Friday, 31 July 2009

Good news from England!

My step-mum is going to be/has been/is being moved to the hospital in the town near their home!

Even though she still can't eat by mouth, and she can't control her toilet needs, can't stand or sit for very long the local hospital says they will take her and try to get her stronger.

It's great news! I didn't think this would happen till September...if then.

I only got this from an e mail from my step aunt. Dad is out shopping at the moment...

Such good news. It's nearer their home -only 20 minutes drive. It's near the supermarket where Dad goes shopping.

Good news at last.

My tomato...your tomato?

Yesterday Yujiro picked some tomatoes for lunch.
Okaasan asked: "Is it ok to pick Amanda's tomatoes? Is it alright?"


What IS going on in her mind!!!???

His tomato. My tomato. Her tomato. OUR tomatoes!!!!

It's very cute...and strange. Yujiro thinks it is because she has a feeling that she is only staying here, that this is our home and not her home. I don't know....very odd.

I've known her son now pretty well for about...oh...10 years or more...I guess he can pick my tomatoes. He'd better stay away from my melons and cherries though...

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Cooked and blurghh...

Oyome-san cooked today to give Yujiro a break.

I used zucchini a student gave me and our own tomato harvest to make veggie spaghetti for lunch. We managed to keep Okaasan OFF the subject of Hula Dance.

For dinner I cheated and bought a packet at the supermarket, it's a Chinese thing of cold chicken slices on cucumber with a sesame sauce - served up with tofu and sweet corn, miso soup and rice. And again we stayed away from Hula Dance.

I went to the gym. But I only did the machines. My leg was swollen again and I couldn't face walking all the way down and up the stairs to and from the pool. Went to the hairdressers instead...and the homecare center to buy a small lawn mower. The grass is now so healthy it needs more than the handheld electric cutter! THAT'S a real lawn. All I need now is sunny weather to dry it out enough to cut it.

Okaasan went out walking a little. I dashed into her room while she was out and tidied out some of the old newspapers, the shopping receipts, the plastic's a real mess. I feel if we take out some of the stuff from the piles we'll stop it reaching the ceiling.

Called England to wish my Dad happy birthday - he is 86 years old. He'd been for a check-up and out to lunch with my step-aunt.
A little good news from my step-mum - the physiotherapists got her standing out of bed! Of course they were fully supporting her...and she only took one step to the next bed. But

Is it too much to hope? Is she actually going to make progress? My step-uncle went to see the doctors yesterday for a doctor to doctor conversation, so I'm waiting to hear what they think.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Hula Hell.

This is the garden across the road - Hoshiba-san aged 83? does this pretty much all on her own...and I get to enjoy it every time I look out of the living room or office window.

What's happened in Okaasan's head about her Hula Dance class?

Somehow this thing she loves, this group she seemed happy to go to has become ...bad, bad, bad!

Yesterday, unfortunately Yujiro got his days mixed up and sent her off to Hula Dance on the wrong day. God help us - someone in this family had better keep a grasp on the days of the week...

And this morning Okaasan had another little melt down on the subject of Hula Dance: I don't want to go, I feel tired, I don't have a T-shirt, they didn't tell me about the dance festival earlier this month, they always have breaks, they don't have a bath....and on and on...

I wonder if it's the Didn't Tell Me About Dance Festival situation. They gave her the information paper about it, but of course she forgot it and left it in a bag...and didn't apply to join the didn't know about it...we didn't know and the other women in the group don't intrude enough to make sure Okaasan is aware of what they are planning.

It's easy to see how people with dementia can isolate themselves from things - they just miss the forward planning and they are not very interesting at social situations can slip away and all that's left is a negative feeling of being left out.

Anyway. If she doesn't want to go so be it. But it WAS a thing she enjoyed, it got her out interacting with people and exercising in a happy situation. Hopefully next week she'll have forgotten all about this negativity...maybe....

This morning I've tried to jolly-her-along with chat about the flowers and sunshine. She's outside right now endlessly reorganising the clothes line. This is one of her fixations: she stands there rearranging her (and my!) wet laundry...pegging and unpegging, moving the hangers round...staring at them...then changing their position again...then she goes inside and moves her socks, T-shirts, pajamas around on the floor and the sofa....some kind of reassurance in life....

