Tuesday, 30 March 2010

5th dinner-a-coming...

I expect the Pope to phone any moment and annoint me the fast-track Sainthood Program.

Tonight Yujiro will go straight from the ski area to a summer job orientation meeting, which is from 7 to 8 pm.

So. 5th night dinner with Okaasan!

I've actually stopped caring now - life throws some stuff and you just have to get on with it. Maybe this is like marathon runners, you reach a point where you don't feel the pain anymore.

I wonder if I can get an LED halo?

Monday, 29 March 2010

4th night - dinner a deux.

HOW many girlfriend points do I get for this?
Did a slog of a day, classes, no car...bus and student-pick-ups between classes, there and back by subway, a bag of books to carry...
The little "sorry, got work tomorrow" e mail came in about 6.30 pm. I didn't bother answering it. I'd only show in my voice how cheesed off I am. And that is probably some negativity that won't help airing.
I think if he was doing some boring desk job I wouldn't mind so much - but skiing is fun. Up there in the sunshine today, with the snow and the laughs in the ski school. Then back to eat cup noodles and drink beer in the ski lodge. Hmm...very hard life.

Meanwhile here in Sapporo. I came home and washed up Okaasan's lunch stuff. Then cooked her dinner. Then sat and listened to the wonders of some Japanese miracle doctor who gave Okaasan her guiding medical advice (don't imbibe anything but water till 11 am and if you are sick stop eating for a while etc).
Listened to THAT story...oh my...at least 10 times. Really. I think it probably was more.

Kittens and America Idol on TV revived my sanity.

I wonder if Okaasan KNOWS she hasn't seen her son since Friday? I guess not. I told her white lies twice, that he was "coming home later" and "left early this morning"....she seems ok with that.
Wish I could forget so easily.

And an American dropped into Kawagoe...

"And in the war an American pilot parachuted into Kawagoe and everyone ran out to see, and nobody spoke English, but the boss of the company where I worked had studied in American before the war, so he spoke English, and people went and got him, and he spoke to the American, because nobody spoke English , it was unusual in those days, and in the war an American pilot crashed and he came down by parachute into Kawagoe. The boss at the company where I worked he had been to America before the war, which was very unusual, so he came and spoke to the American, nobody spoke English, but before the way my boss had been to America and studied there so he spoke English and when an American pilot came down by parachute into the town, people ran to get..."

Oyomesan: a whole box of chocolate teddy bears.
Thank God for Chocolate.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Buttons Success! (and oh bugger...)

Buttons: Mission Accomplished.

I gave Okaasan the thread, the needles, the new buttons and the coat. Prepped her midday meal on the kitchen table etc and left her to it while I went downtown for a movie and lunch with an old student.

Came home at 4 pm and she'd done it. Beautifully of course. Expertly sewn buttons.
And she was so perky about it all. We really should give her more sewing to do.
Just good timing too because we had a sudden dump of snow again, so she hadn't been out all day.
Sewing by the TV and under the kotatsu was great for her.

And me?
I am SUCH a good Oyomesan I even bought a strawberry rice cake thingy and brought it home as a "Thankyou". She made green tea and we sat companionably at the kitchen table and drank tea and ate rice cake.

All seemed well.
Dinner is already planned. Easy pasta tonight. Yujiro due home around 6.30 or 7 pm. A successful 3 days of Being Oyomesan.

And then he phoned.
Snow caused bad accident on the road down from Kiroro ski area. He and the other instructors were still up there waiting for the road to clear...got ANOTHER booking for classes tomorrow at Kiroro....so....yes well, lots of snow on the road...maybe I should stay at the ski school lodge again tonight.


NOT a happy woman here. Yes I can do dinner and sit with his mother again. Maybe we can do the "I went to Africa" stories again.....and then tomorrow I'll set out a simple lunch for her and prime her for hula dance class etc
And tomorrow I can get my private students to pick me up and deliver me between classes in their cars...but....BUGGER.

The guy has work. It's good. He needs the money. Of course I support that.

Thankgoodness a friend in the UK has sent me an Easter care parcel: I think there are still some fondant-filled bunnies.
Three nights with Okaasan I need bunnies for sure.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Easy peasy.

WOW! This blog reaches far!
I had an e mail from a friend on a business trip in Africa, sending me a link to a Peas and Things receipe!
Thankyou dear!

And this is what I actually did with them: zapped them in the microwave ever so carefully in little stages. Then plunged them in cold water, then tossed them in sesame oil and coated 'em with sesame seeds - and Voila! (or dekita! in Nihongo).

I thought they were good. A bit crunchy maybe for Japanese tastes. I haven't been back downstairs yet to see if Okaasan enjoyed them.

I bought liver for the main event of dinner. I love it and so does Okaasan. I thought it would be a good meal for us a deux.
Trouble was: Okaasan was ASLEEP again!
Just like the last time I prepped a special meal for her. Is she faking it?
I crashed around the kitchen as noisly as possible. I flung open the  door to her room several times. I stood there and called her. No reaction. Well...deep snores. 79-year-olds sleep and sleep.

So I cooked it all. And sat down at the kitchen table to eat alone again. Of course happy in a way - but knowing that the time in my day to give Okaasan some mental stimulation was being stretched and stretched.
Sure enough. I finished eating and started moving my dirty plates to the sink.

