Sunday, 8 November 2009

Silent Night...all is blurggghhhh

Another silent dinner last night.

But at least the baseball was on, so I could look at the screen in between looking at my food or the plate.
The local baseball team got stuffed by the Manchester United of Japanese baseball - and it was all good cover for 3 people sitting at a table when 2 of the people aren't communicating.

In fact it isn't SO unusual for us - most of our 3-some meals up till now have been mainly Yujiro monologues, with responses from Okaasan and I, or he and I talk and she eats. Or they talk and I eat. She and I don't really ever chat to eachother much unless I get her on a circular memory train (Korean food is best/Cape Town has 4 Japanese schools/we didn't have food wartime/ I went to the Honolulu Marathon with a friend) and she chats along and I respond with interest.

It may be a side effect of her developing dementia: Okaasan never actually initiates a conversation. It's all responses. Funny this, I noticed of course because I am a language teacher. She doesn't START a conversation with Yujiro at all - she is silent until he says something that she then responds to. Is this a memory thing? She doesn't remember the last few minutes, so she isn't aware that she hasn't spoken? I will probably read around this topic a bit because it is quite pronounced I think. Even in the best of times when she is not Sending Bad Oyome-san to Coventry.

I'm actually well-trained in passive dinner table experiences: my mother and step-father used to have nasty bickerings at dinner when I was a teenager and I was very good at keeping my head down to eat and letting them sling the insults. So lunch was ok - I ate and glanced occasionally around the kitchen and did a few exchanges with Yujiro.

Today Yujiro and I went out to enjoy the autumn warmth and explore some places for his last few photographs. Then we came home and I cooked lunch for all of us: Silent Lunch. He chatted. I ate.

After lunch I left son and mother washing up and chatting and I went out to clear the garden for winter. Okaasan came out and stood on the front doortep for a while, and said nothing to me as I pruned a pot plant in the entrance area. Later she went out - and I was actually sitting ON the front door steps cutting and putting flowers in a vase.

She walked right past me as she was heading out! Didn't say a thing!

It's hard to explain to non-Japanese or anyone who has never lived in Japan quite how rude this is - greetings on arrival and departure are essential in this country. I expect murderers bow at the door and call out a formal greeting word before they come in to slash your neck.

I was amazed. Okaasan is a very polite person. She comes from a naturally polite generation.

So I called her out on it.

I stood up from the step and said the greeting word to her retreating back.
That stopped her.
She turned round and was all confused.
I said it again. And then added that even though were were not friendly at the moment - basic politeness was a good idea.
She said:" Didn't I say it? Didn't you hear it?"
But of course she and I both knew she hadn't said it at all.
So she said the greeting and scurried away.

I don't know whether to tell Yujiro or not. It's so petty on one level - but so indicative of her feeling about me on the other. I STILL think we should have a Family Meeting and talk this out.

I am NOT a bad person. I am trying to help her son care for her. I may have made a mistake (we still don't know whether she ever found the missing magazine in the recycle box, cos I certainly don't have it!!), and while I will apologise for a mistake I will certainly not apologise for something I did not do.

In the meantime: Silent Meals, Forced Greetings. I am becoming a ghost in my own home?

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