Tag Archives: dharma

Third wheel for our anniversary celebration?

My wife and I celebrated eight years of marriage tonight. As eight is an auspicious number, tonight was a bit more special as we had an added guest to our dinner at a five-star restaurant: my mother-in-law Toshiko!

Normally this would be cause for some couples to “lawyer up,” but since my father-in-law’s passing a few weeks ago, the three of us have been inseparable during non-work time. We were initially going to ask the woman who helps us with Toshiko if she could “sit” while we went out to celebrate. But then my wife had a brilliant plan. Why not invite Toshiko to our anniversary dinner?

Before my mother-in-law’s stroke in 1997, she ran her own business in Waikiki and had numerous friends and customers. She was living the dream. Then a severe stroke hit her and confined her to a wheelchair. She closed her business and my father-in-law took tireless care of her up until a week before he passed. Now, my wife mainly has taken over the role of assisting her with daily needs with me helping to my capacity. One thing that has actually helped to avoid caregiver burnout is including Toshiko in all of our activities. That way my wife does not worry about her so much an it gives Toshiko a new perspective of our lives.

At the restaurant Toshiko was in awe. After all, this is where President Obama eats when he’s in town. Toshiko and my father-in-law have been to fancy restaurants before, but that was in the 1980s when going out to a fancy meal was about $100 or less. My wife’s doctor with whom she works with gives us gift certificates for Alan Wong’s for Christmas every year. This is a restaurant where dinner for two can run about $200, so the gift card makes this restaurant more accessible to us.

Between Toshiko’s unfamiliarity with the menu, her limited English skills, and her stroke, she was a bit overwhelmed with the menu and said “I just want steak.” My wife ordered the Onaga (red snapper) which is a signature dish at Alan Wong’s, and I won’t tell you what I ordered as I would probably get kicked off the internet.

The food came and Toshiko decided she liked my wife’s entree better, and proceeded to eat that instead, leaving my wife with her steak. Rather than getting upset, my wife relished the fact that her mother was trying new things and celebrating our life with us. Rather than a “third wheel” (extra visual as Toshiko is in a wheelchair), my wife thinks of her as a side car for an old time motorcycle. That allows the three of us to go on many adventures together. This is our family dharma now.

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Happy Anniversary!

 

The Yoga of not doing Yoga

 

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It has been a rough few weeks. My father-in-law has not been able to eat food without throwing it back up. At first we tried a doctor visit. “You have acid reflux, try Priolsec.” A few days  later we were on our way to the ER at 2 am (I had to teach yoga class at 8 that morning.) He was admitted. Tests were done. He had IVs and tubes. I thought this was the end. I struggled to teach the morning class, but got through it.

As it turned out he had a rare esophageal disorder called achalasia where the sphincter muscle of the esophagus is so tight that food cannot go through. He lost about 15 pounds in the past month. He was discharged with a feeding tube until the hospital could schedule surgery a week or so out.

Not so easy. The feeding tube became immediately clogged when my wife tried to feed his medication through it. The medication would not pulverize in a mortar and pestle fine enough to fit through the tube. We were soon on our way back to the ER. The feeding tube was removed, and he was given the okay to eat a liquid diet (jell-o, broth, water).

All was calm for the moment. My wife took FMLA to watch him until the surgery and I worked my two jobs. I was going to go to my Wednesday night class with my mentoring teacher Ray, then I got a phone call. My father-in-law was en route to the hospital again. My wife was driving him and was at her wits end. She also was taking care of her mother who is a stroke survivor. At that point I went to meet them at the hospital. I sent her back home for respite and to better take care of her mother.

I sat with my father-in-law for a few hours while he was in the ER. I was able to help him better communicate with the doctor (he is hard of hearing and just yells at people) and was able to have my wife involved in the discussion via cell phone. In between tests, we talked about his life. He is an interesting man. Former Master Sergeant, retired labor and delivery nurse, married a Japanese woman, moved to Hawai’i and bought a boat.

That few hours drew my father-in-law closer. He was able to tell me how he wanted my wife and I to take care her mother if he passes. It was by not doing Yoga that night that allowed me to truly help my father-in-law. It was by doing Yoga all these years that helped me stay calm and supportive for him in this serious time of need. The Bhagavad Gita talks about finding liberation by doing one’s duty. My duty, my Yoga, was not to be in asana class, it was to be sitting at my father-in-law’s bedside that night.

When all was said and done, doctors did a procedure where they botox-ed his esophagus to loosen the muscle. A few days later he ate his first meal in a long time that he did not have to vomit up. He has gained a pound or two. My wife finally went back to work. And now I can continue my Yoga practice.