The book I read about dementia said clients can go round and round the home doing things that seem ok in their little world - packing and unpacking, getting ready to garden or rearranging the books...something that they remember doing in their past and it feels safe. For Okaasan: handwashing/hanging clothes/drying clothes - VERY reassuring.

Meanwhile Yujiro has seemed to slump about his fruitless job hunting. I swept him away last night to a huge department store buffet place - using a voucher that a student gave me. We stuffed ourselves indecently on Chinese/Italian/Japanese food and drink. Tried to pep talk him. Tried to give him positive feelings. But it's hard to be hopeful for a 50 year old in an economic slump.

Haaaaa. What a happy summer!

Small things, small things. Just concentrate on the small sweet peas are great. We can pick our own tomatoes. I'm going swimming today....small things...

Monday, 27 July 2009

Bees in bonnets and blurghhhhhh.

Bloody rain. Too much. Depressing.

I escaped to the gym in the morning and Yujiro came along to use the guest ticket I got when I joined. Trouble was, we only had one pair of clean/indoor sneakers between us.
I thought he should wear them as he was going to use the bike machine. I just sit on 3 upper-body expercise machines. It doesn't matter what is on my feet. I put on two layers of socks though so I was "clean".

But this is Japan. Minutes into my start the gym staff asked me ever so politely to leave! GRRRRR>>>>I did the angry, indignant gaijiin thing I'm afraid...because this kind of rule following in Japan does my head in. They say it's for safety. I say I'm only sitting on a machine....not running.

So I icily gave them back my training folder and went downstairs to swim...much less stressy. Later I grabbed the shoes back off Yujiro to do my 5 minutes of upperbody work...with Official Footwear in place.

We had lunch we Okaasan. I made the mistake of mentioning the word "gym" and it set her off on her usual whinge about the hula dance class and how they cheat her by closing for a month and how the sports center only has showers, not baths....etc etc..
(in English this is called "having a bee in your bonnet" about something).

We talked round and round - the same conversation...four? five times over lunch about where a better gym would be...and which one we'd check out for her.

Many old people repeat stories - but this is far more. She really uses the same words exactly, 2 minutes's like a know what is coming next. You can distract her for a moment, but she WILL return to the same words and comment/story.

Very trying. I can understand family murder. For me it is endless listening practice, for Yujiro it must be excruciating.

Rest of the day...just blurghh while the rain fell. Computer. TV. Telephone.

I demand summer right NOW!

I demand summer right NOW!

(if she can repeat stuff, so can I...)

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Suspicions confirmed.

I was right - it was a hospital mistake and Dad's wishful thinking...there was no plan to get Fish 'n Chips down a woman who hasn't eaten anything for 7 weeks...they piped the ovaltine-like liquid into her as usual.

But she does sound stronger, asked for cards to write to friends today etc and the doctors want to try some mouth feeding a week from now.

Horrible rainy day here - is this summer? The only bright spot was a student bringing me photographs of her husband's 24 planters full of roses that they have on their apartment balcony in central Sapporo! Wonderful colors! Their apartment is going to be renovated in the fall and I offered to host the rose plants here to protect them...

Quiet dinner at home tonight. We're all feeling down with the weather. Yujiro did his favorite: tacos. Okaasan eats it surprisingly...although she asked us countless times what the salsa sauce was and told us countless times how she ate soft tacos shells in Mexico years ago. Her repetitive conversations are sometimes pretty takes a lot of patience to keep answering the same questions.

Tomorrow gym and swimming pool. Hope it stops raining. Enough already.

Fireworks and Fish 'n Chips.

The rain held off and we took Okaasan in the car down near the river, parked at a friend's apartment and went with her and thousands of others to the Toyohira River Firework Show.

The riverside road was closed and we took folding garden chairs, so we could sit out in the middle of the road and enjoy the show.

"Apple! Peach! Watermelon!" we all screamed as fireworks in the shape of fruit lit up the sky. Somehow the kids seemed to recognise what the shape was before us oldies.

It was simple, mindless fun. Just sitting there looking at lights in the sky. A good mind break.

