Friday, December 15, 2023

Saying Goodbye To Helen


“We turn our thoughts to yesterday…

To a world that lives only in our memory.

As we recall the days gone by,

We know the past is irretrievable.

Yet, through the gift of memory,

We recapture treasured moments and images.

We are thankful for the happiness we knew

With those no longer here,

With whom we lived, and laughed and loved.” Evelyn Mehlman


From my blog:

Dec. 15, 2023

 I have often written about our  dearest family friend Helen Tanabe. She was my mother's best friend. Every year in early March we would celebrate Helen's birthday. I received word last night that Helen had passed away the day before. Her daughter told me that she was transitioning in the last two weeks and finally she just drifted away in her sleep. Although it should not have come as a shock, it did. It just seemed she was someone that was a constant and would always be around. Helen was 106 years old. In the last two years she was bedridden but still joyful and funny. She was like a 2nd mother to my siblings and myself. She met my mother in Texas. Her husband Tad and my dad were both in the army and stationed at Fort Sam Houston. Helen and my mom were both pregnant with their first child at the same time. They gave birth to daughters (myself and Helen's daughter Jill) in the same hospital a week apart. Both families moved to East Los Angeles in the 1950's and lived a few miles apart. Helen and Tad did not have a car and because the two families were like two peas in a pod with Helen and my mom and Tad and my dad being best friends we did everything together. That meant going to each others houses all the time. Helen had two children Kent and Jill and at the time my parents had me and my brother Randy Yamadera. It was perfect because the parents met every friday to play cards and the kids would play together. Sundays meant church in Little Tokyo and then sunday family dinners together. On saturdays the dad's would go fishing and take the kids to Hollenbeck park and in the summers the two families would vacation together. The boys played community sports and boy scouts together. One car meant cramming both families into the car with camping gear, fishing poles and suit-cases for vacations to San Francisco, Yosemite, Lake Arrowhead. When I was about 10 years old Helen's daughter and I took ballet classes together. The mom's would take us and talk and catch up on their work etc. About two years later the moms decided to take ballet classes with us. We were all inseparable. It was the best childhood family connection. All of this to say we were close and when Helen's husband passed away and then my parents passed, Helen missed them all greatly. She was however always cheery and positive and in retirement worked on her beloved jigsaw puzzles and later still became addicted to Korean Soap operas. We would join her in jigsaws after every birthday celebration and she was like a cheerleader when we'd put a piece in. She'd always say "See you're really good at this!." I'm sure Helen was greeted heartily by her beloved Tad and my mom and dad. They probably said "It's about time. Now we can start the party!" I'm posting some of our celebrations through the years with Helen. PS for my sisters birthday last week my daughter Aria made a video tribute from friends and family. The video begins with Helen singing Happy Birthday to Jocelyn. She sang the whole song ! Priceless.

I just have to share one more Helen story.  Dec. 17 Yesterday my sister Jocelyn and her husband Vicente, Mike and I brought lunch to Helen's daughter Jill and her husband Bobby. It was an afternoon where we sat around and reminisced and ate and laughed. The funniest remembrances from this year's 106th birthday gathering were brought up. I have to share a couple of stories. She was bed ridden for the past two years and so we gathered around her at her bedside. Vicente was wearing a bold striped shirt and she looked at him and said "I'm sorry to tell you this but you were wearing that shirt the last time you were here!" We all laughed and wondered if she was remembering correctly. We hadn't come for her 104th and 105th bdays because of covid lock down. So the last time was when she turned 103.     Funny enough Vicente was wearing a sweater not the striped shirt. Just had to check because knowing Helen she could have remembered correctly! Also Vicente had lost some weight and the shorts he was wearing were slipping down to the floor. He said "Oh my goodness!" Helen said "What's wrong Vicente?" and he said "My shorts are too big and they just fell down!" Helen didn't miss a beat and said "Well if I had known that I would have sat up!" That's our Helen. Even at 106 she made us laugh.

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