Saturday, 31 July 2010

Another dinner...another night...

I cooked this tonight.
It's called soba/buckwheat noodles. Good thing for a humid night. Traditional Japanese food etc. A few times I tried making the source from start - actually cooking the dried fish bits and seaweed in water etc - until many middle-aged housewife students told they hadn't bothered with THAT malarky for years!
"Just go and buy a pack of sauce in the supermarket!" they cried in unison.
So that's what I do now.
The rest is kind of easy. Just get all the toppings together (bean sprouts, long onion, fermented soy beans, beans etc), serve with a bit of deep fried shrimp, Boil the noodles for about 7 mins and plunge them in cold water.
Get it all lined up and in the bowl...fairly easy.

Dinner alone with Okaasan again.
Yujiro has gone to a ski instructor's wedding. I decided ages ago that I wasn't going to spend $130 on a dinner at a hotel with people I hardly know.
Then I discovered a few days ago that it was actually a Restaurant Dinner Party - a recently popular, casual style wedding thing in Hokkaido now. And it's at a lovely Italian restaurant in the hills above the city. i've been there to lunch a long time ago....I've always wondered what dinner there is like....
So I had to watch Yujiro get all trussed up in his wedding suit and I had to deliver him by car to the posh restaurant overlooking the city at dusk...and I drove away to HOMAC and bought cat toilet box sand, came home to cook noodles for his mother.
His Saturday night is Italian dinner and wine with friends...mine is cold noodles and Okaasan.

How stupid am I? I should be THERE at the posh restaurant having a great dinner!
Bugger it.

Okaasan went out for a walk at 6.30 pm. She did come home by 7.25 pm and we ate dinner together. No Tacky Celeb wedding on Tv tonight. Actually had to talk to eachother across the table.
The noodles, the sauce, a fried shrimp or all looked good I thought.
Chatted about weddings, and kabuki and Tv announcers, and weddings, and summer heat....

Almost at the end of dinner, when I was thinking: "almost done here, I can make the cat crying/phone call to England excuse soon and get out of here"..suddenly .Okaasan held up a beansprout from the noodle bowl.
" know you should top and tail the beansprouts...and cook them quickly in hot water! I've never eaten them like this. In Japan we top and tail them...and cook them...."

To be fair - she did do this very kindly etc and I apologised and said how in Western countries we tend to eat many veggies raw etc....but internally I was wilting a bit. Bugger! I thought I'd done it all so well - forgot to take the roots and the leaves off the beansprouts!
Okaasan picked her way through a few more....I apologised a few more times....tried to chat a bit about August ("What month is it now?"she really doesn't have any idea,) and O-Bon and End of War memorial days etc...

and 8.10 pm while Okaasan was still picking through a bowl of hairy beansprouts I guiltily played the: "Phone Call to England at 8 pm" excuse and disappeared from the kitchen.
Oyomesan duties done for today.

Note to Self 1,163,589: Top and Tail Beansprouts. And Cook Them.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Thankgoodness for celebrity TV weddings!

Came home tonight to do a rare Okaasan and Oyomesan dinner as Yujiro is working late bicyle taxi driving at the Sapporo Beer Festival.
Okaasan was home. Dinner was easy to throw together (fish, soup,vegetables and rice)...and...and tonight there is a long rambling TV special all about the kabuki actor who married a TV announcer.

Okaasan was glued to it as I prepared dinner and then I got her to the table and opened up the dividing door between her room and the kitchen, so we sat with our food at the table and watched the wedding stuff while eating. A relaxed TV dinner.
Perfect. No real converasation necessary. Just "Oooh" and "Ahh" occasionally as the super rich couple paraded their wealth on a tacky TV show for the about a sop to keep the underlings down! Never mind the collapsing health care system or the impending 10% tax rise - let's just look at a TV announcer wearing miles of Chantily lace and her sweaty actor beau.

Perfect.Thankgoodness for a celeb wedding on TV.:-))
Maybe I could tape it and manage to slip it on the Tv any time I have to entertain Okaasan alone...she probably won't remember she's already watched it...

AND! Today I made my Curves gym debut. Got in for a session at lunchtime, luckily yesterday's trainer was on duty and she guided me once round the circuit of body felt so slow and out of sync. Doing anything with the left leg or bending the knee was scary. Even doing some of the stretches was hard.
I so need to be doing this!

So... all in all... a good day...I think.

Sharing carers....and CURVES!

