My Memorial Day is well-nigh done, 8 pm in Japan, but the day is just starting for Americans ready to barbeque and shop and make speeches. I’m listening to Lina Sastri and drinking an Asahi Super Dry and missing my husband, who is deployed on a U.S. Navy ship. My Japanese teacher asked me this afternoon where he was and all I could say was umi ni (in the sea). I’m not sure if that’s grammatical. Perhaps it sounded a bit ominous and Jules Verne-ish. She didn’t correct me. She tends to take pity on me by the end of class, allowing me to chat in horrid Japanese, crashing around in her language while drinking green tea and eating traditional snacks that she picks out in order to offer me something new each week. She’s lovely.

I love her most for teaching me words that make Japanese people laugh at me. Recently she taught me the proper word for cold water, ohiya, and I tried it out in a restaurant. The waitress looked at me and politely giggled, but she did bring me cold water. I asked my teacher about this at the next class, and she explained that many Japanese people don’t use that word anymore and just say omizu (the general term for water). She admitted that a waitress hearing a gaikokujin using a somewhat overpolite and old-fashioned word might feel a bit amused and disconcerted. The fact that my teacher sends me out into the world with words to disconcert her fellow Japanese is delightful and makes me adore her. Why learn current Japanese when you can sound like a courteous old fart?

But I digress…

Lina Sastri is a hot, throaty singer who reinterprets Neapolitan songs. Go get her album Maruzzella and play it out the window as you sit outside—at dusk, drinking wine—with a lover. Lina is singing for me today because my husband and I were once stationed in Naples. I’m remembering my man in our favorite local restaurant, the one where they no longer bothered to bring us the menu. We’d just tell them if we were extra hungry or normal hungry and they would make us up whatever was best that day. Perhaps we would eat mixed vegetable contorni, a light pasta, and a whole grilled orata. Sometimes we would look up, olive oil glossing our lips, and grin at each other recognizing our ridiculous good luck.

For tonight, Asahi Super Dry, in a portion-controlled can, will have to do. If I open a bottle of wine I will finish it, if you know what I mean. My husband has been gone for a week and won’t be back for months. The seventh day is hard because my mind and body finally wake up to the fact that he’s just not coming home any time soon.

It sucks that he’s gone, but he’s not in Iraq. That’s how military spouses cope: “Well, at least he isn’t…”. There are levels of danger and anxiety. Currently, I’m only allowed a low 3 or 4 out of 10 on the spouse anxiety whining. He’s on a ship, which is dangerous in the sense that a floating factory filled with explosives is dangerous. Besides the obvious things like industrial accidents and the fatty food they serve in the mess, there’s the crazy fact that people tend to fall off ships. People fall off for many reasons, sometimes on purpose. Their shipmates try to find them, but sometimes they don’t. Still, my husband is not in Iraq. Spouses of Marines or Army infantry in Iraq get the big 10 anxiety ticket. And for those in the big 10, I send my thoughts out to you, and I hope you have a drug that works for you: wine, Ding Dongs, devoting yourself to your children, surfing the Web, exercise, shopping, whatever gets you by.

I don’t care to pontificate about Memorial Day itself except to say, remember. Please do your best to remember those who have done and are doing the hard work of war, whether or not you like the work being done. Plus, it’s good to be reminded that little worries, like getting a good parking space at the mall or conjugating Japanese verbs, should be savored. To worry is to be alive.

Baby, don’t stand too close to the rails.

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