She grunts and wakes up.
She said she'd walked a long way today...Yujiro's note about lunch told her to eat out Friday and Saturday...so I guess she had something. I don't know where. Neither does she.

Anyway. My ideas of slipping upstairs to catch the ice skating on TV faded. So....I start reheating her dinner etc and get her to the table, and then I have to sit and chat...of course prompt and let her chat.
We did a few more rounds of "I went to Africa", followed by a short diversion into "War started when I was at junior high school, and I made bullets"....

Finally I made my excuses and came away. Friend is calling from Tokyo excuse.

And so it goes. My life.
Got years and years of this I expect.

Any ideas?

Pea cooking ideas PLEASE!!!!!!

Okaasan came home with a big box of these last week and now - on 3 days of Okaasan-duty because Yujiro's gone skiing - I am trying to think how to use them.
Anyone out there got a good idea how these are cooked/served in Japan???
They are pretty big as you can see. Actually I've eaten a few of them raw and they are ok.

I gave them to Okaasan last night and asked HER how to cook them.
She turned them over in her hand like a plant specialist looking at a new species for the first time and made some vague statements about steaming them or quick boiling them...and then ended with the cop-out "I forget"...which of course she has, but it doesn't help the gaijin Oyomesan!

Last night I steamed them. Not sure how long to do it because I know Japanese people don't like their veggies anywhere near raw...so steamed them for about 5 minutes. Then sprinkled them with salt and put the soysauce bottle near Okaasan on the table.
She said I'd over-cooked them and should have removed the stringy parts.

Fair enough.
But...anyone got any ideas?

I thought tonight I might try them destringed, dropped in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, then put in a seafood spagetti sauce.
But I'm very open to suggestions!

I did an Internet search and can only come up with Snow Peas/Mange Tout...these are bigger.

There is such a gap for Okaasan between her obvious interest in cooking and food -and then reality of doing something with it. Her table is covered with cooking magazines and leaflets f rom supermarkets, she loves cooking shows on TV and buys stuff - but then....hmmm...."I forget"....


*  P.S.  I bought new buttons, thread AND special button sewing needles yesterday. "Buttons/The Sequel" is about to go into production.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Buttons III

Ahhh! All is revealed! The Great Missing Button drama!
IF I'm lucky Robert Downey Jr. and sexy Jude will sweep in and solve the case.

Okaasan went out early this afternoon (leaving me a note and a delicious apple present on the kitchen table) to our surprise (it was still actualy daylight and warm) - and then about 4 pm she telephoned Yujiro...and asked to speak to me!
"Amanda...about your coat buttons...I think I've lost the button you gave me...I'm so sorry, so I can't repair the coat! You have to buy a new set of buttons, maybe you should choose them yourself, I'm so sorry!"

Okaasan says sorry to me. Amazing!

Of course I said her it absolutely was no problem. I could get nice, new buttons for my coat etc. No problem. No worry etc etc etc.
And of course it really isn't. The buttons are pretty ordinary. I earn enough money to buy another set of buttons. And hopefully I can buy the special thread and ask Okaasan to sew them on for me.

It's my fault entirely.
I gave her the coat. And one loose button - HOW stupid could I be? Give a woman with short term memory problems a thing 2 cm wide to keep?
Sadly for both of us she didn't have the correct thread for buttons in the house.
So that entailed almost a week of worry about the thread, the sewing shop points card, the button, the thread...and how to tell me she couldn't do it.
Now I understand why she always said "buttons" when she talked about this - and I always said "No, thread, isn't it..."...because for her the problem WAS the button. The button she knew she'd lost.

The big PLUS in all of this is that she talked to us about it and didn't keep this problem to herself...didn't stew over it and let the thing build. That is a huge improvement on last year's "Where is my magazine? Amanda's taken it!". So I guess our relationship and communication has improved.

I'm super-busy tomorrow...but maybe later I'll buy some new buttons and thread. And THEN go to Okaasan and ask her to help poor useless me and sew on the buttons.....

So. I've learned: give Okaasan a simple situation to enter. Give her a task she can do there and then. Make sure she has everything to DO the task.

It reminds me of when I was a child: my mother giving me money to go shopping. But I'd buy the wrong thing. Or it would cost more than she expected so the change would be short. I'd get in such a guilty panic about that, I'd lie to hide the fact of what was wrong. What I didn't understand. I can remember my mother saying:"Just tell me if you don't understand, don't lie about it!".

* But thankgoodness I DO have another coat to wear. The green coat is getting less and less wearable!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Slept until morn.

Okaasan seems fine after her huge sleep and no dinner.
She had obvioulsy ferreted around the kitchen during the night and covered up some of the food plates etc.
But at 6 am when I was in the kitchen she poked her head round the door all smiley and happy.
"I was very tired, I walked a lot yesterday, I forgot to get the buttons for your coat, I was tired!.
I reassured her that the coat and buttons could wait. Anytime ok.

And she can eat last night's dinner for lunch today while we are out working.

So, all is ok. I think. She doesn't seem unduly stressed by the cancelled hula class.
She can spend the day in front of the TV, help herself to food in the kitchen and then we'll do a family dinner routine tonight.

* One wiered conversation from yesterday: Okaasan was rabbiting on about not having a small towel for her bathtime. I took her to the towel shelves in the utility area and gave her a small towel that had the logo of a hot spring resort on it.
"I can't use that, I'm not going there!" she exclaimed.
"No, no , it's ok...please use this towel" I said.
And she took it from me and did.

