Hiroshima + Don’s love remembered

I post this as a memory from my dear who remembers none of it now. In his honour, in honour of his love for Susie, and for truth.

In Japan on a tour to Korea in 1952 or 1953, in the navy base at Sasibo, at 18 or 19, Don had his first deep sexual love. Susie, she said to call her, who worked in a house, but insisted the other girls leave him alone for her.

Susie fed him noodles and scolded him and made him take his shoes off on the paper floor, and enticed him take those deep Japanese baths, (scrubbed him clean she did!) and they giggled and loved all night. The image i get is of two kids in love in terrible circumstances. For him it was unimaginably wonderful.

I do not believe don at that time, or maybe ever, had the experience to imagine what this was like for Susie. She was sent to work in the house by her father, to save the rest of the family in the immediate economic aftermath of a disastrous war. I don’t know if she loved him as he did her, innocently, and deeply. I do imagine Susie thought Don-san would get her out of there , as she deserved and i expect he intended to, but he was really only a boy, and an unsophisticated boy – part Metis – from the backwoods of Ontario.

One night 3 or 4 young Japanese men showed up, and Susie told Don to get in the car with them. She waved goodbye.

They drove for a long while and went to Nagasaki. The young men had Don get out and just….look. No words, no anger, no emotion, nothing but the terrible devastation.

Then they drove him back to Susie. No words were ever spoken about this between them.

Weeks later, Don’s ship departed with no warning, no time to tell Susie what was happening. Go, or desert into a war-ravished foreign land. I don’t think disobedience crossed his mind, ever. But anguish was unmistakable. I expect that was why the orders came so quickly – no time to disobey.

Don never saw Susie again, had no way to communicate with her, no language, no name, no address. But in his old age he yearned for her, his lost love, that sweet first love of youth. I expect, I hope, we all have some secret sweet memories tucked away, that we visit in the private parts of our minds.

When the ship arrived at Hiroshima on their Japanese trip, Don refused to join the sight-seeing tour. He had had his eyes opened already, by those mysterious friends of his lost friend.


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4 responses to “Hiroshima + Don’s love remembered

  1. Anonymous

    Yes, we all have secret memories tucked away in the private parts of our minds; it’s part of the bittersweet aspect of being human. XOX. pgs

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  2. Ingmar Lee

    Wow, what a story! Very conscientious of Susie to set up that trip to Nagasaki. You say that no words were ever spoken of this, so did Don never speak about that trip to you or anyone else Delores?


  3. He talked about it to me – I meant the young men said nothing and Susie said nothing. And Don himself wrote about it in his early memoir “Going Away to Sea” — he only got up to about age 25 before the dementia got too strong for him to write anymore….


  4. Tress Backhouse

    After a sad and terrible experience and loss this last week, I now begin to realise that our lives are fragmented into sections . Some are longer or more emotionally fraught than others . It is good that you accept that earlier times in a persons life have their own growth and significance. This type of experience was common in wartime , which does not. lessen the individual impact . or the love felt at the time.
    It is brave of you to accept and record this , and especially to understand..
    With affection.

    Liked by 1 person