Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Okaasan and Me.(J)

I'm about to become a Japanese daughter-in-law.
I'm a Brit living in Japan, happily and selfishly until now with a Japanese guy.
3 weeks ago he asked me if Okaasan can come and live with/near us because he is worried about her living alone and losing her short-term memory.
So I said "yes". Didn't have much of a choice really!

Today he went to Saitama. I'm at home in Hokkaido. On Friday they'll fly back here and the 3 of us will start life together. Somehow.

This is my blog.
It's for me to vent and explore my thoughts. It's for anyone to pitch in and offer me their thoughts. It's the idea of one of my students - thanks Tokiko for the interesting idea! I hope I have the energy and time to write it.
So. How did this all come about?

I've been living with him for about 10 years. We didn't marry because neither of us felt the need. We didn't want kids and we know we love eachother. Our families were fine with that. We parent an elderly, sick cat instead.
I teach and write, he tour guides and skis. We lead a pretty routine kind of life - a mixture of Japanese and foreign friends, supermarket visits at weekends, housework, laughs, sharing backgrounds and overcoming assumptions.
He's met my family a few times, I've met his. Stayed the odd night in Okaasan's house in Saitama, talk to her on the phone sometimes, send birthday flowers, holiday pix.
I speak passable Japanese. Okaasan understands some English and uses some words. She's done a lot of foreign trips in the past with some Buddhist group. But she and I really communicate in Japanese...with English words when my vocab fails.

I try to be a good girlfriend. I love her son. She loves her son. I want her to feel that he is ok. But it's all at a distance...because we are here and she is in Saitama.

Until now.

He'd been worried about her strange conversations on the phone recently and hadn't seen her for a year. Older brother (single and unhealthy) lives in Osaka. So he went to see her 3 weeks ago.
He found a confused, sad old lady living in a house of trash with rotting food, money strewn around the house and unused gadgets sold by deft salesmen.
He called me: "It's really bad. Can I bring her up to live with us?"
I said "yes".

Luckily a small apartment 2 doors away is empty and we've spent the past 2 weeks shopping and fitting it all up (1 week was away on a much needed pre-booked holiday).He's done most of it of course. I've been working and he's off work at the moment recovering from a broken leg, so he has time.

The whole thing is beyond our thinking really. When he first decided and came back home we sort of looked at eachother and laughed like maniacs. Adult responsible Life with a big "L".

No more late night beer and pizza? We'll have to make Miso soup and rice dinners?
No more lazy Sunday mornings?
No more unplanned stop-offs for dinner on the way back from skiing/hiking?

We don't know of course. Okaasan doesn't know either. How this move will change our lives. We hope, of course, that moving near us will make her happier by giving her daily conversations, regular homecooking, organization for her finances and life routines, a sense of connection. We don't know if her short-term memory problems are medical or just ageing and living conditions. She's 78 and actually physically active - bicycling and walking. She hasn't cooked much for herself for a year or two and usually goes out for dinner to a nearby soba place. And she's been using the baths at the sports center. I think she's been doing Hawaaiin dancing as a hobby.

A small part of me wonders if HE's over-reacted to a sad, but not untenable change in her lifestyle. He's a highly organised, logical kind of a person and he doesn't understand confusion and carelessness. He hasn't had much contact with older people. Maybe he's rushed to step in and "rescue" her.
But she agreed to move up here easily. She appears to want it. The plan is to keep the family home in Saitama until next year and she see what happens then.

Next year...that seems a long way away!

This Friday is looming large in my life.

       夜更けのビールとピザはもうだめってこと? 晩御飯には味噌汁とご飯を作らなきゃならないの?


  1. Just wanted to tell you that I read a couple of entries of your blog, then wanted to read the very 1st entry. You're a very brave and compassionate person. Hokkaido + Mother in law (with dementia) + away from your home country + Keeping up a blog with good vibes, means that you are made out of good stuff. Congrats.

    I don't know exactly how google brought you up as a result but I was searching for seniors, nikkei, care, and stuff like that.

    From a Mexican, born from Japanese parents, now living in Canada

    1. Thankyou! Many times I look back over this blog and find myself surprised by stuff I wrote - stuff that gave me so much stress. Now I just accept my lot in life and get on with it...willingly..and unwillingly. It was a big change for all 3 of us, that is for sure. Thankyou for reading!