So odd.
In the moment of me handing her the towel and her reading the name of the resort. Did she think we were packing up to go there? So strange.

Monday, 22 March 2010

A Year of Living...dangerously

We moved to this house a year ago - living all together in the same crazy mix.

So, it's the long weekend holiday and I actually had almost 3 days off. Yujiro was home some of the time thanks to bad weather stopping all the ski lifts and we did stuff together around the house. I also managed unheard of luxuries (for me in the past injured year anyway) of getting downtown twice alone to have lunch in a nice Italian restaurant, go to the woodchip sauna twice AND - GET THIS - DRIFT AROUND THE SHOPS AND BUY CLOTHES!
Just being able to walk where I choose, alone and with free time. Such a luxury.
Mind you, I did sit in the sauna salon lounge and reread Contented Dementia. I thought it was  a good idea because now I know Okaasan so much better.

As the book advised I actually wrote down in first person narrative all her hamster-wheel stories - wartime/Kawagoe/food shortages/warwork/father/crabs/picking vegetables etc etc. I could easily write 9 of them because now I know these stories well.
I think Yujiro and I are better at getting her onto these stories and letting her rabbit on and on. Although if she joins a conversation with a slightly off-topic piece of information Yujiro is still liable to say:"but we're not talking about THAT!" which isn't what the dementia book advises. If the client joins in, let them talk - even if it isn't so connected.Let them take the stage with their familiar topic.
The book also refers to the constant, repeated question that the client is asking. But I don't think Okaasan really has one. "What day is it?", "What time is it?", "Where's Yujiro?" aside.

All seemed well with Okaasan. We shared some meals with her and chatted her along on stuff. My coat and the buttons seem to have vanished, she said to Yujiro that she'd been to the sewing shop but forgotten to get the thread and was going back.
It's a bit tricky this one - how to gently remind her, without seeming to hassle. I really don't mind how long the button sewing takes - I have another coat. But what was designed to be a pleasant thing for Okaasan to do - seems to have thrown up all sorts of problems and I don't want her to start having negative feelings about me/the coat/the sewing.
I did wonder if I should go and buy the button thread and give it to her...or would that be giving her feelings of inability?

Yujiro went off skiing this morning.
I started Okaasan's bath. Reminded her about hula dancing. Reminded her about the bath. Gently kept her on preparation schedule. Served a light 11.30 am meal for her. Encouraged her out of the door.
45 mins later Yujiro telephoned to say that there was NO hula class today! National holiday etc. Okaasan had gone to the department store culture school. No class. She'd called him....(bet THAT felt good for the super-cool ski instructor to have his mum on the phone about hula dancing!!)
It's a real bummer after all Okaasan's confusion in the past week about the class schedule. Couldn't come at a worse time. Strange cos usually this class meets even on numerous Japanese public holidays.

But not today.
So poor Okaasan had got all gussied up for nothing. A negative experience connected with the thing she loves doing.

I came home about 6 pm from shopping. Okaasan was fast asleep under the heated table in her room.
I made dinner, called her several times. Stood in the door of her room. But she slept and slept.
Finally I sat down and ate dinner alone at the kitchen table and hoped the smells and sounds would rouse her. They didn't.

Yujiro called to say: don't worry, probably she ate out. Probably she's tired. It's my fault, I should have checked.
Of course somewhere there is a class schedule, and  I'm sure the teacher made an announcement last week. But that's no use to a lady with dementia....
Yujiro should GET the schedule and put it up on the kitchen noticeboard.

So there we are. Nice day. Followed by disappointment. I tried to have some kind of relaxing evening and get ready for classes tomorrow.

And so Year 2 of Living Dangerously starts....

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Buttons II

A little glimpse into the increasingly confused world of Okaasan.
No wonder she looked tired last night.

Turns out now that she DID go to the sewing shop to buy the thread for my buttons.
But the sales assistant asked if she had a shop points card.
Okaasan said "No", and then didn't have her name seal to fill out the application form (because Yujiro keeps her name seal as a big to stop her signing up for credit cards etc).
So she didn't get the points card.
So she didn't get the thread.
So she didn't sew the buttons.

Of course most people would say/think: "No, I don't have a point card, I don't need one, I'm only buying thread today, it doesn't matter"...and continue on the main task of buying thread.

But Okaasan got so easily knocked off course by the sales assistant question about a points card. Suddenly she is focusing on THAT and then is getting further and further away from the original intention.
Shops/businesses in Japan endlessly give customers these cards, it's a form of advertising and usually there isn't much advantage to having the card unless you buy a lot from that particular shop.
Okaasan isn't able to say "No" to these sales assistants at all, deep in her Super Housewife psyche is the feeling that it MUST be an advantage to having the points card. Of course in reality she doesn't do enough shopping anywhere to justify a points card (apart from maybe the underwear department), but she doesn't have that level of judgement.

The upshot was that Yujiro was telling Okaasan this morning that he wouldn't give her the name seal because you don't need that to get the card anyway, you just put your name and address and sign it. And then she found that she DID have a card for this sewing shop.
And I was wishing I hadn't started the whole confusion by asking her to sew the bloody buttons in the first place........it was MEANT to be a positive experience for her, not stressful!

