Monday, 31 January 2011

A "normal" weekend.

Sorry - didn't blog. Was too busy living it!

All ok with Okaasan - as normal as we do in this household.

I left lunchtime food out for her Saturday and she managed to heat it up and eat it.

Saturday night she came home late and I'd already eaten at 7 pm, but I got back into the kitchen for 7.40 pm and heated up her food, chatted for a few minutes and then used the "8pm friend telephone call from England coming" excuse to leave her.
Yujiro is more accommodating about dinner time and Okaasan coming home late. I'm not. I left for work at 9.15 am, I did 5 classes, I got home just after 6 pm. Changed my clothes and stood in the kitchen for 30 mins preparing dinner: by 7 pm I am going to sit down and eat it.
Whether Okaasan is here or not. (A little happily not!)

Sunday was a relaxed day.
I stayed home mostly daytime watching Japan actually WIN the Asia Cup, playing with cats and hanging all the pictures/paintings/prints that came from England.

Lunchtime I gave Okaasan some face time. I cooked squid and ginger for her, with rice, salad, soup and pickles. I ate left overs.
Conversation 1.: Japanese football fans/ father/husband had an office near Nihonbashi and he forgot something and I brought it from home and he gave me money and told me I could buy any food I liked.
Conversation 2.: Football - we didn't have football in Japan in the war, Yujiro did football lessons when he was a child because I signed him up for them. My husband said baseball was too dangerous. He played tennis. He had an office near Nihonbashi....

Each conversation kind of blended with the other and I noticed that on each retelling the husband/father got switched and mixed up - sometimes in consecutive sentences.

Anyway. All ok. After lunch I got Okaasan to hunt down and tie up newspapers for recycling, while I emptied her trash boxes. Praised her for the way she ties newspapers up. Settled her back down with the TV and a cup of tea.

Late afternoon I went out to see Social Network with a friend and have dinner. I got home at 9 pm to a VERY smelly kitchen: Okaasan had burned the saucepan again trying to cook rice in water and forgetting it. But at least the house was still standing and she was asleep by the TV.

Even if we leave a note about HOW to heat up pre-cooked rice in the microwave she prefers to cook it in a pan of water or soup. I did wonder about buying a one-person rice cooker and leaving it for her every day, but I think she would still do the rice-in-pan style.
I've read that elderly dementia sufferers lose their abilities with recently learned technology and go back to what existed as a child. Japan HAD electric rice cookers by the late 1950s, but I am guessing Okaasan is already cooking in pre-war style where you put the rice in a pan. But of course, in the minutes it takes for the water to heat her attention has moved onto something else and it burns. ThankGOODNESS we bought the electric cooker that cuts out on overheating.

And so. I have another burned pan to try and resuscitate.

Fellowship of Carers: It's a funny thing. If you meet someone who is also a Carer of a Dementia Sufferer. Bingo! Instant connection. A new student started Saturday and in our opening conversation he mentioned that he and his wife are caring for his mother, who has Alzheimer's. All lesson plan flew out the window and we poured out and shared our experiences with eachother: Oh! The Random Shopping! Oh! The Date Mix-ups! Oh! The People Mix-ups! Oh! The Lack of Personal Hygiene!
It was great. A problem shared is a problem halved. At least for a while.

Now: burned pans. Anyone got a good way to rescue it?

Friday, 28 January 2011

Heading into the next 10 days....

Off he went again today.
Left me with his mother.

Settling in for the job ahead.
He offered to order lunch delivery for her every day, but I said no - cos I like to think of the whole shopping for food and when it will be eaten.
And - I think it's good for Okaasan to get up off the carpet and away from the TV and potter around the kitchen burning saucepans and trying endless combination of saucepan and lid. Keeps her busy! Gives her exercise!

And so.
Busy few days at work, so not really thinking much about Okaasan.
I just gave her straightforward potato and cabbage fry/salmon/soup and rice tonight. Got her talking about how to make pickled plums and then unfortunately got into "I am so healthy because I follow Nishi-sensei the Master Health Guru"...6 or was it 7 the end I was washing my dishes, getting wet laundry for the machine and exiting thru the kitchen door...
In my nasty little dreams I am saying: "Yeah, but even Nishi-sensei coouldn't stop you getting dementia COULD HE??????!!!PLEASE stop telling me this story for the 7th time!!!!".
But I don't because my parents brought me up to be a nice person.

Anyway. Time alone. Happy to have it because I need time to quietly sort thru the stuff from England still. Maybe go to a hot woodchip bath. Maybe see a movie this weekend.
Try not to play too many wordgames to strain my bloodshot eyes. The main bloodshot cleared, but I still have a little in the same eye.

