Saturday, 1 October 2016

Gradual decline... blog writing......

No, actually Okaasan.
But yes I know - this is probably the longest gap in blog writing ever. The Summer of Cat sleep, work, two friend visits from the Uk, more no sleep, stress, work....then a holiday in America and the last night of Queen and Adam Lambert in Tokyo.....
All of those excuses.

Really not great recently.
A summer of decline for her.
Even Dear Son has noticed it - which says a lot, because he doesn't notice anything that isn't football, beer or cat related.

Okaasan seems to have lost her going out mojo. She even said to Dear Son: "Am I going out alone? It's not so fun. I don't feel like going out" and there have been many days when she stays home in front of the TV, with strange reasoning like: "The workmen in the apartment site across the road can see me going out...."

It's a change. She has always loved going out for a walk. Never wanted us to go with her. Proud and happy to go out independently. We wonder what happened. No fall, apparently. Maybe she got lost or felt disorientated? She has lost confidence in going out for a walk.
Not a great sign - if this means we have to walk with her more....just when I have escaped walking the cat on-a-lead duties, maybe Walking Okaasan will replace it.

Activity-wise she has declined too. The handwashing of underwear, small room cleaning activities....towel folding...has all declined this summer.

More toilet accidents and clothes soiling....

Conversation has diminished and got odder too. I visited Nihonbashi, an old area of Tokyo and thought that might be a nice memory trip for Okaasan as conversation.

A few years ago, if you gave her the jump off word "Nihonbashi" - she would set sail with the story: "Ahh, Nihonbashi, I used to go there. My husband's office was near there and sometimes if he forgot some important documents at home he would call me up and I would go to Nihonbashi to deliver the documents. And he gave me money and I'd go shopping in the big department store there, so actually I was happy to go all the way to the center of Tokyo....."

Last week I told her I'd been to Nihonbashi.
"Nihonbashi. My husband worked there. I went there......but the war there wasn't gasoline for cars, so my father couldn't work, no gasoline. I didn't have school lessons in the war. I worked....."

The husband/father mix up, and "work" went from husband/work to father/work and then to me/work and wartime within one or two sentences. Wartime Japan and childhood. The years of being a mother and wife are fading.

Many times now at family mealtime she hardly enters our conversation unless we directly talk to her. We chat - even in Japanese - but she concentrates on the food and dropping bits and looking for them. And at the end of mealtime sits and waits for whatever happens next.

But there have been some happy things too: we did a trip to a shopping mall and she and I sat together in foot massage machines with the shop staff praising Okaasan's amazing leg muscles.
I came back from America and gave her a flowery scarf, which she obviously liked so much that she put it on immediately and sat in her pajamas all day wearing it :-)

Today we are doing a family outing to the last day of the autumn food festival in the park. Hope she enjoys it.

Monday, 15 August 2016


Hot and sweaty in a Japanese summer.
Luckily, where we live in the far north it isn't so hot - or so long. About a week of around 30 C....before it dips back into the usual 26C.
The Bon Festival this year actually became a real holiday for many Japanese with the new public holiday - Mountain day - last Thursday. If you got in quick and took Friday as a day off...then hey presto - you got 4 days off for a summer break.
It's always surprised me that the Bon Festival, which is a traditional time of returning to home towns and meeting the relatives both dead and alive, isn't actually a holiday from work. But this year, it almost was for many.
And for me.
I had 5 days off work. FIVE days!

And then.
The cat drama continues. He came home from the vets on Friday, with us under strict instructions of no running/jumping/chasing butterflies. Boring walks on a lead etc
We have built new barriers at home - fencing off the living room and bedroom. We have a whole system of doors open and closed - NASA and airlocks comes to mind.
Dear Son and I are team working it - who is at home, who is on cat duty.

I got out one day in my kayak to the coast and a glorious, glorious sea kayak experience to rocks and caves and water and sunshine.

And then Okaasan.

After all, this blog is meant to be about her!

It's been a hard few weeks for her too. The apartment building construction across the street has continued non-stop - only today was a holiday for them - so every day from 8 am to 5 pm...and usually longer it is noisy.
Okaasan can't manage the whole windows open and closed, electric fan on/Off, kitchen door open/closed system. Many times I've gone into her room and found it sweltering. Windows double closed. Okaasan even with the electric heated table on. Clutching a blanket!

She's been a bit odd really. Probably the stress of all of that. One day I found her heading out for a walk with a handbag inside another handbag. And inside that were SEVEN little towels and handkerchiefs.
She sits and stares at the endless Olympics on TV, or TV shopping...but gets out every day with our prompting for a walk. This summer going downtown many times by subway. That's amazing really - often 2 or 3 hours downtown. Such physical energy.