I think Okaasan enjoyed it, she chatted a bit with my friend Hiroko and looked at the constant fashion parade of the young women in their yukata - shame, cos most of their guys were just wearing jeans and T-shirts. But the women looked great in wooden sandals and colorful cottons.

*** Came home and had a strange conversation with Dad in England.

He says that Jane was going to eat Fish 'n Chips in hospital! First of all I shared his joy and amazement that she is eating again.
And then when I put the phone down - well actually came away from the computer - I thought: "It can't be true". After 8 weeks of not eating anything by mouth - how could anyone eat something like Fish 'n Chips?

I'm thinking that the catering staff didn't see the "Nil by Mouth" sign above her bed and just delivered a menu and Dad with his great food obsession chatted to Jane about the menu and food, and Jane said she'd like fish 'n must be THAT. After he came away from the hospital at the end of the afternoon...did she REALLY sit there and eat fried fish and chips???

I can't think that is right.
The journalist in me suspects my unreliable source. I know how much he wants her to be eating - in his world once she is eating again she is better - but I think talking about the menu and actually putting the food in your mouth and swallowing it and very different.

Friday, 24 July 2009


He quit the dodgy crab selling job - I've never been so happy to hear someone quit!

He brightened up immediately and got back into the job hunting groove again - there are a few jobs he found which would use his computer skills.
I don't write much about Yujiro and work. When we first met he'd already quit regular work to ski in winter and do part-time work in summer and I admire him for that. To drop out of regular work life to follow one's dream in a society like Japan takes big guts. Generally it's been fine: I earn good money for my job and we share almost all the costs of life...if he is happy I don't care what he does.
I don't believe jobs are status - in my book whatever you get out of bed to do each morning is good. As long as you do it as well as you can. Everyone contributes to society, whether you are handing out advertising tissues or nursing sick people.
He's done all kinds of job: call center, computer help line, construction site guardman (the little stick waving guys at the roadside), tour conductor on the buses...

The tour conducting job was the best - he is a showman type and herding Japanese tourists round sightseeing and hotels and airports while juggling all the optional tour payments and the meal plans was perfect. But this job took him away from home 5 or 6 nights a week. And you need to be able to run. So this year he thinks he can't do it.

This time job hunting seems harder. He is now 50 and that number looks bad on applications. And the economy. And trying to be home for cooking.

I keep saying that I am ok with knuckling down to do more of the cooking because I only have one evening of work now - but he says he wants to cook more and be here to chat with Okaasan. I think I can and should do more evening stuff with Okaasan, but he says he will.

So. Crossed fingers for something that's not gangster linked! Ski season starts late November/December..and after all his injuries in the past 18 months neither of us have any idea if he'll ski teach again. I hope so. It IS his life.

Fireworks tonight. But the weather forecast said rain. Bummer.
I'd hoped for nice happy-family time taking Okaasan to the fireworks...

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Change...and confusion.

Total solar eclipse
today - but Sapporo was cloudy and I was in the gym. So missed it.
People used to believe eclipses heralded bad luck: today was certainly full of change and confusion for all three of us.

I went to the gym and then to book my air tickets for the UK..and then to the bank to grab some savings to pay for it because the air miles were 5,000 miles short of making it a free trip. NEXT time will be free...and there will be a next time I am sure soon. Of course I want to support my Dad and see my step-mum. But I also don't want to go again. I have only just come back and I selfishly want MY summer break in my own life here. UK in August should be great...I will try to see one or two friends this time too. But, I feel unsettled.

Yujiro went for second day at the crab selling company. Hard. And a gangster type man came and spoke to the young manager. And a Final Demand from the electricity company arrived! This job DOESN'T look good at all. Tiny chance he'll actually get paid end of month. Some other companies phoned in the evening. he is continuing to explore other options.

And. As he left at 8.30 am he told Okaasan to fix her own lunch.
I went out at 10.15 am.
Okaasan promptly forgot...and was in big confusion about her midday meal.
From the evidence in the kitchen later I guess she managed to cook some noodles and eat yogurts and bean sprouts - but she wasn't a happy bunny.