This week I heard that one of my NHK community center students HAD died last year, as I'd suspected. It effected me more than I thought. He was a good man and when he stopped coming to classes in July...and then never came back...I kind of knew. He was about 80.
I found an old New Year card from him. Wrote a short note, got Yujiro to add it in in Japanese politely...and 2 days later the answer came from his wife.
Yes, he died in October after 2 months in hospital. From lung cancer.
Just around the time I was recovering from my op and going to England to face everything there.
He was such an active person. Mentally and physically. I can't believe he is not around any more.
I've had this before - when a student is a member of a big public class - the family don't always think to tell the center/school that the person has died...but the teacher and often other students notice their missing...and always wonder.

So. Mr. K. I noticed and missed you.
When Sapporo City finally opens up the Odori to Sapporo Station underground walking area in March this year I will walk it for you. Cos I know you were looking forward to doing it.

Ho hum. Life.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Insides OK. Outside OK!

It's all happy - inside and out.

Dr. No Bedside Manner had a good scrape around my insides this morning and pronounced: All Clear. Come back later this year. Or next year.
I think he may have said something about sending a sample for lab tests, but all looking good.

I came back out into the public part of the hospital and got all weepy with relief.
Then got spotted by one of the women who was in at the same time as me last September - I think she was the one who was undergoing her third round of chemo. Under a fierce wig and lots of winter wrapping I couldn't be sure WHO she was. But we shared womanly relief and celebration for our bodies being ok. This time.

I  rushed home.
Yujiro waiting with the skis on the doorstep.
We loaded up the car and drove out to Kokusai ski area and had a whole ski day to ourselves. Haven't done this in ages. Just the two of us. Easy courses only because my knee felt stressy on even the intermediate course.
But it didn't matter.

I was there. He was there. The sun was there.
And all was well.
I didn't ski at all last year, and the year before that was only 4 times and mainly easy, social skiing with beginner level friends.
It seems so long ago that I was actually an active good skier, trying all sorts of crazy stuff off the courses in the snow. I don't know if I'll do that kind of skiing again.
Doesn't matter. I am just happy to be cancer-free and out in the sunshine with my guy.


Okaasan didn't go to hula dance class again this week. It was a rare sunny day with no snow. But still she didn't go. She said she can exercise at home, I think that means health guru Nishi-sensei and his swim-like-a-frog-exercises on the carpet. And the intermittent walking she is doing outside, recently about twice or three times a week.
It's a shame, because she does need the exercise and the social part of the class is good for her too. Really she only speaks to us and people in shops. And her brother who occasionally calls.
But. If she doesn't want to go we can't make her.
She seems ok. We left her lunch things in the kitchen today and she'd heated stuff up and eaten it.

Yujiro will be off this Friday to the big ski area of NIseko to work for 10 days with mainly Chinese customers - it's Chinese New Year and Sapporo Snow Festival. I will be home alone with Okaasan.

But I feel so happy I can DO anything!!!!!

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Nostalgia Central.

It's all arrived. My boxes and furniture from England.
All sitting around me now, waiting to be PUT somewhere.
191 kg of stuff. Cost me Y160,000. Seems to all have arrived safely.

Oh -  but the drama of it arriving!

Got the call from the delivery truck guys about 11.30 am just as Yujiro was about to feed Okaasan and get ready for leaving the house for a 2 day ski trip.

Delivery truck guy said he couldn't find the house - and wasn't sure about the narrow snowy roads and his big truck.

So I drove out to the near bye cemetery carpark to meet them...and the worryingly large truck.

One guy came running over looking flustered. Asked me to wait 5 minutes while he made a call to his headoffice.
I waited.
He called...and called...and called....

Turns out the other truck guy was having CHEST pains!!! Hadn't taken his heart medicine that morning. Should have stayed home, but came in because they were busy.
His buddy called the ambulance!!!

We drove in convoy down to near the station so the ambulance could find us.
Park outside the 7-11.
Truck Guy 2 manages to get out of the cab, clutching his chest and smiling weakly.
He's taken off to hospital in the ambulance.
More calls to the delivery company head office.
His buddy is understandably stressed out of his mind.

So, we eventually carry on with the delivery of all my stuff.

Truck Guy 1 and I drive in convoy deep into the snowy sideroads leading to me house.
And can't get any closer than 2 streets away.

We unwrap the pallet in the truck and transfer it all in loads to my small car...and carry the rest down the street to my entrance hall......

And then I sit down and grab a 10 minute lunch.

And then I unwrap the chair and Dad's chest.

And THEN. Because I am actually completely insane...I get in the car and drive downtown to a student's art exhibition! I'd promised her I would go and had been forced by a tight work schedule to cancel I left the entrance hall of the house bursting at the seams...and went to look at admittedly good paintings by local, skilled amateurs.

And then I went nuts and bought loads of 70% off winter sale stuff in the Benetton sale.

And then? I came home and started REALLY unpacking.....

Chichi got VERY antsy about this papiermache cat....he actually went directly up to it and then ran away in terror.

