Auntie Keiko Kuida passed away at the age of 82. She has been present my whole life. From middle school when I was the only person in the family to fit her shoes, I became the happy recipient of her love of shopping, and her generosity, especially shoes, clothes, purses and jewelry.
When I started working in Inglewood in the 1980s, we would meet for pizza on Fridays. She was an avid bowler, golfer and gambler, who loved the race tracks and Vegas, lover of cats, and was an enthusiastic Tweety Bird, Peanuts, and Beanie Babies collector. When we started carpooling to family gatherings and driving her to doctors appts, at night or long distances, she would show up at our house an hour or two early, sometimes we’d still be sleeping.
She was a breast cancer survivor, and a fighter. A Nisei, she was born on a canteloupe farm in Canoga Park, incarcerated as a child in Gila River, Arizona during WW2, before moving with her family to the Seinan/Crenshaw area in LA. She attended 6th Avenue School, Foshay Jr High and Dorsey High School. After she retired from the Gas Company where she worked over 30 years, she worked at Eddie Bauer folding clothes and spending way more money than she earned, and also worked for her dear friend Mary at Tak’s Coffee Shop in Crenshaw Square.
Until the pandemic, she would play cards with her friends Katsu and Fujio every Friday night, and have breakfast with other friends in The Breakfast Club on Saturdays and Sundays, and regular lunches with her friend (over 50 years) Kayko from the Lunch Bunch. Maiya has grown up with her in our lives, with Auntie picking her up from school and afterschool programs, attending her basketball games, Nihon Buyo, karate, taiko and flute performances, and for that I am really happy and grateful.
During the pandemic, I became her shopper both online and in person, and in January she started needing help more and more. On February 3rd, she had another eye surgery, but her troubles breathing quickly took over as she was diagnosed with lung cancer, and I moved my remote work space from my living room to her kitchen, helping her to adapt to make her home safe for walker and wheelchair, dealing with a host of home maintenance issues, and started staying at her home daily for longer and longer hours. We brought in her friend Linda in the afternoons to help with meals and housekeeping as it became too much for me working full time plus.
After almost a week in the hospital for procedures, I moved in with her March 1st as her primary caregiver and started staying with her weekdays and weeknights about 20 hours a day, with Tony and my siblings Darin and Gayle rotating 24 hour shifts on weekends. A few weeks ago we also brought in our young friend Joanna to help in the mornings as well. UCLA Home Health came in and became our lifeline of support sending nurses Pam, Hannah, Addie, Rebecca, Dr. C, Lillian and Claudia, social worker Luis, and physical therapists Audra and Alecsee who came, called or texted almost daily, who trained me on draining her chest catheter, and taught us about patient care as things progressed and her needs changed.
Last week I went camping for a couple days of r&r with help from my whole family. The night I came back I called 911 for the 4th and last time since January. Hospice came on Wednesday morning and she passed later that night, at home as she wanted, having talked to and had visits from several close friends and family in her last few weeks. Grateful to her and my friends, coworkers, family, her doctors, and her neighbors Argentina and Kent for so much support over these last few months.
Love ❤️ to Auntie. She will be missed.