In the 1980s I organized an English pronunciation class for five or six Japanese wives at the Shorewood apartments on Mercer Island. The class was with the wives of a group of young doctors who had come from Japan to work at Dr. Hakomori’s Cancer Research Lab with Fred Hutchinson Institute.
During one of the classes, Tamami complained about in-laws coming for a visit and everyone commiserated. Her father-in-law was a physician and owned a medical clinic. She was dreading the need to play the role of a proper Japanese daughter-in-law. She was in the United States where those of us with Japanese heritage had shed many of the more cumbersome family obligations and rituals. Changes were also occurring with many of the more modern wives in Japan so Tamami seemed to be looking for an excuse to be more American.
As the teacher, as a wife with grown children and with an interest in psychology, I developed my own “game”. My Masters in Psychosocial Nursing was THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN AND HOW THEY USE SOCIAL SUPPORT. Customs and rituals evolve for coping, creating connections and contributing; which are my 3 C’s of a healthy way to live life. According to historian, Richard White, in his book FOR WHICH IT STANDS, three of life’s bench marks is “making a home, launching our children and preparing for our old age”.
I suggested Tamami consider the in-law visit a short term “game”. With this new perspective, she reported to me, “It was a tremendous success.” Years later, when I made a trip to Japan, Tamami treated me to lunch at the top of one of the famous hotels in Tokyo’s Shinjiku district and we again talked about the game.
Life is a “game” and particularly in the game of marriage there is a physical difference between men and women. Successful relationships require healthy choices and gamesmanship. Our Goto-Health team is inspired to explore and pursue possible game plans as we look to a new year of possibilities.
Kirin went to Children’s Orthopedic Clinic today for a sprained wrist and was treated by “Dr. Job” as referred to by the staff because of his extraordinary empathetic bedside manner. That is because he treats the whole of the person involved in a treatment.
Kirin left the appointment saying, “I think I should break my other wrist so I can see him again.”
A few days before Thanksgiving 2017, Sam was given a suggestion that Chiropractic adjustment can be effective for the uncomfortable feeling he had that might be a result of his esophagus was backing up with gas.
Sam made an appointment with a local Chiropractor, but when he got to his appointment the practitioner took x-rays and wanted to address Sam’s whole spine. He wouldn’t listen to Sam’s immediate issues. They argued and Sam came home exclaiming, “He’s just a technician, not a real professional!!”
Three days later, Sam went to Overtake emergency with shortness of breath and Congestive Heart failure. There was a quart of fluid under his right lung that was aspirated. He was twelve days in the hospital where a bunch of “professionals” did their technical stuff like angiograms, CT scans, blood work, IVs.
There was one particular nurse, Baron, who was a professional like Dr. Job and took the time to figure out what the patient wanted and needed.
Kirin and I had a discussion about what it meant to be a professional. We decided a professional is someone who learns a set of skills, but goes on to learn some more about how to understand the customer/patient and listen to what is needed. A good professional isn’t there just to make money or dispense their skills/goods.
Here are 5 suggestions:
Put customer’s satisfaction first - connect
Share your knowledge; keep learning
Praise your team not yourself
Do more than expected - contribute
Say Thank you
Sam has spent his whole life putting himself in "pain", meeting deadlines making teeth, exploring Tikal, building and fixing our house, working on his antique cars and drawing comic strips.
Yesterday, when the Hospice Care nurse was here, she observed Sam having his episode of shortness of breath. She immediately asked me to go get the Morphine in the Hospice medical kit and gave Sam 5mg of Morphine.
It made Sam sleepy and he took a long nap, but he didn't like not being able to wake up. So, today, we are trying to not use Morphine and just going through the episodes of shortness-of-breath and being uncomfortable.
My office is all in boxes and has been converted to a Hospice sleeping room. The Christmas stationary can't be easily found so I will send our greetings in these ways.
Thanks for all the prayers and thoughts from family and friends as we work to overcome this crisis in whatever way.
Sam has earned a lot of back rubs, foot rubs and back scratches which he is enjoying.