The chair - my step-mum did the tapestry's a picture of their house.


Yujiro's gone ski teaching for 2 nights. Just as well. I gave Okaasan takeout sushi for easy dinner. Now I have to think where on earth to out these things!!!!!

I think I'll go to work tomorrow to have a nice rest.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Don't jump to a dementia conclusion!

Um....we just realized why the toilet has been leaping into Automatic Flush mode.
Not Okaasan and button befuddlement at all.
The toilet battery needed changing.

You shouldn't jump into it-must-be-dementia-assumptions....
She IS (sometimes) just an 80 year old lady who gets confused/tired/bored.
Not everything that she does or thinks is connected with dementia.
We should remember that. But we don't...not always!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Noticing the small changes

Yujiro's home for a few days and he is noticing the changes/decline in Okaasan.
Isn't it always the way? If you are regular, daily contact with someone you don't notice so much. But if you come back into their life after a break, the small things ring clearer.
Kids become young adults...adults become older...

He took Okaasan out for a mother/son walk to a local noodle restaurant and noticed how weak and slow her walking is. She held his hand most of the way and had problems with the snow and ice.
He is worried about her walking, and understands why she seems to be getting more nervous about going out. Spring can't come quick enough for her.

And he has notices that her ability with machines is getting worse because in the past few weeks the house toilet seems to be on Automatic Flush mode several times week.

You know these technological marvels: The Japanese Toilet?
All buttons and writing and icons. Do everything, but make tea.
I'd wondered why it was leaping into flush mode as soon as my bum left the seat, wondered if the cats were playing with a hidden switch. Wondered if the goldfish on the backshelf was entertaining himself.

Yujiro realized, the "Automatic Flush" button...Okaasan has been hitting it, strangely ignoring the much larger "Flush" button above it. Something she has done for almost 2 years without any she is patchy in her use of it.

We've both noticed that her understanding of the electric cooker, the microwave, the washing machine, the electric kettle sem to be slipping. Not all the time, but enough for us to notice.

Meanwhile, I noticed that some of Okaasan's usual Favorite Conversation Trigger Topics just get no response.
Last night we were talking about  air travel - how far it is to Europe etc from Japan. I tried to give Okaasan an opening into the conversation by mentioning "You went to South Africa didn't you? via Hong Kong? That's a long way!"...and nothing. She just smiled at me and vaguely nodded.
90% of the time that gets her onto her usual South African memory stories. But not this time.

And so.

End of a friendship era: my friend Heather, aka Uni Spagetti on her blog, left Sapporo and returned to the Uk where she will be a science star at Newcastle University.
The last few days in Sapporo she stayed at my classroom. On the last night we went for a quiet few hours at a local hot spring hotel and dinner.
And then it was the dawn journey to the airport, chat about everything-but-what-was-coming...and then final teary hugs and forced cheerfulness.
And she was gone.
I got back into town and it was just like a love affair - all those memories of buildings we'd been in, karaoke bars, shops and bars...

Of course the contact goes on with SKYPE and Facebook gosh...those old fashioned things called "letters". But the day-to-day/weekends contact is gone.
Heather was such a huge support to me in the past 2 years of horrible life events - particularly a lot of the stresses over living with Okaasan. A very sympathetic ear. Are we all so selfish in loving the friends who let us tearfully and angrily dump our problematic life all over them? I guess so.

Another blogger recently wondered whether other foreign women in Japan think of their Japanese friends in the same terms as a fellow-foreigner. I wonder that too. I have Japanese women friends - my old roommates are my closefriends. But our closeness is more to do with the fact that we lived together once, I have rarely found that kind of closeness with a let's go to a movie/dinner/hike - Japanese girlfriend.

This ex-pat life is full of such friendship exits. As fellow-foreigners and Japanese friends with dreams of a wider life leave the country. Lynn - now a mum and photo studio boss in the US; Loretta - now a wife and teacher in Melbourne, Sheryl - now an artist in Vancouver Island; Ikuko - now a mum and translator in the UK; Lisa - now mum and organic wine merchant in the US....and so they go.

And I stay here.

O woe is me!!!!! Anyway, enough of that - MY life, my WHOLE life, is arriving on Sunday in boxes etc from England. Tokyo Port customs people have decided my teddy bears and photo albums pose no threat to Japan and released it all.

Sunday morning...I am clearing the entrance hall in preparation for it all.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

It's snoooow time....

Fighting my way to the computer thru the blizzard!

Well, almost.

Been seemingly days of snow here. 1 meter or something?

Just between 6 pm and 9 pm while I was teaching my car disappeared again under 10-15 cm.

Every day has been a lot of snow clearing. I haven't been to Curves in a week.

And helping Uni Spagetti clear out her apartment and get out of Japan onto the next part of her life.

An exhausting Sunday at her apartment with other friends - sorting thru stuff, delivering it to people's homes...the post office...the trash station. As I had the car it meant a lot of driving. In the snow storms.


