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Eugene Goff: In Memoriam

Gene died two days ago in their vacation home in Arizona. He welcomed me into his home in Jackson, Michigan the year I taught at Flora List Elementary School. His wife Kay and I were pen pals since high school and we met each other for the first time. Gene got me a job in their school district. My year is mentioned in my Kapoho Book in the chapter called Ice Fishing.

Gene worked at the bank and he enjoyed the adjustments he had to make with a Japanese woman in his house. Each time I entered the bank, there was a second of freeze and the fellows would kid and nudge him. We both enjoyed the attention.

I brought my Japanese up-bringing into their home. When I discovered he made his own breakfast in the morning, I got up to make coffee for him during the entire year so we both began our days together.

Once he invited his brother-in-law to dinner and I knew what was going on. We are trained to offer rice to any guest before the last grain is eaten so out of habit, I offered both of them the salad bowl before they ate the last lettuce. And I did that, I guess, with other dishes. Gene nudged his brother-in-law and whispered, “See?” Yeah, few things pass my eyes, I’ll have you know.

I brought some strange dishes to the table, even challenged them to octopus and raw fish. They were all good sports, even to the level of having tears in their eyes as they gulped down Asian cuisine.

Every morning during winter, Gene went out to my car and started the engine so I would have a warm car. He devised a piece of wood to hold down the accelerator. Ice was scraped from the windshield and the car was warm as toast.

We never visited his folks because they couldn’t accept a Japanese in their home. It was still that time in the Midwest. So it took a lot of love and courage for Gene and Kay to accept me as part of their family. Shanna and Alan were young and Bryan was born that year. And we have been and still are, family.

I want to believe that Gene came to say good-bye to me. Last week, for the first time in my life, I saw an apparition in the early hours of the morning. I saw the figure of a man near the bed and as I tried to focus, he slowly dissipated. Thursday night I was up all night, unable to fall asleep so this thought entered my mind, “Am I going to hear of someone passing into the spiritual world?” The message came today. Gene died on Thursday. I see him as he was during my year in Michigan. See you later, Gene.

I have borrowed the title of this post from Dianne Kujubu Belli, who is the Chief Administrative Officer of Keiro. This was the title of a blog post she wrote about what I had to say at the recent Genki Conference: Caregiver’s Edition where I was a speaker.

In her blog, Dianne says:

…one of the most profound lessons learned at the Conference was something that keynote speaker, Frances Kakugawa,  related about “entering the world” of the care recipient.  Bob DeMarco of the Alzheimer’s Reading Room calls this parallel world, “Alzheimer’s World.”

…Frances’ advice at the Caregiver’s Conference and Bob’s advice on his website is to enter Alzheimer’s World.  Do not try to correct your mother (or dad or spouse); she may feel angry and discounted.  When you accept that your mother is living in her own reality in Alzheimer’s World, you will accept her reality and you will feel less frustration.  She cannot change her reality, but you can change your own definition of reality.  You will be treating your mother and her reality with dignity.

To find out why Dianne picked the title “Take Me to Rodger Young Auditorium (Although I have Alzheimer’s),” please read Dianne’s complete post on the Keiro GenkiWoman blog. I am glad to hear that my speech resonated with the attendees at the conference and that Dianne continues to promote what I wanted to convey.

I am already booking events for October/November in Hawaii. Here is the first one, on October 31st at Community Church of Honolulu. I will be giving the keynote address (“The Healing Power of Voice and Silence”). I am also very flattered that the Sunrise Ministry Foundation asked me to participate and is presenting me with a Puaka‘ana O Ka La (Rise Up!) Award alongside Native Hawaiian physician Dr. Kalani Brady and Wai‘anae Coast Comprehensive Health Center Board of Directors member Ho‘oipo De Cambra. Here is the event flyer and complete information about the event

Sunrise Ministry Foundation Wellness 2015 flyer“JOURNEYS TO WELLNESS IV”
Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015
Community Church of Honolulu
2345 Nuuanu Ave. Honolulu, Hawaii 96817

Cost: $25 (pre-pay), $30 (pay at the event), includes lunch and materials, $15 for fulltime students and active military service personnel
To register: Contact Manu Nae‘ole (808) 728-3762 or Ron Yamauchi (808) 839-6910 or via email at: sunriseministryinfo@gmail.com
Website: sunriseministryfoundation.com

What Writers Do

b&n 1

b&n 2

Yes, this is what writers do. I went to Barnes & Noble to purchase another copy of To Hell and Back. There was only copy. I took it off the shelf and added it to a display. Better to leave sole copy for promo purposes than to buy out the only remaining copy. Hey Charlie Pellegrino, you owe me one.

