I received an email from my cousin this morning that her father passed away. At the age of 97, he was the last living Sasaki of my mother’s generation, my Uncle Cold-Outside.
Though I feel a huge sadness for my cousin’s loss and for the loss of a generation, I’d like to share a happy memory of my uncle–how he came to be “Uncle Cold-Outside.”
My mother was the youngest of nine Sasaki children. In fact, her next oldest brother was eight years older. From my earliest recollection, she told my four siblings and me that as the children of the youngest Sasaki child, we were not allowed to call our uncles by their Japanese names. She said it would be disrespectful. So, we called them by nicknames–like Uncle Fizzer–or “American” names, like Uncle Harvey. In fact, we called our mother’s oldest brother simply “Uncle.”
When we were young children, my uncles who were still single often helped my mother take care of us five children while my dad was overseas with the Air Force. You can imagine what a handful we must have seemed to a single man who didn’t have much experience with children, and I have great admiration that they tried to help their baby sister.
I can still remember my uncle responding to our whines of wanting to go outside saying, “No, it’s cold outside. Too cold outside.” And that’s how he got his name. Uncle Cold-Outside. I called him that even in my adult years, and though I hadn’t seen him for many years, I still addressed my Christmas cards to him that way.
My mother’s generation was a proud generation–Nisei–children born of Japanese immigrants. They were the generation that bridged our Japanese heritage with American culture.
I hope my cousins and I have learned enough from our parents to remember our heritage and pass it on to our children and grandchildren.
Rest in peace, Uncle Cold Outside. And may God bless the Sasaki Nisei generation.