As expected though: I came home with two boxes of food and alcohol ;-)) from her kitchen. And two boxes of stuff which the recycle shop may or may not like.

If the recycle shops says "no"I may just leave it outside a children's center and leave a note from "Tiger Mask Man"...

There was a final drinks party in Susukino Sunday night, but I had no energy to go: so I came home with the boxes and after dinner Okaasan had fun sorting through them with me and telling me what the stuff was and whether the sell-by-dates could safely be ignored.

And then yesterday - a hell day in Sapporo of terrible road conditions as the temperature went above freezing finally and the snow turned into coffee sherbet. Deep sherbet. Most of the side roads were impassable. Many of the main roads dangerous. I'd planned to go by subway, but I couldn't park the car outside my classroom, so I was forced to drive.
I drove to the suburbs for regular classes 45 mins., then had to drive across town 50 mins to JR Hokkaido to do a train announcement narration job...then home 45 mins...then classroom 15 mins. It was all a long, long day.

Okaasan of course didn't go to hula. She has been absent from that over a month now, and she doesn't look too bothered. I think her interest in going to something like that and making an effort with people is waning.

And so. Onwards.
Yujiro came home last night for 4 days.
Uni Spagetti leaves Japan tomorrow morning.
My boxes from England will arrive Sunday.

oh - and it'S NOT snowing! There is actually blue sky. A miracle.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Ability and Secrets.

Okaasan seems to rock from one extreme of ability to another - all in 24 hours.

Yesterday we were delighted to find that she'd decided to have lunch/looked in the fridge for food/chosen some appropriate food/heated it up/served it to herself.

Yujiro was home for another 24 hours between jobs and he and I had been out doing errands. We rushed back at 11.30 am to do Okaasan's food. And found her in front of the Tv eating a bowl of rice--left-over-soup-fishy-snack-things.


She also went out for a walk and came home on time. And did the washing up after the evening meal.

And then.

There was a large piece of shit on the toilet wall....we're not sure how it got there (did it fly out of her pants and she didn't notice it or forgot to do something about it?) and at dinner her conversation about Japanese machines and cars started well and got lost and confused in a myriad of started sentences and lost thoughts...something about how her father before the war had a Ford truck to deliver highclass wooden chests that were made in Kawagoe.
Something. She didn't seem to find the words..or the thoughts. And stopped and started. I didn't know whether to prompt or not. So I just smiled and made encouraging noises. But those parts of her brain that were meant to be supplying the vocabulary...just didn't.

All in one day.

Patches of ability.

Although - our delight at finding that she'd fed herself is an indication of how infrequently THAT happens. Usually she sits with the Tv...and maybe about 1 pm or 2 pm when she is hungry she wanders into the kitchen and has a yogurt or a boiled egg.
It's VERY rare for Okaasan to actually put together then elements of even a heated up meal in one saucepan.

Toilet: I talked to Yujiro about whether we should put a trash bin in the toilet with a label "Dirty Underwear for the Washing Machine". He thinks no - that she would think it was only for sanitary towels like a public toilet. I think it's worth a try. We can't talk directly to Okaasan about her double incontinence, but if there is a bin with a plastic bag next to the toilet I think she might be triggered into putting her soiled underwear into it.

It would be so much easier for her and for us: she wouldn't have to worry about it and do the handwashing. We wouldn't have to worry about it, clean it up and go hunting for it in her room.

I've heard and read that many dementia sufferers end up throwing their own shit around, smearing it behind the sofa, leaving it wrapped up in bits of paper around the room etc...and I am SO thankful we aren't at that stage yet with Okaasan. But almost every day now she is in the toilet with soiled pants and is faced with cleaning stuff off the floor, walls or bowl...and then disposing of the dirty clothing.
Her room stinks of stale urine as it is - I bought an air deodorizer yesterday and hid it away on the back of the (unused) House Shrine shelf in Okaasan's hardly used Japanese style room. The shit is rapidly becoming another problem.

And so.

Today I am busy helping Uni Spagetti move from her apartment and she gets ready to leave Japan next week. She has been such a good friend to me in the past 3 years - we met when my life was normal...and she was there through all the horrors....whose sofa will I cry on now???

Three friends are coming together to help her squeeze bits of life into boxes, send them off at the post office and clean the apartment - and we'll probably all come home with the contents of her food cupboards and fridge.

Just seeing her Moving Mess apartment yesterday afternoon reminded me so strongly of that 10 days in Dad and Jane's house last October....the boxes everywhere, the random bits of a life on the floor....aghhhhhh!!!

Talking of which: MY life from England is heading nearer and nearer. All 15 boxes of it. Plus a large bill. 
The shipping company and customs broker in Tokyo say my ship arrived, the pallet was unloaded into a warehouse and the customs check will be Tuesday next week.
And then it will all come to Sapporo!
Maybe arrive here next Sunday.