Looking forward to 2018, the year of the Dog. He just completed his Comic Strip for the New Year Edition of the North American Post.
Granddaughter, Kirin says, “Fate got distracted and didn’t cut the strings.”
At age 85, Sam is facing a new phase of life. He says, “I put it off, but I still haven’t done my obituary comic strip. That’s what Charles Schultz did.” Misa at the North American Post is also expecting a comic strip about the year of the dog for their New Year Edition.
We are not afraid of death and might be convinced that we can look forward to the next journey where we have to learn and make new choices. But first we don’t want to waste what we can do and learn here and now. Kirin expresses it for us in a thoughtful way as she memorized and recites to us, Bette Midler’s THE ROSE:
Some say love, it is a river, that drowns the tender reed
Some say love, it is a razor, that leaves your soul to bleed
Some say love, it is a hunger, an endless aching need
I say love, it is a flower, and you, its only seed
Its the heart afraid of breaking, that never learns to dance
Its the dream afraid of waking, that never takes the chance
Its the one who won't be taking, who cannot seem to give
AND THE SOUL AFRAID OF DYING; THAT NEVER LEARNS TO LIVE!
We just about lost Sam after Thanksgiving as he had Congestive Heart Failure. We went to Overlake Emergency with shortness of breath.
• His Aortic Valve doesn’t close and all his coronary arteries are blocked
• His heart is 20% and too weak to withstand open-heart surgery so the physicians would not operate – he’s not going to get better without surgery, but maybe he’s been operating on 20% for a long time.
• His biggest problem at the hospital was no sleep and no eating because everything tasted so bad and he had nausea from the medications.
He is now on Hospice Care - He came home December 5th
• He is eating better - sashimi was good tonight and tonight we are planning on trout.
• He can walk around the main floor without help but, he’s not supposed to climb stairs. So we have a granddaughter policing the situation and keeping him on track.
• The nurse and social workers came by to assure us they are just a phone call away if we need someone – incredible service and great people.
We’re working on convincing Sam to save whatever is left of his heart for drawing, comic strips and putting together books for a legacy of good Japanese/American values for the next generations.
We have an incredible network of family and friends taking care of our needs and it is so neat! Sam says, “It’s so nice to hear the voices of the grandchildren downstairs.”
These are some comforting words I found in the "family room" on the East 2nd Floor of Overlake Hospital as I waited for one of Sam's procedures.
Even though I wasn’t sure
Exactly what to say,
I talked to God and spoke your name.
I prayed for you today.
I asked the Lord to give you strength,
To calm you from your stress,
To free you from the things you fear
And bathe your mind with rest.
I asked the Lord to help you
In the uphill days to come,
I asked our precious loving God
To complete what he’s begun
He whispered in the quiet
And He filled my heart with peace.
He said that you are deeply loved
And that his love won’t cease.
Sam has been feeling miserable all week and finally went to Overtake Emergency after not feeling like any Thanksgiving turkey, no sleep and shortness of breath. A cardiogram showed he had a Congestive Heart Issue with a defective Aortic Valve. After he gets the fluid off his lungs and they are able to determine if a valve replacement is possible; he should have more energy than he has had in a long time.
This morning, while I wait for the rice to cook so I can take it to the hospital, I am thinking of the Social Support we are receiving. My Masters in Psychosocial Nursing showed the more people with whom we can connect, the lower our stress. It does feel good to be able to telephone, text, email and talk.
What doesn’t feel good are a couple people who have their own agenda. Their agenda is to share what makes themselves feel good.
The medical help at Overlake is most impressive. When I worked in hospitals a lot of the rules and procedures were like laws. Now everyone is more trained to work with what makes each of us more comfortable - patient, spouse and visitors. For instance, the desk assured me it was no trouble for me to leave the car out in front of emergency and I could go right in with Sam to the room. They didn’t make us wait to fill out information.
