Frances H. Kakugawa
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
Omoiyari . . . Think of others first and good karma will return to you. — Frances H. Kakugawa
Today I honor the children. Too often, we isolate our elders from our children when they are no longer able to speak or recognize people. I’ve compiled the writings of several children who remind us of how sensitive and caring, and aware, they are of their elders. We have so much to learn from them.
First, meet Maxwell Shukuyu, the grandson of Mary Swisher, who is a member of my poetry writing support group in Sacramento. Max spends most of his days and nights at his grandparents’ home. He is a natural with his grandpa. He will easily divert his grandpa’s attention away from behavior caused by the disease by inviting him to sing with him as he plays the piano or violin. He laughs along with his grandpa and just goes with flow with him.
Here’s what Max wrote about his grandpa.
THE KING OF THE ICE CREAM
My grandpa is a smart man. He likes to say, “I went to Washington University in St. Louis — it’s in the top three medical schools in the country.” I’ve heard this phrase, this proud declaration, more than once — in fact, I’ve heard this phrase and others countless times, but my grandpa isn’t an egotist.
Another favorite is, “You know, there are parasites in all fish. Mary (his wife and my grandma), don’t you remember coming to that lecture?” And she’ll say, “No, Bob. I think you’re mixed up. Now, eat your fish.” Or, my personal favorite, “Did you know I’m the King of the ice cream. If you want ice cream from the freezer, you come to me first!” he’ll say while grinding his teeth.
Frances Kakugawa was her mother’s primary caregiver during her five-year journey with Alzheimer’s disease. A native of Kapoho on Hawai‘i island, she now lives in Sacramento, Calif. Frances has melded her professional training as a writer and educator and her personal caregiving experiences to write several books on caring for people with memory-related illnesses. She is a sought-after speaker, both in Hawai‘i and on the Mainland, sharing strategies for caregiving, as well as coping with the stresses of caregiving.
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