Tuesday, 30 November 2010


No. Not Okaasan.
That would be nice.
But ME!

My friend who has a date with a Mr. Beethoven, suddenly realized it's an afternoon performance...so...she is free in the evening!!!

I am not family-less, friend-less anymore...

The table with the night view and the great food is awaiting us!


But thankyou for all the kind offers of adoption/companionship. That's sweet of you.
I'd love to meet everyone sometime.
But for now a friend in Sapporo is going to help me keep the sad thoughts at bay and enjoy the season.

I can do Christmas holidays at home with cats and Okaasan...I can do that happily with books and TV and computer word games and quiet time. But Christmas Night. I very very VERY much need to be not alone.

Thankyou CA.

Adopt an Oyomesan for Christmas?

Increasingly Sad Little Oyomesan Needs Christmas Family

Got no family!
Got no friends!
Got a restaurant booking for a wonderful dinner at 8.15 pm on December 25th.
Got nobody to go with!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Would anyone like to adopt me into their family?
Or, abandon their own family and come and have a nice dinner with me?

Friends are: busy with family, gone to Scotland, singing choral music, gone to Asahikawa, stuck with the in-laws in Tokyo....

My man is teaching Chinese people to ski in Niseko and living for the holidays in a ski instructor's dormitory.

What AM I gonna do????

Despite determination to be all grown up and brave about this. Had a little cry in the car yesterday.
I'm not Christian at all. BUT Christmas IS Christmas...and all the memories of family come back 10-fold. My first Christmas with all 4 parent figures gone.
I will be putting food on the table for Okaasan and exiting the house that evening. I have to. No way to sitting at the kitchen table and listening to Okaasan's womblings over bowls of rice, tofu and a bit of veg.

Would someone please adopt me? I've had a hell of a year and I need a family.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Family day out

We did our family duties again today.

Took Okaasan out for a drive to a nearby hot spring and lunch, and all went off without a hitch. She didn't drown in the one-person ceramic bathing pots, and she didn't get lost in the swirling steam.

We went with a friend, which was nice, because I could escape for fellow-gaijin chats while keeping an eye on Okaasan as she tottered around the hot spring bath house with her towel.

WISH I had the photo of the 3 of us sitting with towels on our heads in the one person ceramic pots - like some steamy, human, hot-pot....well I do...but I'm not gonna post 'em here.....or am I?

Okaasan needed help with the locker room key, the running water vs. shower taps, what to do with the plastic bowl after washing, which clothes to wear for the restaurant and how to switch on the hairdryer...I managed to hover in a helpful, just happen-to-be-here when you need me kind of way.
But she is amazingly agile for 80s years old - she climbed in and out of the hip-high ceramic boiler pots without help.

Then lunch in the spring-house restaurant and a drive home thru the wind and snow flutters. Okaasan collapsed under her heated blanket and we took our friend home and did the weekly shop. Okaasan is now knocked out for the evening. She enjoyed it, and it wasn't too stressful for us either.
I love onsen.

* Christmas Night.....I managed to get a table in the window at famous Japanese food place Aburiya, over looking the lights in the park etc etc for December 25th night. Booked the gorgeous, Hokkaido-food set course dinner. Had about 3 hours imagining Yujiro and I toasting eachother and looking back on a Bad Year and forward with hope......
Before I got the email from him to say...yes...as feared...he will be working at Niseko ski resort 2 hours away from Sapporo - from December 23 to January 1st.......

I'm disappointed of course. But, trying to be all grown up and adult about it. He often works Christmas, because that of course is when the ski resorts are busy. But sometimes he's at a ski place just 45 mins away and can get home.
From Niseko he can't.

NO WAY am I going to sit down on Christmas Night with Okaasan and fried tofu. I'm not a nice Christian person and my atheist holiday goodwill doesn't stretch anywhere to that....so I've invited a girlfriend to come and get dressed up for a romantic dinner for two overlooking the Christmas lights.

It WILL be a good Christmas Night!

Human Hot-pot doing Come Hither...

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Small niggles of life.

At the risk of coming over all philosophical or religious....I'm having a new perspective on life.

I've realized that I've mellowed out on what is important to get stressed/angry/upset about. And what to just let wash over me.

Guess the past 2 years has done that to me.

Now I have small niggles on my mind - but they are just that. Small.
I am REALLY appreciating getting up, having breakfast, playing wordgames on the computer, cats, going to work, work, exercising at the gym, coming home, dinner, TV entertainment, bed.
I could do years and years of this quite happily!

# Yes, the builders STILL haven't come to check out the bump in the living room ceiling.

# Yes, I've just booked a table at a great restaurant for Xmas Night. And 4 hours later Yujiro got a work booking way out of town at Niseko ski resort and so he won't be able to come with me.

# Yes, the stray monster cat now comes INTO the entrance hall and stops our cats entering their own home.

# Yes, my best friend here in Sapporo might get a job back in the UK, and I'll miss her. Booo Hooo.

# Yes, I've just lost two students with fairly believable excuses. But with a small business every student counts.

# Yes, the ski season is a-coming and I'll have nights and nights alone with Okaasan.

# Yes, I can't find the timer-thingy for the classroom Christmas lights.

# Yes, I have to go back to hospital in January and have that doctor guy shove his fingers inside me with no care at all.