When she saw me again at 4 pm she complained. I felt terrible for her. I tried to reassure - but it is tough to tell someone: "From now on you have to get your own lunch". Yujiro apologised to her later, I cooked dinner...but...but...

The book I read (Contentented Dementia ) says people with dementia don't do change at all well. Of course. She can't remember: "Mother, I'm working today, Amanda is out. Fix your own lunch."

I think we MUST set up a system, maybe a small white board on the kitchen table, so we can write "Fix Your Own Lunch" on it, otherwise Okaasan will be endlessly confused about what is happening for midday meals. Her routine for months has been wait for Yujiro to cook and call her to the table and now that's changing. Poor lady.

Some of my students looked at Shibata-san's photos this week and said: "OH! Okaasan looks so good! She looks bright!"

But that is the sad thing about mental disability/disease - you LOOK fine. And if someone meets you the initial conversation SEEMS fine. But you don't know if you had breakfast, you don't know if these socks are just washed or not, if you bought something in a shop...if you walked down this street before.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

England again...

Finally got hold of Dad last night...he'd left the phone off the hook. I called my step-aunt, who was already onto it via the phone company and neighbors.

Anyway. My step-mum HAS been moved to a room with other people, but she is still only taking food through the stomach. Fairly bright with dad and visitors. Sometimes is hoisted out of bed to sit in a chair.

And Dad really wants me to go again. To him August seems like a long time away - but actually for me it will be in 2 weeks time. So I'll get the ticket today. I hope I can use airmiles!

Don't really want to go at all. I want to stay here and enjoy my summer hols in my own garden with my friends here. But. But. Dad would like company again for the hospital visits and life stuff. So. Off to England again. This time I only have to find a sub teacher for one class.

Closer to home in Sapporo: Okaasan greeted me home last night with a bean paste filled rice cake and a cup of green tea, and the old stories about how her father once bought crab and she and her brothers tried to stay awake till he came home...and Yujiro did 7 gruelling hours on the telephone trying (and failing) to get anyone in Honshu to buy Hokkaido crabs. He came home tired and down...but is willing to give the job a little more time until he finds something else.

We both cooked dinner. Okaasan set out for a walk at 5.45 pm and came home at 7.30 pm, so we heated up her dinner and fed her.

Today I am going to the gym and the travel agents. I am not going to cook lunch for Okaasan. She can start learning to cope on her own at lunchtime. She's been coddled with Yujiro always doing the middday meal. I really feel it is unnecessary, but he said it wasn't a problem as he was home anyway. I may be home anyway too...but I'm not going to do it. She CAN get something together to eat for herself.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Green shoots of recovery?

Errr...this is a "Sakura" Foreign Wife in Japan, photographed last month by professional photographer ( and nice lady!) Reiko Shibata for an exhibition in the Nikon Gallery Ginza later this year....

Green shoots of recovery here...maybe...

My step-aunt says my step-mum has been transferred from a private room next to the nurse station to the general ward. I haven't been able to speak to Dad since Saturday, so I can't confirm or get the details...but that is something good...maybe.

And Yujiro's just gone off for 3 days trial work at a call center...selling Hokkaido crab. Not sure if it is really what he wants to do, he prefers getting out and about instead of sitting in a room for 7 hours with a phone.
But it gets him OUT of here. I'm off working today, Okaasan will have to cook herself a 5-course lunch. Or explore the plastic bags around the base of the sofa.

Quiet holiday weekend. I did some weeding (sitting down), I cooked all the meals Sunday and Monday. Watched TV. Played computer games.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Body snatching back.

Well, I started reclaiming my body back from injury hell.

I swam out in the car thru the holiday weekend downpour and signed in for my Orientation at the gym...with a young guy with amazingly hairy legs. He may have been the hairiest man in Japan.

The sports center has no elevator. Just walking up the stairs from the lockers to the training room made me puff. And then the pool is downstairs.

Anyway, Hairy-san put me on a machine which apparently calculated all my essentials (3 kg overweight, both legs about the same muscle strength, no power in my stomach or trunk...) and he set me off on the machines doing a few sets. Then I hobbled down to the pool - where another young guy got the old lady pool walking in tiny steps.

It was so hard! I realized how little I can do. So of course...I cried. Doing it too much recently.