And. The bill for all of this? So far...

I paid the UK shipping company 600 UK the Customs Broker is billing me for Y85,000 (which is about another 600 pounds)....and it still has to move from Tokyo Port to the Sapporo suburbs.
So: 1,200 pounds and counting....Y160,000 or so.......

Oh MY GOD. Nostalgia is expensive.
I have no children. Nobody but me is really interested in my photo albums....when I die in 30 years or so all this stuff will be trashed by someone.
But. It's my life and now it needs to all be here with me.

So much for simple Zen living.

I think it's time to move the cats OFF the bookshelves and get make space for my (expensive) memories.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Talk is good.

Pat myself on the back?
Yes, why not!

Okaasan seems  fine: chatty and laughing and relaxed. Not morose and confused.

And I am sure it is MY chat style with her.

I may have mentioned this before - almost certainly have - that when Yujiro is here at mealtimes he talks...we listen and add comments etc.
When I am here with Okaasan I don't have enough Japanese-ability or energy to go on and on and on chatting. I ask a few questions or make a few comments on her favorite "memory trigger" topics and away she goes....and seems a whole lot better for it.

I write this for anyone else who is handling a dementia sufferer - getting them to chat and tell their favorite stories really appears to make them clearer and connected. Yes, the stories are often repeated. Endlessly, but it's easy when you know what topics to head into.

Last night we sat down to hotpot (easy food after a day of work and errands and shopping) and I mentioned that Yujiro was teaching at Mnt Racy ski area in Yubari.

"Yubari" - quickly Okaasan grabbed the idea and ran with it.

Yubari - coaltown - my husband worked in a coal company in Kyushu - then he went to university - he worked in a coal company after high school - in the office - everyone advised him to go to university - he worked in a coalcompany - but now in Japan coal towns have died because we don't use coal - my husband worked in a coal company before he came to Kawagoe - I was working there before - he didn't know any practical things - he was a university student - my boss came from Kyushu so he gave a Kyushu man a job....and on and on...

She didn't mention my eye at all. She was lost in mental pictures of coal mining and her husband and her old company in Kawagoe.


Wednesday, 12 January 2011



Okaasan has noticed my bloody eye.

gave me a 45 minute, revolving lecture about how Nishi-sensei - her all-time favorite health guru would advise not eating and drink lots of water.


I managed to steer her onto sons and what universities they went to...and I started clearing dishes in the kitchen and made an excuse about work and escaped up here to our apartment.

Oh Bugger.
I can't do 4 nights of dinner alone with her and THAT conversation every night.

I either need:

a) to go out for dinner every night.
2) an eyepatch
3) a paperbag on HER head.
4) a shotgun.

Something's coming, something ...baaad....

Escaped it all today to the movie theater at 10 am to see a classic movie: West Side Story.
Average age of the audience was probably about 70 - and we all lapped it up. Local movie theater showing a different classic movie every week.
I was born the year this movie came out, so I've never seen it in a movie theater - just wonderful. The dance routines, the experimental lighting, Natalie Wood lip-syncing...ahhhh......

Something coming? Something baaad.

Yup. More Oyomesan duties.

Yujiro made a brief appearance into the home in between ski jobs. Home at 7.30 pm on Tuesday. And out of the house again Wednesday lunchtime. Just time to wash clothes, check emails and make friendly sounds to mother and Oyomesan.

He and I had one of those couple mis-communications: I thought he was here all day Wednesday and going Thursday am. He was surprised I'd made plans to go see a movie.

But West Side Story only plays at 10 am until Friday, and I work Thursday and it was today or no. I left him to laundry and email and lunch with Okaasan...and escaped.

And he'll be back next Monday night. But this time he's left me the car, so shopping and working is easier.

I don't mind this couple life-style at all. He goes away working for a few days...a week. He comes back and we are refreshed as a couple. While he's gone I get control of the TV remote, read books in bed at too many wordgames on the computer. I like my own time.

But. You know. Left with his mother. It isn't the BEST life!:-(((
I bet she feels the same...oh no...left alone with that woman again...

But you know...I feel quite a thaw in Okaasan's feelings towards me: last night she actually sat/hovered in the kitchen chatting while I was cooking....I could feel her watching what I was doing of course, but I also noticed that she actually chose to be there and chat to me about department store special offer flyers. we go again. Oyomesan On Duty.

P.S. Does anybody know anything about burst blood vessels in the eye? I have a bad one, the whole white part of my eye between the center and the middle is bloodshot. Internet sites seem to say it looks worse than it is...and someone's advised me to drink a lot of water. It could be stress...but I'm really NOT stressed at the moment...resigned to my fate as an Oyomesan, but not stressed....too many computer wordgames? Too much chocolate?

Blair Witch Oyomesan
Any other ideas?