# Yes, it looks unlikely that Yujiro will come with me on my 50th Birthday holiday next year...because of who-will-look-after-Okaasan stuff, we haven't had her assessed as needing public help because the medical check up was surface only and she blithely lied about her abilities.

ALL of that is swirling around.
But. Basically. I can let it all happen and not feel crazy.

* My boxes hopefully left England yesterday aboard a Korean-registered freighter and are due to arrive in Tokyo port January 7th. Here's hoping North Korea and South Korea aren't slugging it out by then and the North Koreans kidnap my teddybears and photo albums.

Last night Yujiro had a ski instructors' party out at his ski school near Otaru, and just as I was considering raw squid and boring conversation with Okaasan I got saved by a friend's invite to a great Italian restaurant.
Squid and Okaasan vs. Pizza/Wine/Olives and Friends?
No Brainer.
So, I left the squid, tofu, soup, rice etc out on the kitchen table for Okaasan and  - OMG - went OUT for a Friday night.
It felt SO good to be able to take the subway and just walk to the restaurant, like normal life. My knee/thigh muscles are getting stronger and I can do it now. Within reason and still wearing a muscle support band. But as I ambled thru the evening rain I felt pretty content.

Next week is two anniversaries.
The kittens will be 1 year old. I guess a candle on their canned food is possible?
Our life with Okaasan - it'll be the TWO years anniversary.
Two years since Yujiro said - "I'm worried about my mum in Saitama, can we bring her here to Sapporo to live?" And I like a fool said "Yes".

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Horror movies and normality...still.

I'm living with a 52 year old man/boy/child.
I don't think he really CAN be 52 years old.
Maybe Okaasan forgot when she had 'im!
She certainly forgot that it WAS his birthday...and...amazingly WHERE she gave birth to this wondrous son! Osaka? Tokyo? Hospital? Home? Not really sure.

To celebrate his birthday (actually today) we have watched SEVEN horror movies this week: in the "Saw" series.
Seriously scary stuff. But addictive. I'll probably start torturing butterflies next, except Popo already does that.
We'd recorded the first two movies off TV and watched them Sunday...then got hooked and realized it was a successful series. So Yujiro was down the DVD shop getting the rest. And we finished last night at the movie theater with 3D glasses to see Saw VII.
And then we went to our fave Belgian bar/restaurant and pigged out on a whole roast chicken, chips, salad and lots of delicious Belgian beer.
And so was his birthday.

And in other news: I cooked paella and Okaasan LOVED it. Yes, she liked something I cooked and ate endless bowls of it - way after we'd stopped eating, she was still helping herself happily to more.

Just an ordinary week here. Thankfully.
Okaasan went to hula. I worked a bit - but had two days off thanks to a well placed public holiday. Yujiro rested his eyeballs between horror movies. I exercised the leg and stomach...did a little too much walking one day and rested up the other days. The kittens got all excited about the first Christmas decorations emerging from the cupboard under the stairs...

Things happened to other people - not me, for a change. I can do MORE of this. I enjoy boring life.
A friend is having SKYPE interviews for a job in the UK, another friend is waiting nervously to hear if her first IVF egg has a chance to become a baby and a student heard that she WILL go to the Uk to study at medical school.

Things happening to other people. That's fine!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Still normal

We are still here.
Just haven't had anything really to blog about.
Which is good.
Since Yujiro came back: life as normal.
For all of us.
Okaasan is bubbling along in life-as-she-knows-it - TV/meals/a little walk/read the newspaper/look at bits of paper on her table.
Yujiro is cooking and setting up the new computer and doing house things.
I am working. Thinking about Christmas cards and Japanese New Year Cards.
All pretty boring.

One of my classes talked about family members with dementia last week. One woman said that her mother had lived until a year ago calmly with her sister. A bit repetitive, a little confused.
But when her sister went away on a trip my student went round every evening to cook dinner for their mother. And found her mother without clothes several times in the house, and her mother talked and talked and talked and talked. She couldn't escape. And everything in the house got more and more out of place. The family finally realized/acknowledged???? that all was not well.
Now her mother is in a care home - receiving regular visits  from a younger brother...who died 10 years ago, and not really sure who is sitting in front of her LIVING family members do go to see her.

Another friend just emailed me that HER family finally got her father into a care home, he has become increasingly violent to the woman who looked after him at his home, and was shitting everywhere...but finally he went quietly with a few clothes and photographs to a care home.

And so. We'll enjoy peace and quiet for now.

Today is hula dance class for Okaasan...here's hoping she'll go.

Nothing to blog about - so how about a random cute cat picture instead!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Normal...as normal gets.

Two days of our normal.
Yujiro cooking. Okaasan smiling. Me working. Cats looking cute.
Found a lot of garlics under Okaasan's heated table.
Sneaked some 10 pairs of clean pants back into her room.

We grabbed us some couple time by walking in the park and I went to Curves. Yujiro did manly stuff at the garage with winter tires and oil changes. Okaasan slumped under her heated table with the TV in her living room. Ventured out, actually in daylight!!, to have a walk.