Operation Buttons

Had a brainwave Friday.
The buttons on my coat are hanging by threads - so I cut one of them off completely and came home into the kitchen complaining about it.
Next morning I took the coat and errant button into Okaasan's room and did the helpless routine, asked her to help...and gave her the coat of hanging buttons to sew.
I thought it would be a good Okaasan project. Sewing seemed to have such a great effect on her before.
Unfortunately she didn't have the right kind of thread to do the job so she said she'd get some "when  I go shopping in Sapporo". She always has this idea that we don't actually live IN Sapporo - although our subway station is 9 minutes from downtown.

Anyway. I hope Operation Button is a success.

She went downtown yesterday, and talked about the sewing shop...but hadn't got the thread or done the buttons by last night. She'd also been on another underwear shopping spree and had asked for money for that...and came home seemingly very tired.
It doesn't matter how long she takes with the coat because I have another I can wear. But I hope the coat emerges from her room reasonably soon!

* The hula dance confusions continue: "Do you know they are holding the class every Monday now? Why did they change it?" she asked Yujiro.

But. It is so strange. On other things she is suddenly so clear. We were talking about a local sushi restaurant that's near our home. Looks like an ordinary house. We plan to go sometime.
"Is that the sushi restaurant on the lower road between here and the station?" Okaasan commented. Pretty clear on THAT then.

This is the strange thing about dementia and memory/mind/awareness. Some things absolutely ok. Some things inexplicably muddled.

Yujiro said that if we talk about something or she sees something on TV, it can spark a shopping trip. Last week we talked at dinner about the plum tree in our old house garden. A few days later Okaasan bought a jar for making plum wine and gave it to him.

I shall talk about chocolate from now on...constantly.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Hula, hula....when?

Okaasan is continuing to wrestle with the hula schedule.
"I asked one of the  women at the hula class, and she said it's every Monday!" Okaasan told Yujiro yesterday..."did you know that?"

Then today: "Do you know, my hula class is every week!....on Wednesdays. What day is today?"

Yujiro seems to be having Alice-in-Wonderland conversations with Okaasan about this topic.
Funny though it is - we also remember that the doctor last year told us that loss of memory and confusion about dates and times is another stage in dementia....and for whatever reason Okaasan seems to be into that at the moment.

She seems ok apart from that, fairly upbeat and doing usual greetings and chat. Came home yesterday with a bunch of Japanese foods: pickled fish, fish in soy sauce, little mushrooms etc. We were out today seeing a movie and eating lunch - Yujiro left her a note about lunch on the kitchen table and  left all the food ready to eat. Rice to heat up. Instant soup to make.
We came around 2 pm and she'd managed it all.

But the hula schedule...just keeps slip sliding away...

Monday, 15 March 2010

Okaasan hits a bad patch.

Okaasan seems to be in a bad memory patch.
We don't know why.

Since the "Satoshi died?!!" shock on Friday she seemed ok.
We three ate dinner together on Saturday night and chatted.
Yujiro had ski work agaian Sunday so I cooked lunch and ate it with Okaasan.
She chatted on about Korean food and her Korean friend at elementary school. All very familiar stories.
Then she swerved off the usual course and told me that her elementary school was in Shiki in Saitama. ???? I was confused. Shiki is where Yujiro grew up from elementary age onwards. Okaasan as a child lived in Kawagoe.
Of course I looked puzzled and asked Okaasan"Shiki? Didn't you go to school in Kawagoe?". She looked confused. But stuck to the Shiki version of the story. It was all very mixed up. Strange.

Anyway. It was a happy lunch apart from that.

Then last night. Yujiro came home. 3 of us had dinner.
I  did nice sushi for Okaasan and we risked cheese fondue for ourselves, even though the last time we ate fondue Okaasan had a melt down and accused me of terrible deeds.
All seemed well, although I thought Okaasan was a little blue after coming back from her walk.

I talked about the spring clothes in Mitsukoshi department store. How Hokkaido is cold, but the spring clothes are in the stores.
"Really? I haven't been to a department store" Okaasan said.?????

Then we talked about "tomorrow is Monday, it's hula dance day isn't it?"...and suddenly she said.

"Hula Dance is tomorrow? Hula Dance is the first Monday of every month, is tomorrow the first MOnday of the month?".

It was so strange! She's never ever said this. She is always confused about what day is today. And we remind her about hula dance and Mondays. And make sure she sets off by 12 o'clock with her skirt and T-shirt. But she's never had confusion about how many times a month it is.

This came out of the blue.
We had the same conversation about 5 times. She was convinced and very surprised to hear hula dance class is every week and that SHE goes every week.
"Really? I must be losing my memory to think this mustn't I? Really???" she said.

THAT was hard! How much should we agree with that statement?
Sitting there at the kitchen table Yujiro and I were both muttering reassuring things about "yes a little, but you are so active to do hula dance and go walking"...but it was a shock.
WE came upstairs afterwards and talked about it.

WHY has she gone off into this now?
Is it all a fallout from the "Satoshi died?" experience?
We MUST make sure she is having positive experiences this week!


Sunday, 14 March 2010

Onwards to....50!

Had a great Birthday - thankyou to everyone who sent me "ganbare" e mails, gave me presents...smiled at me!

Thanks to Shuichi Maeda who painted these pix of me based on photos - his mother brought them to class yesterday. Thanks to everyone who bought great cat toys, flowers, games, alcohol, bath stuff...I was surprised again and again.
It was a good birthday - not skiing at Furano as usual, but a stay-in-Sapporo and enjoy day.
Finished work at 5 pm and we went downtown: bought the Adam Lambert CD, dinner at a little Chinese place I like (actually it was our first date spot), then the noise and laughs of the International CM Festival (where I got a free bottle of birthday wine from the organizer!) and finally a drink at the Irish bar Brian's Brew.
Twas good.