The Pool guy was a nice guy and chatted me into calmness. Then I swam a few lengths just trailing my leg and not kicking. Swimming felt SO good...something I CAN do. Stress rolled away.

And even better - he said Sunday morning is usually quiet! Perfect time for me.

So. I've made a start at getting back into shape and wrestling control of my body back from this bloody ligament thing. 2 months of hobbling is doing my head in.

Quiet, relaxing weekend here. Raining of course. 3 day weekend.
We sneaked off to the Simon and Garfunkle concert at Sapporo Dome last night - awesome! Okaasan managed to feed herself instant noodles and rearrange her socks.

Today I had a long lunch with a friend and then came home to cook fish, rice, salad and soup. And the holiday treat of a Furano melon...cheaper than a Yubari and just the same.

Okaasan had stayed home all day, but she brightened up with dinner time chat about firework displays. This Friday is Sapporo's big show - if the weather actually let's up we'll take her.

and so and so....

Nothing has been said about the snacks appearing by magic in their own little basket - it's the Snack Fairy. Occasionally she leaves sweet papers in my handbag by mistake too.

* As I headed into the kitchen tonight at 6.30 pm to start dinner Okaasan peered round from her TV watching: "Ohaiyo-gozamimasu! (good morning!)"..."Ahh...actually it's 6.30 PM...not AM!!!....but that's ok, I'm English and in England about now it IS AM!!!".

Gotta laugh.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Family last!

For the first time since I came back from the UK on Friday night we managed to have a family dinner together.
Okaasan looked tired - today was a nasty, rainy, cold day and she walked to Hula Dance class and then fell asleep when she came home. But at dinner we chatted about the flowers that the neighbor gave us and the jazz festival in the park. She brightend up. THIS is the reason we moved her here...when you are feeling blue a bit of chat from other people lifts the spirits. If you live alone you just sit in front of the TV. And Japanese entertainment TV programs are mind-numbing.

I spent a very boring day at home watching stuff on TV and resting the leg.
BUT! I decided to do something about this inactivity...we went along to the nearby sports club and I joined up! My body and brain is crying out for some kind of physical exercise - whether it is upper body training exercises or pool walking...something is desperately needed. I can't go on getting fat and out of condition.

The staff were friendly and I booked in for a personal orientation on Sunday morning, the guy will show me the facilities and advise me what I should be doing.

I feel better just knowing I've taken that positive step.

News from England: Jane has been awake a little when Dad goes in...2 days in a row. But the mouth feeding isn't happening because she gags and one of her nieces (who is a doctor) went to visit and came away not step-aunt said she doesn't believe that Jane would want to go on on like this for ever...I agree...but I don't think either she or Dad are anywhere near making decisions regarding that yet.

Before and After...

You know what this is?

Once upon a time there was a yurine (lillybulb).....


Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Invisible and mean.

Had a horrible day.
It all came down upon me as I was getting ready for work.
I put on a work skirt that I haven't worn for a while (trousers are better for adding a medicated compress during the day) - and OMG - so tight! I knew I'd put on weight, but here was the horrible proof.

I started crying in the car as Yujiro drove me downtown. I cried most of the way there.
I cried when I walked in to work and a student asked me about England.
I cried when the manager asked me about England.
I cried going to the classroom.
Somehow I pulled it together and went into "Amanda teacher" mode and did a class.

Got through the rest of the day.
At 5 pm my knee was swollen and hot. So I went to rehabilitation...the doctor said some codswallop about England being more humid than Japan...

I came home. Drank some wine and ate dinner with Yujiro.

Okaasan set OUT at 5.30 pm!!!! We may never have to eat dinner with her again.

While we tracked her wanderings round Toyohira ward on the GPS I took in her laundry and started tidying up some of the trash bags round her living room table.
20 minutes later I was finding old banana skins, rock-hard rice cakes, empty yogurt pots, sweet wrappers, pickled fish etc etc All stuffed in bags and forgotten.
I threw out all the trash, the old shopping bags, the newspapers...and I put the edible food in a plastic basket by her table so she can actually SEE what she has to eat.