And...our second floor living room ceiling developed an ominous bump.
Is it water? Is it an ovarian tumor?
After all that rain last week I fear the first. We've called the agent, who called the owner, who called the builder...and now we wait for a visit. And hope it doesn't burst.
Popo jumps if someone sneezes. If the ceiling collapses I think the poor little furball will go into orbit.

And Okaasan?
She is fine. Happy to have Yujiro home, she is all relaxed and smiley and giggly. He chats along at dinner, and she can just make response sounds and comments - latching onto a word that she can connect to. It's a semblance of conversation. Just making responses while he chats along.
And I am relaxed too. It is SO good to have him back.

The hula dance nanny Ohta-san chatted to Yujiro on the phone for ages. About how Okaasan had enjoyed the party on Monday. Didn't dance. But that is ok. They agreed that if Okaasan wants to go to the classes she should and can, but actually she doesn't have to dance in any of their events - just go along to watch and have the party.
That would be a whole lot better. Because Okaasan gets all her stress ( and we too) from trying to learn the new dances and having all the fuss before the events.

And so. We hope that's what will happen from now on. Maybe.

I have new worry on the horizon. I hope it goes away.
Yujiro said yesterday that he's been having a lot of headaches recently. Never does. Now he has almost every day.
Of course I told him to go and get it checked out. But he's a guy. They are probably worse than women at pushing this stuff away.
Now my dramas in England are over. Now MY body is getting back on track. We absolutely don't need HIM to be sick. No way.

* oh...and in England a rich man gave his live-in girlfriend an engagement ring from his mother's unhappy marriage. And I have to help pay for their wedding. Don't need THAT either!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

All Hula-d Out.

It's over.
My week with Okaasan is over.
Yujiro finally got back from ski training in Tokyo last night...which seemed to involve a lot of hanging out with friends, drinking, eating, Internet cafe sleeping and more drinking. Should have trained him nicely for the coming season...

And Okaasan came home by taxi about 9.30 pm - these hula events are long.
She was all animated about losing her gloves in the taxi and what taxi company was it - and how much it cost - and where the hotel was - and losing her gloves...
"Prince Hotel, must have been a great dinner. What did you have?"
"Dinner? At the hotel?" she looked blank.
She remembered going to a coffee shop with her group and not having enough money...but dinner? No, don't remember the thing that cost \10,000.

Anyway. She looked happy.
We were exhausted with the whole thing. We've been thinking and talking about the Hula Event for 48 hours, lots of phone calls and emails between Tokyo and Sapporo and planning - all to get Okaasan along to a few hours of dance and some food in public.
She isn't the only one who apparently gets stress from these events.

I need real hula, preferably attached to a beach and a sunset in Hawaii.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Hula - Stop Press!

....and WHY can I bring you a delightful picture of hula dance stuff at 4.30 pm??

Because....Okaasan went to the hula event....but didn't want to...and wants to quit...but went along because the taxi was booked and the dinner was paid for....but she doesn't wanna dance......
I came home and saw all the stuff we'd carefully found yesterday STILL on the carpet, and bits of lunch all over the kitchen, and Okaasan's cell phone on the table, along with an umbrella, and several different shoes in the hallway.....and no Okaasan!

I called Yujiro and Ohta-san in panic - should I take the dance stuff along to the hotel - he said no...just let it be. Let her sit in on the event and come home later. And then quit if she wants to.

Apparently Ohta-san said that Okaasan went to the practice last Tuesday, but didn't appear to know why she was there and hadn't understood about an-upcoming event at all etc and wasn't able to do the dance they were all practicing.

I think we've reached another stage in Okaasan's dementia: I felt her conversations this week were very, very repetitive and random. And now the usual drama about the hula dance. And the dis-connect with washing underwear .....I think we're reaching another level down.

Slowly and surely.


Watch this space...if you dare.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Day 5.....to Hula or not to Hula.

Yes? No?
Shall we hula?
Yes! no! no! no!

I  broached the hula event topic with Okaasan at lunchtime, while we were both cosily seated at the kitchen table eating fish, rice, soup and pickles.
Predictable response:

Hula tomorrow?
Hula event tomorrow?
Where? When? Why? Who?
Nobody told me!!!!

I carefully took her through it all - you've been practicing haven't you, the teacher told everyone about it, Ohta-san told Yujiro, you just have to get some clothes and accessories together in a bag and a taxi will come at 1.30 pm and take you to the hotel.
Taxi? Why? Too much trouble? Nobody told me. I don't want to go....
We went back and forth on this.....endlessly....I could see her mood going lower and lower....the hula dance event was a troublesome thing...not something to look forward to at all.
I finally managed to get her onto a different topic - cooking and New Year and how she used to cook special food for 20 office staff every year. Seemed like a good idea to get her talking about something she remembers being good at and praising her for it a lot: you cooked for 20 people all by yourself??? Really??? Wow, how amazing!!!!

We got thru lunch.

After lunch I went upstairs and emailed/called Yujiro. He said he'd talk to Ohta-san or call Okaasan.

