Understanding Life as We Live It
Sonata Pathétique

If I could do my life all over, I would be tempted to change some things. I made mistakes on my journey down my yellow brick road. Some people on their journey made more and others made less. If I could change a couple of things, my life would be different than it is today. That is precisely why I wouldn’t change anything. Changing something would have changed everything. I would not want my life to change from where it is today. I am grateful for where I have wound up. Like everyone else in the world, I still would like to have more things like money, a new car, a new house, etc. However, I’m content and happy with where I am.

So, what were the events in my life that enabled me to be who I am today. I could list a handful of people that I wished that I had never met, but they too helped me in a positive way. The list of people who helped me positively are my mentors. The chief of all my mentors is Bobby Kennedy. Nonetheless, the first two mentors were critical, because they got me on my road in life.

Brooks Oakford hired me to work in his candy store before Christmas when I was in fifth grade. I wasn’t yet ten years old. I wasn’t ten until the following month. Bud was the name that everyone called Brooks back then. He taught or rather showed me everything about making candy and ice cream. In the nearly seven decades since working at Aunt Charlotte’s in Merchantville, NJ, the one thing that I loved to do was put pretzels on a conveyor belt that coated them with chocolate. Had OSHA been in existence at that time, they would have closed the candy store and fined Bud. I could have gotten hurt working on the coating machine, but Bud trusted me. He saw something in me that allowed him to give responsibilities that most kids that age hadn’t displayed.

Bud is showing me the old coating machine that I used.

The other pivotal mentor was Louie Palmer, who was a professor at Muskingum College. He taught a required 10-hour class called The Arts. Students could take it in their junior or senior year. Fortunately, I took it during my junior year. I didn’t ace the class; I got a B. Nevertheless, he saw something in me like Bud and asked me at the end of my junior year to be his teaching assistant in my senior year. I missed Bud’s message when I was nine, but I got Louie’s message clearly in college. As his teaching assistant, I took the class over, wrote, graded the midterm and final for both semesters, and taught several subsections each week.

I love all the art forms including music. The Pathétique or what is officially called the Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 13 by Beethoven is about my life. While Beethoven wrote Pathétique in 1799, that was nearly a century and a half before I was born. It contains three movements. The first is a sorrowfully romantic piece with places of frenetic and disordered parts. That is precisely what my life was like after moving to Mt. Lebanon a few months after working for Bud. Mt. Lebanon had the 19th best school system in the States and the richest community in Western Pennsylvania. My parents were not rich, and I wasn’t prepared for moving from a middleclass community and an average school system to Mt. Lebanon.

The second movement was less disorderly and more gentle, which was for me when I found myself further down my yellow brick road. The second movement trails off almost to silence, and then the third movement begins, which is a coda. I call it the resurrection of the sonata. At the end of the second movement, it is like Pathétique was dying. No musical aficionado would ever use the term, resurrection. Granted. However, none of the aficionados have danced with death twice either. I have. Once that I realized why the world seemed different, Pathétique was the song of my life.

I describe the new me as being a new cat. I understand that phrase is an odd way of expressing who I am today, but it is true. I am far different than I once was and won’t change that blessing…ever. Go to my website, Wolverton Mountain and look on the righthand side of the index page. The first two links describe the change in me. The link to The Last Lecture puts all the pieces together.

Six years ago, I traveled to Myanmar in the long-held dream of interviewing the Lady, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. I failed. However, I met a nine-year-old young lady who became my granddaughter. Her name is Ti Ti. We played Scrabble for less than an hour, but it was enough time for me to begin to see pieces of the puzzle of my life come together.

My life was getting clearer. Two years ago, I returned to Myanmar. Again, I wanted to interview the Lady. Again, I failed. However, I also spent time with my family. Several months ago, during winter break, I returned for my third trip. I didn’t even try to interview the Lady. What I really wanted to do was to go on a tour with my family to see places that I have been to before and to visit places that I have never seen.

I also wanted to talk with Ti Ti about college. She is brilliant. I recalled the time when I was about Ti Ti’s age in Mt. Lebanon. I learned two things in the 19th best school system in America and the richest community half of the State of Pennsylvania. I learned that I was poor and dumb. Granted. It took half my life to realize that neither was true. Having that, that feeling is still etched into my brain. I can’t tolerate remembering and vicariously thinking about the present. Therefore, Ti Ti is going to college on my dime. Hey, she’s my granddaughter.

Ask me if I feel like I am sacrificing anything. Nope. However, I’ll tell you how I feel. I truly feel happy, relieved, excited, etc. Do you get my point?

I left my family to return to America in early January this year. I was happy as a lark. Nevertheless, on my birthday, January 20th, the first American had contracted the coronavirus. Our fake president said the coronavirus was a hoax started by the democrats. In the following weeks, I would check the graphics of the CSSE to check on the spread of COVID-19 in America and in Myanmar.

It wasn’t until last week when I received a letter from Moh Moh and found out that Myanmar had their first two confirmed victims of the coronavirus. The following day the government shut down everything…schools, religious services, everything. Apparently, the leaders of Myanmar aren’t claiming that COVID-19 is a hoax. Today, Myanmar has 20 confirmed cases and one death.

To date, America is number one in confirmed cases and is third in the world when it comes to deaths. We have almost twice the number of deaths than in China. However, the prediction is that hoax, also called COVID-19, will kill somewhere between 100,000 to more than 240,000 if we follow the rules like social distancing and staying home. If we don’t, the total predicted deaths could reach 1.7 million people.

Apparently, our fake president’s prediction that Easter will be the time when we can begin to get out and get back to a new normal life. Trump has modified the Easter date by saying we will have to wait until the end of April. In a couple weeks, our fake president will say that he meant April 2021 and that the democrats are creating fake news.

While Donald the Dumb and his followers mouth their version of medical science, each of us has a golden opportunity to decide what is important in each one of our lives. Think about what constitutes our family. I’ll tell you a secret. All family members don’t live under the same roof or even in the same country.

The haunting question remains. Who makes up your family? Be more inclusive and reach out to your extended family and help them. Help them in the ways that they need help or assistance. Remember, it is in giving that we get. However, it seems that giving and getting are counterintuitive. Nevertheless, it is the truth. We need to change our Weltanschauung or world view. The word, world, needs to be bigger and more inclusive. Finally, remember, the net result of giving is getting.

Listen to Pathétique.

The third movement begins to end around 4:25. Listen to the sonata fade. But wait. There is a resurrection. We all can help each other to resurrect our lives after COVID-19 has come and gone. Pathétique can be our song while we face the coronavirus.