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 hope you had an enjoyable New Year’s Day.
My Nov. 1 column interest in which two husbands shared their experience of bathing their disabled wives generated the kind of interest I had not expected. Here is some of the feedback I received.
I don’t know how you did it, but that column on men bathing their wives in the Nov. 1, 2019, issue, was a masterpiece. It was a lesson to be learned. I never thought of the steps the husband took in bathing his wife.
Everything we do goes through a process. Thank you.
Thank you for your email. You are so right about how we go through a process in everything we do. We also go through a process from within, don’t we? Emotionally, mentally, psychologically. It would be so much easier if we could go from A to Z in a snap, but think of when all of that valuable learning and growth, successes, and even failures, take place. It’s during that process. You gave me something to think about.
I shared copies of your column on bathing with many caregivers. Thank you for a very valuable lesson.
When I told the two men who shared their experiences in that column about your responses, they were surprised. It never occurred to them that their stories would help others.
I cannot stress enough the importance of support groups. I’m certain what you know about giving care to others will be of value to others, too. Thank you.
I laughed at your column on bathing. I had one thought . . . that I’m sure my husband will use a car sponge on me when I come to need help.
I’m glad you found humor in that story, because when everything goes dead wrong, we’re told to laugh. Be sure to show the column to your husband so that he doesn’t use a car sponge on you. Of course, a car sponge on any woman is no laughing matter.
HEARING MORE THAN THE WORDS
The following poem was written by a caregiver at one of my speaking events on Maui in November. He wrote it in less than ten minutes. I’ve asked him to set this, his first poem, to music and he said he would. Maui . . . we will perform it for you someday.
MOM DIED ALONE
Mom died alone.
We just spoke on Sunday, didn’t we?
I invited her to see a movie, “Bataan.”
But mom said, as usual, “I’m too tired.”
Mom died alone.
Each of us kids invited mom
To live with us, but she refused
She wished to stay in her home.
Mom died at home, alone.
And I had a big house
With empty rooms
But she wanted to stay in her home . . . Didn’t she?
Mom died at home, alone.
I play the same song, the same record in my head
Over and over and over
Could I have insisted?
Should I have pushed harder?
Did I not want the responsibility?
Mom died at home, alone . . . As she wished.
Yes, Reuben, the final message here is in your last three words. You honored her wishes, so live with this message.
I’d like to share with you a conversation that I had with a caregiver at my last support group.
Caregiver: I’m so frustrated. My husband is not allowed to drive and he keeps asking me for the key. I tell him that he can’t drive; the doctor and DMV said he can’t drive, but he keeps asking. I’m going crazy. The other day he came into our bedroom and asked me for the keys.
Me: Have you thought of asking him where he wants to go? How about: “Where do you want to go? I’ll drive you.” Sometimes, replacing a car with an available driver helps. I know of a caregiver who has a list of his friends who are willing to drive her husband when she is not available. If he had a car and it’s still parked in the garage, consider parking it somewhere else, or even selling it. Sometimes, out of his sight will take it out of his mind.
Caregiver: The other night I asked him what he wanted for dinner. I told him we were going out to dinner at one of the fast food restaurants. He likes Jack-in-the-Box. He asked me, “What do you want to eat?” I told him, “I asked you, so tell me where you want to go.” He wouldn’t tell me and I was getting upset.
Me: I think you’re missing some cues here. When he asked you where you wanted to go, do you think he was actually saying that he couldn’t think of a restaurant and thus couldn’t make a decision? Maybe he was asking for your help. If so, he is still in a rational state to be able to ask you for help. Sometimes, we need to listen for messages beyond the words we hear.
When I used to take my mother out to a restaurant, I gave her a menu and quickly suggested a dish — something like chicken sukiyaki. She always said “yes.” I didn’t know if she could still decipher the menu, so I didn’t want to put her in a stressful situation.
And, finally, I’m happy to share with you this heartwarming letter from a Hawai‘i Herald subscriber who lives in Texas. Like me, she grew up in Hawai‘i, and still has an Island sense of humor and lots of aloha. I think the menehune decided to hide her letter from me for a while.
July 23, 2019
Born and raised in Hawai‘i, I now find myself residing in Plano, Texas, just outside of Dallas-Ft. Worth.
I subscribed to the Hawai‘i Herald for years back in California and now receive it in Plano. It always makes my day when I receive the paper in the mail. Your column is always a joy to read. I laughed when the children called Wordsworth “Chuck E Cheese” at the parade. Children are so precious and amusing words come tumbling out of their little mouths.
When I read about “Aunty” in your latest (July 5, 2019) column, it reminded me of my experience here in Plano. Believe it or not, there’s an L&L Hawaiian restaurant near our apartment. So happy we can still enjoy local food. One day while I was paying, I was short of some small change. “Aunty, it’s okay, don’t worry about it.” Just hearing those words made me think of Hawai‘i again. I was told there are two L&Ls in Texas — one in Plano and one in San Antonio.
Now in my mid-70s and diabetic, my eye doctor gave me a stern warning just last week. “No rice, no bread, no pasta — do you want to go blind?!” She did say I could have one slice of bread daily, but only for breakfast. Sadly, I now wrap my Spam in nori, minus the rice. The ‘ono food back in Hawai‘i brings back sweet memories — manapua, malasadas, poi donuts, haupia this, haupia that, Coco Puffs, etc. etc. I now have to pay the price for my sweet tooth.
Thanks again, Frances, for your wonderful column.
I apologize for this late response. Somehow, your letter arrived in October. Thank you for your patience.
L&L. You won’t believe this. About six months ago, L&L opened a few blocks from where I live, so two nights ago, we had dinner there. I had the large plate lunch and told my friend Red that he had to order a plate with the mac salad. (I explained that it wasn’t a salad with macadamia nuts in it.) It was like being back in Hawai‘i. Maybe someday, someone will call me “Aunty” when I’m there.
I’m sorry to read about your diabetes. The cardiologist keeps telling me that because of my high cholesterol level, I need to stay away from flour, rice and bread. I told him that’s going against my culture! Like you, I have a sweet tooth and must have my dark chocolate . . . and Japanese shoyu and sugar dishes.
Again, I’m so sorry your letter was delivered so late.
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. You can write to Frances at firstname.lastname@example.org.