I went back downstairs.
Okaasan was sitting on her sofa looking at her clothes: "Tomorrow I have hula dance don't I? Which dress am I wearing?" - and so we started...hunting down the necessary stuff she'll need, dress, shell necklace, white flower (NO! NOT pink), sandals, hair extension....gathering stuff with a dementia sufferer is hard work because they instantly forget that you just found something...and if you put it in a bag - they can't see it, and continue looking for it!!!!
Okaasan was convinced that Yujiro had everything she needed in a bag already. Back in September before the last hula event he DID gather everything in a bag and keep it for her. So she remembered that - and looked pretty confused when I said I didn't think he had taken her hula accessories with him to his ski job in Tokyo this week....so it all MUST be in the jumbled room before us.
We hunted together amid newspapers and plastic bags and socks and T-shirts and magazines...and pants. Found most of it and I crossed it off my list to show her we'd found things.


Yujiro called Okaasan and reinforced everything I'd said about the taxi and the clothes...and how fun it was all going to be.
Okaasan seemed to be getting brighter. A little frenetic. But back on track.

* AND I took the opportunity while she was hunting for the WHITE flower, not the PINK flower hairpiece to snatch the damp underwear bowl off the carpet and hide it upstairs to dry. She'll never do it. It's easier to do it myself and put clean underwear on her sofa little by little.*

Anyway - Hula Preparation Mission Accomplished...maybe...I left her for the afternoon and enjoyed myself with TV shows, cats, wrapping up the garden plants, a walk in the park and a whole box of chocolates.

Dinner: finished off the chicken and daikon, cooked some Chinese leaves with garlic. Okaasan wasn't impressed with my food: daikon was too hard, the leaves weren't cut into small enough pieces...I nodded with interest and just lightly remarked that Japanese cooking has so many rules etc etc...let it wash over me.

And so.
I've put together Yujiro's letter to Okaasan and the information - which will go on the kitchen table tomorrow. I'll set out some lunch for her. And then I'll leave for work and hope that it all works out.

The taxi driver will come, she will be ready WITH the bag of clothes and accessories and money - and off she'll go to have a good time with the hula ladies......

We hope.

And to finish with color - these wonderful trees are in the park near the house. I took my knee for a walk round the park and enjoyed the glorious colors before we may get snow tomorrow.

Day 5

A GOOD day - hardly saw her!
So, I'm doing well!

A few morning words in the kitchen, left lunch money and Go out and Eat sign on the table. Went to work. Came home and made a big pan of miso soup and left that and supermarket sushi on the table at 6.30 pm, pointed out dinner to Okaasan - and then went round to a friend's home to eat delicious Costco ravioli for dinner and watch SYTYCD till late.

Hardly any Okaasan interaction. So, a good day.

BEST thing - I laid carpet tiles. Lots and lots of pink carpet tiles all over the computer room here.

Look at it all! Doesn't that look better?
Well, I guess if you don't know what it looked like before it's hard to know. But believe me - this is a vast improvement on the manky old carpet we had before, which didn't reach the walls and recently after cat-sick incidents had been turned backside up...so we didn't even have manky carpet...we had manky carpet underside.

This? Wonderful. At 7 am in my pajamas I was laying carpet tiles with Popo's help. Whenever Yujiro goes away I do some kind of home-improvement (I guess cos it is easier to do what I want without discussing it!)...so poor guy probably wonders what I'll have done, what money I'll have spent when he returns.

Okaasan's underwear.
A whole topic in itself. All 50- 60 of them. They will shortly be launching their own blog.
Yesterday morning I had another try at getting her to hang up the damp pants I'd washed on Friday. The bowl of pants is still just inside her room door on the carpet, she even MOVED it a bit to the right when she came home on Friday evening. Moved, but didn't hang up. So yesterday I gave her the laundry hanger rack thingy - and cheerfully put it ON top of the bowl of pants, "here you are! Sorry, you couldn't use it, sorry!". She peered over for a moment, thanked me for the hanger thingy and then looked back at the stupid Japanese TV show.

Late afternoon after work I had another go - "Oh! You didn't hang up the damp laundry yet! Shall I do it? It might get moldy if we don't hang it, won't it?!"
Okaasan dragged her attention away from the TV for a moment.
"Eh? Laundry? Hmm...it's ok, tomorrow is ok. It's ok for a day like that. Mold? no, it's ok."

She is so good at making up an instant excuse to cover totally forgetting to do something.
( Hi RItsuko - does this remind you of YOUR mother and her excuses about forgetting to take the medicines??!)

I am absolutely sure it is NOT ok in the Book of Super Housewifery to leave damp laundry sitting for a day or two without hanging it up!
Not in the UK. Not in Japan. I'm sure of it.
But Okaasan says this excuse so convincingly, you can't really argue.
So I left it. Another day. By Sunday afternoon I'll secretly take it out and hang it up myself. I have 20 MORE of her pants hung and drying upstairs anyway. I'll put those into her room secretly sometime today.

But, as I mused the other day. Because I really have nothing better to do than wonder about Okaasan's underwear - I reckon she isn't doing so much handwashing of her clothes anymore. So, a new strategy is needed - otherwise the stale urine smell from her room will force us to wear gas masks and she'll buy enough new pants to reach 100. Nobody needs more than 60 pairs of pants.

