Beautiful sunny day.
We decided to start trying to retrain Okaasan to feed herself at lunchtimes - because now there is a kitchen full of food and even if she doesn't cook, she should be able to find enough things to eat. Since December Yujiro has been cooking lunch for her almost every day - and we agreed it's time to break that routine and free him up. Hopefully he'll start work sometime soon...
He told her: "I'm out this morning, so look after your own mid-day meal ok?" about 10 am.
Then he went out shopping.
I made a 1 pm appointment at my hair salon for Okaasan and after telling her that we'd set out together at 12.30 to walk there I disappeared upstairs to unpack boxes and arrange my new bookshelves. It was sunny, I listened to pop music on YouTube...the cat snoozed in the sun. Happiness!
Around midday Yujiro came back with the shopping. I made ham and cheese sandwiches quickly and we sat down at the kitchen table to eat.
Okaasan drifted into the kitchen.
"Eh, looks delicious. Did I eat? What am I going to eat?"
"Didn't you eat something yet? We told you, look there is food here in the fridge, there is food here in the cupboard."
"Really? Can I eat anything? What should I eat? Is there any rice? etc etc...."
Yujiro stood up and grabbed an Instant Noodles pack and showed Okaasan how to boil water on the new electric cooker, showed her the instructions on the pack etc. We continued eating, she managed to cook the Instant Noodles - and finally at 12.20 pm she sat down to eat.
I called the hair salon to change the appointment time.
AGHHH. She's a long way off being able to "do" her own midday meal. Even remembering to eat something, never mind something as complex as cooking. But we have to get her into this routine - even if she has some hungry days with not much food. At the very least she can help herself to yogurt, rice crackers, fruit or cup soups. Or does she need public food delivery already? Maybe?
After that I took her to the hair salon and left her there in the care of my hairdresser Hiroshi. We went to our old apartment to return the keys and give goodbye presents to friendly, wonderful neighbors...I felt a little sad to see our old home and street. It reminded me of my old, uncomplicated life...before Okaasan.
In the evening I cooked spaghetti. Added salt of course. Garlic, chilli peppers in the sauce etc. Can't go wrong with spaghetti. Or so I thought. Just in case I put a bottle of soy sauce and the salt pot on the table in front of Okaasan's mat.
Silent eating. Okaasan and Yujiro said a few: "Hmm, delicious"...but not really with any enthusiasm. When he cooks he is lavish in praise about his own cooking (he's that kind of person) and she echoes his enthusiasm.
I made a few sharp/joke/but not-joke comments about being a disappointed Oyome-san...they repeated their polite "hmm, delicious".
Then Okaasan started adding salt on her food. And she added. And again.
FOUR times she sprinkled salt on her spaghetti! Four times!
I wasn't happy. I made comments about her taste ability. She made comments about how Japanese people like salty food. Yujiro was in the middle.
NOT a happy family dinner!
Afterwards she washed up the dishes. Yujiro and I had a tense, whispered Calm Down conversation in the utility room. My insides were churning with frustration and anger.
I don't care how much salt she puts on her food really. She's already 76 and she can eat unhealthy food if she wants. And of course the four times is probably because she's forgotten that she's already added it.
I guess what really really gets me is that I would love there to be some happiness at the table when I'VE cooked!. I'm not a great cook. But I'm not a bad cook. I would love the feeling at the table to be celebration...not silent, critical eating.
Late last night I sent an e mail to a friend and made escape plans for dinner tonight. I'll meet her after work and go out to dinner with her. I don't want to be here tonight.
Is this my life? For the next 10 years or more. Grudging thanks for my dinners? Surpressed rage? The old: "Japanese people like salt" conversations.
I crave more than this.