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 problem...now 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.
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 and...my 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.