Either we 1) take the pants and wash and return them secretly, or 2) we give her a laundry basket once a week and cheerfully offer to help her. I think option 1) is better, because 2) will just lead to a "My laundry? No, I can do it myself!"...and then nothing.

It is so strange to be even thinking about all of this with an adult. Okaasan is a walking/talking adult. She doesn't look incapable. But doing laundry is maybe becoming harder. Not the actual doing it - she is still physically able to stand and wash clothes at the sink - but the deciding it needs doing and getting up from the TV to do it - THAT ability seems to be diminishing.

What did people with dementia DO before there was TV to sit in front of all day? I am sure Okaasan thinks she has a busy day. Exercising, reading newspapers, making notes about Tv recipes, shopping etc - but the reality is a LOT of sitting and looking at TV. I am sure she thinks she is always just taking a quick break - the never-ending "I'll just sit down for a bit".

Anyway. Onwards. Yesterday I booked the taxi for tomorrow's hula dance event. Yujiro sent me an e mail with an attachment of a Letter to Okaasan (Today you have a Hula dance event, the taxi is coming at 1.30 pm, lunch is on the table etc. ) Even on holiday he is thinking about organising his mother's life!!!
 And today I have to get Okaasan to gather together the costume and accessories she will need tomorrow. THAT should be fun ;-((
"There's a hula dance event? Nobody told me! When? Where? What? I need to take stuff? What? Where? Why? There's a hula dance event? When?"


Friday, 12 November 2010

Day 4


A bit of One of Those Days.

The beer I am drinking now has never tasted so good.

Weather looked ok, so I left the "We are Out, so you should go and have lunch out" laminated sign on the kitchen table with Y1,000. Briefly chatted to Okaasan in the kitchen as she was heading to the loo while I was heading to the shower.

A busy day at work, with new students and a returning student.
I got back early afternoon - mainly to keep the cats company because I knew I'd be a bit late.
Recently a large, menacing local stray has been hanging around - and even daring to peer round the open window/door - scaring Popo and Chichi badly. So we can't leave windows open so much. It's interesting that even though there are two of them and one of him - he knows they are youngsters and no match at all.

Anyway. Came home about 1.30 pm.
Okaasan was here. Watching Tv. She'd eaten pickled bits of fish and a yogurt.
I offered to make her lunch (not too enthusiastically I must admit) , but she stirred herself to going out and about 2 pm she finally got out.

I kept the cats company. Put on the rice for dinner. Grabbed a pile of dirty underwear out of Okaasan's smelly room...a few plastic bags etc. Waited till the washing machine finished and then put the clean, damp pants in a bowl on the carpet just inside her room: with any luck she'll think she washed them herself and will take them to the next stage of hanging them up.
I think that recently she hasn't been doing the hand-washing for the endless pants so much.
She always used to be doing it constantly - and leaving bowls of damp pants here and there in the bathroom, kitchen and her room.
Recently - really nothing.
I know she bought yet more pants yesterday because I found the bag and receipt.

So the PILE of pants in her room.....I don't think she notices it, or has the get-up-and-go to start washing by hand such a mountain of underwear.
So - maybe we need to do more of her washing - either secretly as up till now, taking them quietly while she is out and returning them to her room likewise...or more openly by going and asking her to put things in a laundry bag for the machine.

At 3 pm. Back to work.
New students stayed late.
I finally got home at 7.15 pm, with supermarket sashimi and salad. And cake from students.
Okaasan not bothered, no problem.

At dinner I turned on the full charm and chatted her up about all sorts of topics: cake and Christmas, and wartime and food, and wartime work and heating and children, and wartime food etc etc.

Then I mentioned the hula dance event next week.
"There's an event? Nobody told me! Really? What are we dancing? I don't know about this!"
Two days ago she knew about this.
Monday and Tuesday she went off to the rehearsals. Talked about it later etc.
Today - a complete blank on the subject.
Just nothing.
She was surprised to hear. Wondered what they would be dancing. Wondered when the practice would be. etc etc etc.

It's going to be a bit hard on Monday because I'll be at work and Yujiro isn't back from Tokyo till evening. I'll be booking a taxi to come and take Okaasan to the hotel in the afternoon with a bag of stuff I have to prepare for her.
But I'd like to her to at least REALIZE there is an event!!!
I can see the taxi driver coming at 1.30 pm and Okaasan still being in her pyjamas in front of the TV. i'd better get Yujiro to call her from Tokyo several times that morning to make sure she is getting ready.

THIS is the mad life we are leading!!!!

This beer is so good.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Day 4.

Day 4 - and I slightly buggered up.

Pouring with rain again. So I set out Okaasan's lunch on the kitchen table when I went to work, thinking she wouldn't be going out today. Yujiro left me money to give out to her in small amounts for lunches and bits of shopping. But I didn't think she'd be going out anytime today, unless with waterwings.

