We got on the road later yesterday than we had planned, but we arrived at U's parents' place mid-afternoon. Any awkwardness was quickly abated when U tried to enter the house by one of the sliding doors on the side - and his mother and I simultaneously reprimanded him, saying we should enter the house properly by the front door. U just shrugged his shoulders, seemingly unsure why such formality was needed, while his mother and I laughed.
My chocolates were a big hit, his sister particularly pleased with the nuts on the one she chose. We chatted a bit over iced coffee, talking about ice hockey and Toshogu shrines - at which point I somewhat tongue-in-cheek apologized for the strange hobbies I was causing U to pick up. His mother laughed and his sister said "not at all, I'm just happy that my big brother has found somebody that fits him so well!"
The four of us headed out to U's aunt and uncle's house on the other side of the stream to visit his grandmother - a tiny old woman curled under a fuzzy blanket in a hospital-type bed set up in a tatami room in the house. She was overjoyed to meet me, repeatedly reaching out a shaking hand to clasp mine and shake it much more vigorously than her frail body seemed capable of! Over and over again she thanked me for visiting and entrusted U to me (U ha yoroshiku oneigai shimasu). As we were about to leave she gripped my hand and leaned towards me, looking me straight in the eyes and said "I must get better very quickly so that we can all go to the restaurant down the street together." I squeezed her hand and assured her that I looked forward to going to the restaurant with her, and yes, she had better get better soon. As we then left I heard her saying to U's younger sister that "U's bride (oyomei-san) looks very kind, doesn't she?!" Apparently she followed this up with a vow to get better very quickly so that she could attend the wedding. (ummm... wedding? ummmm....)
Having had a quick cup of tea with U's aunt and uncle the two of us then escaped for a wander around his old neighbourhood - the local shrine and a big park just a few minutes walk away. We found a bench in one part of the park, overlooking a large grassy area dotted with young families playing catch, running about, and chasing dogs. As the sun set, however, it got a bit chilly - and then we were dive-bombed by a toy airplane so we decided to head back.
U's father arrived home and the five of us headed to the nearby restaurant (I somehow felt guilty that I wasn't waiting for grandma to get better and join us!). Dinner went over well, conversation and much laughing. The best part of the evening, however, came when we went back to the house and U's father pulled out the old home movies and his mother pulled out U's (very dusty) baby albums! U and I had a great time looking at his old photos and we all laughed over movies of the other baby sister making a mess of a rapidly melting popsicle, and of U pulling a minor temper-tantrum when he couldn't quite get the hang of riding his bike.
U and I headed off to repeated requests from the entire family to come again soon - and promises for his mother, sister, and I to go to an ume-shu bar I know in Tokyo! U's mother later texted him to thank him for the visit, saying that him bringing me for a visit was the best mother's day gift she had ever gotten.
I'd say the day was a success, eh?