Eric Paul Michaelsen, now 20 and a junior at Kalamazoo College, called me on the morning of August 31 to say he was leaving for Japan. He will be there through March 2008. This will be the third time he has been to Japan but the longest stay. He will be one of many Michigan students at the university in Hikone, which is a city in Shiga Prefecture.
The Japanese call their states prefectures. With Japan’s largest inland lake, Shiga has a sister-state relationship with Michigan and the capital, Otsu, has a sister-city relationship with Lansing, Michigan’s state capital. Shiga includes the historic Japanese capital, Kyoto.
Usually, I have to call Eric to talk with him. He will always be my younger child, glad to help, whether the chore is cleaning behind the oven, picking up dog droppings in the yard or serving as my chauffer when my car broke down in Lansing early this year.
Both of my sons, Jens and Eric, have worked, too. For several years, Eric was a paper boy in Lansing. He has delivered pizzas and worked retail. In the summer of 2006, he was a Park Ranger at a Michigan state park. Last summer, he was a janitor at Kalamazoo.
Eric has always been more like me than his older brother, Jens. Like me, he was an actor in high school drama productions, is a word and picture guy and speaks a foreign language. Like me, he is a fan of old movies. Like me, he has a tendency to act smarter than he really is, using big words when little words will do. A friend of Jens coined a phrase that stuck to Eric: EGB. Eric Genius Boy.
Eric is majoring in Japanese and English. My stated preference was that he should attend the University of Wisconsin to study Japanese, but Kalamazoo College was closer to his home in Lansing. Michigan State University was too close.
Jens is in Hawaii; Eric is in Japan. It is ironic that they are now separated by the largest ocean in the world after being nearly inseparable as children.