A problem shared...etc etc....
I had lunch Wednesday with a teacher friend who is caring for her 90 year old mum with Alzheimer's (AND her 94 year old Dad!) and it was so good to share our experiences and laugh and wonder about this thing called dementia.
All problems need an outlet, and someone who is living your experiences is an excellent outlet for it all.
Her mum is actually on medications and under medical supervision and care worker vists etc at home - so very different from Okaasan. But we talked about the day-to-day things which become harder and the little lies and subterfuges that dementia sufferers do to make life look "Normal" - both to themselves and others.
Her mum uses a Medicine Calender on the wall to remember to take daily doses, but if she forgets to take one dose she apparently removes the pills from the calender and hides them in her handbag so that she won't get into trouble for not taking them.....shades of Okaasan and the underwear in plastic bags and food stuffs hidden away.

But out conversation made me a little sad too to think that she and her mother have a basically close connection whereby she can gently persuade on topics such as doctors/medicines/clothes...and Okaasan and I have an almost Polite Visitor level of relationship - there is NO way I can talk to Okaasan about maybe wearing pads in her underwear for the incontinence. I thought again about just buying some pads and putting them in a nice girly, lacey basket thing in the toilet and seeing if she might start using them. She might think they are mine? She might get the hint? Or not....

Next week is Okaasan's 80th birthday and we are planning to take her out for a crab feast. But I also wondered about getting her a living room clock or bookshelf for all her magazines. It would be a way to get things-to-help-her-life into her room, a clock which chimes on particular hours might help Okaasan connect with what time of day it is...and a magazine bookshelf would clear some of the floor.. But are those boring, unwanted practical presents that she'd be offended to get?

Hmmm....thinks on.

And finally!

I have joined the gym Curves to fight the balloon stomach I have developed and get some strength back into the knee/thigh muscles.
It's in the supermarket complex about 3 minutes from my English classroom, so there is absolutely no excuse about not being able to find the time to go at least 3 times a week.
I had the 1 hour Intro chat last night from a bouncy, friendly lady and joined in the circle of training machines a bit...although I started CRYING when I got to the thigh muscle machine because it was SCARY to try and use my thigh muscles like that! I started blubbing in the gym!
She was sweet and understanding about me and my knee and my Year of Stresses and told me "Yes you can!" etc....

My stomach was 95 waist was 81 cm....time to fight it all.
The Power to Amaze Yourself is the company motto - of course this is an American company run by a worryingly handsome husband and wife team called Heavin (HOW do they pronounce that? as in: "the drunk is heavin his guts onto the pavement"?????!!!).
I need some of that Power!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Evening walking..

Okaasan did it to Yujiro last night again.
Dinner was almost ready (albeit a tad earlier than usual because we were both home by 5 pm).
Anyway, we were both in the kitchen putting it all together. The salad was on the table, the chopsticks and Yujiro was heating the tofu thing, the rice, the soup.....
And Okaasan opened the door from her room to the kitchen and announced she was going for a walk. The door actually has big glass panels in it so she can see what is happening in the kitchen easily.
But didn't make any difference.

Off she set:"just going to the station and back."
BUT! This time Yujiro just went ahead and served dinner for the two of us. No: "Let's wait for her etc". I was a bit surprised, but of course ok with that. I haven't actually been home to have dinner with Okaasan for 5 nights in a row and one more night escaping that chorse is fine by me!
We ate our dinner. Washed up. Okaasan came home around 7 pm (with another small supermarket box to add to her room collection) and Yujiro served her food and we left her to eat alone.

Supermarket boxes. This started a few weeks ago. Okaasan got one and then another box from the supermarket and has them on the carpet in her room. Now there are three! I think this was spurred by an idea about collecting up newspapers for recycling. I went to her room to try and prise some newspapers away from her - and I had some newspapers in a box. I think she has remembered THAT and then brought the boxes into her room to do it herself.
But actually she has forgotten WHY she brought the boxes in. I tried to gently suggest taking them into the hall cupboard a few weeks back but Okaasan stopped me: "No! I brought them here specially, I'm going to use them for something. What was I going to use them for?".......

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Hula Paranoia

Okaasan and Hula - we've finally got to the bottom of the mystery.
She doesn't want to go because....she thinks the hula group didn't invite her to that Hula Dance Festival in the park a few weeks ago.
It's Paranoia Central.

Just shows you. When the outside appearence of Okaasan's life looks fine - planning and going successfully to the jazz concert and even managing to heat up tofu and rice for herself for dinner - the inside reality is different.

She didn't go to hula again yesterday. I assumed that maybe she was tired from the jazz concert.
But at dinner (I was out working) Yujiro finally go to the bottom of why Okaasan has negative feelings about her hula class now.

