Here I am in an Internet connection center in Stroud, a market town in the Cotswolds near my Dad's house. Surrounded by noisy local teenagers having job-searching advice...
Well, happy to report that the situation with my Dad and step-mum isn't as bad as I thought when I bought the air ticket and rushed over here. Thankfully!
My Dad was out of hospital by the time I got here. His ankle is broken and he is in a cast and uses a walking frame to get around. The hospital still hasn't done the tests to find out why he fainted 2 weeks ago. British doctors and hospitals move very, very slowly.
My Dad is good basically. But since I saw him last year he has aged a lot. He sleeps much more and as his bed is now in the dining room he often gets up and has a meal...and then goes back to bed!!!
But we've been out a few times for lunch in local restaurants and to the supermarket etc, and I drove them to Worcester to see a ceramics market at the famous Worcester Porcelain Factory.
My step-mum is also ok...sort of. Her main problem is that she loses balance and falls - in the house, in the garden, in shops...so we walk slowly and carefully. She too was tired and sleeping a lot.
But before I got here she had organised a Carer to come in from a local agency, so in fact I am not doing all the domestic stuff I thought I would be - a great lady called Del (a Zimbabwean who works as a Carer in the UK) - is doing so many of the domestic things like housework and cooking and help with dressing my step-mum's leg injuries.
Del is going to be living with them for another week. After that they will hopefully arrange for a night time Carer to come in and sleep in the house. If my step mum falls over at the moment there is no way Dad could help her get up.
Like Japan, private agency Carers are expensive. But if you apply with doctor's letters there are ways of getting help through the local council. My parents aren't poor, but 2 weeks of a round-the-clock private Carer is about the limit!
So for now my role here is general support and keeping Dad lively - giving him reasons to get out of bed and get dressed and washed. He is so happy I am here.
I can't help but compare my parents with Okaasan.
She is better physically than they are - she can walk and climb steps and dance. But they are better intellectually than she - none of the terrible memory problems.
The similarities though are that all of them have blind spots about recognising their limitations. My Dad and step-mum use supports to help them with getting to the toilet, and aids for the bath. But my Dad still seems to think he will drive again - even though in the past year he's had 2 bad accidents with the car. Back in Japan Okaasan hasn't accepted yet that she needs support for toilet and memory problems. But she is luckily now accepting help with the shopping and cooking and bath.
I had lunch the other day with 2 friends who are my age: we talked a lot about caring for older relatives. We agreed that in many ways the hardest thing to trying to help people who don't think they need help!
Anyway. I've called Japan a few times. Yujiro says he and Okaasan...and the cat are doing ok. Okaasan went back to Hula Dance class, he has managed to drive the car to the supermarket. So they are managing without me.
It's strange. I would never have taken 2 weeks holiday at this point in life. But in way these 2 weeks here in England ARE acting as a holiday for me. I so need it. I'm doing light caring duties, a lot of eating/dog walking/shopping/chatting...I know when I get back to Japan life will be busy with the moving and work and all my life responsibilities. So now is - unexpectedly - a "down" time.
I bought a ticket and dropped my work to rush here this time. But now isn't the emergency I thought it was. It will be one day soon. Maybe another day this year...or next year.
Anyway. I will enjoy my escape from Japan life for now.
I fly back to Japan on Friday night and start work again on Monday (Hi to everyone out at NHK in Shin-Sapporo!).