The School FestivalMom and my sisters came. Mom said she was in tears watching I-sensei dance on the stage.
"How come?" I asked.
"Maybe it was because she looked like she was trying so hard. At an ordinary high school, only the students perform, don't they? I was moved by a teacher performing earnestly together with the students. I think that's why my tears welled up. And there was also that boy who played monkey and walked around like someone suffering from cerebral palsy. But in fact he can't help but walk like that. Maybe because it was a perfect role for him ,everyone laughed. That made me cry even more."
It struck me then that I inherited my crybaby side from Mom.
"But Mom," I replied, "around April, when I saw S-chan falling over and laughing, I thought she was superhuman. I wondered if I could ever become that strong. But these days even I can laugh when I fall over. I think everyone laughed when they saw that boy's monkey costume rather than that at the way he walked.
The Undokai Athletic MeetI never imagined a school for the handicapped would have an athletic meet. I was wondering how the students could possibly all parade around if they couldn't walk . . . (I totally forgot that some people can walk, and there are also wheelchairs.) There was a real sense of fulfillment in completing something by helping and cooperating with each other and by contributing things that were lacking.
The students in serious condition produced a creative dance performance themselves. When it was time for the autumn leaves to fall, stupid me got the wrong group and dropped them! However, I was dancing as hard as I could, just like a butterfly (at least in my heart . . .)
Because we were all serious cases, I thought it would be impossible to present a beautiful performance. But I was surprised when I watched the video in the library. What a beautiful show we put on! We can do it if we try.
One strong impression that remains was glancing up and seeing the fresh blue of the sky while I was dancing.
I think the biggest difference between this and the athletic meet I had at Higashi High is that I have changed from being an outsider to being someone who's involved. And I've changed my mind: now I realize that if I try hard enough I can do some of the things I thought I could never possibly do because of my serious condition.
The teachers encouraged me. They said things like, "Aya, you can do it if you try! The performance will be great," and "The dance warmed up thanks to you dropping the leaves!"
Dr. Yamamoto said a similar thing: "Little Aya, I think something in your mind has started changing because you're now aware that you're someone who's involved."
Suzuki-sensei came back from his long-term study and training course. He told me what he had studied while staying with children who have severe physical handicaps.
"Some are 10 years old, but their mental age is still the same as a one-year-old baby, so they won't respond to anything. They'll put anything in their mouth, even a stone or a lump of mud . . . Looking at those children, I realized there must be some kind of guidance suitable for babies. The point is we have to make endless efforts and have good techniques to give the appropriate guidance to each individual. Everyone's trying hard-those with a severe physical handicap, the teachers who guide them, and you and me, Aya. So, let's keep at it, shall we?"
Listening to his words, I felt rather ashamed and ungrateful. Up to now, I thought that I wouldn't be in so much pain if my intelligence's proportion to the inconvenience of my body . . .
When I was an elementary school student, I wanted to become a doctor. When I was a junior high school student, I thought of going to a university with a welfare faculty. Then when I was a student at Higashi High, I started thinking it would be nice to go on to a literature faculty. But even though I have changed my mind a lot, I have consistently had the feeling that I want to do some kind of work that is useful to other people.
I don't have any specific goals right now, but I wonder if I could provide meals or something like that for children who can't move? I'd like to help them understand the warmth of people by holding their hands. I wonder if I can at least be some use to someone?
A long time ago, Atchan said to me, "It might have been better if I wasn't born." I was so amazed to hear that. It was a comforting surprise because it blew away all the disgusting things that were deposited at the bottom of my heart along with many sighs. I had thought the same thing many times. But knowing that a child who can't even move doesn't have the chance to think that, I couldn't help feeling really sorry.
I can no longer return to my past. My mind and body are exhausted like a piece of old cotton cloth. Please help me, teachers!
I was tired out from crying, but I managed to answer a calculation table for commercial bookkeeping. My answer matched perfectly! I'm so happy. But it took me well over 55 minutes-that's not so good.