Customarily, I don’t write reviews of articles written by other writers. As with most writers, if I have a strong opinion about what someone else has written, I usually just write my own article about it. That’s what writers do. However, in the case of your last “Dear Frances” column (May 6, 2016), Hawai‘i Herald, I’m afraid I’ve been compelled to break ranks with myself.
I’m going to have to give that particular column, all of it, five fat stars (which is above my usual limit when doing reviews of any kind), along with a little confession. For years, Frances and I have argued about the “proper” tone in writing. I’m a writer who is inclined to be blunt, not pull any punches and hands out no Band-Aids to those who may get wounded along the way. Sometimes Frances regards my work as unnecessarily harsh and antagonistic. I always argue back, “Sometimes there is no other way to say something than to be direct and brutally honest when the occasion warrants it. Looking for the ‘polite’ way to say something often winds up making your writing weak, at best, and plain wishy-washy at its worst.”
However, Frances’ column last Friday has forced me to change my mind about that. It is the strongest article I’ve ever seen on the subject of caregiving, its failures and successes, and there isn’t a single negative word in the entire column. Not even when she is clearly admonishing some facilities and caregivers for their failures and bad attitudes. Even there, she manages to put everything in positive terms and encouragements for people to try to do better.
Of course, it is equally true that writers often mentally edit and change what they read. I also confess that I might have made one small addition to Frances’ text in the list of “positives” she left for ‘*Professionals who* *care for elders*’ towards the end of her column. I might have added, “When you take home that paycheck of yours, don’t think of it as compensation for all the drudgery, mess clean-ups, verbal abuse and backaches you’ve had to put up with. Think of it as a small return for all the little good things you’ve done for the past two weeks that brought dignity and comfort to someone else’s life. Then go out and spend the little that’s left, after you’ve paid your bills, on joy for yourself. You’ve earned it.”
Yes, I’d add that, and a “Mahalo!” to Frances for the fine, strong columnist caregiving she does each month in The Hawai‘i Herald. That’s worth an extra star. Spend it with joy, Frances; you earned it.
Red Slider, like Frances, was his mother’s caregiver. He is Frances’ longtime friend and companion.