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

It's your bath time...

Cheated Okaasan yesterday.
Used this dementia to get her to have a bath...and it worked!

Okaasan CAN have a bath by herself. But hardly ever does. Once a week...on Mondays...just before she goes to hula dance.

But she hasn't been to hula dance now for...what...a month? Pretty smelly. I think she had a bath about 10 days ago. maybe.

She's physically capable of having a bath, but the planning and will to actually decide to do it and run the water, go back 10 minutes later and HAVE the bath seem to be missing.

In Japan, traditionally, the bath is run in the evening and everyone takes their turn (from head of household down to the women and kids) in washing the body out of the bath and then enjoying a  soak in the tub itself.
In our home Yujiro and I shower every day and have a few baths a week at different times. Okaasan gets by with a face wash every morning. And the once a week pre-hula bath.

So. Yesterday.
7 am in the kitchen Okaasan said she didn't feel like going to hula class. Yet again. It seems as if she can't be bothered with all of that it now, even though the roads are ok and the weather was good.

So. Around 10 am I was snow clearing outside and had my Brilliant Idea: why not trick her into having a bath?

I slipped back inside and started the bath running. Put on the bathroom heater, put the hairdryer out etc.

10 minutes later I casually walked into the kitchen and poked my head into Okaasan's room:

"Okaasan, the bath is ready...the water looks ok!"

"Bath? What bath? My bath? Did I run a bath?"

"Well, I was out clearing snow. And the cats don't take I guess it must be yours!"

"Really? I'm getting forgetful, I was watching TV and forgot."


She had the bath. Took 40 minutes, obviously enjoyed it. And then...and then...she even took charge of her own lunch too. I'd put out the soup and the rice...while I was upstairs thawing out she put the rice into the soup pan, added an egg - and made her own lunch.


Deceptive and using dementia a bit...but successful. I think I read somewhere that gentle suggestion works well with dementia sufferers. They aren't going to do something that is totally out of their usual routine - but if the situation seems likely and some visual clues are there - then they will probably follow the suggestion.

Okaasan is used to having a bath on Monday mornings. Using the hair dryer. So it all seemed familiar enough. I don't think she would do the same if I tried the trick in the evening..because she never has a bath in the evenings.

Anyway. Success.

I set out for my own afternoon out: I went to the hot bran bath salon that I used to go to. Before I had a grossing out ovary. I used to go here last spring and I had to drive there because my knee was too weak to walk.
But yesterday, I could walk to the subway, walk to the salon, walk around town, walk home from the subway too. And is getting better. Immersed up to your chin in hot bran is SO good.....and then an hour or two curled in the lounge chair with the newspapers.

I came home at 4.30 pm when the temperature was dropping off the scale and it was just getting dark.

Okaasan was predictably just thinking about going for a walk.
"I was busy this afternoon, I forgot the time!"
Busy? Yes...well....

She went out at 5 pm and came home at 7.30 pm just in time to get some dinner table time with me...actually her chat was good: all about how her mean boss didn't give the 20 year olds in the company time off to go to the nationwide Adult Day ceremonies (which was yesterday).

Okaasan worked as a book keeper in a rubber company post-war. That's where she met her husband. The boss was from Kyushu and he employed a Mr. Nakajima from Kyushu...but he was a recent university graduate with no practical Okaasan had to show him the ropes as the company accountant.
And then they got married. And had two sons. And the younger son had a foreign girlfriend....

It was fresh conversation for Okaasan. Which in itself is a rarity. She usually churns out the same stories, so a different story - even with repeats within it - was refreshing.

Bath time success.


Sunday, 9 January 2011

Done another day.

Stayed home today and rearranged my nest.

Uni Spaghetti - aka Heather - is leaving Japan soon (boo hoo) and today she toured Sapporo delivering stuff from her apartment to friends.

I got her oven/microwave combination machine AND two bookcases. But I had to rearrange things a bit here to make room for them.
The oven just about fits on top of the fridge. I haven't HAD an oven for 17-8 years...all my time in Japan actually. Here microwaves are more common. I've actually forgotten how to use an oven!

The goldfish had to move from the top of the fridge to the window shelf of the toilet - the room is very warm because we keep it heated for Okaasan and I just hope he isn't too shocked about all he'll see from his new vantage point.
Mind you, goldfish are meant to have very short memories - so he'll just swim around a bit and forget it. Him and Okaasan....short-term memory problems. He's got colored pebbles scattered all over the place and she has socks and pants.

And arranged the bookcases. All ready for when Tokyo Port customs people release my boxes from England and all THAT stuff arrives here, maybe in about 10 days from now. All my photo albums...teddy bears...memories....

In the meantime they are good cat storage places.

