Caregiving & Writing ‐ by Frances Kakugawa “I am a dewdrop crystal clear…” But I don’t know what to write about.
1. Go for that one blade of grass. Don’t think of the whole forest or the whole ball field or everything that happened yesterday. Just that one blade of grass. Think of one feeling you’re feeling right now; one thought you’re having; one event that happened. What are you looking at right now? (not this paper!); where are you standing, what are you hearing? Write about that. It can be overwhelming if you try to think of the whole experience of caregiving. Your last complaint, success, hug with your loved one, exasperation with some professional or moment of “Aha!” will get you started. Let one word follow another. 2. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or punctuation marks. Just write down what you’re feeling or thinking right now. It can be a phrase, a diary entry, a note to yourself, a fragment. To get started, whatever comes will be fine. 3. Feel free to write in any form that you like; poems, stories, or just fragments like a shopping list. Whatever makes you comfortable, whatever comes to mind… just get your words down on paper. Why am I doing this? Keep writing and you will know. In time your writing will speak back to you. It will tell you about what you are feeling and thinking, it will make a space in the busy life of caregiving for you to make sense of what you and you loved one are doing. A place where you can reflect, gain insights and affirm the dignity and respect that you and your loved ones share with one another. What will I get from writing? What will my loved one get from my taking time out to write? Mr. P attended my session saying, “I don’t write.” He not only wrote a poem but he wept as he read his last line, “I don’t want to feel.” A few months later he showed me a notebook filled with poems. His poems began by lashing out at God, then at Life, then at himself as a Beast. Today his poems speak of love, dignity and compassion toward his mother and himself. He takes his mother riding every weekend, attends workshops and joined a
support group. Over coffee one day, he confessed that he was thinking of killing his mother and himself before he started writing. Mrs. S came to the workshop, complaining of her mother. “She pushes my button on purpose to just get me angry. “ The poem she wrote spoke of her love for her mother. She seemed surprised at the emotion she was displaying. “Writing helped you find your own voice,” I told her. “This is you, this loving , compassionate person.” She stood up and said, “I didn’t know that. I can hardly wait to go home to be the different kind of daughter and caregiver I want to be.” When I first started to care for my mother, I used my mother’s voice in a poem called Emily Dickinson, I’m Somebody.” Later, a line from the poem, “I would if I could,” spoken in my mother’s voice, came to haunt me and it even turned into a mantra whenever I wanted to shout in exasperation, “Why did you?” or “Why didn’t you?” My own writing came to remind me that her behavior was a result of this disease, beyond her control and mine. A Poet’s Declaration I am a star In the Milky Way. I am the crest On emerald waves. I am a dewdrop, crystal clear, Capturing sunbeams in the morning mist. I am that dust On butterfly wings. I am that song Of a thousand strings. I am that teardrop You have kissed. I am a poet! I am! I am! I am that rage In the thunderstorm. I am that image Of a thousand form. I am magic on each page. I am a poet! I am! I am! From Mosaic Moon: Caregiving Through Poetry and Teacher, You Look Like A Horse, by Frances Kakugawa
A ‘red umbrella’, a ‘blade of grass’, a box of Handy‐Wipes; anything can inspire a poem, become a subject to write about. Let your imagination do the rest. Add a traffic jam, a skyscraper or a bunch of ants on a picnic. Soon, you will find your own voice, in every thought, in every line. That’s the voice you want to listen to. It always has the best advice, says exactly what you need to hear; if you write, if you listen. A Red Umbrella A red umbrella Moves across the overpass. I smile as I sit In traffic below. Is it a child Late for school Or did Mary Poppins Get lost in flight? Such frivolous thoughts Driving my mother To Adult Day Care. On the way to taking my mother to the Day Care Center I got stuck in a traffic jam. We sat in the car and I listened while she repeated over and over, “Where am I going? Where am I going…?” It was exasperating. Just then a woman with a black umbrella walked across a nearby overpass. “If that woman had a red umbrella,” I thought, “It would really be much lovelier against the blue sky. Better yet if she were a child. I wouldn’t see the child walking, only the red umbrella floating across the overpass.” By the time we started moving again, I had forgotten all about the traffic jam and my mother’s ‘where am I going’ chant. And so, I drove to Day Care with a red umbrella fixed firmly in my mind.
About Frances Kakugawa: Frances is a published author of eleven books. Her books relating to Alzheimer’s and other dementia related disease are: Mosaic Moon: Caregiving Through Poetry is a collection of poetry written by the author and caregivers in her first writing support group. A chapter is devoted to how Frances worked with caregivers on the writing process. Wordsworth Dances the Waltz is the second book in her Wordsworth the Poet series of illustrated children’s books. Both books have won Best Children’s Book of the Year awards. In this book, Wordsworth’s grandma is beginning to lose her memory. Wordsworth uses his own poetry to realize that “Grandma is still Grandma, with or without her memory.” Breaking the Silence: A Caregivers Voice is a collection of poetry, journal entries and stories written by the author and caregivers from her 2nd and 3rd support groups. This book is presented by the author with comments and insights to help make better sense of caregiving. A chapter is devoted to how to write, a simple guide for caregivers. Author, Poet, Educator, Lecturer, Frances offers lectures and workshops throughout the U.S. on caregiving, writing, poetry, education, etc. Frances presently leads three monthly writing support groups in Sacramento. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Blog: http://franceskakugawa.wordpress.com Website: www.francesk.org Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/FrancesKakugawa Watermark Publishing: www.bookshawaii.net MeI can hardly be seenAmong the mountains and the cloudsJust a tiny speck, obscure and small.Yet I exist.I exist. From White Ginger Blossom by Frances Kakugawa