging such a surprise, as far as I’m concerned, is it sneaks up on you like a boa constrictor (or dandruff). Puberty was left with voice change; innocence reading Mike Hammer; Japaneseness was manifested in a wartime relocation center; maturity came in uniform. There simply was no run-up to getting old, no 1-2-3 steps of preparation.

As far as I was concerned, the progression was further marred by the fact I was always the youngest, the “hiyoko,” at every important stage of life: early kindergarten, skipping a school grade, service time from 17. I believe the only time I was late was when born. (And once for a re-enlistment appointment that turned out to be fortuitous; the difference between Korea ’50 and college graduation ’53.) Everyone was always older. A hex, rather than a virtue.

Today, with more to look back on than forward, there is a degree of ambivalence and concern. Glasses can help one’s eyesight, a hearing aid, (teeth) implants and pills for whatever else may be of concern. Unfortunately there is no proven pharmaceutical for one’s physical and mental well-being. If one chooses to be optimistic in the face of AARP, banzai! (Considering membership begins at 50, it’s like Station One at the foot of Fujiyama.)

CR2S has been acting as marriage counselor, caregiver advisor and crisis manager recently, unlicensed to be any and all. Just goes to show age does give some credence to being learned and worthy of near-guru status. Or simply being a windbag who is listened to out of sheer courtesy and kindness. Whatever.

I bring this up to prop up a flagging confidence or fear of becoming irrelevant, the worst kind of anxiety for a senior (or junior, for that matter). Forget the graying hair, stooped posture and loss of agility (amongst other items in the lost-but-not-found department), remember you possess that treasured asset called “experience.” It can’t be created, purchased or borrowed. It’s that elusive wealth only time can issue and compound.  Fortunately (for us) there is no shortcut or fast track. Tenure, the only commodity without a price.

So what is prompting this impromptu pep talk? Did the flu serum flow into a cranial channel affecting my composure? The hatred of a needle affect my rationality? Or none of the preceding?

Methinks it is well-intentioned but also probably self-serving.

While attempting to aid and comfort the aforementioned trio of advice seekers, CR2S wondered whether referral to qualified professionals wasn’t the proper way to go? Was unintended harm a possibility? Yeah. But. You know. Or do you really?

So, I don’t feel so hot. But only physically. Mentally I’m okay, I think. And the way things have been going lately, I don’t mind being around for a little longer. So B.H. Obama has failed to live up to all of the ’08 hype and Arab Spring may well become a winter of discontent. When the last of the Nisei is laid to rest, bless her/him and the generation. Whether we survived the rigors of a relocation center or concentration camp will not be important. What matters is we survived and thrived.  And handed off a legacy.

Not bad for a minority of a minority that stood straight and tall, against all odds. Time doesn’t matter in baseball, but is all important in prison. Whatever was our allotted interval, let’s make the most of what is left in a productive manner.

I’ve already made a contribution:  I won’t be giving someone the flu this season. Don’t you think that should earn me a gold star? Or a song of my own?


W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached by email. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.



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