Frances H. Kakugawa
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

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

Dear Readers,

At our monthly poetry writing session, Lynda shared the following poem. She is her mother’s caregiver. As she read, we all began laughing.

“Oh, you find this funny?!” Lynda asked.  Another caregiver in our group asked her if she was offended by our laughing. “Oh no, I didn’t see the humor, and now I do.”

So readers, if you think you’re having a bad day, consider Lynda’s day.


Taking care of my mom is enough

Monitoring her blood pressure, adjusting her meds

Flushing her catheter

Changing her g-tube dressing

Changing her clothes, stretching and massaging her.

Moving her Hoyer lift,

Moving her wheelchair

To make enough room

When not in use.

Juggling our checkbooks

And cash on hand

To pay everyone.

Her aides, the handyman —

I must get this place in open-house condition

When she goes —

My son wants to sell.

All this is enough.

Then the washing machine goes out —

Water up and over the top of the tub

Down to the floor.

Huge clean-up, and off to the laundromat.

No clean chucks, no clean towels, for poop and urine.

A call to my longtime friend, Barry

To accompany me to Appliance Warehouse

To pick out another washer.

Which I can’t afford.

Barry arrives

And drops in a dead faint

Hard, across the door jam.

He revives, gets up with help

And I take him to ER.

His blood pressure’s low,

They take tests, all day long.

Reduce his BP meds.

The next day, to Appliance Warehouse

Me watching out for him as he walks

Still unsteady. Bought a machine.

Left him all set for his friend to arrive.

In a hurry to get back to relieve my aide

I trip over the curb, fall in a sprawl

Halfway under the car.

Really hurt. Picked myself up to drive home.

I tell Mom all about my adventures

As I do each day.

She looks at me; she is so aware,

I tell her everything.

When the cats are fed, who’s needing a vet visit, and why.

I’m blessed to have her around

And I miss her so much

Since communication is all but impossible.

Yet I’m grateful.

But I wish everything were just . . . easier.

The next day the new washer overflows!

The linoleum begins to lift,

Big mop-up again. Called the store.

No appointments available for two more days!

“I just bought this washer and it doesn’t work!” I scream.

“And I have all this laundry for my mother!”

They send someone out the next afternoon. Wrong parts.

Takes three more days for the parts to arrive.

I hurt my back at the laundromat lifting wet bed sheets

My sciatica from the fall worsens.

I can hardly walk —

Parts arrive, takes five minutes to be replaced,

So, at least something around here works.

My primary aide is going on interviews

For a full-time job with benefits.

The schedule is changing daily

I can’t provide medical benefits or she would stay.

I am saddened.

The cat has an infected mouth. A visit to the vet.

They put in a feeding tube

To get him ready for dental surgery.

I prepare his food and give it through a syringe

Just like my mom with her tube.

He sleeps with her all night.

I attend my poetry group

Without a poem to share.

The printer stopped working, not enough ink.

And the cartridge is stuck!

I come home, disgruntled

Open the refrigerator door

It’ll help if I eat

Then all of this will stop. Please.

The colander of washed blueberries

Placed unbalanced in my hurry,

Come flying at me

All over the floor.

I grabbed the broom

And hit the cats’ water dish

It was full. It goes flying.

I grab towels. Down to my knees.

Incompetence reigns.

All this is enough

Unless something else happens.

    By Lynda Straus

    Sacramento, Calif.

I was writing in my usual corner this morning when three men walked into the bakery. The elderly man who used a walker was helped by the two younger men — one in a three-piece suit, the other in casual wear. They took their time helping the older man get settled in his chair. I concluded that the elderly man was the father and the younger two his sons because they referred to him as “Dad” throughout their breakfast.

When they pulled out their cell phones, I immediately thought, “Oh no, don’t . . .” Much to my surprise, however, they began showing their father photos from their phones and telling him stories. Not once did they ask him if he recognized anyone. Before they left, we chatted.

I happened to have a copy of my latest book, “I Am Somebody,” in my car so I signed it for them, telling them how impressed I was about the dignity and respect with which they had treated their father. After introducing me to their father, they asked me to address the book to all three of them.

Recalling other scenarios I’ve observed in nursing facilities and in people’s homes, I wrote the following poem. Too often, we visit our elders, believing language through questions is the only way to communicate. That’s interrogation, not conversation.


Oh, oh, the test taker is here.

Didn’t I take my SAT in high school?

Didn’t I pass the bar years ago?

Why is she here?

Here comes the test:

What did you have for breakfast, Mom?

How was dinner last night? What did you have?

Tick Tock. Tick Tock.

Oh no, what did I eat this morning?

I need more than a second.

Wait, wait. It’ll come.

Tick Tock. Tick Tock.

Second’s up, the test continues.

Worse than the bar, worse than college finals,

My mind aches, my heart beats.

My words have gone hide-and-go-seek.

Tick Tock. Tick Tock.

I can’t remember.

Did John visit you yesterday?

Tick Tock. Tick Tock.

Did he? I can’t remember.

I’ll close my eyes and maybe she’ll leave.

Tick Tock. Tick Tock.

Ah good, she’s gone.

Who cares about what I ate?

I’d rather take the SAT or the bar.

Than be put on trial

For things I don’t know.

Oh, oh, another visitor.

Oh, I like him.

He tells me stories.

Yesterday I laughed

When he told me how he spilled his coffee

All over his shirt before his meeting.

I like the songs he sings —

Sometimes I sing along.

Today he’s sitting with his leg on my bed,

Reading. That’s nice.

I like how he smiles at me before

He turns each page with his fingers.

I like this silence.

My heart is calm, there’s no test,

It’s like being at the beach,

Watching the waves come in.

Ah . . . this is nice.

No tick tock, tick tock

Not even for a second.

By Frances H. Kakugawa

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. 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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