Poet and Nagasaki resident Konosuke Fujikawa, 57, "conversed" with his mother with his eyes, not words.

A piece he penned, titled "Haha no Manazashi" (The look in my mother's eyes), goes: "There are times when my mother looks fixedly at me/ With eyes that haven't changed at all over the years/ Her face is without the slightest hint of Alzheimer's/ Her eyes are exactly those of my mother who gave me birth and raised me."

His mother, Kiyoko, was 60 when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer-type dementia that gradually eroded her ability to walk, talk or eat.

Fujikawa, who was a primary school teacher at the time, left his job to care for his mother as her condition worsened, as well for his wife who had terminal cancer.

After his wife's death, Fujikawa started expressing his feelings in verse.

He did not try to hide his exasperation and anger. He wrote: "Mother's mealtime runs on for two interminable hours/ Ignoring my growing irritation/ Mother stares serenely into space/ Taking her own sweet time about finishing her meal."

Another piece: "You were laughing/ But you really must have wanted to weep/ On the day you wore paper diapers for the first time."

There was no telling when his caregiving days would end. He gave voice to his honest, dark thoughts that reared their ugly head from time to time: "Mother started coughing, gasping for breath/ Patting her back, I could not help thinking/ That if she were to die then, both she and I would be freed."

Kiyoko died in autumn seven years ago. She was 84.

"Caring for her got me into the habit of thinking things through, not looking for an easy way out," Fujikawa recalled. "I thought about life. I thought about death. My mother kept raising me until the very end."

Reading his collection of poems, I worry if I will ever be capable of toughing it out as Fujikawa did. But his poems have also taught me that nursing someone brings many moments of unexpected revelation.

Sept. 21 is World Alzheimer Day.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 21

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.