Yujiro had spent the day at home with Okaasan and taken her out to lunch at a ramen place.
She of course had no idea it was my birthday. No big deal.

But she did get a phone call from one of her brothers in Saitama. When he mentioned about the brother who died last year poor Okaasan was VERY shocked: "Satoshi? He died? When? You didn't tell me! When? How?".
Of course she DID know...was that last February? I remember all of that in the old house, but that information didn't stay in her memory at all. She didn't go to the hospital or funeral, it was just conversations. So It didn't stick.
Mind you, she didn't seem too bothered last year about it - I don't think Satoshi was a favorite brother - so the shock wasn't too great. But it must be worrying for her to hear Yujiro calmly say to his uncle: "It's ok, I did tell her of course, but she's forgotten"...I think she knows and accepts now that she forgets stuff, but the realization that she has forgotten  such an important piece of family news must be depressing.

After that they called in at Carrot, a wholesale shop we sometimes get things from, where Okaasan stunned Yujiro by buying a KILOGRAM of anko sweet bean paste! A KILOGRAM! It's the kind of pack a cake shop or restaurant would buy to make Japanese desserts with! Okaasan seemed to think she would actually eat this amount.

And so. My birthday. Okaasan's confusions and shoppong. Yujiro doing Family Service with the girlfriend and the mother.
And Chichi and Popo have learned how to climb up a bedspread and onto a door frame.
Everest Here We Come!

Friday, 12 March 2010

The unhappy home....It's a SIGN!!!!!!

It's my birthday today.
Yujiro gave me a birthday present this morning.
I'm 49 years old.
The wrapping paper was one of those random newsprint kinds - apparently culled from 1950s editions of House and Gardens or moviestar biographies.

I turned over the parcel to open it. And my eye caught this:

The unhappy home
Wherever people live together, there is bound to be some friction, tension, misunderstanding. Problems must be confronted before they can be worked out. In a chronically unhappy home, however, a girl may be too busy dodging fire to find out who she is, let alone where she is going.....

Poor Yujiro wondered why his present brought forth such desperate laughter.

And inside this Fortune Cookie Wrapping?
Bright red boxer shorts and socks decorated with the England football team name and Number 10. So I can support "my" team this summer when we watch the World Cup together. Yes, he already has boxer shorts in the Brazil national colors as he is Brazil's Number 1 fan in Japan.
This guy is not into romantic gesture presents. Joke presents all the way.
Luckily friends and students have gone the more traditional course: flowers, cat toys, bathroom stuff. Thankyou everyone!

And so my birthday begins....a busy day at work and then the International CM Festival tonight...and No Okaasan ALL day. It's gonna be a good one.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Sanity...I guess...

Feel a little stronger now.
Wednesday was a quiet, taking stock and reconnecting day.

Oyomesan Getting Her Groove Back.

Yujiro and I did necessary, boring things together. Take kittens to vets for their shots (2.6 kg each!!), check my health insurance details at the city office, look at my accounting software, eat lunch in a family restaurant. Talk. And talk some more. Watch a DVD.

In the evening I went to a friend's cat sitting place for dinner with her. So Yujiro had Okaasan to himself.

But he and I talked a lot during the day. A bit arguementative at times. Trying not to apportion blame...but doing it inevitably. Agreeing that we must keep the lines of communication open.

The thing I hold onto is that I KNOW we were a good couple before all of this. I don't want to lose that because of extra stuff like Mother/Unemployment/Health Problems. The basic thing of him and me MUST GO ON. It has the potential to make us both happy.
So. I feel a bit washed out by the past week. And I worry about the coming time - he will be doing a lot of ski teaching in the spring holidays...and then in hospital for 4 or 5 days in April...the bad-times-are-a-coming...and I have to get through them.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

End of the World Part II

My funk continued yesterday and it was a horrendous day at work.
My first class particularly was bad: boring and far too hard for the level.
I chose a book that was too high last year and usually I manage to adapt and make it fly. But yesterday I couldn't.
Got to the end of the class...but with cries of "too hard" ringing in my ears I knew it was a failure. Japanese students don't complain directly, but the "too hard" comment is a sure sign it was not good.

The waterworks were still just a drop away.
I cried in the car quite a bit.
Stuffed my face with loads of bad food from the 7-11.

The afternoon went better. But I was full of dark thoughts about my ability as a teacher, my ability as a woman to balance man/mother/cooking/kittens....all bad bad bad.

My Dad suffered from depression and I kind of know I get these funks sometimes. When NOTHING is right (even when it is).
I try to think about other people's situations and absord positive energy from others. In my morning class one student has recently returned to class after a 3 months absence...he is a wonderful 83 year old...and his son has just died of cancer...THAT is a hard life event to go through...me having to watch out for Okaasan for a few days is nothing compared to that.
And the positives came from another student who gave me a surprise birthday package - thanks Youko! And in the afternoon the lady who entertained us all with tales of her trip to Taiwan, and the nice guy in the key cutting shop who helped my fit the key on the holder.

ALL good.

