Okaasan and Me - ONE year. Oh my God!
December 4th last year I went home from work - with Tokiko's kind gift of a sushi plate - and Yujiro brought Okaasan up from Saitama to Sapporo.
So what deep, thoughtful observations do I have about this momentous occasion?
* We moved from a tiny house to a home with real size rooms. And a big bath. And a heated toilet seat.
* Okaasan is much happier and healthier being here with daily mental stimulation and her money and schedule confusions sorted out by her son.
* Yujiro has a chance to bond with his mum.
* I have got hours and hours of Japanese listening practice, with many useful repeats.
* We've eaten less meat, curry, pizza - more fish, rice, pickles.
* We don't have to wash up so much because Okaasan mostly does it.
* We've learned a lot about dementia.
* Yujiro and I have become closer as a couple.
* We've lost relaxed, interesting dinner conversations.
* We can't be spontaneous about going out for dinner or seeing friends.
* Yujiro became a housewife.
* We can't have CouchSurfers from all over the world staying in our home.
* We have to think about shopping and cooking, hula dancing, laundry....
* We can't easily have delicious food like cheese fondue.
* Going naked in the kitchen is no longer an option.
Am I happy living with Okaasan?
No. Not at all.
I still can't believe I am and I look forward to the day when I don't.
But for now I have to, so I have to make a go of it.
This year has been awful in so many ways - Yujiro's re-injury at Christmas, the stresses of house hunting and moving, being dropped by a dear friend after a fight, my knee, Dad's mystery faint, Jane's car crash and 6 months hospitalization, getting fatter, 4 trips to the UK, Dad's death, Bob-cat's death, Yujiro's unemployment.....so it was hardly a good time to take on a new life as Oyomesan too...
I regret that I haven't spent more time with Okaasan doing nice things. I work hard 5 days a week and May to October I was hardly able to walk anywhere, so I couldn't do things like walk round the neighborhood with her, go shopping or take her to interesting places in Sapporo.
My relationship with her is still a surface one. Polite chat, the occasional laugh. My Japanese should be much, much better and maybe I should start lessons again.
I regret that we haven't got her assessed by a doctor and registered with the city council for care.
Is Okaasan's dementia any better?
Hard to say. I think it's put on Pause maybe. From living alone amid the trash and chaos of her life in Saitama to snuggling down under the kotatsu and hanging laundry just so in Sapporo - things have got better for her. But she has very little social life, apart from the once a week hula dance group.
Many students and friends have been so supportive this year and many Japanese women said I was doing a great thing to agree to live with husband's mum.
I don't feel so. I think Yujiro is doing amazing. He's a beer drinking, noisy, ski bum kinda guy - being patient with an old lady and cooking for her twice a day almost every day...THAT'S amazing.
I've had it easy. I have to be polite for about 45 minutes a day at Family Dinner Time. A little more at weekends. But I can escape to my working life. If I didn't work it would be so different - I come from a Western background where I've been bred to have a strong sense of self and I am confident in myself as basically a good, capable person. If I came from a poor, Chinese family and was trying to cope in this Japanese family far from home - where my life and opinions count for nothing - it would be terrible.
I'm also crazily lucky to have a partner in crime who can laugh about the whole thing with me. If he was disappearing off to the office every day and leaving the Okaasan Care to me at home. AGHHH!!!
One year of Okaasan and Me. Hmmmm....hard...but could be harder. Probably will be!