Today we went to visit the family's grave. We went a few months ago too, but I was very new then and didn't really know what was going on. It took a while to figure out that the whole family has only one grave with one gravestone and, as family members pass away, their ashes are all put into the same grave. Also, I felt a little strange because they are Buddhists and I'm not, so I felt like maybe I shouldn't be doing anything. I thought they might not like it because I'm not Buddhist. But today was completely different. I got introduced to the "rest of the family"—the grandparents who passed away, quite a while ago, I think.
Just like last time, they pulled weeds and washed the family gravestone, but now I feel more comfortable with the family, so I helped. When we finished cleaning, okaasan poured a can of beer over the gravestone and started talking. At first I thought she was talking to one of us. She said, "Here we are, back again." But then she went on, "We brought you some beer. We remember how much you like it," and I realized she was talking to ojiisan, the grandfather who they had said was a real beer lover. I thought it was interesting that okaasan was talking to someone who was dead, like he was right there and might answer, but then she introduced me as a new family member!
She said she was sorry they hadn't introduced me the last time, and he and obaasan, the grandmother, must have been wondering who I was, but I was their new daughter-in-law. The thing that really grabbed me was her saying they probably had figured out that I was one of the family because I was there cleaning the grave too. She called me uchi no mono (an "inside" family member). Then otoosan lit a handful of incense sticks and we squatted down in front of the gravestone and prayed. They didn't seem to mind that I wasn't a Buddhist. It was more like remembering the grandparents, who they were, and what they were like.
Tonight during dinner everyone talked about ojiisan and obaasan . Now, in a strange way, I feel like I've met them too. Today was the first time since I've been here that I really felt like they were including me as a family member.