That hula dance festivalin Odori Park last month - the teacher told Okaasan about it. The classmate told Yujiro about it. They both thought it might be a bit physically demanding for Okaasan because the group would have to stand around in the park for about 3 hours with just two short performances on stage.
At first Okaasan said she would take part. Then she had second thoughts and said she wouldn't because it might be hot and tiring etc. Hula teacher/classmate and Yujiro were secretly a little relieved.

And THEN of course I put my foot in it and decided to take Okaasan to the festival to watch her group and others perform.
Yujiro was against it - he feared she would wonder why she wasn't taking part herself ....and now weeks later we find out he was right.

That day Okaasan seemed happy. She wanted to go with me. She enjoyed herself in the park. She chatted to her classmates and went with them for ice cream after the festival etc. She went to one more class after that.
And then somehow the whole negative thing kicked in and she decided that they had excluded her and not told her/invited her to the festival etc etc. Hence she used the word "bully" about the group etc.

So now she doesn't want to go.
It is sad and it shows how there is an underlying suspicion to her attitude to outsiders and what people think of her. Her memory has remembered the dance festival - but not her own decision about attending it. So she has come away from the experience with only a negative feeling: that the group didn't want her there and didn't invite her and danced without her.
Yujiro WAS right. We should have just stayed silent on the whole topic and left her that day sitting at home quietly as usual in front of the TV. Me taking her to the park and her watching other people dance just left her confused as to why SHE wasn't dancing.

So. Oyomesan buggered THAT one up then.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Groovy Okaasan

Sapporo City Jazz Concert and Okaasan BIG success!
She went there on her own, she had a seat near the stage for a famous Japanese trumpet player and loved every single moment of it. Came home safely and is still grinning ear-to-ear about it this morning. She's feeling so perky that when I went into the kitchen just now to make tea she actually got up from the kotatsu and came in to say "Good Morning!" to me...

And us?
We had a packed weekend of socializing and enjoyed our own lives.
All very well with this family.
Okaasan is in a good spell at the moment and life feels...dare I say it...normal?

Music of course is balm for the soul and I'm sure for someone with dementia it is a relaxing, wonderful time. Jazz in particular speaks to our deep body rhythms.

We had a busy weekend: I got invited out by an ex-student to a Dinner Show of Japanese Dance at the Prince Hotel Friday night. Lots of ladies in kimono, men in heavy stage make-up, twangy shamisen music, drums, loveless ladies of the night, swash-buckling comedy routines - like Japanese pantomime in a way!
Then Saturday night we went out with two Swiss Couch Surfing guests, Sunday lunchtime I had a date with the same ex-student to see her new apartment and eat sushi...and Sunday night we were deep in the wonderful Sapporo beer garden in Odori Park with a bunch of friends and a 4-liter Kirin beer tower.

Somehow my leg is getting stronger through all of this and I actually walked to the subway station and through Odori Park.

I have decided. October. Hawaii. Using those airmiles.
Gonna DO IT!
My mate Beth in San Francisco urged me on to make a decision and once she said a friend would let us rent his apartment near the beach in Maui cheaply - I was on to ANA reservations desk in a flash.
So now I am on waiting lists for flights. But hopefully will fly to Tokyo with Yujiro and a friend to see  the Adam Lambert concert on October 7th and stay the night, and then fly to Hawaii the next day for a few days of sunshine, tropical greenery, cocktails at sunset and chat time with a friend.

Now I just hope that my step-mum's condition in the UK doesn't worsen and change my plans. All last year thru the endless Japan/UK tripping and stresses I promised myself a relaxing holiday on the airmiles and I SO SO need to go to Hawaii in October.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Wandering and Eating

Wondering here whether we should just let Okaasan wander in the evenings?

Last night we both got home about 6 pm - Okaasan had been out in the early afternoon for lunch in a local restaurant and of coutse come back with food shopping too. Then fallen asleep in front of the TV.
At 6 pm when we were coming home - SHE was ready to go walking.
"Yes, I went out lunchtime, but that isn't walking!" she told me.

She went out. Yujiro prepped dinner. At 7 pm we called her. At 7.20 she got home. At 7.30 pm we got her to the table. She sat there saying "It's hot isn't it?" and looking around the kitchen, looking at the food in front of her.

"No, I'm not hungry. I ate lunch. I ate something earlier. I'll eat it later etc etc".

So we  ate her food and washed up and retired upstairs.