I have tried to ease her stress with glasses of water and ice creams. Keeping the room as cool as possible. Little food treats, like melon. Dear Son chats on about stuff.

But...drip drip.....early morning when I am outside with the cat in his harness and leash I sense autumn in the air. In a month from now I am going to the US on holiday AND then the Queen and Adam Lambert concert in Tokyo.
Meanwhile. Drip. Drip.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Happy 86 Okaasan!

Happy Birthday Okaasan!
86 years old today.
Doesn't she look GREAT in this picture!!!
Last night we took her out to a fish restaurant in the city fish market for a crab feast - bowls of rice topped with all sorts of marine yummyness, AND grilled crab legs.

She enjoyed it. Quietly in the restaurant. Not much chat. Really focused on the food, getting it from bowl to mouth and chasing the bits that dropped. But sweetly, finally, taking the bowl off the table and cradling it at chest level so she could get into the yummyness easily.
But - when we came out of the restaurant and I got mother and son into this jokey face board she just lit up and gave this wonderful smile :-) We should use this picture as her funeral picture as a wonderful way to remember her?

This brilliant Oyomesan had the idea of going to this restaurant. Past years we've gone to a crab specialty place, and had a multi-course dinner in a private room.
But I thought that wasn't so great - it takes too long, it's just the 3 of us sitting a a table with nothing to talk about apart from print pictures on the walls, the waitress is kind of formal...and the food is too much.
So - I suggested the less formal fish place in the market, with a shorter service and eating time, laid back staff, things and people to look at around us while eating.

MUCH better.  I am brilliant.
Dear Son ordered a cup of sake for Okaasan. But after watching her gulp into it for 3 minutes he sneaked the cup away and hid it behind the napkin and toothpick stand on our table, and we put water and tea within Okaasan's reach...which worked well...she never mentioned sake again and stayed happy and safe throughout the evening.
He added the sake to his drinking line-up. I was designated driver.

We ordered good choices. Gave her lots and lots of de-shelled, easy to eat, grilled crab bits. Chatted to the waiting staff and even found that the waitress shares the same birth date as Okaasan! About 60 years difference in year, of course.

At the end of dinner Okaasan told me the childhood memory about her father the truck driver, who sometimes brought crab when he worked near the sea. He'd come home and she'd be allowed, as the oldest child, to wait up and have bits of crab  with him. That happy memory is still intact.

And we strolled back to the car on a balmy, summer night. Son and mother hand-in-hand. A successful night out.

Today we both have work and things to do. But I'll probably give her some flowers and snacks.

86 years and going strong.....mentally definitely weaker than when she first came to live with us, quieter, more pliable, accepts help more, needs to focus more on walking and eating, does less personal care, does less of most things.
But still walking, sitting up and down, dressing herself, feeding herself, reading magazines, enjoying TV, shopping - and most importantly LAUGHING at life!!

Happy Birthday Okaasan.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Hi. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

This will be a short post.
Cos I am tired. So tired.

Systems of care are balancing acts - and when something shifts the whole thing gets pretty precarious.

So, our life recently has been dominated by the cat and his leg injury.
No sleep. Barriers and doors and gates around the house. Walking under supervision. Stress. Work schedules all in confusion.

We did it because we love our cats. But it was hard.

Throw into that a big work project...

I am a writer on the travel website Trip Advisor. It's volunteer work. But from that I sometimes get work from local government to help with tourism seminars with local tourist office staff - advising about how to catch and help foreign customers.
One such event was meant to be this Thursday to Saturday. Centered around me giving a 30 min speech in Japanese. And then fun parts of sea kayaking to see seals and visiting the Japan Racing Association head stables.
A lot of work to prepare for that. Specially with the cat and tiredness. Last minute panic. Japanese lesson to check the speech. Haircut. Pack the suitcase. Prepare. Rearrange my classes.
 Went off to teach the last two classes before leaving on an four hour bus trip to that area.

Then it was all cancelled due to heavy rain and flooding. Cancelled. Hours to go and cancelled. Local town office staff of course busy with evacuation centers and flooding.
Actually so happy. I was/am still - SO energy to sparkle in public. I can make the speech better and maybe go next time with more energy and enjoyment.

And the cat?
The vet had a look at the leg after 2 weeks of our endless home care...and said: the bone isn't healing well...not straight. He's been too active..... It's better if he stays here for cage rest. Forced stay in on place.

We are so sad. Our fur-baby has to stay in the vets for a week.

But now. I can sleep. We can watch TV programs undisturbed. I can vacumn. Take down the barriers all over the house.

and sleep.

Okaasan - ok.
We had a family trip to the local shopping mall yesterday. Lunch and walk.
Usually I hate those trips. So boring. Yesterday my brain could just about function at that level. It was a relief to do only that.


Going to prepare Okaasan's lunch now. And go to bed for the afternoon.