Yujiro said I was going too far, that she'd notice I'd been touching her things.
I said I didn't care.
I don't have such a warm cuddly relationship with her to ruin anyway.
She has no idea what is IN most of these plastic bags on the floor - now at least she can see what she has!

If she asks I'll tell her the rotting food was smelling and I thought a nice basket to put things in would help.

She finally rocked home around 8 pm. Yujiro heated up some dinner for her. I went upstairs and left her to discover what the lovely invisible Oyomesan has done.

There's nothing like taking your stress out on an old lady.

I'm mean.
And happy with it.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Invisible woman.

Today at lunch Okaasan asked Yujiro: "Did Amanda come back from England yet?"

Who was that woman who painstakingly peeled potatos for the BBQ lunch yesterday?
Who was the woman who gave you a taste of her Australian beer?
Who was the person who moved the cat off the entrance hall mat so you could put on your shoes?

My diet is obviously so successful already you don't even see me!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

and Okaasan?

This blog is titled Okaasan and Me...been a lot of "me" recently. So. Okaasan catch up.

Okaasan is fine.

Yujiro said that while I was away she seems to have forgotten about the "I Must Go to Saitama and Dry My Kimono" plan, and he was careful not to mention it again.

But she was depressed about something and he finally got her to say why: "Amanda doesn't like me, I saw a memo about me. Amanda wrote "Ijimewaru" (Bully) on it about me. I saw the memo on May."

!!!!!! Yujiro set her straight by telling her a) Amanda maybe doesn't know that word; b) Amanda probably can't write that word and c) Amanda worries more about your happiness than I do!

She seemed ok after that. But strange. I wonder where THAT thought came from? Paranoia Central.

Anyway. I just waved at Okaasan as I came home from the airport Friday night. Saturday I had to go work. And Saturday night we had couple reconnect time and went to a great local izakiya...Yujiro primed Okaasan to the fact we were going to be out and she should either eat something downtown or help herself to something in the fridge.
She must have forgotten. She did neither and when we came home at 9 pm she said she hadn't eaten. We retreated upstairs and left her peering into the fridge. She must be able to take out and eat something. She isn't so far gone in the dementia yet. Anyway - she snacks all day on stuff, so she won't starve.

Today will be a quiet home day. The garden has become a jungle. Yujiro wants to BBQ dead cow. We'll cook salmon for Okaasan.

I should unpack stuff.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

The crash...

We'll never know why my step mum crashed her car on this corner and the can see the broken earth on the bank. Cars drive this country lane at speed now...I think she was trying to avoid a fast oncoming car...

This is the car in the nearby farmyard...out of focus pictures because they are my pictures of Dad's pictures...

Me at the airport....the dog sunbathes....Gloucester Hospital - an architectural wonder.

Friday, 10 July 2009

From Narita...

Killing time at Narita before my flight back to Sapporo.

Sadly, after writing the last post on Tuesday step-mum's condition got bad again and Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday she wasn't good again.

It was very hard to leave her and Dad and come back here.

She was conscious and she knew we were there and talked a little. But she looked tired and in pain and she was very confused.

I guess I will be going back to England again soon.

Anyway. I have to go back to work now for about 4 weeks and then see what the situation is in August. Poor Dad, I felt so sorry to leave him in the house alone with the dog.

Ho hum.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

From England

hi everyone

here in Cirencester library on a computer...only got a few minutes.

The news from here is getting a little better day by day.

My step mum is still in Gloucester Hospital and she is very very weak and confused.

Yesterday the doctors tried to start her on very soft food and is the first time in 5 weeks. \she was sitting in a chair for 25 minutes by the bed. She is beginning to look better and now she can talk to my dad when he goes in.

WE go into the hospital every day. I am helping Dad with cooking and stuff at home and keeping him company.

My knee is ok...not great. My 86 year old dad can walk faster than me and I try to take the dog for a walk by car...!!

I will go back to Japan on Friday as planned and start work again. I think my step mum will be in hospital for many more weeks...hopefully they will move her to a hospital near dad's home in August so they can start thinking how to get her stajding and walking ...maybe...

anyway. its ok for now. maybe i will come back later.

time to go now. Dad is waiting for me in a coffe shop and probably eating very sweet cakes...which is bad for his diabetes.