THANKS FOR FAVORITE CONNECTIONS
This THANKSGIVING 2017 morning I am listening to the story about the North Korean that escaped into South Korea a few days ago. He knew the risk, was shot several times, and was desperate for freedom. I am also listening to the stories about refugees here in America who are being organized to have a Thanksgiving dinner with families who are willing to take them in for the day.
The idea is to share with these immigrants what it means to be American. I am third generation American with Japanese Heritage. My neighbor is first generation English. They came for work, but choose to stay in America. Another neighbor may be a third or fourth generation Irish and a third may be third generation Jewish. We all have a heritage of overcoming hardships.
What I see are the “young” who no longer appreciate what it means to be GRATEFUL for what we have. It is like it is their job to complain. Reporters have to come up with emotional topics to get attention. I also want to write something that will get attention. Gratitude needs more oomph!
HOW DO WE PRESERVE THE REFUGEE/IMMIGRANT SPIRIT AND GRATITUDE FOR FREEDOM?
1937 BLUE CHEV FLATBED TRUCK
One rarely misses a Japanese community annual summer picnic. The 1937 picnic is at Redondo Beach on Puget Sound. K Tsukamaki brags about his preliminary trip earlier to Eastern Oregon, “Wait until you cross the Cascade Mountains. You won’t believe it. You can stand on one side of some of the farms and you can hardly see the other side! What we have here in Western Washington and the small plots we had in Japan are nothing! You should see their onions. Twice as anything we can grow here.”
The main conversation is that five families - K Tsukamaki, S Tsukamaki, Goto, Nakano, Maruoka - will all make the move together to relocate from Washington to Eastern Oregon. K Tsukamaki’s brother agrees, “We need to travel together because English is difficult and we don’t know how Japanese will be treated when we have car trouble or other problems.”
The menfolk talk about how to get ahead and had made plans all year as they helped each other with the lettuce farming in the Kent Valley. This is a chance for the womenfolk to say goodbye to each other. Japanese families, especially farmers, are used to moving almost yearly to find better situations, so the parting word is, “Gambatte!!” (persevere, overcome whatever obstacles you encounter, take care of yourselves).
A couple months pass. Sago comes home to the farm where they had raised lettuce this past year, next to the south end of Lake Washington in Renton, saying, “The Fall colors are already starting and particularly brilliant this year. I guess it’s because we had an extra hot summer.”
Sago tells his new wife Mary, “Mrs. Goto and Mrs Nakano with their seven kids will take the train and make the trip in December, after Mr. Goto and Mr. Nakano find places to live. Mr. Nakano will drive that 1937 blue Chevy truck they bought together last year. All together, we have four trucks and Uncle S’s car… It already snowed a little on Snoqualmie Pass yesterday. Good thing we’re leaving tomorrow.”
Mary questions with a puzzled look, “I’m surprised the Goto family and the Nakano family are so close!
Sago explains, “Maybe it’s because each family lost children in tragic accidents. It was a few years back while you were still going to school in Japan. The Goto two-year-old pulled a pan of hot water off the stove and died. The Nakano kid got run over by a tractor. That’s life. I guess that’s part of the reason they have so many kids?…”
“The Maruokas are coming with us,” Sago exclaims, as he finishes loading their International flatbed truck with the possessions of two families for the next day’s trip.
Mary worries, “How?! Their baby was born just 3 weeks ago premature and only weighed a couple pounds. I heard the midwife’s son made an incubator out of a shoebox with an electric light bulb. I don’t see how they can keep the baby warm on the trip? …Make sure the washing machine is tied down good. I told Mrs. Nakanishi, that present she gave us is the most important wedding present we got and I will take good care of it.”
Sago reassures Mary, “Well, Mr. Maruoka will drive their truck with his two boys. This way the baby and mother can ride in Uncle S’s car with little Mary and Aunt Asako. Mr. Goto agrees to drive the Tsukamaki’s truck with the Tsukamaki boys. The plan is to get to Pasco and stay over night at the Yamauchi place. I understand he runs a grocery/restaurant and has an extra room where we can stay and sleep.”
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