Friday, 27 May 2011

A timely reminder

Welcome to Okaasan Land - where shopping receipts, magazines, supermarket flyers, half-eaten food, bits of tissue, packs of instant coffee, mouldy vegetables, underwear, hula dance plastic flowers, cosmetic samples and much much more... go to hide.

There's the clock! Nicely set in its new position just a few eye-moves up from the Tv screen and near the calender pages that are always consulted to check what month we are in now.

In the foreground is the sofa. It has a blue cover. But that is buried beneath all the clothes that are permanently kept all jumbled up on top. It's only been cleared twice in the past 2 years...both times when we had a BBQ party and Okaasan worried that a child guest would come into her room and watch TV.

Between the sofa and that black/white furry carpet thing is where Okaasan sits for hours and hours. The furry thing is the kotatsu cover - the kotatsu table actually has an electric heating system and the furry table cloth keeps the heat inside. Okaasan usually sleeps on the floor with half her body under the furry cloth. We gave her a futon and a bedroom next door - but she has never used it - the futon is permanently covered with underwear and T-shirts.
Here in her main room beyond the kotatsu and the TV is a no-man's land of newspapers and food packets and magazines and stuff doing a good job of covering up the space between the sofa and the trash boxes.

I come into Okaasan Land about once a week to clean a little. I take out stuff from the bottom of the piles so that the top looks the same. I throw out mouldy stuff and dirty underwear. I move some magazines onto the bookcase near the door. I hunt for any important letters that maybe Yujiro should see. I vacumn when I am absolutely sure she is away downtown and won't suddenly reappear.
Okaasan never cleans. She folds up newspapers for recycling. She puts trash in the two boxes. I've offered her the vacumn cleaner many times, but she always says "I'll do it later"...and doesn't. I think she's vacumed maybe twice since we moved here?
She leaves the rest  from day to day, week to week, month to month..and actually year to year....there are clothes on the sofa and floor that have been there since 2009. 
And no - that isn't a joke.

Why? Why does a once-Super Housewife live like this? Don't know. I think in her mind she is always just taking a break from housework by sitting for a bit in front of the TV. Only her "bit" is actually a whole day. I think she thinks she is constantly in the middle of doing things.
Her home in Saitama was far worse apparently, because nobody cleaned for years. She slept on a pile of old clothes on a bed. Newspapers were everywhere. And mouldy food.

Anyway - now she at least clearly knows what time it is. There is the clock. 
Another small step of helping her connect with the world around her.  I hope.


  1. You are so patient and kind. I need to take lessons. Happy Friday, friend. :)

  2. Patient? Kind? Me?????Nooooooooo!!!!

  3. Back in Australia now, I've been watching an American show about hoarders - wo-oa-oa-ah. I imagine your mum-in-law's place in Saitama was a bit like what I've seen there.... I guess it's one blessing that there's a smaller space to contain her in now!!! Must be very tiring for you though, I obviously don't have one hundredth of your patience!!!

  4. I've seen those programs about is some kind of reassurance response going on I think in many cases. I'm guessing that Okaasan knows she has memory problems, so she doesn't want to put anything AWAY in a cupboard or drawer out of sight. Or - she always thinks "I must do something about those socks later..." and "later" never comes.
    But I have to be very very careful about cleaning and what I move or throw away in case it is the one thing she DOES remember!

  5. I agree with everyone.. you really do have a heart of gold! I do at the nursing home cuz it's a job. I can barely deal with my MIL and she's "normal", I think....???

  6. But I DO regard looking after Okaasan as a job! Something I have to do, just grin and get on with it....and if there is a way to skive off...I Sunday lunchtimes when he is working ...I try to fox it so that I am out or only give her lunch and then go back outside/upstairs.
    And when he is away and I am 100% The Decider....I just mentally add Okaasan Care onto my working that I stop work when I finally escape the kitchen and come back upstairs.