Got home to Yujiro. He cooked. We sat the three of us at dinner. Haven't done that since last week sometime.
Okaasan was lively and enjoyed the Taiwan Pineapple Cakes.
We caught up with our American Idol viewing.
I spoke to my step-mum for an hour on SKYPE.
The kittens competed with eachother to climb the curtains in under 20 seconds.

And today is my day off.
I need to recenter myself.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

And THIS is the kitchen...

She didn't remember.
I think.
I did the morning greetings and so on - and she seemed friendly enough.
The evidence in the kitchen looked like she'd eaten the remains of the pork/veggies and some yogurt and rice crackers. She won't starve. But it's not the nutrition side that worries me - it's her mental happiness.
Unhappy Okaasan is Angry at Oyomesan Okaasan. Very bad. Don't want to get back to THAT!

So I got ready for my day.
Then just before I left I called her into the kitchen and explained clearly that I was out all day. Today was her hula dance class. Yujiro would be back later. So here was the rice, the tofu, the soup, the pickles...I walked her round the kitchen and showed it all to her.
She followed me and thanked me for taking the trouble etc.
This is one of the hardest things as Oyomesan - telling an adult how to do things. In English it would be hard enough - to be respectful, but at the same time making sure they are understanding and not being patronising.
And I am doing it in my ropey old Japanese.

And then I left for a Killer Monday. Out of the house for 12 hours. 7 hours of classroom time, lots of driving. Sandwich lunch in the car near a suburban park. Dinner after 9 pm. Tired....

Yujiro came home mid-afternoon. Thanked me etc. Helped with various things. I think he feels the guilt. Two weekends and a Wednesday of his ski life was too much.

And his leg: the doctors are happy. He is booked in April 13 to have the pins taken out in an operation. Will probably stay in hospital for a few days (oh Oyomesan joy!).

And Adam Lambert? No news. I guess that means no tickets.

And my photo in the exhibition in Tokyo about Foreign Wives? I got a letter from the photographer. She couldn't use my picture in the enxhibition. Thankgoodness I didn't bother to get an airticket and fly down to the show!

Onwards into another day. Sometimes life just feels it is grinding on.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Failed Oyomesan

Feel pretty tired and emotional. But tomorow is a busy day, and Tuesday - so I feel I should record here...for the posterity of Foreign Oyomesans.

Got wine here. Got kittens bouncing off the furniture.

Weekend a deux started so-so.

I cooked the table-top stew Yujiro had kindly left for us Saturday night. Okaasan still wasn't home by 7.15 pm. So I sat alone in the kitchen and ate it. She came home at 7.50 pm, so I came downstairs again and served her - and after a bit of cursory chat I made my "England phonecall excuse" and left her. I worked all day Saturday and I am not going to give up more of my time waiting around for this lady to come home. Going up and down the stairs between 6.30 pm and 8 pm to see if she is there and preparing dinner in 2 stages is a major hassle.

Sunday morning we chatted in the kitchen about stuff. About 11 am I heated up the pork and veggies stew (Yujiro cooked) and did rice and chopped pickled vegetables for her.
SHE gave me half a papaya (when did she buy this and with what money?) which was nice. We sat for a while at the kitchen table eating together.
I told her I'd be out tonight with a friend and that she should maybe have dinner out OR I'd leave something for her. All seemed ok.
But I finally had to get up and busy myself with fake "the laundry has dried" in the utility room because when Okaasan chats on and on about Kawagoe and wartime - she isn't eating and the food in front of her is going cold. Yujiro usually gently reminds her about the food in front of her - I don't have that knack...so I feel if I move away from the table - which of course is pretty rude while she is eating - she will stop chatting and actually eat.
So I scooped up some "laundry" and headed upstairs to hang it.

During the afternoon I prepped classes for the coming week. Ate some soup for lunch. Cleared snow. Hung real dried laundry. Unplugged stuff from the vacumn cleaner pipe. Vacumed. Devised new games for kittens. Did my accounts for February. Gosh - I actually MADE money in 2009-10 despite endless UK trips. Sorted out the futon where the kittens had PEEED on it - oh gawd...do they smell Bob-cat?

At 3.15 pm the sun was out. I did some washing in the kitchen.
I'd asked Yujiro to write a note for Okaasan before he left to say: "Amanda is out tonight, so you should eat out when you are out shopping". I left that on the kitchen table. In case the weather was bad again and she  didn't go out I left tofu and a packet of chilli tofu sauce on the counter next to the pork/veggies soup.

I escaped. Off to the hair salon. Off to the garage to book a renta-car for tomorrow because I have heavy student diaries to carry and private lessons to get to in the suburbs. Off to meet a dear friend for dinner downtown.

When I was in the garage booking the renta-car it was snowing heavily.
Would Okaasan actually go out tonight?
I didn't think so.
I called Yujiro at the ski school and suggested he call Okaasan around 7 pm and check she was ok for either dinner out - or able to do the chilli tofu pack herself. He sounded uncertain about the chilli/tofu ability. We had a tense phone conversation.

By the time I got to Starbucks in central Sapporo to meet Dear Friend. I was getting lower and lower about all of this shit. I cried on the subway.
At 7 pm Yujiro said he'd called Okaasan and she wasn't happy about being told so late there was no dinner being cooked and that she'd have to go out. Of course. She'd forgotten that I'd told her earlier about me going out. He said maybe she'd forget or maybe I should do some apologies when I next see her etc.
I SHOULD have told her again at 3.30 pm. But I didn't. I just left the note and escaped.

