Frances H. Kakugawa
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

Omoiyari . . . Think of others first and good karma will return to you. — Frances H. Kakugawa

Happy New Year, readers!

I’d like to begin the new year by thanking editor Karleen Chinen and The Hawai‘i Herald for bringing us together through this “Dear Frances” column. I am humbled, not only by my “Boss Lady’s” confidence in me, but in your positive responses. Continue to send in your questions and reactions so that we honor the space given for this column. Thank you.

I was struck by two insights I gained today. They may be of help to you in your caregiving work.

The first occurred when I went to help out a friend whose caregiver for her husband had not shown up, so I sat with her husband. I tried to involve him in conversation by asking him about his medical practice as I prepared some toast, a boiled egg and a bowl of soup for him. That didn’t go anywhere. I also knew, however, that he loves to sing the oldies, so I got my iPhone out and searched for some song titles. There was Doris Day singing “How Much is That Doggie in the Window?” He was thrilled and sang along with Doris. He kept asking me how I was able to bring Doris Day out to him. He thought it was pure magic. He recognized the voice of Frank Sinatra singing “Sentimental Journey” and joined Frank. He also sang “You are My Sunshine” with Johnny Cash and told me a story about the time he asked Johnny if he could be one of his singers. I’m not a big fan of our modern electronic devices, but it sure came in handy today.

And now the bathroom observation . . .

Caregivers are often plagued with plugged toilets

— I may have found the culprit.

I had recommended that caregivers use those soft, moistened wipes to avoid abrasions. I checked these out at CVS (Longs in Hawai‘i) today and discovered that some brands warn that the wipes not to be flushed down the toilet. The Costco ones specify that only one wipe at a time is to be flushed down the toilet. Evidently, these add to our plumbing problems, so make sure you read the fine print before making your purchase. How can something so “ultra-soft” cause such an expensive problem?!

In this first week of the “Year of the Rooster,” it seems only fitting that I begin the new year with a touch of humor.

Dear Frances,

Am sharing a poem. Maybe with a larger number of readers, God will listen. Thanks for using it.

Bob Oyafuso

Sacramento, Calif.


— by Bob Oyafuso

Dear God, you made the universe in seven days

Why can’t you fix my wife in seven days?

I’ve been asking for seven years; surely you heard my request.

It’s not like I’m asking you to make peace in the
Middle East

Or to keep our planet from frying itself.

I’m only asking that my wife’s memory be restored.

Why can’t she have her memory back?

Dear Bob,

I hope Hawai‘i Herald’s subscriptions extend beyond our planet. You’ve given us a good start. Your poem made me think of one written by Red Slider.



— by Red Slider From “I Am Somebody: Bringing Dignity and Compassion to Alzheimer’s Caregiving”

Only ritual marks the day

in the days that have lost

all trace of beginning or end

in this night without end.

Each day I keep my watch,

by night I sift through ashes,

“Surely, somewhere in all of this

must be the hand of God?”

Caregiver: “I sifted through the ashes today and,

found that the hand of God was in there, after all.”

Social worker: “And what did you do then?”

Caregiver: “Handed Him a subpoena for a product liability lawsuit.”

My mother always saw New Year’s Day as another year of getting older. I repeat, again, my defiance against aging.


— by Frances H. Kakugawa

I am a poem

And I am ageless.

When I was one and twenty

I spoke of lingering sunsets into night,

Envying that solitary bird flapping vigorously,

Racing the sinking sun at end of day.

Decades and one later

I am still poem.

I am that sunset, sinking into the sea.

That golden leaf, waiting for that last fatal breeze.

I am that autumn moon hanging

Over crayoned fields, now free of summer harvest,

Waiting for the last flight home.

I am still poem.

I am ageless.


by Frances H. Kakugawa

When I am old, my dearest,

Bring me no flannel nightgowns.

Long-sleeved with buttons up to my chin,

House slippers lined with flannel.

Whoever told you old is cold

Ought to be hung up from an oak.

Let me feel once again that red spaghetti strap of

A negligee falling off my shoulders,

As I lay in bed between satin sheets.

(Maybe not satin, as I could easily slip to the floor.)

Let me feel that cold oak floor under my feet.

I want to feel! I’m not dead yet, you know.

Come sit with me, even if the cat’s got my tongue.

Just sit and read or do what you enjoy most.

Sharing oxygen in silence brings far more joy

Than a Q&A on what I had for breakfast

Or a game to jump start my memory.

Ah, memory. How I hate that word.

But listen. Since I don’t plan to be old,

Delete this poem and let us just be.

Tell me a joke, take me to the mall,

Bring me a red rose, or simply sneak in

A glass of rosé. And laugh with me

For no reason at all, as we sip

Together in our Happy Hour.

May 2017 bring us all good health and happiness!

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


  1. Genuinely lovely story with a lesson for all of us. Thank you for sharing. One correction, however. Doris Day never sang or recorded “How Much is That Doggie in the Window”. That song belonged to Patti Page who scored an enormous hit with it, earning a Gold Record in the process. Doris Day certainly recorded many songs (nearly 800) but “Doggie” was not among them.


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