But I really am beginning to wonder. Maybe we shouldn't be calling her back home from this evening wanderings. Just let her go and come back in her own natural time. Give her food later if she wants it. But we will eat at 7 pm.
She is often a bit flustered and hot from having just come home...she won't starve if she doesn't eat dinner.
The main reason for getting her back to eat with us is to give her some kind of mental stimulation of conversation (such as it is!) with us round the kitchen table.
But maybe we shouldn't disturb her evening wanderings...just let her come and go as she likes and not force her into OUR schedule. Of course it means we'll have to go back into the kitchen after she returns to prepare the food again which is a hassle for us, but would let her come home and eat when she wants.

I suggested this to Yujiro...he is still thinking about it.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Home day

We stayed home and did Things That Need Doing.
Okaasan stayed home and watched TV/looked at magazines/looked in her purse/looked at receipts.
I sometimes wonder how much of the TV watching Okaasan is understanding - if she can't remember a few minutes before - how much sense can a TV drama or comedy show really mean?

Anyway. We emptied two buckets of kitchen waste compost into the new garden area. And cleaned bedroom/living room, cats play hallway. Even dragged all the bedding and carpets outside to air! THAT will only happen once a year. I also rescued a plant in the toilet because I think Okaasan has been watering it almost everytime she sees it and it is drowning. Took it upstairs where I can now forget to water it!

Yujiro fed Okaasan tofu lunch in the kitchen and a few hours later he and I took our homemade hamburger lunch outside to munch in the garden. Pure bliss...hamburger and a beer in the garden.
Afternoon movie on DVD....quiet day....
I even had energy to go in and remove trash from Okaasan's room when she went out for a walk: SIX plastic bags with assorted trash in them....she only throws away about 10% of her trash, the rest is put in a plastic bag and forgotten.

* Not great news from England. I spoke to Jane's carer for ages last night. Jane is now in the same hospital and same room as she was last summer....but her eating and drinking is intermitent, and she can't get out of bed and walk unaided May and early June she was walking with sticks in the garden! Then she got an infection, then the operation...and now 5 weeks later she is almost immobile in hospital.
I have gloomy feelings about all of this.
Next week is my Dad's birthday, he and Jane always loved to go out for a slap-up hotel lunch to celebrate. This year he is dead and she is sipping water in a hospital bed. And next month will be one year since he died. I have deju vu feelings about it all.
No point in jumping on an airplane and there? Or is there?
The carer is doing the daily hospital visits now. Jane's family are busy for 2 weeks with their own lives, people from the village and friends are intermitent visitors...and last year Dad was going in every single day to this hospital...
My holiday in Hawaii with a friend in October is just within reach..but I think it is fading.
Should I go to England....

I hate ex-pat guilt.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Lost in gardening

Sorry - I popped out to do some gardening and 2 days later came home again!

Two days off from work and I tackled the forgotten corner of the garden - right in front of Okaasan's windows cement blocks made a compost heap and various weeds were partying on down excessively.

A compost heap is a great thing. But not right between the living room window and the road where everyone is walking by.

So I attacked it with all my might. The kind of job I wanted to do last year, but couldn't with knee and England dramas.

I weeded. Two bags of weeds! I dug. I cleaned. Made a path. I went to Homac twice. Eyed the rambling rose that was rambling around unloved under the neigbor's kerosene tank. Bought a trelllis. Spent 2 hours trying to understand the instructions. Voila! A newly adopted rose rambling up a trellis!

Hopefully this will grow and grow. And I will think what to do with another square meter of garden space.
Is the trellis crooked? Maybe the neighbor's tank is crooked? Maybe the whole street is crooked?

And yes...those tall plants left and right are.....YURINE! From last year. Okaasan has noticed them and correctly identified them. I'm hoping that doesn't translate into a trip to the supermarket.

So. This holiday weekend, while one friend scaled Mount Fuji and another sang sacred music in a sacred forest in Italy...I stayed in the garden and achieved this!
Oh! And got Okaasan fed and packed off to hula dance successfully. And did a bunch of housework.
Okaasan is doing well. She is starting to cover the sofa with underwear, she is talking to cats, she is doing laundry, she is coming home for dinner.
All is well.

* And in England my step-mum got moved to the hospital nearest her home.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Okaasan Gets Her Groove On.

Okaasan is gettin' ready to groove.
A week early.

Sapporo City Jazz Festival has its big white tent in Odori Park this month and Okaasan noticed it when she went to one of her favorite coffee shops nearby.
She asked Yujiro to get her a ticket for July 25th.
We debated me going with her, but actually I have a ex-student lunch date and it's no problem because Okaasan knows exactly where the even is. She can go on her own.

She knows where.
She isn't too sure on the "when".

