I accompanied Antione (pronounced Antwan) on the piano while he was an undergraduate student at ETBU, where I work. He plays Euphonium and he was a delight to work with. He worked hard and finally finished his Bachelor's degree and has been accepted into the Master's of Music program.
I have the greatest respect for Antione. As a teenager he went to a school where, because he tried hard, did better than anyone else. His two best friends decided they would rather deal in drugs. Trying at all put him out ahead of most of his classmates.
But it was not as good as he thought, because when he began to attend college, he realized he was academically behind his fellow classmates. He shared with me how angry and cheated he felt. But he did not quit. He struggled, and after wondering if he was going to make it, finally graduated this past December.
Antione told me that his eventual goal is to teach at a high school like the one he attended and prepare those children so the odds won't be as great against them as they were for him.
And even if those students are in a low performing school, their odds won't be as great as Antione's.
Because when Antione was six years old he lived in a trailer with his mother and older brother. While he was asleep in bed, the trailer caught fire. His brother managed to pull him out even though he was trapped in a room which had become a fiery furnace, and saved his life, but the incident left Antione with profound scarring on his face and body. He could have just decided to take a ride on the disability card, but he didn't.
If I may say so, Antione is my hero and I wanted to share his story. The above photo shows him at his graduation this past December where he was surprised by an uncle who, though on duty, arrived from the Army to see him graduate. One hero embracing another.
Chronicle of My Mother by Yasushi Inoue
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In the book, Shirobamba, we read about Yasushi Inoue's childhood in a small village in Japan, while the world is on the cusp of WWI and an era is about to be wiped away worldwide. Shirobamba's story of everyday life in Japan preserves a culture and time period that was soon gone.
In Shirobamba we briefly meet Inoue's mother, when she is young and beautiful, whom he does not live with, because she and his father live in Tokyo, where his father is an army doctor. Apparently having more than one child was too much for his mother to cope with so she sent him back where he is raised by Granny, a woman he is not related to but was once his great-grandfather's mistress.
His mother comes one time to the village and makes it her mission to make everyone miserable. Everyone needs to be corrected and reproved for all their deficiencies, of which, according to his mother are many. We see a domineering, self-absorbed woman who is unpleasant to be around. When she leaves on the train, looking back and glaring at everyone in disapproval while she waves, someone says, "Well, she's gone." And Granny says, "What a relief!"
Everyone laughs and Inoue's young Aunt says, "Yes! What a relief!"
That is the mother of which we get a glimpse in Shirobamba.
Chronicle of My Mother is comprised of three essays, each about four years apart. The first one, Under the Blossoms, starts with Inoue's father's death. Inoue gently describes his mother's gradual mental deterioration, starting in her late seventies and the behavior it causes as she lives with him, then, in turn, with his brother and sisters. Light of the Moon takes place four years later and the last essay, The Surface of Snow, four years after and his mother's final days.
The oncoming dementia begins to erase years of his mother's thinking. They realize that her mind is retreating backwards. First she cannot remember anything that happened in her eighties, then nothing beyond her sixties, until she is a teenager and she forgets her husband, no longer recognizes her children, and, because they are now "older" than her she starts addressing them as "Grandfather" and "Grandmother".
There is a lot of struggle and battle of the wills as his mother demands to go home, when there is no home to go to, or when she asks the same question over and over again because she does not remember asking it. Inoue and his family have the unsettling experience of finding his mother haunting the house, walking through the halls and into people's bedroom, peering at their faces with a candle she holds.
I can only tell what this story is about, but I cannot capture Inoue's poignant literary skill, as soft and beautiful as a poem picture scroll (Japanese landscape painting: shigajiku).
That is what Yasushi Inoue has written: a shigajiku of his mother.
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