Crossing the rainbow: A story about Grandma Taki and me and Irabu Bridge by Karakuri Mano

[Okinawa prefecture]



I cross a rainbow every day.

Every day; never miss it.


The name of that rainbow is “Irabu Brige;” it is a very big bridge which connects Miyako Island and Irabu Island. This rainbow spans the blue and beautiful sea, and I cross it to see Grandma Taki on Irabu Island every day.


Before, you could only come and go between Miyako and Irabu by riding a ferryboat. The two islands are not so far apart, and the trip only took ten minutes, but I find riding on a boat very difficult. That is why from the time I was born I always prayed, “Let there be a bridge built as soon as possible.”


“That bridge been delayed again,” my Grandma Taki would always moan.


Girders would be built out in the ocean to be the foundation of the bridge. Then the road on top would grow out from both sides. When they were connected in the middle, the bridge would be done, but its progress was slow like a snail.


Finally, after many many months and years, the bridge was completed. And when it was done, to me it looked like a rainbow. I mean, it was a big bridge; 3,540 meters long. I think it might just be bigger than a real rainbow.


“Now that the bridge is done, ain’t no need to ride the ferry no more. Koro, you comin’ with me to Miyako, right?”


My name is Koro. I’m a mutt. From the time I was born, I had always lived with Grandma Taki on Irabu Island. But now I live with her daughter Mama Ryoko on Miyako Island.


You see, my dear Grandma Taki died two years ago in the typhoon.


          *


Grandma Taki was born on Irabu Island a long, long time ago. Even after she married Grandpa Goro, she kept on living on Irabu Island. Grandpa Goro was a fisherman and an expert at catching skipjack tuna, but he went off to heaven before I was born. That’s why I’d only ever met him through pictures, but because Grandma Taki talked about him so much, I knew him well. Grandma Taki always loved Grandpa Goro, even after he died.


Grandma Taki also had three children. Her two boys lived in Tokyo and Osaka; only her daughter stayed in Okinawa. But that daughter – Mama Ryoko – left Irabu when she went looking for work and moved to Miyako. Some time after that, I became Grandma Taki’s “new family.” But after Grandma Taki became a star in the sky, I moved into Mama Ryoko’s house on Miyako Island.


Mama Ryoko is also very nice, and her family welcomed me. I am very happy, and spend my days having fun. But I lived with Grandma Taki from the time that I was born and I had wanted to live with Grandma Taki forever. Because she had worked since she was a child (doing things like taking the shipjack tuna Grandpa Goro caught and turning it into dried katsuobushi flakes), Grandma Taki’s fingers were thick and wrinkled, but when she petted me those hands were warm. So very warm. I had wanted to be Grandma Taki’s fourth child forever.


After Grandma Taki died, I couldn’t eat so much for awhile and made Ryoko Mama worry something fierce. It was so nice of her to nurse me all those months until I got better.


Now I even go on daily walks. But, and this has got to be a total secret from Mama Ryoko now, I liked living on Irabu better than Miyako. You know, because Irabu’s a small island, you can walk all the way around it if you have about an hour.


Right nearby is an island called Shimoji, and it’s connected to Irabu with a short bridge, but it takes a little more time going all the way over there. Shimoji’s got an airport, and because it was used to train pilots, we used to go there all the time to watch the big planes fly.


“How do those hunks of iron stay up in the sky I wonder?”


Grandma Taki never flew on a plane. She always used to say, “Before I die I’m gonna have to ride one,” but her wish never came true. That’s very sad.


          *


Grandma Taki died on the day of that terrible typhoon.


Rain fell so hard you couldn’t see in front of you and the wind blew so fierce it knocked down telephone poles. Now Grandma Taki was a tough person, but even someone as tough as her couldn’t beat a typhoon.


That day, Grandma Taki went to see a tree she was worried about at the edge of her sugarcane field. That tree had been planted by Grandpa Goro on their wedding anniversary and after fifty years it had grown mighty big, but there was one branch that looked like it was going to give in to the sea wind and break. Grandma Taki went out to tie that branch down with a rope.


But that day the winds truly blew something awful, and a sheet of corrugated iron from some shack somewhere came flying in. And it hit that strong body of Grandma Taki’s.


Seeing Grandma Taki lying unmoving on the road, wet with rain, I ran and I ran to get help. Old Man Gushi from the Gushis next door quickly noticed things and called an ambulance for Grandma Taki. But the doctor at the clinic made a sad face and said, “We can’t fix this on this island.” Grandma Taki’s injury needed a big machine to fix, but it wasn’t on Irabu Island.


They talked about bringing her by boat to the big hospital on Miyako, or even carrying her by helicopter to Okinawa Island. But with the weather that day neither boat nor helicopter could go out.


And on the night of that day, Grandma Taki was called to Heaven.


          *


Now Grandma Taki is with Grandpa Goro under a big stone in the backyard. I get sad when I think that if the bridge had been finished the day of that typhoon, she could have gone to the hospital on Miyako by ambulance and might still be alive today. But Grandma Taki’s there whenever I go to that big stone, and I go to visit her every day.


Now a family that came from the mainland lives in Grandma Taki’s house. The family has a dog named Luna, and I get to eat with her when I go visit. Luna’s a girl beagle, and while she’s much cuter than a mixed breed like me, her owner doesn’t play favorites. Her owner is a diving instructor and moved here because he loves Irabu’s ocean and coral.


Today, too, I will cross the rainbow to go to Irabu. To see Grandma Taki’s friendly smile on the other side.

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