We hugged the poles on the train on the way down from busy, crowded Tokyo, through the packed subway stations deep underground, until we passed the crowded people in the little town stations above ground. The land got a little bit higher and the houses got a little bit thinner and the five of us, my sister-in-law, my son, my husband, me and you, moved quickly and sedately in the way that the Japanese people do, to the east, and farther to the east, the train stretching towards the mountains.
I had had dinner with my sister-in-law the night before, in a tiny little ramen restaurant, off of a busy Tokyo street and a few blocks from our hotel. We each had a drink, and I wondered if this would be the last one for a while. Even then, even this early, I thought that you were there.
The length of the train stopped beside the Mount Takao stop, and I scooped up my oldest from the white plastic seats where he had played the whole time, where he had almost fallen off on every sudden stop. The whole way down, the Japanese travelers had alternated being amazed by his cuteness and astonished by his loudness.
We stopped for food at the base of the mountain, Japanese pasta that they try to make in an American style for all the tourists. I had not yet started getting sick from you yet (that would come a couple weeks later), so I ate more then I should have before a mile long round trip up a mountain. My oldest threw it on the ground and spilled the water, and we cleaned it up the best we could. It was not anywhere near the cleanliness that the immaculate Japanese require, but we tried and then exited quickly.
I had not yet gotten back into shape after my first baby, and that was made clear too quickly as we started the uphill climb; dad pushing the oldest, my sister-in-law, me with you. The climb was steep and full of switchbacks, and soon my calves were screaming. My oldest started to protest at his confinement in the stroller, my sister-in-law started pulling ahead, and we, you and me, lagged behind.
But we climbed Mount Takao, slowly and with rests for me. We saw its shrines and steps, its steep hills and small, green riverbanks. And at the end we reached the top of the mountain, and the mountain ranges of the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National park stretched out in front of us. And at the very edges, in the blue jagged haze of the faraway mountains, we could barely see Mount Fuji.
And afterwards, when I faced the memories again, I realized that this, this hard, short climb up this mountain outside of Tokyo, was the biggest adventure I would have with you. That you stayed with me long enough to do this climb, to see this mountain range together. Maybe then you thought you’d seen enough, been enough places, and couldn’t think what else you could possibly do.
I could think about Father’s Day, a month or so later, how I went to the bathroom and started gushing blood and how I knew immediately that you had let go. I could think about the ER trip and the long nights afterward. But I’d rather think about that day, when we climbed that mountain in the capital of the far east, finally coming to the top together where we could barely see Mount Fuji in the mist.
Now that was a day to remember.