The Matsuokas was a father and a son. The father single-handedly built a business of manufacturing and distributing construction machinery. His son first worked for a different company to gain experience before working with his father. The son was often cheerful toward us, but it felt superficial and forced. As soon as his father opened his mouth, the son was dead serious, very polite and formal, speaking in the respect form that was normally used toward the elderly of non-family members. I sensed the son had great respect and fear toward his father and something profoundly vulnerable deeper under the layers of the facade. I wondered if he really wanted to work for his father. Maybe he felt obligated as a son and had accepted his fate but was very sad about it.
The father was about 70 years old, looked like a well-groomed skeleton. He was serious but not neurotic, domineering but not arrogant. I didn’t like him at first because he didn’t take me seriously and teased me for my naivety. I would speak back at him, which encouraged him to taunt me even more. One time in our usual verbal sparring, I uttered, “kuso jiji!!” meaning, shitty old man. Mama and the son froze for a moment, and then the father burst into laughter. He remembered this for a long time, and he’d bring this up whenever he wanted to laugh at me.
I eventually became aware that the father was one of Kubo’s most loyal customers and was mama’s reliable confidant. He also became the most generous supporter of the young staff at Kubo. Like the IT company CEO who gave me a translation job, the Matsuoka father gave me an easy job to help a part of his business and paid me generously. He was a father figure to us, and when we finished college and left Kubo, he sponsored the leaving party for us and gave us graduation gift money.
Matsuoka father had traditional patriarchal views and thought his responsibility as the man of the house was to bring home enough money for his wife to look after the household and family. I once saw his wife, who was a stern-looking woman. He also talked of his views on tax as “pay what he owes to the country” instead of saving. He never drank too much or insulted us or others. He always left by 10 pm, leaving his son behind who could then relax.
As for the son, he was the happiest when he talked about his family. He married a woman who had been married before and had two teenage daughters. His wife was a beautiful woman with vibrant energy, and drank beer and sang karaoke when he came to Kubo. He had a daughter with her and doted on the 7-year-old.
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