I questioned the Sacramento Bee about the omission of the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in today’s anniversary date. They have my To Hell and Back review. These are the emails exchanged. A good lesson here that the squeaky hinge gets the oil…thanks for the oil can, Mr. Lebar.

Ms. Kaskugawa,
Joyce Terhaar forwarded me your email about the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Of course, you’re right — we should have had a story in the paper, even a simple one acknowledging the anniversary.

This was a little more than an oversight on our part. That is, I think we sometimes outthink ourselves and were looking for a better story than the ones we had. In that search for the better story we neglected to run any story at all. We could have done a local story, as well, but were limited in a variety of ways, and with details I won’t bore you with.

Our plan is to run a story in Friday’s paper on page 3B. Also, online, we did run Associated Press stories about the anniversary. I’ve included those links here.

I apologize for the poor execution on our — my — part and appreciate you taking the time to connect with us, to impart the significance of what a story means to you and others in our news pages. Your disappointment translates into thoughtful response here, even if a day late.
****

Dear Mr. Lebar,
I can see how busy you are, even misspelled my name. ( I say this with humor, not sarcasm.) Interestingly, many Japanese changed their names to
become more Polish sounding after Pearl Harbor to avoid the Hey Jap attacks.
I appreciate your email. Thank you.
On the same note, nothing was said about the Voters Rights Act 50 years ago. See, I truly believe there are certain parts of
our history that must not be forgotten so we can educate our young so they can use this history to appreciate and honor our present and to know
what our ancestors have done for us so we can continue this tradition of taking care of our future generations.

*****
Well, that’s embarrassing — but, yes, I’m immersed in planning and executing news coverage tonight. I think I’m introducing more errors rather than preventing them….My apologies. I realized earlier today I sent a note and misspelled my own name. My mother would be mortified. My father, he would have said, well, you make a mistake, own it.
Best,
Scott

*********

Dear MR. Lebar
My mother would have said, “Be nice.” So we’re even. Thank you.

cover hell and back

Hell and Back: The Last Train from Hiroshima by Charles Pellegrino

Before my mother died, she left me with a nagging thought. She told the minister, “ Don’t let me be forgotten.” What if all my ancestors in Hiroshima had said this? What if my grandparents or their parents and their parents had said that, too? I know nothing of them until today. They have remained statistics without names or personhood, except for the surnames of both my grandfathers: Kakugawa and Takahashi. Until today, I have carelessly referred to every member of my Hiroshima family as “my ancestors who were killed in the Hiroshima bombing.”

Today, they have risen out of the shadows because of Dr. Charles Pellegrino’s newly published book, Hell and Back: The Last Train from Hiroshima. My ancestors have become real people. They are children, teenagers, young adults, mothers and fathers and grandparents. They are children who went to school on an empty stomach because of war rations and of their mothers who would try to find forgiveness by leaving their special food on their children’s graveside for the rest of their lives. They all have a voice.

The story begins in Hiroshima at the first flash of the bomb and ends at Nagasaki and beyond. Approximately 300 people from the smoldering city of Hiroshima fled to safety to Nagasaki. Nagasaki was home to many of these survivors. 90% of them were killed by the second bomb. Thirty people survived the second atomic bomb in Nagasaki to become double survivors. One known survivor would experience radiation for the third time in Fukushima.

This story is told through the voices of the survivors of the bombings. Pellegrino preserves that part of history with his forensic and archeological expertise along with his poetic and masterful use of language. It is not a generic history but a very personal and humanistic one. It is not a political story, it is a story of humanity. It is not a story of blame, it is a story of forgiveness and hope for our future children.

Pellgrino had originally published a riveting book titled : Last Train From Hiroshima. After publication, more survivors sought Pellegrino to tell their stories, stories that were silenced for 70 years. Their message is clearly told…what they experienced must not happen again. What happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki must not be forgotten, ever for the sake of our children.