I fed Okaasan lunch and sat and chatted to her. The food was easy because it was just last night's dinner replated and refreshed. She rambled on and on about Ishihara Yujiro the Japanese movie star. I'd mentioned that Yujiro was working at a ski resort near Otaru and that predictably set her off on the familiar tracks of conversation : Otaru - Ishihara Yujiro Museum - Ishihara Yujiro lived in Otaru as a child - later he lived in Tokyo - his house was near my cooking school - I told my husband and he insisted on coming to look at the star's house - it was just near my cooking school - I told my husband and he came to see the house - Ishihara Yujiro is very famous - his house was just near my cooking school -....etc etc etc

It was a beautiful afternoon after another 15 cm of snowfall. I got out and cleared snow around the house and started making a snowcat or igloo in the garden. The cats dashed around a bit in the sunshine and snow.

I told Okaasan about 3 pm that it was a nice day and she should go out. She finally GOT out at 4.30 pm, when the nice day had packed up and gone home.

Then she stayed out till 7.30 pm. I'd just about finished dinner by the time she came back. She thought maybe she'd been downtown. Wasn't sure whether it was by subway or on foot. Wasn't sure if she'd bought anything.

THIS aspect of dementia is so strange: this complete blank about something you've just done. Okaasan thought she'd been to Odori, thought she'd been by subway...wasn't sure at all. In fact she asked ME what she'd bought!!!

This morning she was asking me repeatedly: did I go out yesterday? Where did I go?

And it's interesting, but kind of sad, that she has no problems asking Yujiro and I these pretty odd questions. Asking us to confirm what has happened in her own life. I can't imagine what it is like to somehow KNOW you can't remember so much stuff. She has notes all over her table, and she is constantly asking us about things she may...or may not have done.

I sat with her while she started eating dinner, and then eventually used the Phone Call From England excuse and escaped. I was in the kitchen from 6.30 to 8 pm, that is quite enough kitchen time for this Oyomesan.

Watched one of those programs on Tv tonight about foreigners living in Japan - with the presenters finding all sorts of people out in the sticks. One Indian woman was living in the middle of nowhere with a much older Japanese guy AND his 90 year old mother.
I wonder if she had to spend 5 hours cutting up bits of seaweed and veggies for Osechi too?
There are a lot of us about. Foreigners making a life in Japan. With its shrinking population Japan so needs us if only the stupid old right-wingers in the government would get their fatheads around the topic and improve working conditions for people who have to slog it out in Japanese factories and farms.

Anyway. Time for a bath. My body knows it did snow clearing today....


Back on duty.

Oyomesan is the Decider again.
Whether we should have slimy brown mushrooms in the miso soup. Or not.
Whether we should have the brown or the yellow pickles on the little side dish. Or not.

And other vitally important decisions.

Yujiro's gone skiing for 4 days. This weekend is a holiday quiet time with Okaasan and 40 cm...50 cm of snow!!!
 I did about 1 hour clearing....didn't go to the gym. I think my Curves were getting enough work out at home with this lot.

But - finally - after 3 days of snow it cleared and Okaasan went out late afternoon for a walk. She hasn't been out for days and inside the house she doesn't exercise, so that really is 3 days of sitting and getting up occasionally to eat and go to the toilet.

But I got home from work and found the telltale pink flowery slippers in the entrance hall and she was gone: so I nipped into her room to grab underwear and do a quick hunt around for lost spaceships or flocks of sheep.

She got home about 5.30 pm and at 6.15 pm I started cooking dinner. She was sitting watching TV. At 6.30 pm she was laying down watching TV....and by 7 pm when dinner was on the table...Okaasan was breathing deeply and sleeping.....I dined in solitary splendor while Okaasan's TV blared some awful (even by J-standards) Tv show about bad singers murdering famous songs. There IS a reason why the intelligence of this country is slipping: crappy, mind-numbing TV.

Okaasan slept on thru 8 pm and 9 pm and 10 pm...while I enjoyed the wonderful movie Fried Green Tomatoes with Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy. Well, actually chichi and Popo...but you know what I mean.
Um...there was also a whole packet of TimTams...and the very end of a bottle of whiskey on the sofa....MY holiday-leftovers are much better than Okaasan's!

I went to bed and left food on the table for her...all untouched by morning.

The pink and white things are fish paste, the black things are the rolled seaweed from New Year, then rice, soup, pickles and an egg.....

Friday, 7 January 2011

Back to work...

Back to work today: English teaching (easy) and Oyomesaning (not so easy).

The last 2 days of my winter holiday I packed it lots of eating out with friends, movies and exercise at the gym (2 kg plus!!!).

Sapporo disappeared in a snow storm of 30 cm plus. Okaasan couldn't go out.
Yujiro left early morning to go ski teaching and came home evening.

I start full time work from today and from tomorrow Yujiro will be staying away at the ski resort fro 4 days...I have Oyomesan duties looming.