I cried buckets in Starbucks. Dear Friend held my hand and said all the right things. But I came apart big time.
I hate this whole Oyomesan life. I want to give my energy to my man, my job, my friends, my family (what remains of it), my kittens, my garden, my life. I don't care about this woman downstairs. I really don't. It's like another job I have to do.
And this week I had a long week. And Saturday night to tonight just feels like another job.

I am so not good at all of this.
All I had to do was remind her again. And combine the chilli sauce and the tofu. But I didn't. I took the easy way out and hoped that one statement at lunchtime would stay in her brain until evening. It didn't. Bugger.
Now she isn't happy. He feels I didn't do a good job. And I feel resentment to him that he buggered off for the weekend again - leaving me to rent a car for MY work while he did one day of ski race supervising and stayed two nights all happily in the ski school lodge.
I'm not the only one running away from responsibilities here.

I actually look forward to going off to English conversation classes tomorrow - nice safe, happy chats about recent news topics, my students lives...vocabulary.

I hate being Oyomesan.

I so hope I get Sony Music tickets to see Adam Lambert in Tokyo March 15th. I need it.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Okaasan on a roll.

She's doing great at the moment - it's these spells of normality that make the demented times so hard and shocking.

On the trip to the hair salon she dropped a glove somewhere.

And last night she came back from town - having successfully found the glove at the station lost property office.
It's such a small thing: Lose a glove:Go to look for it: Ask at the station.
But in fact I think for Okaasan this is quite an achievement, to remember that she'd lost it, to remember where she was the day before, to keep all of that in mind and go downtown to backtrack.

Anyway: I'm into my weekend with Okaasan. Yujiro stayed home till this morning, and now he's gone. I'm at work now, when I get home tonight...Saturday night, Sunday lunch and dinner, and then Monday lunch.
But Yujiro - being the guilty sweety that he is - I think he was planning to cook and leave me food to give her! So that should be easy. And I already made plans to go out with a friend Sunday night. So I only have to do two meals a deux.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Operation Hair Cut: Mission Accomplished!

Okaasan GOT the haircut!
I can check that topic off my Worry List.
And replace it with something else.

She came home at nearly 8 pm again last night.
BUT. With a swish new hair style. Cut. Permed. Shaped. It looks so much better - she looks younger, and sane. No more mad woman of the mountain style. And she seems happy with it...I just hope that feeling lasts.

I was beginning to despair and think I'd have to take her to the salon. She had told Yujiro that she'd looked for it a few days ago, but couldn't find it. She'd asked someone on the street - but of course the salon is hidden away in a department store. So they didn't know.
But....yipppeeee...she found it. And got shorn.

And: even better. She came back from the hair salon with a box of chocolates for me!
I feel Great Success as an Oyomesan.

However, this feeling of success had better last so I survive another weekend a deux with Okaasan.
Yujiro is going ski teaching Saturday and Sunday, and then staying on at the ski school lodge Sunday night and going off to Kutchan, near Niseko Monday morning.
Two years ago - when Okaasan was still safely far away from us in Saitama - Yujiro had a big skiing accident and did a nasty compound fracture to his knee and leg. He had major surgery and now has two plates and 16 pins in his body.
He wants to go to Kutchan Hospital on Monday so the doctor can take a look and think about removing all the pins maybe in April. Which is all great.

But it also means: Saturday night, Sunday lunchtime, Sunday night with Okaasan. So I need to carry over some of this Mission Accomplished power feeling into the weekend.
Hmm...if I manage to get to my hairsalon sometime this weekend...we could sit at the kitchen table and compare hair-dos!

But I think I might spend my weekend trawling the Internet for news about Adam Lambert coming to Tokyo.
He was the runner-up in the last season of American Idol - and we are BIG fans. I just discovered yesterday afternoon that he is in Tokyo soon doing promotion for his album For Your Entertainment - and even better - there are free tickets for a promotion appearence on March 15th in Tokyo!!!!
I've entered the draw, Yujiro's entered the draw...our friend C.A. has entered the draw - and I am convinced one of us MUST get tickets!

I was debating about going to Tokyo to see the exhibition about Foreign Women Married to Japanese Men - cos I was photographed for it last year...and I wasn't sure about using precious airmiles just to do that.
But NOW!!! If I can scream at Adam - oh my! Oh yes!
Adam - I'm coming to seeeeee YOUUUUUUU!!!!!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Dolly 18th anniversary...

Happy Doll's Festival!
This is the Prince and Princess (who has very unruley hair...somehow fitting really)...with some sugar candies, an origami plate and a box of pink mochi rice wrapped in cherry leaves.
March 3 is Doll's Festival in Japan, when families with daughters display dolls at home - and all the supermarkets get giddy with pink and white food.
It's also the anniversary of me coming to Japan in 1992....in my thin cotton clothes and suntan from the beaches of thailand...and deciding to stretch out the world travelling for...just 1 more year by getting an english teaching job in the tokyo suburbs.
and here i am.18 years later. job. man. man's mother and 2 heavy kittens sitting on me now, so i cant reach the capital letter key...

i celebrated by going to a hot spring village with yujiro cos he was teaching at the nearby ski hill. while and his hongkongese customers braved the snow...i sat in hot water and wondered in all the rocks in onsen in japan are actually real rocks....or concrete covered with blue/red/beige/green spray on fake rock...

on the way home we bought doll festival stuff for dinner - colored rice, good crab dumplings, salad etc...it looked all very pretty....
and okaasan of course didnt come home until almost 8 pm again...and SHE'D bought stuff too...and we had already eaten...so i had to put some of our stuff away so she could eat her stuff....and she had eaten at 3 pm...so wasnt so hungry...
oh....frustrating....specially when i tried to make a nice event dinner for her and us...her lousy sense of time of day buggers it up....
i had to put on a smile and pretend it didnt matter...but it makes me feel i dont want to bother planning nice dinners if she is just going to come late...

so. that is life after 18 years in japan. so mysterious and exotic....
thesecats are tpp heavy. i have to stop now.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Okaasan cooked!