Each time Pellegrino brought forth the story of a child, a teenager, a mother or father, I saw them as my ancestors. Ancestors I haven’t thought of as real people.

On pages 43-44, 14 year old boy Akihiro Takahashi’s story is told with uncensored description of the people he saw that day. Pellegrino calls it the un-gloving where skin is burned away and only flesh remains. Takahashi bears many of these scars.

Twenty five years later, in Washington D.C., Takahashi met the pilot of the plane who dropped the bomb and here is part of their conversation:

Pilot Tibbets sees the scars on Takahashi’s hands. “Is this the effect of the A-bomb?”
Takahashi: “Yes, we must overcome the pain, sorrow, and hatred of the past—and {we must} work together to make sure that people never experience this gain.”

Tibbets: I understand but I would have to do the same thing, under the same circumstances; because once war breaks out. Soldiers can do nothing but follow orders.”

Takahashi said later, “Among humankind’s abilities, it is said imagination is the weakest and forgetfulness the strongest. We cannot by any means, however, forget Hiroshima, and we cannot lose the ability to abolish war. Hiroshima is not just a historical fact. It is a warning and a lesson for the future.”

My mother’s voice echoes back. I need to believe that Akihiro Takahashi was one of my ancestors. My mother’s maiden name was Takahashi.

On Page 208, Pellegrino speaks of Kiwanu who survived the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and yet, a third time.

Kiwanu had chosen, as his family’s place of refuge, the pristine-appearing fields of Fukushima. On March 11, 2011, he would suddenly come to a special unity of feeling with the Kakugawa family, whose members had departed Hiroshima ahead of the war, seeking the illusory peace of a farming community in Hawaii. To the west of Kapoho Village lay beautiful Pearl Harbor/ and somewhat nearer, a scared mountain that would one day bury the entire village beneath a lake of lava.

Many of the names are familiar surnames found in our communities: Sato, Sasaki, Doi, Fujii, Yamaguchi, Nagai, Yoshioka, and many many more, but you don’t need to bear the same name or ethnic background to find meaning in Pellegrino’s words. He speaks for all humanity.

We are all familiar with Sadako and the Thousand Cranes. Sadako’s brother Masahiro asked Pellegrino to continue the legacy of his little sister who made a thousand cranes while dying from cancer.

“I think Omoiyari is the best way to start. The worst way is to call ourselves victims. To say ‘victim’ requires a victimizer, and the victimizer is led to blame; and that starts the cycle of blame…

Sadako understood this theme more personally and more intensely than most people ever will. And she had only enough time to begin teaching anew what most of us have so easily forgotten.”

The survivors who told their stories to Pellegrino are all adults but their memories are from their childhood so these stories are from the children who survived. They are not pretty stories but they are real and a part of who we are. Surely, as Pellegrino and the survivors proposed, each time we do an act of kindness, we honor and remember our ancestors by helping to create a world of peace.

Thank you, Charles Pellegrino, for helping us to not forget all those who have passed before us.
And to my mother, no, you and all those before you, will not be forgotten because there are the Charles Pellegrinos of the world who will painstakingly pick through the mountainous piles of political and historical debris to bring us the human story of all our ancestors. So we carry on this legacy of peace, forgiveness and human kindness in each of their name.

Pellegrino’s book is dedicated to Tomorrow’s Child.

1st published in Hawai’I Herald

Stephen King: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

I highly recommend this book for writers and non-writers. What a delight to read of his
childhood memoirs at the beginning of the book. I have this image of King taking a pair of chopsticks to his childhood and carefully picking up the best of stories, leaving behind, a pile of stories for later use, or none at all.

Yes, I agree, it’s the story that counts, nothing else, really.

These stories are followed by the craft of writing. He takes us into his head as he writes. What a pleasure to be in the company of a writer as he writes from drafts to final copies. I don’t agree with everything he’s said and I’m sure he will applaud me, saying I can do this because I have found my own voice, not his.

Writers, if you think you got a lot of rejection slips, compare them with King’s.
I so enjoyed his bloody honesty and use of language. Nice to share belly laughs with King. At the end I wanted just one more chapter.
It’s this kind of a book.

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