I have two poems to share with you today.
The first is a poem by Rod Masumoto, who I mentioned in an earlier post. Rod was sole caregiver for his mother and he disproves the myth that men feel fewer emotions than women. He wrote this poem after claiming, “I’m a rational man, I don’t write or read poetry.” He allowed me to share it in my book, Breaking the Silence.
What Do I Feel?
by Rod Masumoto
What do I see?
Do you see what I feel?
I feel more than you can ever see.
It hurts to feel.
I feel too, too much.
Minutes become hours,
Hours become days,
Days become years,
Years become a lifetime!
So sad to see,
So sad to feel.
I wish to feel nothing!
I wrote the following in Breaking the Silence:
Within a few weeks, Rod sent me thirty poems, written during the wee hours of the morning. His poems told a story of his own development as a caregiver son. They first questioned God, life, himself, acceptance.
A year later, Rod said, “Do you know what I learned to do? I learned to put these feelings aside so I can concentrate on caring for my mother. These feelings can get in the way if I let them surface too much.”
Rod didn’t deny himself his emotions. He allowed himself a specific time to explore them so that he could become the rational and effective caregiver that was necessary to give the best of care to his mother. Writing became a tool to help him make sense of what he was experiencing.
The process of writing forces us to make decisions about ourselves as we search for appropriate words, feelings, ideas, and thoughts, letting our true inner voice that wants to be heard, be heard.
Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most baffling and arduous journeys for caregivers and loved ones. Even while we are burdened with the everyday stresses, like cleaning up BM and repeating the same thing over and over until we want to scream, we need discover how to muddle through so dignity and honor can be preserved. It becomes our mission to give care to ourselves so our loved ones can in turn, receive the best from us. Writing can give us that way to care for ourselves.
Dylan Thomas, We Did Not Go Gentle Into the Good Night
When it is all over
I will shout so all can hear.
“We put up a great fight, didn’t we?
We didn’t just sit back and cower with fear,
We didn’t just sit back and curse this thief
As he quietly stole into our lives.
We knew he was cleverer than us,
His presence so mysteriously elusive
To the men in science.
We knew his capture
Would not be in your lifetime
But we didn’t sit in quiet desperation, did we?
We knew, didn’t we, if I had succumbed
To the burden of care, the thief’s laughter would have
Echoed through the walls of our home, and soon,
They would have crumbled.
Had you thrown up your arms in hopelessness
Each time the thief had come, he would have triumphed
Oh, so easily.
But we transcended this thief, you and I.
You held your dignity to the very end.
You walked, sometimes stumbled,
But never did you crawl before this monster thief,
No matter how he distanced you
From who and what you were.
Relentless as he was,
He could not rob you of all your memory.
You recalled your childhood and the first family
Who had loved you so, leaving him baffled and dumb.
Every inch of the way, you fought smiling, transcending
Each of the indignities he left in his wake.
Had we waited idly in darkened rooms,
For the capture of this thief,
This battle of our human spirit would have been lost.
We called him by name, Alzheimer’s,
Thus weakening him with each call.
His Achilles heel we wrapped
With our own pursuit of the Divine.
Whatever he stole, we lived without.
There will be no Nobel Prize for what we did,
Oh, but how we triumphed hour after hour, day after day.
We turned that 36-hour day into a 24-hour day.
We did, didn’t we?
With love, dignity, compassion,
Endurance and respect for the human soul,
No match for any prize of any name.
Unattainable by any thief of any size.”
When this is over,
Oh, how I will shout in triumph
For the two of us.
photo by Ryan Hirasuna from Mosaic Moon