However, by late afternoon the rain had finally given over.
I got home at 5.30 pm and Okaasan was raring to go.
"I was waiting for Yujiro. I don't have any money! When is he coming back?"
So I gave her \2,000 and cleaned up her lunch stuff in the kitchen - she had thrown the rice into the soup pot again and mixed it all up. And left all the other plates and bowls and open bits of packaged food all over the kitchen. But she'd eaten. And hadn't burned the house down.

So. She set out finally at 6.15 pm - to Seiyu and Macdonalds.
While she was gone I took the opportunity to go into her room and remove some rotting food bags (one of them had INSECTS jumping around inside it was so rotting!!!!) and a few dirty knickers, which I hid in the laundry basket. And I threw on her sofa some clean knickers that I'd washed a few days ago.

By 7.30 pm I was hungry hungry. So I ate alone. The Tv cooking lady's simmered chicken and daikon - actually pretty good I thought. Nice to eat alone.

About 8.15 Okaasan came home.
So I got off the sofa again and went back to the kitchen to heat her food up.
She sat down to eat and I made a bit of chat about the weather and then told her I had to prepare classes for tomorrow etc and left her to it. Otherwise my whole evening would be given over to making and serving dinner.

So. Not great. Not the chatty dinner a deux which she probably needs to keep her brain cells engaged. But MY brain cells appreciated the quiet, solo dinner.

Tomorrow I have a latish class - so it'll be supermarket sushi and instant soup I think. Saturday night I plan to be out at friend's apartment watching So You Think You Can Dance...and Sunday.....and Monday it'll all be over.

Hanging in there. ;-))

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Day 3

Lunch: set out bits of pickled fish, rice and soup to be heated.
came home and found Okaasan had heated up the rice in a saucepan, not the microwave. Unless we leave written instructions about the microwave she doesn't really remember how to use it. Yesterday the half-heated rice was still IN the microwave and burned egg bits were in the soup pan.

Dinner: Served up the leftover Oden, with rice, refreshed soup and boiled vegetables. I ate all the rice she didn't eat yesterday...kind of fried up with other leftovers.

Chat: Flower arranging - got onto the topic because Okaasan has carefully supported the roses on the table with craftily bent chopsticks...so that led naturally into... Okaasan's 10 years at a high class flower arrangement class in Minami-Aoyama once upon a time. Repeats...about 5 or 8...not so bad.

Getting into a groove here!

Today was my day off, so I feel all relaxed anyway.
It poured with rain all day. Sheets of it.
I made my Curves gym return nervously and under the gentle direction of the staff we tested what my stomach muscles AND knee can do.
But first I got measured: WOW! The Ovarian Monster Tumor Diet. I don't recommend it...but..

July my waist was a wopping 81 cm.
November it is 71 cm.
And my bust, stomach, hips and even upperarms are all smaller too.
July weight was 61 kg.
November weight 57 kg. Just about what I want to be really.
But I need MUCH stronger muscles. many of the machines I could hardly move.
I really will try to go at least 3 times a week and get this body back into action.

After that I drifted around town in the rain doing errands - including buying Chinese medicine herbs for my nightsweats which have returned since the operation. I thought I'd finished menopause about 3 years ago and had stopped taking the Chinese herbs because the crazies had stopped.
But now with no ovaries, the sweats are back.

ANYWAY: Day 3 with Okaasan. Not so bad. She stayed home and quiet today, so her overall balance seemed better...she giggled and told funny stories about flower arrangement class. She seems ok. She only asked twice about Yujiro. Who we all know...is skiing in central Tokyo.

Poignant news from England.
November 9th is/was my step-mother's birthday. She was born 11/9. She died 9/11.
And yesterday her sister went to the house for the final clearing and after a long day of it, with help from people in the village again...she locked up the house and handed the keys back to the owner. So that part of all our lives is finished. We won't go freely into that house again. Or round that garden.
I was thinking about my step-mum a lot last night. We used to go out for lunch on her birthday and she loved over-the-top, gooey chocolate puddings. The gooier the better. 
She would have been 83 yesterday.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Day 2

And here is tonite's Dinner for Okaasan. It's called Oden. It's fish paste and tofu and eggs and vegetables all simmered in a broth. Easy peasy because you buy it in a bag at the supermarket and throw it in the table top cooker and cook for a while, then serve with mustard, rice, soup and a bit of salad. (AND no...I didn't add sweet potato, maybe ok...or maybe not?? Too risky).
A very good dinner. Although...she DID kindly share her wisdom that "there should be more water in the pot!"...and I smiled and simpered and apologized. Cos I am a good Oyomesan.

Oh. But the conversation!!! Oh no...oh no...oh no.
Is she tired after 2 days of going to hula dance in the rain (they have yet another event coming up and of course are practicing like mad) - so quite a busy time for Okaasan, probably a bit of stress learning the new dance...or is that with me she actually gets a chance to speak instead of just listening passively to Yujiro waffle on?? I don't know what.
But OH! Her conversation hamster wheel tonite was terrible.

I got her from hula dance onto - it's important to exercise isn't it - and then HER exercises that she does sometimes on the carpet. These are a variety of stretches etc, looks like a fish or a stranded frog - it's the system of the wartime Health Guru Dr. Nishi - who Yujiro and Okaasan admire so much.
So we were onto Nishi-sensei and exercise...and on and on ....and on...and on....Maybe 20 times she told me about how as a child 5 doctors came and looked at him in a dark room and nobody knew what was wrong with him, at how he grew up to work out this systetm of health, had meetings  all over Japan, had a training center near Shinjuku etc etc.