Yesterday morning she was very active, taking a bath, washing her hair etc
At lunchtime - Okaasan and Oyomesan sitting at the kitchen table together with the tofu-for-her and pizza-for-me lunch - we chatted about health and gardens and weather.
"But it's ok, because it's in a tent."
"What's in a tent?"
"The concert I am going to in Odori Park."
"Ahh!!! No,'s next Sunday...not today....look here is the ticket."

I have a feeling Okaasan may Go to the Jazz Concert every day until next Sunday...

Meanwhile we wait to see if Okaasan will go to hula dance class today.
Two weeks ago was the strange day when she went to the class, but didn't actually get to the class (as far as we and the friendly classmate know). Instead there was the strange story about the "that bully, so I didn't go".
One week ago it was raining heavily so it was: "that class isn't worth going to in the rain".
We wait to see what happens today.
Maybe she has taken against the class for some reason. It is almost certainly an imagined/misunderstood situation because Ohta-san thinks she didn't even appear at the class on the day she talked about the "bully".
Like the hairdresser, like the post office in Saitama, like the first hula dance class...Okaasan's dementia gives her misunderstood and negative feelings about someone.
So...wait to see....

Sunday, 18 July 2010

This and That

Just a few reassuring days of work and food on real plates.

*  I cooked a Japanesey dinner and Okaasan came home late and missed my efforts.

*  We decided Okaasan would probably be ok left alone for 1 night in October when we go to the Adam Lambert concert in Tokyo...but Yujiro agreed with my gloomy statement:"so I guess this means you and I will not have more than 1 night away together ever...until Okaasan dies?"

*  I came home at 6.30 pm and found Okaasan hanging clothes in the garden. At 6.30 pm..."I haven't been out for a walk yet, so I'll go soon"...."Err, it's 6.30 pm, I'm about to start cooking dinner. It'll be ready at 7 pm". "It's 6.30 pm??? Now?"
In Japan hanging clothes out is absolutely a morning task...or at the very least early afternoon if the AM weather wasn't great. Only lazy/hungover foreigners who-don't-know-any-better hang laundry outside at dusk.....

*  We went out for dinner with our French Couch Surfers (left sushi for Okaasan on the kitchen table) and came home to find that the kittens had survived 4 hours on their own in the great outdoors. They were waiting for our return under the car in front of the house. The boys are growing up.

*  Okaasan happily chats on about the cats at the moment. She said one of them got into her room yesterday, but she is laughing and happy about it. Great! Animal therapy in action. weekend. I now have 2 days off for gardening and watching a lot of trashy TV...Dance Idol, Next Top Model, the final season of LOST...methinks doing my accounts on the computer will somehow get pushed back a bit...

Thursday, 15 July 2010

BBQ II - The Sequel

BBQ II yesterday - and we are happy but knackered.
All because one friend who is back in Japan for a few weeks gave us conflicting dates for coming to we ended up with TWO of the things just 4 days apart.
But this time the weather was better. Only 8 people. Great food again. Lots of Japanese practice for me because I was the only gaijin-in-attendance - AND Okaasan was under control.

We fed her in the kitchen at 11.30 am. Then she went back to nest safely in front of the TV, borrowed some money mid-afternoon, came out onto the front doorstep and said "hello" to all the BBQ guests, went shopping, came home at 6.30 pm and ate the dinner her loving son prepared. Oyomesan was flat out on the sofa upstairs watching Animal Planet TV.
No sudden room cleaning.
No climbing out thru the living room windows.

But I reckon we all need a few days of regular life now.
I need food that isn't on a paper plate.
Yujiro needs a reduced-alcohol intake.
Okaasan needs fish/rice/soup on the table with the loving son and Oyomesan.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Still ok...

No big meltdowns over "Who moved my stuff?"...yet.
Terrible weather on Monday, both mother and son (and cats) stayed home and slept. Only I went out to earn some yen.
I got home for an hour between classes at 5 pm as the torrential rain calmed to a steady pour...and 15 minutes later realized Okaasan had gone out....why oh why....later as I drove to work I saw her settling into her daily coffee and McNuggets thru the Macdonalds windows down on the mainroad. She is absolutely a creature of habit.

After my last class of the day we scooped up Okaasan from Macdonalds because our kind Couch Surfing guest wanted to celebrate her last night in Hokkaido by taking us all our for a kaiten sushi dinner at the local place. Very delicious and Okaasan happily munched her way thru and enjoyed offering plates of sushi to Mei-san first as the visitor.

And tonight Okaasan managed to get home by 7.30 pm and eat dinner with us.

Her sofa is still almost clear...just a few scattered clothes. I daren't look in the bedroom.

