Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The Talk II

"You know those blue elephants that do cartwheels thru your living room? I think we should leave them out some frosted-cupcakes".

"Elephants? Cartwheels? Cupcakes.....???????"

It may as well have been all of the above, as Okaasan and I did The Talk II.

She had no idea what I was talking about: toilet problems/wet pants/using supports/accidents in your pajamas/ accidents on the toilet carpet/wearing two pairs of pants/cartwheeling elephants...

Me? Toilet problems? When? Now? But this nightdress is dry - look! I'm wearing one pair of pants - look! These are my pants? These pants came out of THIS box? My nightdress is dry. I have a problem? When?

All of this thru the always present fog of a foreigner's Japanese where I mixed up the words for "soft" with the word for "weak", as in "older ladies toilet control muscles get weaker, it happens to  everyone".

I'd decided that I needed to go in quickly for The Talk II, because Talk I had only got the box of pads into the living room, where it was lurking round the corner of the sofa in case Okaasan needed it.
But I came home from work to find she'd been up and eaten the lunch I'd left on the kitchen table and was sitting upright watching TV. So, obviously the leg problems were better.
Better get in quick, while she had a possibility of remembering yesterday's Talk I and I still had some courage left.
The cutesy trash box for used toilet pads was still waiting to be revealed. IIt was the missing element of the whole Time to Use Pads in Your Pants conversation.

I took it in.

Aghhhhhhhhhh.   :-()

This time she wasn't all sad and sorrowful on the carpet in the dark, she was alert and incredulous.
"I don't need any of this. I don't have toilet problems. When? Look, this nightdress in dry and clean".

I took her thru to her clothes changing room and put the box of pads and the trash box strategically between where her clean pants are strewn over the futon and the laundry box is sitting, overflowing with dirty pants and pajamas.

I don't go to the toilet here!  
Yes, but this is where you change pants isn't it, so this is a convenient place, isn't it?

I picked up the overflowing laundry box and took her with me to the washing machine, tried to SHOW her the evidence of what I was saying: the many, many pairs of pants in the box inside eachother - all soaked with urine. 
You know you have a problem, because you are wearing two pairs of pants aren't you, and they are all very wet inside this box......(repeat till the elephants do cartwheels)..

So, Okaasan and I are standing by the washing machine picking through her dirty underpants, separating them out from their doubles, squeezing them with our hands to see if they are wet and sniffing them.

Oh gawd!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ladies, when you meet a cute Japanese guy be warned: this is what it will end up like!

The old newspaper at the bottom of the laundry box is wet with urine too, I throw that away.

I show her the newspaper under the carpet where she sits.

I talk about how Yujiro often comments on "that funny smell" or asks why the toilet carpet is being washed again.
It's a little embarrassing for him to talk to you about this, so this is woman to woman.

My parents had the same problem. English people, American people, African people, Japanese people. Many seniors have this problem, so it's ok, it's just our body muscles get a bit weaker as we get older. I'm middle-aged and it's starting, when I come home from the cold outside I have to rush to the toilet quickly because MY muscles down-here are getting weaker too....(repeat till elephants do handstands...)

Unfortunately the laundry box pants were just wet, not shitty; also the under-carpet floor was dry and yet again my Frozen Panties were outside in the shed.
But 20 pairs of double pants, soaked with pee were my evidence.

And Okaasan was amazed.
She has no memory of any of this.
She looked thru the pants with me as if seeing them for the first time. Almost with an air of are-these-mine?, and was incredulous about it all.

I tried to keep it light, but firm. I used the Yujiro-knows-but-is-embarrassed-to-talk card.

After 15 minutes of this I left her to think about it all/forget it totally.

I worry that all she'll remember is: Oyomesan was upset with me about something and doesn't like me.

And THEN she'll descend a few notches on the happiness scale. And then we'll be in trouble.

A little while later I gave her the rice cake covered with redbeans that a student had made for me (traditional on the First Day of Spring festival today), and I told her about the delicious sushi dinner that was all ready for her on the kitchen table.

Then I went "to work"...although actually with a friend to see the movie My Week with Marilyn, which the cable TV company had given us free tickets for.
I stepped onto the subway with lots of other normal people and left cartwheeling elephants behind.

And so.

Will Okaasan remember ANY of the above conversation and pants checking?
I doubt it.
Will she notice the pads and trash box when she puts on clean pants next time?
I hope so.
Will she try using one of the pads in her pants?

I doubt it.

For now.

But I have crossed the line from polite mealtime companion to personal topic adviser.
It's a strange place to be.


  1. Dang cartwheeling, handstanding elephants in the room.
    We were never successful with ANY of it with our "Nanny".
    Eventually she became bedridden, no pants or pads ever, just thick towels folded beneath her.
    Twas somewhat easier on us, but at what cost?
    All the conversations were in one ear, straight out the other.
    But she could tell you some stories from the past, in minute detail. :))
    Things that she had forgotten that she even remembered.
    Get a voice or video recorder and concentrate on that.
    Forget the Frozen Panties.
    It's just not worth it. :((
    Mata ne

  2. I wonder if you stuck the pads onto the pants in her clean pile ready for her to use whether she would just accept that? It's a long shot but worth a try.

  3. Congratulations - it may not register with her, but you've taken the first steps. Hope some of the message gets through, eventually. Gambatte!

  4. Oh Liz..really? You think so? I have students whose oldies use pads and things "have done for years" and it would make it so much better for her and for us...i'm still hopeful that if I leave them there and talk about them sometimes...and of course WHEN Yujiro gets her along to a doctor to be assessed for daycare I want the doctor to talk about it too.....

    Origa-me.....I thought about that...but I think she'd pick the pad out and wonder what it was...I feel SHE has to decide that it might be a good idea as they are there....

    I AM the eternal optimist!

  5. Yep, Nanny was so, so proud and dignified, and just refused to believe or remember that she even had "that problem".
    The subject,when raised, was the cause of much distress and anxiety.
    Of course she would have "accients", which were forgotten as soon as they happened. :))
    Short term memory loss worked in her favor....sometimes.:((
    Mata ne

  6. But you had the talk, twice. That is pretty brave. Let's hope she won't take away any negative feelings from this. Maybe, just maybe seeing the box when she would need it might trigger her into using them? Maybe?

  7. I pray for you that this new concept takes on. I can't believe you were both standing there squeezing and sniffing. You're a great oyomesan. I hope Yujiro appreciates everything you do because you deserver some huge appreciation right there. I hope I'm not writing similar posts in ten years.