Oh - you can't imagine what it's like. Well, I know anyone who has spent time with a dementia sufferer WILL know - it really is an endless chain...often the same sentence loops into EXACTLY the same sentence...sometimes it comes back after 2 or 4  sentences later.

And Okaasan's voice got quite loud thru all this, quite insistent about it all. It was pretty hard to keep steering her attention to the food and make gentle responses, she got a bit didactic. Is that the word?

Aghh......20 times. I kid you not. Pretty bad. She wasn't this bad before surely?
I reckon Okaasan should stay home nice and quiet tomorrow and settle down.
Me too...

But...tomorrow morning I am planning my Curves return! The circuit training place I joined in July when I was finally worried about my bulging stomach - only to discover a month later that it wasn't fat...it was the Melon Monster Cyst.
I feel about ready to try a little more than regular life exercise for my stomach now. And knee. And maybe they can get rid of the Okaasan Conversation stress too.

OMG!!! This is only Day 2. The cooking I can do, thanks to supermarket cheat packs.
But oh.....the chat.....the chat.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Oyomesan Duty - Day 1

I am in charge. I AM the Decider. 
And the Moaner. And the Whinger. Probably.

Yujiro has gone away for a week on his annual visit-old-friends-near-Tokyo trip which he tries to do every year between the summer job and the ski work. He didn't go last year because my Dad died and then the cat died. He didn't go 2 years ago because he was cleaning Okaasan's house and bringing her up here. So he is well overdue a bit of Drinking With Old Buddies time.

I enjoy it, usually....a bit of me time too. I can control the TV remote. Try to eat more vegetables. Leave dirty cups everywhere and only nag myself.
This time: Oyomesan Duties in all their glory.
7 whole days of making sure she is fed and arranged. Chatting to her at dinner.


Day 1.

Started with a big fat WHITE LIE.
We agreed to leave it until the day he was leaving for Yujiro to drop it on poor Okaasan that her sweet boy was leaving for a week and abandoning her to That Woman Who Can't Cook. Not point in getting her worried too early.

So I set off to work He gave her an early lunch before hula dance.
And told her.
"I'm going away to Tokyo for a week.
For ski training."
Tokyo? Ski training?
What kind of ski training is that exactly??? Even Okaasan must wonder about that!!!

He's a coward. Plain and simple. He can't just say: Going on holiday to see friends. It has to be wrapped up in some blarney about being an essential trip which is work-related??? In Japan anything work-related is acceptable as an excuse.
But this?? Baloney!!!!! Who goes ski training in Tokyo???
And now I have to feed this great porky pie this week!!!!

Anyway. Came home. Okaasan staggered in thru the rain about 5 pm.
I checked she wanted dinner and just fed her: easy dinner of chili tofu in a packet, rice, salad, soup, pickles.
I mentioned that it was lucky Yujiro had gone to Tokyo before the heavy rain...and that got her into a chain of conversation topics:
hula dance - Hawaii - souvenirs - Haneda airport - culture school classes - my husband didn't let me do culture school classes - travel - souvenirs - New York - Tokyo Banana cake - Taiwan bananas are the best in the world.....
And at Taiwan bananas Part 6 I ducked out. Grabbed some laundry from the utility room and used the excuse that it needed drying upstairs. And Escaped.
Day 1. Mission Accomplished.


Saturday, 6 November 2010

Back to the Future

Back to Being Oyomesan.

Thursday night Yujiro had a bicycle taxi drivers' end of season party, so I did Dinner Alone with Okaasan for the first time in ages. Went ok, I guess. Just heated up curry and rice with beans.
At lunchtime I'd won a 2kg bag of rice at the local kaiten sushi place - so I had that on the table and  Okaasan and I talked about THAT - 5 or 6 times - and then got onto wartime and rice and Kawagoe and food and Yujiro and drinking etc. All ok. I managed to escape in about 40 minutes.
I think Okaasan understands where I went recently and why: hard to tell really because Japanese people don't really talk much about bad luck situations of death or sickness, so her non-commenting is more a cultural politeness and sensitivity than anything else.

Dinner a Deux was a warm-up for next week's impending duties: Yujiro is away for a week in Tokyo area visiting old friends from years back and I will be on Oyomesan Fulltime Duty....day after day of feeding and chatting to Okaasan, making sure she gets to hula dance, sneaking in to clean her room and making sure she has lunch at home or out or whatever.
My Japanese is a bit rusty after 10 days in the Uk, so I hope it goes ok....the feeding is doable really because there are plenty of pre-cooked food or instant food packs, but only my addled brain can help me with sitting across a table every evening and trying to think up enough chat in Japanese to fill out the time while we eat. And trying to escape gracefully from Okaasan's ramblings.
Can't use the "Have to phone England" excuse anymore cos nobody to phone! :-((