Crazy, wild things that we are - we having yet ANOTHER BBQ tomorrow - following a mix-up over dates with one we'll see if that gets Okaasan all fired up again...maybe she'll carrying the stuff back INTO the living room....

But at the moment. All is well.

Heard recently about the dementia-hit parents of two friends: one is now becoming violent with his live-in carer and peeing and shitting everywhere and the other lady is becoming increasingly violent to her single-coping daughter. So I appreciate this time with upset schedules, scattered clothes, eating misfires and lightly soiled underwear...because basically Okaasan is ok....a bit silent and non-communicative sometimes, but basically doing ok.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Holding pattern...

Okaasan seems ok...but not great.

I had a very silent lunch with her yesterday. She answered when I made conversation. But very simple, short sentences. There was no laughter or lightness.
I really had to work it - trying to think of things to talk about...such hard work. A lot of silent eating.
Was I super-sensitive and imagining it? Was she really in a "down". It really felt it.

Finally I spied on some gift chopsticks left over from the party that were in the table. They have instructions about how to make orgami from the chopstick wrapper.
I got it out and started trying to make an origami cat or something on the table. Okaasan ate her food and watched me, commenting several times that "I've never heard of a cat, I can make a crane, and maybe a frog, I've never heard of making a cat. It's Japanese culture, I can make a crane..."

But it got me thru the rest of lunch. Finally when she'd finished eating I could threw up my hands in real and acted frustration about how cack-handed I am at origami - and we could get up from the table and wash dishes.
Lunch done.

Later in the day she seemed better. Chatted about the cats. Borrowed some money and went for a walk. Went out to vote. Ate dinner with us...not super-chatty but ok....

The sofa is still relatively clear. So clear that Okaasan could even curl up ON the sofa last night at one point. She usually sits and lays down on the carpet.

I worry though that this mass moving of all the reassuring stuff will upset her equalibrium generally and that somehow it will be connected in her mind with Amanda/BBQ/chilidren coming into my room...and that I will be the focus of her negative mood.

Today is raining. Yujiro's job was cancelled. Today is hula dance day. Maybe she won't go. And tonight our Couch Surfer has invited the 3 of us out for a last night sushi dinner....

We'll see how the day goes.

Oh - and Spain won the World Cup. What on earth will we do now between 5 am and 7 am every day???

Oh - and I have just got my new glasses. Have official "aged into mid-life" by getting my first bi-focals. Makes me feel woozy to wear them.....

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Tidying frenzy... oh yes..oh no!

Okaasan has tidied her living room.

That is amazing. We've lived here 14 months now and this is the first time.
The sofa is clear of stuff. The carpet is clear. Around the kotatsu table is clear.



All the stuff: underwear, T-shirts, socks, newspapers and advertising flyers.....are now heaped up in a 30 cm high mound on the futon in the so-called, but never-used bedroom next door.

And I am wondering what will happen next. Will she move it all back again in dribs and drabs or in armfuls. Or fold them up and put them away. Or just leave them THERE for 14 months more????
How does she feel about it? Stressed not to be surrounded by all the clothes she might need anytime? Puzzled? What?

This was all caused by us having a BBQ at home. Actually a very successful BBQ with about 20 friends dropping from lunchtime at 12 until the last staggered away at gone 10 pm. Rain forced us to set up under the subway line bridges, but it was perfect for the two kids to run around the grass where the kittens run (and unfortunately shit) - and the adults ate and drunk ourselves into happiness.

But, back to Okaasan.
As we were preparing for the BBQ in the morning we fed Okaasan her lunch about 11.15 am in the kitchen. Yujiro has been reminding her a lot recently that she really doesn't have to exit the house through the living room windows and is of course very welcome to be home while there is a BBQ...or to come out thru the f ront door and just say "Hello, I'm going shopping for the third squid this week" as she heads out.
Okaasan finished her lunch and then offered to help me cut stuff for salads. Pretty surprising: she almost never shows an interest (thankfully) in me cooking. I set her up at the kitchen table with a knife, a plate and some walnuts.

But she never got onto the cutting....

Instead she went into her living room and bedroom doing something....I glanced up.

She was scooping up armfuls of stuff and moving them into the bedroom.
After a few moments when I realized what she was doing I intervened.
"Ahh, Okaasan, you don't need to tidy your room for the party! It's a BBQ and our friends will all be outside in the garden, only coming into the house to use the toilet or maybe the kitchen."

"But the child/children might come in to my room and watch the TV. So I should clear space for them."
The children? Watch TV?
"Yes, like last year you had a BBQ and that child came in and watched TV with me..."
"???? It's ok, we have a TV upstairs if the children want to watch TV..."
"But last year the child/children came in and watched Tv with me, so he/they might do that again. So I should tidy my room!"


