Frances H. Kakugawa
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
Omoiyari … Think of others first and good karma will return to you. –– Frances H. Kakugawa
Hi, my name is Wordsworth, I am the mouse poet from a series of children’s books written by Frances. This month, I volunteered to write this column while she is away giving lectures and book talks in Hawai‘i.
At first, she was skeptical about letting me write her column. Then I reminded her that in all of my books, I resolve human problems through poetry just like her.
First, let me tell you what I’ve been up to:
I am happy to announce that Patrick Toal — Big Island regional coordinator of the Alzheimer’s Association in Hawai‘i — named me the organization’s mascot. My job is to visit schools and libraries to teach our younger generation about memory loss and how to love our elders by showing them compassion, dignity and respect.
First, we visited libraries in Kohala and Hilo. Frances and I also worked with students from kindergarten to middle school in Honolulu. Our next stops will be on Maui and Moloka‘i. If you want to join us, please call your island’s Alzheimer’s Association’s office.
Next, did you know I was in the Merrie Monarch parade in Hilo? At first, children began to shout, “Chuck E. Cheese!” Luckily, Patrick Toal showed them my name and for the rest of the parade, I heard “Wordsworth! Wordsworth!”
Whew, what a relief!
The children we visited drew pictures, wrote poems, played games and told us about their grandparents and great-grandparents. They were wonderful! Some children were confused about the changes that happen after their grandparents or great-grandparents got dementia. That’s when I explained to them about what dementia does to our brains. Once they understood, they were less confused and fearful.
When children are given truthful information, they can continue loving their elders through their ailments and changes. You’ll be surprised how aware they are of our beloved elders.
A young mother once told me a story about her two preschool children. She said Frances’ book, “Wordsworth Dances the Waltz” taught them about talking to elders. They told their mother, “Why do you talk so mean to grandma?”
Realizing her children were right, the mother said her children have become her teachers. She told them, “You are like Wordsworth; keep reminding me when I talk mean.”
Another mother shared how her two young grandsons taught her how to hang loose and laugh instead of stressing out. When their grandpa wore his pants inside out, their grandma got upset because it meant more work for her. Before she could change her husband’s pants, she heard her grandsons and husband laughing. Her grandsons had told Grandpa, “Hey Grandpa, you made new fashion.” And they all laughed and let Grandpa wear his new inside-out pants.
Sometimes, our young children know just what to say and do, making them wonderful teachers.
Here are some poems that were written by third and sixth graders when Frances was their teacher. Their poems show how aging, dying and death claim their thoughts and how poetry helps them to express their feelings. Too often we are silent, thinking we need to protect our children. Listen to them here.
Grandma is a beautiful name.
I know she didn’t go to hell.
I know she went to heaven.
My grandma, a hummingbird on a branch.
I don’t know why God wants to take him someday.
He’s not old, he’s not young.
But he’s been good to me.
Please, God, don’t let him die.
I don’t know why
We are born
If we are going to die.
An old woman sits by the fire.
Quietly she drapes her old tattered shawl
Across her shoulders.
A drop of rain lands on her cheek,
Like a tear.
An old tired workhorse
Limps to the barn.
Then a young, excited horse
Trots to the plow.
Soon he, too, will limp.
While I think of my grandmother
Lying dead in a coffin
Under the ground,
I feel a teardrop on my arm.
Why did she have to die?
I love her.
I didn’t even get to say
My grandmother is like
A stale piece of bread,
I feel sorry for her
Now that she’s almost dead.
As she limps down the dark road,
She looks wrinkled and so old.
I wish my grandma was young again,
Like a freshly baked loaf of bread.
When Geoff wrote this, he shocked himself and put his head down on his desk and kept saying, “Miss Kakugawa, Miss Kakugawa, this is so bad. Oh, this is so bad. I said my grandma’s like a loaf of stale bread. I can’t believe I said this.” After Frances read the poem, and told him, “This is beautiful. This is what poets do, using metaphors as you did with the loaf of bread.” He was pleased to know he had written a good poem and allowed it to be published.
bring back memories
more and more each time.
if they are of grandpa
I look at them and cry.
I see his light blue coffin
The old bird sits there
Ready and willing to die,
Weeping with its last song.
Oh, sadness comes to me.
I feel like a puzzle being apart
Into a hundred pieces.
Sadness of a memory
That I don’t have.
I don’t have the memory
Of my grandfather.
He was gone
Before my mother was born.
If he were here,
Would he take me out
To From the Heart
And buy me erasers?
Would we talk together
And have a good time?
I wonder what name
I would call him.
I enjoyed doing this column for Frances while she is away. You can send me comments and questions through Frances or directly to me.
I have my own email address: wordsworth@
You can also check me out on Facebook:
www.facebook.com/WordsworthThePoet/. Maybe if you fill my mailbox with letters and questions, this column will be called, “Dear Wordsworth.” I hope Frances doesn’t get jealous.
By the way, do you know how she sent me from Sacramento to Hawai’i? In a FedEx box! My head was all squished. I hope after all this work I’m doing for her, my trips to Maui and Moloka‘i will be in first class. Maybe you can suggest this to her?
Wordsworth the Poet
Wordsworth is the main character of a series of four children’s books written by Frances Kakugawa: “Wordsworth the Poet,” “Wordsworth Dances the Waltz,” “Wordsworth Stop the Bulldozer!” and “Wordsworth, It’s In Your Pocket!”
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.