* Never the Twain Shall Meet: last night we had nabe for dinner.  Nabe is a table-top, open deep electric pan with water, stock, vegetables, meat/fish/tofu all thrown in and simmered. A very good standard Japanese food and easy to do. We eat it endlessly because it takes a short time to make and gives us a warm family feeling of gathering round to pick stuff out and eat.
But....Never the Twain?
Yesterday I bought sweet potato and thought THAT might be nice to throw in the nabe pot.
Sweet potato?
Oh no! Yujiro and Okaasan thought that was VERY strange.
No way! Too sweet! Potato maybe ok. Maybe.
Yujiro did at least try a bit, but didn't think it was any good. Okaasan didn't go near it.
Very Japanese this - having an absolutely fixed idea about what foods go with what foods.
Nabe is basically anything thrown in water with stock...but...sweet potato? No....
Mushrooms ok. Chinese cabbage ok.
Sweet potato. No.
I can understand if it was lettuce or chocolate maybe.
But sweet potato? Seemed ok to me...seemed good actually.
Funny people Japanese. Not too much thinking outside the box. the Box is the box, and that is good.
I reckon the box needs a good shake sometimes.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

From Treasures to Trash.

Finally got as moment to try and understand our new computer, so I can look back on last week  with more reasoning.

It really was dawn till midnight work to sort and clear the house. Day after day. When one job or stage was done, we turned immediately to the next. Boxes and plastic bags everywhere. Endless decisions about what to DO with stuff.

I arrived to find a functioning home - minus a few security-risky collectibles that had been taken for safekeeping at someone's home - and 10 days later left empty rooms, bits of trash on windowsills and a broken up home.
Living room - before.

My dad and Jane started renting this house in 1972, it was a wreck and they paid for all the renovations and repairs and modernizations in return for a reduced rent. I spent all my childhood holidays there, and since the death of my mother 15 odd years ago - it was also my base in England.

Dining room - a packing case table...wine.
But now its contents are all off in different directions: the more valuable to family members and antique auctions. The rest to furniture auctions, car-boot sales and charity shops ...and finally a shocking amount of stuff to the town rubbish tip. Hundreds of books, thousands of photos in prints and slide form, papers galore, old bed linen (dog charity) and what seemed to be every stately home and church guide book printed in the past 38 years.
Living room - after.

Trucks and trailers arrived to cart things away. There were moments of happiness as we found sweet memories, or tears as we found poignant memories. Mystery as to how and why Jane had ordered yet more bottles of the sweet wine nobody liked - because cases of it arrived 3 weeks after her death.

Living overseas I was able to control the urge to save every single thing that had a nice memory - although I have come back to Japan with an old plastic chopping board decorated with dog pictures...and the cracked flower vase from the hallway. Oh - and the totally unplanned small chest of drawers that my Dad kept his socks and old coins in.
The mountain of stuff for the town recycling center.
Stuff to Japan...
And finally. At the end of the week I stayed with friends in the village because there was no bed or sofa or curtains. And I came back at dawn the next two mornings to finish as much as I could.
I wondered:
WHY anybody gives THINGS as presents. We should all give food or experiences. Not things that will sit on a shelf.
WHY do we all save stuff we haven't used for years and will never use again: 7??? electric blankets, 15 large coffee table books about gardening, 5 French Hens, 2 Turtle Doves...
WHY did I conveniently forget the boxes of MY stuff from my pre-Japan life 17 years ago that was sitting out in the barn. Cos I had to unpack it, look at it, and repack it this week!

So. Goodbye to the house and garden. Every corner a memory. The keys will go back to the owners who are maybe planning to put their gamekeeper and his wife there (I hope they like gardening) and in years to come I will have to knock on the door and ask permission to go and visit.

It looked beautiful on the last afternoon. Dad and Jane were very happy there and now I'll have pictures to look back on. Somehow my dirty cement block home in Sapporo doesn't have the same magic.
Goodbye Westwood. Goodbye Dad and Jane.

Scattering ashes and clearing a house.

An impossible 10 days of stress and exhaustion to put into words.
Maybe pictures will do it.

This was just one room, my bedroom, as the days progressed and we cleared a 3-bedroomed house of 40-odd years of stuff and memories.

Day 1 - my bedroom.

Day 3 - my bedroom, stuff for Japan gathering.

Day 7 - furniture gone to family, auction, carboot sale...
Day 10 - gone.

And of course, we scattered the ashes of Jane, my
In her will she asked for her ashes to be scattered in
the garden, under the same tree as my Dad.
So I, one of her sisters and her favorite niece put on our gumboots and coats,
and went down the garden with a spade and a fork to dig out the ground. And cry and say Goodbye.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

I am home....

Got home to Japan late last night.
Got to go to work today.
Physically ok - because.......because....ANA upgraded me!!!
From Economy class to Business class!!!!
I got a bed and a table and a big TV screen and real china plates and knives and forks. And champagne.


And. I scattered my step-mother's ashes under a tree with her sister and her niece.
And cried. Many times.
And we cleared a 3-bedroomed house of 40 years plus of furniture and possessions.......


Time to get my thoughts ready for work 3 hours from now.

oh...and the house computer has died, so uploading pictures is hard....working here on the laptop.