And tidy she did. Swept it all into the out-of-sight bedroom. Her room looked normal!
I finished the salad alone and went outside to tell Yujiro the amazing delevopments.

The BBQ got underway an hour or so later.....Okaasan stayed in her room watching TV.
But about an hour later...she told Yujiro she'd decided to go out for a walk....and off she went thru the front door and disappeared for a few hours. Came home mid-afternoon and sat amid the cleared surfaces watching more Tv until it was time for me to sober up enough at 7 pm to cook and serve her dinner.

And now - the following morning. The surfaces are still cleared. A vest, one pair of pants, a T shirt and an apron have crept back onto the sofa.

What will happen next?

It's interesting this story about the child watching TV. I couldn't think who it was at first. But now I remember - because Okaasan's memory on this is better than mine??!! - that last August when Ikuko came (actually the day I heard that Dad had died) - Ikuko's son Kevin did go in and talk to Okaasan for a few minutes in her room!
So THAT experience - plucked out of all the BBQs we've had before or since - came into Okaasan's mind when she saw us prepping for a BBQ yesterday.

And she realized that her room was no place for visitors and decided to clear it all out of sight.

But now what happens will be interesting.
I really think the clothes strewn all around are a comfort thing for Okaasan. Maybe she thinks she is in a permanent mid-laundry day - you know that state you are when sorting out stuff...clean or dirty...when it's all around you in piles. For me that state is about 30 minutes on a good day...1 day on a bad week...for Okaasan it's never-ending. She NEVER gets to the point of putting the stuff in order and putting it away. Just wears or washes it again.

But now she herself has out it all in the other room.
Will this give her stress? Or will she just fetch it all back in to the living room?

Friday, 9 July 2010

Chatty happy

At this rate of improvement we'll have to send Okaasan back to Saitama to live in the family house and care for the sick older brother!

Last night as I was cooking Okaasan came into the kitchen to jokily tell me that I keep using the masculine word for "dinner" - "ban-meishi", which of course Yujiro always uses with her. As a gentle, polite lady I should be saying "ban-gohan"....she and I had a good laugh about that one and THEN she sat down at the kitchen table while I was cooking and chatted on to me for about 15 minutes....not drinking milk/wartime food/Japanese is hard/wartime food/didn't drink milk/etc etc.

It was surprising: when we cook dinner she is either a) still out eating MacNuggets or b) sitting in her room in front of the Tv seemingly oblivious to what we are doing 3 meters away in the kitchen.
When dinner is ready we call her - several times - and she gets up to wash her hands/visit the toilet and come to the table.

So. For her to come into the kitchen and initiate a conversation with me. And then stay and chat was very unusual.

Older brother is maybe having his eye operation this week and moving into the Saitama house a year early on forced early-retirement. I reckon he needs a mother's TLC.
She can go back there and look after him and Yujiro and I can get back to OUR lives of cheese fondue, meat dinners and dinner when we feel like it...

NOT gonna happen. Dream on.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Surface normality...

All seems well...but who knows?

We've had a busy week - with the football at semi-final stage, a friend's birthday, a Couch Surf guest, news  from England getting a bit better (moved to a hospital near home now) and planning for a BBQ we are having on Sunday.

Okaasan seems ok. Seems though. Who really knows?

She didn't go to hula on Monday. She said something about "that stupid/bad I went downtown and drank a tea".
It's hard to get details with this kind of comment, because she doesn't give them and if we press with questions it all gets confusing and stressy. Best to leave it alone.
So we don't know what happenend between 9 am when I saw her at home and 1 pm when the class started. The classmate called and said Okaasan didn't come to class etc. So we don't think she even GOT to the class place, maybe the "stupid/bad" person was somebody at the station or on the train? Or a neighbor who talked to Okaasan for a long time and made her late?

We have no idea.

Apart from that, I've thrown away some dirty underwear left in the bathroom - not heavily soiled, but stained beyond niceness..I can't be bothered to start soaking stained underpants. Okaasan already has about 60 pairs of pants.There are enough! Her room smells pretty bad at the moment, I must get in there and do some basic cleaning and underwear hunting...

And Okaasan noticed all the BBQ boxes and bags in the kitchen yesterday and said to me worriedly: "Where is Yujiro? Is someone going away? There was luggage here!"
I reassured her that it's just Yujiro getting all BBQ-prepping happy. She looked a bit worried...