Just to get in the swing of it all I went down to the kitchen this morning to face all the dish washing from lunch (Okaasan) and dinner (Yujiro and Okaasan), while he giddied around trying to leave the house earlier because of the snow.
So - I go out for two meals and escape cooking and boring conversation...and next morning do the dishes of the meals other people ate....hmmm...something wrong methinks!
To be fair, Yujiro and I have always operated the I cook/you wash dishes rule, so he usually does his share. But as Okaasan hadn't washed her lunch dishes, and then hadn't followed thru on her idea of washing dinner dishes either...

A year ago she washed dishes after meals far more. Now I notice when she does it.
A year ago she washed underwear far more. Now it's a few pairs of pants a week.
A year ago she went out walking every day and often went downtown. Now it's a few times a week and very local.

And the Osechi is almost finished. My GOD! I'll have to cook!!!

And the boxes and furniture from England - my life in boxes - arrives at the port of Tokyo today....if Japanese customs let it all could be heading my way soon....a WHOLE lot of memories about to arrive right here in this room.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Still eating osechi...

Cooking is easy at the moment.

Just dig out some of the osechi from the fridge and put it on a plate. Make miso soup and put a grilled rice cake in it - cut some pickles and we are away...again...and again.

And just in case we are in any danger of running out: Okaasan went out yesterday (yippee!!) and bought MORE fish paste! A bargain bag of four fish paste rolls.

Yujiro says he'll eat them with beer. Okaasan is happy to eat it for every meal. I wonder if we could stretch New Year food until early summer?

She seems fine. A bit all mixed up about whether it is ok to go out at the moment, and what shoes she should wear when she goes etc - but yesterday she was out downtown, a rare occurence recently.

I've been enjoying the last days of my winter holiday - meeting friends out, hosting another Couch Surfer, err...doing my accounts for November and December...

This week in Japan everyone gets New Year cards from friends/family/anyone who knows you.
Okaasan got ONE card. From the nephew who got married last year. It's sad, her own family don't send cards, and apparently any friends left in Saitama don't know her address, or have died.

It's the custom here NOT to send or receive them if a close family member died last year - something I don't subscribe to at all - the end of year after someone's died is EXACTLY the time when you need cards from people saying they are thinking of you!

Happily I got a good selection of Christmas cards this year, and more than a few Japanese New Year cards too happily - here is my living room card display area! So pretty I think I keep them until summer....

OUR New Year card this year was a winner: designed by the wannabe manga artist son of one of my incorporates the Chinese zodiac for this year (Rabbit) with Yujiro's summer job (VeloTaxi), with us and the cats....

A Happy New Year to all blog readers!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

No words to express the happiness!!!!!!!

FINALLY! 18 months after the cartilage injury....3 months after having my ovaries whipped out.

(I'm the one in red about to fly...).

Teine Mountain, Sapporo.

Sapporo from the ski course.

Osechi, osechi, ocechi!

Happy New Year everyone!
Welcome back to another year of Okaasan and Me.
What fun and games will we get up to this year?
Hopefully more fun, than games.

Yesterday - January 1st - we ate ourselves to a standstill.

Lunchtime: the box of Osechi (New Year) food that I'd ordered. I lied and told Okaasan that a kind friend had sent us the box, couldn't of course say I'd bought it in case she wasn't interested in cooking! Also ate a red/white salad that I made, which Okaasan predictably enough said was too sour and not sweet enough...

Here is the gorgeous box.

Dinner: the Osechi that Okaasan had bought or agonizingly slowly made with my assistance. And do you know? The strange thing was that I don't think she recognized any of it...YUjiro and I were like over bouncy kindergarten teachers exclaiming "how delicious!" over it all and making a fuss, Okaasan just ate it and didn't really appear to have any personal connection to the seaweed rolls, the stewed taro or the root veggie and chicken dish. 
In fact she was more pleased with the red and white fish paste thing she'd bought at the supermarket, AND more concerned about how Yujiro had served the herring roe - which comprised of opening the packet and putting it on a plate.
Okaasan said it should have been soaked for an eon and other preparations....(so it's not just me that gets things wrong :-)) )

My setting of the food we'd made...and yes...that IS water I'm drinking....needed something to refresh my mouth with all this soy sauce and sugar!

So. At the end of all of that.
Was it worth it? Getting Okaasan to shop and make some New Year food?
No. Not really. I absolutely won't do it next year.
She loved the shopping. But the making was stressful for both of us. And the end result can so easily be bought from a supermarket. 
Basically so many of these dishes are vegetables that are first boiled, then cooked again in a sauce of fish stock, sugar and soy sauce. It's food from another era when there were no shops open and bad refrigeration.

I am going skiing!!! For the first time in 2 years I am taking the bad knee and the weak thigh muscles skiing!!!!!
Got to go now and get ready!

Will just leave you with a great snowbear we spotted on our walk in the park yesterday.....
And hope to be back at this computer later to report successful ski return.