My husband had an ongoing off-and-on relationship with learning Japanese. He would start with a vengeance and drop in the cold. A few months or years later, he would start again until he had enough and quit.
When my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, my husband seriously wanted to communicate with him. He took out his Japanese book for the last time. He went to class. He dedicated the certain time every day. He bombarded me with questions.
He even learned to write and read.
My father was in a hospital in Japan. He could not comprehend much or recognize people. He did, however, put a smile and recognition on his face when my husband visited him.
I had to stay and watch my father when my husband declared that he was hungry. I had some snack, but he wanted a real food. I told him that a cafeteria was on the top floor. The thing was, though, the place was a self-serve place, and you had to buy a ticket and bring it to the counter. The menu was all in Japanese and nobody spoke or understood English. He said he could do it by himself, waved my worry off and trotted.
When he came back, about a half hour later, he told me what happened in detail. How he was able to read some, knew which one to order and presented the ticket to a lady at the counter, who was astonished to see a gaijin ordering and eating oyakodon with chopsticks by himself. He and I were both so proud of him.
My husband never had a conversation with my father but wrote a letter in Japanese to him. That letter was laid beside my father in the coffin at the funeral.
You never know what you can accomplish with determination and 137 kanji.