Okaasan cooked fish!
Amazing! Wonderful! Is it a trend? Will she start cooking for us?
We can only hope....

She has been here in this house with a kitchen for almost 1 year and has never done more than heat up soup or curry, pour hot water on instant noodles, press the microwave button many times to cook rice.

But yesterday after hula dance class she bought fish downtown. Came home. Got out the pan. Got out the soy sauce, rice wine and sugar which is the basic stock for cooking EVERYTHING in Japan - and poached the fish.

We were upstairs about 5.30 pm and Yujiro was on the telephone.
A strange smell filled the house and I rushed downstairs thinking Okaasan was burning something...or Yujiro had forgotten something.
I whisked off the pan lid and there were 3 pieces of fish cooking away in a brown soup. Okaasan staggered over to tell me that I'd just let all the steam escape....but I was so delighted to see her cooking that I didn't feel bad about the reprimand.

And the fish was good!
I had to go out again for an evening class, but ate it when I came home. Delicious (much better than the bad cooking smell in fact).

Will she start cooking? It would save US so much hassle if she would....
Or was this just a fish in the pan?

Monday, 1 March 2010

Keeping the home fires burning.

Another day of Oyomesan duties on Sunday.
I did have thoughts about going downtown and treating myself to the woodchip sauna again, but what with exhibition skating from Vancouver, housework, kittens, Okaasan and tsunami watching - the day slipped away quietly at home.
Actually nice to be at home. Alone.
I've never had a problem with Yujiro being away because as an only child I like my own time and space. With him being unemployed most of the past year it's been rare for me to have the house to myself - so a day without him and the noisy Japanese TV programs he constantly watches is good.

I kept Okaasan ticking along ok - chatted to her about skating and tsunami etc - made sure her TV was on the right channel to see the incredible acrobatics on ice (how DID that Russian guy balance his tiny Japanese partner on his skate boot????!!!).

Lunchtime I thought about taking my lunch upstairs, but I couldn't be bothered. So I cooked for Okaasan (easy - last night's pork and veggies stew, rice, salad and pickles) and sat with her at the kitchen table for a few rounds of coversation.

This time it was the: "my parents had one of the few private house telephones in Kawagoe and people used to come and use the phone for business or emergency calls" story. Okaasan's father was a haulier I think, he had a driving license (which was rare pre-war) and drove stuff around for businesses. So they had a telephone. They lived right in the center of Kawagoe. Big family. I think Okaasan was the eldest daughter. Pretty well-off for those days I gather. She used to play with her brothers in the long grass by the river. All her junior high school years were wartime so no lessons, making military underwear, bullets and helping farmers instead. 
Listening to her memories is a  window into another Japan. I enjoy this kind of stuff in fact: old people talking about their memories. History coming to life. She lived in interesting times.

But in the present: she still hasn't been to check out the hair salon I found near Mitsukoshi. I wonder if she needs someone to go WITH her to find it? I feel she should be ok with this because afterall she is a Japanese person in a Japanese city - and her mental condition isn't that bad...yet.
She knows she wants to go to the har salon. She has the pamphlet and address of the salon. She can decide to go and find it.... I hope!
It is a point though: does she/will she need help with this kind of decision and activity?
I did toy with the idea of getting us both dressed up and taking her with me downtown - her to the salon and me to the woodchip sauna. But I decided selfishlyvgfsw to enjoy my Sunday at home instead.

It was a beautiful sunny day and I broke ice up in the carpark...bits of garden were even poking through the snow at me. Come ON spring!!!! As a non-skier this year I am ready for it.

Of course Okaasan let the whole sunny day go by - and at 6 pm finally went out.
Should I get a big clock for her living room wall so her time awareness is better? Yujiro says it won't make any difference, because she has a watch and the Tv has a time counter. But I think a big clock on the living room wall would prompt her more:"ahh, it's mid-afternoon, maybe I should go out...". Again it is sad that she misses a nice experience. It was a lovely day of sunshine and she sat inside until it was 6 pm and dark and cold - and then went out.
But I told her Yujiro was due home at 7 pm and that we were going out as a threesome for dinner...and amazingly she DID come home right on 7 pm so we went in the car to a local izakiya for some easy food. Okaasan gulped down the sake she loves and got instantly tipsy and Yujiro and I had some couple-frostiness over who-knows-what...

All couples do this I guess: tetchiness with eachother about something. Probably my feelings about being left with his mother since Friday night, his feelings after a weekend in the sunshine on the slopes at having to come back to domesticity (although he did say "Thankyou" several times for my Okaasan-care). Anyway we niggled at eachother in the car, in the restaurant, back home.....grrrrrr.....

And so another week starts.