Frances H. Kakugawa
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

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

Dear Frances,

I enjoy reading your column in The Hawai‘i Herald. For the past 12 years, my husband and I have been caregivers for both of our parents, mainly for my parents. My mom is still alive and at 92 years of age, shows no signs of dementia and is still sharp mentally. She has had to go into an adult residential care home because two years ago, she suffered an illness that required her to be under supervision 24/7. I have learned a lot from reading your column and have benefited from all the sharings from the column. I can’t remember not ever tearing up after reading those sharings.

Downsizing my mom’s possessions from a home to a room in the care home meant that a lot of things that couldn’t be given away or thrown away now reside in my townhouse. One of those things is the 1949 high school annual called “Ka Nani O Pahoa.” My mom is pictured in the annual because she was the cafeteria manager at the time. One student, a senior, who signed my mom’s annual, was Sadaichi Kakugawa, who was the senior class vice president. I believe there is probably a picture of you somewhere in there, but only individuals in grades 10 through 12 were identified. There is a collector who collects Hawai‘i high school annuals and wants to purchase this one from my mom, but if you would like to have the annual for sentimental reasons, I would be happy to mail it to you.

Rowena

O‘ahu, Hawai‘i

Dear Rowena,

What a kind and generous person you are. You made my day with your email. Thank you so much.

I can’t believe my brother, who died last February, signed your mother’s annual. I was five years younger, so I guess I was in the group class photos.

Sadaichi’s oldest daughter would like to have the annual. Can you mail it to her? Thank you very much in advance.

I love hearing stories about people in their 90s who are still mentally alert, so please check out my blog, http://franceskakugawa.wordpress.com. I have posted various views on giving care.

I understand how difficult it is to do clear out your home.

The following poem from one of my books is about a similar experience I had going through my mother’s belongings. I hope you enjoy it.

Frances

HANDKERCHIEF

There is one remaining drawer.

A Pandora’s box. A flood of anxiety

increases my heartbeats. I don’t want any secrets,

no remnants of any grief or pain of her life.

She had enough with Alzheimer’s. Let this be a simple walk

through old paid bills and receipts.

I slowly pull out the drawer. It is packed with cards and envelopes.

Oh no! Outdated checks? A birth certificate of my illegitimate birth?

No, they are Mother’s Day cards, many browned with age,

collected throughout the years.

Many without a handwritten message of love.

They were all Hallmarks and she had kept them all.

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.

To read the rest of the poem and article, please subscribe to The Herald!

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