Group of Four

One of my friends is the 76-year-old Mr. M. I think I became acquainted with him seven or eight years ago, but I am always amazed because he is such a healthy chap. He walks quickly and eats well. I have never seen him leave any of his lunch at the golf course. Moreover, wherever it might be, if he feels sleepy, he has a doze. I have never once heard him say anything negative.

Before we realized what was happening, a group of four friends was formed. To put it simply, we played golf and drank together. The other two members of the group are Mr. S and Mr. O. Mr. O is a dentist, and Mr. S was living a quiet life in retirement. I say “was” because Mr. S passed away four years ago. So really the “group of four” became the “group of three.” When we play golf, we ask a congenial companion to join us as a guest. The three of us enjoy a drink or two together, albeit irregularly.

Mr. S, who passed away, was a warmhearted and kind fellow. From a certain time his voice became hoarse, and he began to sound just like Marlon Brando in The Godfather. Our group of four was devastated to hear that he had a malicious cancer of the pharynx. For a brief time after he had left hospital following tests, he played golf with us. He was obviously delighted to be one of our foursome again and to be swathed in encouragement from the other three of us.

“Wada-san,” Mr. S said to me once, “today is the last time I’ll be playing golf.” After that, Mr. S told me something very sad indeed. When I phoned him at home, he announced, “Tomorrow I’m having an operation to remove my vocal chords, so today is the last time that you will hear my voice.” Mr. S died about three months later.

In our group, we never ask any questions about personal history or what people are doing and where. It is a very warm group in which we face one another as human beings and enjoy our trust in one another. I was surprised when Mr. S’s obituary was carried in three large newspapers. I had not had the slightest idea that he had been engaged in such important work and had achieved such a reputation. The four of us had maintained a perfectly natural relationship. Mr. S was 72 when he passed away.

As for Mr. M, I know that he retired after working as a managing director and head of sales at a major general contractor. But that of course means nothing at all, because we are just natural friends. Mr. M hails from Miyazaki, and once, when Mr. S was still well, 11 of us went on a golf trip to Miyazaki. It was then that I realized just what a heavyweight Mr. M was. He was so popular that everywhere we went, people would call out to him. And he would reply with a beaming smile, “Hello! Hello!” Anyway, he seemed to attract people just like a magnet.

This Mr. M is a big fan of local electricity shops. Recently, after asking for my advice, he purchased an LCD TV and was amazed by the beauty of the picture. “Certainly it would have been cheaper if I had bought it in one of those large discount stores,” he said passionately about his experience, “but the service there is so poor. Local electricity shops are kinder and more reliable, so in the long run they are cheaper.” I also sense that an age of specialist shops in confrontation with the large discount stores is coming, and I expressed my agreement to Mr. O.

Mr. M is 76, Mr. O is 68, and I am 61. Amid the warm spring weather, our “group of four” is flying high.