One more farewell
In the February 2007 issue of The Bulletin, Midge Ayukawa penned a moving tribute to her old friend Tom Shoyama, calling him, “our national treasure.”
In the piece, she touched on his accomplishments, but focused more on his humanity and what he meant to her as mentor and friend. In one of my favourite passages she wrote, “We played Trivial Pursuit until the wee hours of the morning. One evening a number of us after dinner tried to figure out the intricacies of hanafuda while Tom quietly observed us. Then he said, ‘We used to play gaji in Kaslo.’ And he showed us how to slam the cards on the table, and what cards formed sets, etc. It was a hilarious evening that we vowed we would repeat, but regretfully, never did.”
This month, we pay tribute to Midge herself, who passed away on October 24 in Victoria.
Born in 1930, she lived a rich, eventful life, devoting much of the latter part of that life to supporting and documenting the Nikkei community. She gave generously of her time, her passion and her intellect, making many strong friendships along the way.
I can’t say I knew Midge well, but I enjoyed the few times we met.
I interviewed Midge many years ago at her apartment in Victoria. One thing that always stuck with me was her comment that leaving the camp after the restrictions were lifted was the scariest thing she ever experienced. She told me that when she opened her mouth to speak she never knew what was going to come out. She explained that as kids in the camps they spoke their own brand of English mixed with Japanese and that she was terrified that she couldn’t speak either proper English or Japanese anymore. To me, that one statement encapsulated the many paradoxes of the internment experience.
Midge was a national treasure in her own right. We are the poorer for her passing.