Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
When you are a poet who’s a caregiver, inspiration can strike at any time, even while cleaning up your mother’s incontinence on the bathroom floor at 3 a.m. “After my initial feeling of horror, I said maybe there’s a poem here. The moment I said that, I was no longer a poor caregiver scrubbing BM,” said Frances Kakugawa, a former Hawai‘i Herald columnist, an internationally-published award-winning author and a former caregiver. “I was a poet caregiver and that made all the difference. There were two of us in the bathroom, the poet caregiver, making decisions on how to capture that moment.”
The experience of taking care of her mother inspired Kakugawa to write four books and a children’s book about caregiving. She’ll share stories and poems at a free two-part webinar on Saturday, Nov. 13 at 9:30 a.m. “A Poet’s Caregiving Journey” is one of about a dozen webinars and events offered in November, National Family Caregivers Month, to help caregivers better take care of themselves and others.
Kakugawa says anyone, even those whose only writing is a grocery list, can learn to write poetry during the second half of the workshop.
Other online caregiving workshops are planned for each Saturday in November at 9:30 a.m. The Saturday workshops also cover:
• Knowing Your Options for Caregiving,
• Caregiver-to-Caregiver Panel of Your Peers, and
• Pre-Crisis Planning for Dementia.
Additional workshops on dementia caregiving are offered by the Alzheimer’s Association Aloha Chapter.
To register for a Zoom link for the webinars go to aarp.cvent.com/HIcare2021. To see all the virtual events AARP offers, go to aarp.org/nearyou or the AARP Hawai`i Facebook page and click on “Upcoming Events.”
In addition, AARP Hawai`i is sponsoring the “Art of Caring” art exhibition at the Arts at Mark’s Garage from Nov. 5 through Nov. 27. The exhibit features works by and about caregivers and the loved ones they care for.
On Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, PBS Hawai‘i will broadcast the documentary “Sky Blossom,” about young people, including a Kaua‘i brother and sister, who are caregivers to veterans. AARP was one of the sponsors of the documentary. More information on the broadcasts and viewing “Sky Blossom” online can be found on pbshawaii.org.
AARP Hawai‘i’s November virtual caregiver workshops are also sponsored by Hale Hauoli Hawaii, Alzheimer’s Association Aloha Chapter, Maui County Office on Aging, and Gimme a Break.
As for Kakugawa’s poem, she found herself contrasting what she was doing with something more glamourous. Here’s an excerpt from her poem “The Feather Boa and a Toothbrush.”
Before a flicker of self-pity can set in,
A vivid image enters my mind,
An image of a scarlet feather boa
Impulsively bought from Neiman Marcus,
Delicately wrapped in white tissue
Waiting in my cedar chest
For some enchanted evening.
The contrast between my illusional lifestyle of feather boas,
Opium perfume and black velvet and my own reality
Of toothbrushes, bathroom tiles and BM at 3 a.m.
Overwhelms me with silent laughter.
Craig Gima is communications director at AARP Hawai‘i. He is an award-winning multimedia communicator with more than 30 years of experience. A Honolulu native, Gima spent nearly 19 years at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in a variety of reporting, editing and online roles before joining AARP in 2016. Gima graduated cum laude from the University of Southern California.