Mind you: we ARE planning a trip to Tokyo in October. Both of us. Because...WE GOT TICKETS TO GO AND SEE ADAM LAMBERT IN CONCERT!!!!!!One of my students sent me info about tickets going on sale and we got some!!! YEAH!!!!!!!I have no idea what we'll do with kittens and Okaasan that night....maybe put them all in a pet hotel together...

Monday, 5 July 2010

Found the cure for dementia?

"Is this the mountain potato I bought yesterday? It's delicious isn't it?!"


Okaasan remembered shopping. Remembered what she bought.

I think we may have discovered a cure for dementia.
Only trouble is: we don't know what it is!

Less soy sauce on the food cooked by a British woman?
The fumes of newsprint off all the old newspapers on the carpet?
Cat hair wafting around the house?

Scientists should study us and find out how Okaasan seems to be going against all trends and improving!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Gone shopping.

Okaasan bought a BOX of groceries yesterday.
Not just the usual random bits and bobs: a whole box of groceries: raw squid, vegetables, canned food, Japanese style-cakes, vinegared seaweed...and one ice cream cone.

I found the box when I came home from work. It was sitting inside the (thankfully) cool entrance hallway. The ice cream was melting, but still in its packaging.
And Okaasan? Asleep in her room on the sofa, first upright and then sprawled on the carpet for several hours.

??????? HOW much money did Yujiro give her yesterday? Did she carry it all back herself or get it delivered. And why suddenly a bout of almost normal shopping?
I decided the entrance hall had maybe been cool enough for a few hours for the raw squid to be edible, so threw it all in the fridge and tiptoed out to the garden with the cats.

We had a Couch Surfing guest for dinner and Okaasan actually came out normally onto the front doorstep (rather than a living room window exit) at 6.30 pm, all washed and brushed and normal looking. She chatted to our guest and came home just about 8 pm in time to join us and the guest for a delivery sushi dinner. I think she enjoyed meeting Mei-san from Taiwan and there was lots of chat about the similarities of Chinese and Japanese kanji and how delicious Taiwanese bananas are.....a successful evening. Times like this you can see the lady Okaasan once was - which makes the anger and crazies so much stranger.

Okaasan didn't ask about all the shopping. We didn't mention it. I expect she has already forgotten it anyway. I haven't: I have to do battle with raw squid preparation tonight...oh the eyes! the eyes!! Nothing in my English upbringing prepared me for raw squid, although once in Hakodate doing guidebook research I managed to eat a squid eye - it was like a rubber dog chew and then POPPED in my mouth.....not an experience I will ever repeat unless forced to in some Reality Show multi-million yen face-off challenge.

England: My step-mother had a very bad 48 hours. Complications made the doctors think they'd have to open her up again for a second operation - which nobody thought she was strong enough for - Lots of phonecalls and worry. The latest is that she seems - again amazingly - to have pulled thru the  worst and actually sat up out of bed a bit yesterday.
Last summer my days were dominated with day-by-day hospital reports from England...I feel deja vu and hope that this time it all ends better. Mei says Taiwan in autumn is ok between the typhoons and has got me thinking about using my airmiles for a Taiwanese beach...

Saturday, 3 July 2010

The Good, the Bad...

Okaasan having a good spell - but the very fact that we notice it shows that "good" is unusual.

She did morning stretch exercises in her room yesterday. She wiped the dinner plates dry and set them on the table. She got all feisty with Yujiro about the Saitama house - "I want to sell it!"..."No, you said you were happy for older brother to live there from next year!"..."I said that? No, I think I should sell it...." etc etc

She's gone walking at 6.15 pm and we telephoned her to get her back to the dinner table on time, where eventually she has eaten some food.
Yesterday I even managed to lightheartedly remind her: "Don't eat McNuggets at McDonalds because dinner is in less than an hour...." and she actually came home having only drunk a coffee.
It's strange to be giving an adult these kind of reminders: like mothers who say to kids: "If you eat that now you won't have space for dinner later will you?"...but here we are doing the same with an adult.

England News: My step-mum has had low blood pressure and not great after her operation. She had a blood transfusion and everyone is waiting to see if the good effects of that will kick in. Waiting.
I have all my air miles from last year's flights and I am on the verge of booking a flight to a beach  for September or October. But I keep hanging on - in case Jane's condition worsens and I need to book the ticket to England instead and use the  air miles for an upgrade. Hoping NOT to go to England again this year....hoping to selfishly enjoy some "me" time on a beach with a book.

Older brother must have felt his ears burning because yesterday he called Yujiro and said his diabetes is now so bad he has had to quit work (aged 55) and will have an eye operation and move into the Saitama house this year.