I met Patrick through his caregiver wife, Setsuko. Setsuko was a member of my writing support group for caregivers. I walked into their home and Patrick gave me a shy smile and a strong handshake. “He knows I’m here,” I thought.
He looked straight into my eyes and asked, “Are you married?”
I teased him, “No, I’m not married. Nobody wants to marry me, Patrick. Don’t you think that’s terrible?”
He smiled and concealed a chuckle. His wife added, “But Patrick, she had many lovers.” He looked at me, smiled and deliberately said, “Good for you.”
Before I left, he gave me a strong handshake. When I told him I would return again to see him, he said, “Good.”
His words were few but he had said all the right things to me. And I felt like a woman.
I attended his funeral services at Punchbowl Cemetery where he was given full military honors. I wrote this poem for him:
A Salute to Patrick at Punchbowl Cemetery
The soldiers stood cemented to the grassy ground
Like statues, while Buddhist sutras filled the air.
Movement would dishonor the man who once stood
In his uniform, like his comrades today.
The three-gun salute, the wailing taps,
The precision of the folding of the flag,
A salute purified by white gloves
For the presentation of the symbolic flag.
Each step of ultimate precision, a tribute to dignity,
Honor and respect for the fallen soldier,
From the country whom he had served
With love, dignity and honor.
Whatever Alzheimer’s had stolen from him,
All was returned to him today.
Whatever memories, forgotten,
The country that he loved, remembered.
A final rest in peace.
(from Mosaic Moon by Frances Kakugawa
Sets’ poems are also included in Mosaic Moon.)