Wednesday, 29 February 2012

We gotta talk...

Know that gnawing feeling when you know you gotta talk? About "something".

It's with you all the time.

Shall I do it now? Or After dinner? At the weekend?

And then you find yourself just blurting it out all unplanned?

TWO Gotta Talks are lurking in my head at the moment.

With Yujiro and Okaasan.

Gotta talk to Yujiro about getting Okaasan assessed for daycare. Got to get him to start the process. Go along to the hospital and have an assessment or something. 
I know it'll be a battle with her etc etc, but if one more student casually mentions how wonderfully their mother/friend/aunt is doing in a friendly, professional daycare system I might explode.

So, there's that.
But finding the time to have that conversation with him...hmm...when?

And the second? Gotta talk to Okaasan about using panty pads or sanitary towels at night. That'll be a conversation-and-a-half.
We had another bad toilet accident earlier this week. She shat pajamas and pants and left them on the nice recycle newspaper box my student made...and left the toilet outside bowl all dirty.....very very YUK.
I spent 30 minutes in the home center shop looking at fliptop trash cans, trying to find one with a pink top to suggest "for female use" - and one big enough for the old people diapers or pads.
Got one -15 L size with a pink top.

Just have to find the time to HAVE that conversation, woman to woman with Okaasan. Wondering whether I should show her the damaged flooring under her she REALLY understands/remembers that she has a problem and takes action to help.

So. Thinking a lot recently about these two looming conversations. Thinking about how to argue my point and win. Thinking about how to say it in Japanese with Okaasan.

And then? Blurted out No. 1 Gotta Talk this morning....bugger.

Yujiro and I were talking calmly at breakfast about how to feed Okaasan when we go away for 1 night for my birthday (more on THAT another time) - and I found my mouth taking charge and starting the Gotta-get-Okaasan-assessed-for-daycare Talk. 
All unprepped. Bugger.
But he listened. Didn't look happy. But sort of agreed. Maybe.
Was it a Japanese agreement? Just saying: Yes, I hear you.
Was it a real in: Yes, I will actively do something about this?

Don't know. ;-(

Saturday, 25 February 2012

One pair of knickers at a time..

Progress...slowly...on the laundry system with Okaasan.

Used to be that we could only get her dirty laundry by sneaking into her room while she was out, whisking it away (at arm's length) into the washing machine, drying it upstairs in our apartment, and then sneaking it back into her room again - artfully scattering knickers in piles where she might come across them.
If I asked about doing laundry for her she'd say there was none to do, and then wash two pairs of knickers by hand while 25 others festered in one of two laundry boxes in her room. And I do mean festered...

This winter this system was getting harder because she didn't go out so much and sneaking in to the clothes store room while she was in the other room watching TV was TOO risky.

So I bravely stepped up the Help Action: marching into her room all brightly with a half filled basket of dirty clothes and asking if she wanted to put anything in the machine "because it is SO hard to do hand washing in winter isn't it!".
A few times she got in the "no laundry to do" excuse and I left it seconds too late to override that and march in and grab the stuff. against her will. Not that brave.

But generally it is working. I follow up the offer quick enough with a "let's have a look to see if you have anything".
This morning I got into the living room with the bright: "got any laundry for the machine?" and as she was muttering about laundry and standing up I moved quickly towards the door into the other room and got her to follow me inside where I pointed out the two laundry boxes...both sitting innocently covered with old newspapers...and Lo, and Behold! - opened up to reveal the usual army of knickers and pajamas.
I stood there with the laundry cue basket and she picked thru her bits put them into my basket...everytime she looked like she was hesitating I cheerfully gabbled on about how BIG the wonderful washing machine is "yes, yes - give it all to me!!"...and the other basket and finally out to the laundry room.
"When I was young we didn't have washing machines, we did it by hand" said Okaasan a little embarrassed, and I gave her the reassurances that it is "SO hard to hand wash in winter and you were sick last week and didn't have time to do it all did you etc etc etc".

An hour later I gave her back a bowl of 5 pairs of pants and a set of pajamas and a circle clothes hanger....and took the bulk of the stuff to dry upstairs. Thought it best to let her hang up some of the stuff - it took her ages...because the clothes drying rack in her room is covered with everyday clothes...well, if summer T-shirts and hula skirts can be counted as everyday wear in February.

It is sort of working as a system. When the bulk of the stuff is dry I will give it back to her.

Letting me do her personal laundry MUST be a slightly embarrassing and I'm trying to make it as unstressy, but no-nonsense firm. Mostly succeeding. But the whole transaction is finely balanced, a moment too late and it is hard to invade her private space and take her dirty clothes...and trying to keep the whole thing light and friendly and done with a feeling of helpful togetherness.
Stretches me as an actress it does!


These are Taiwan bananas. Okaasan's absolute favorite. Since before the war. She won't eat any other kind. Tell us all that endlessly. You only have to mention "Taiwan" or "banana" or "fruit" or "yellow" or "monkeys"...(well maybe not all of those words)....and the "Taiwan bananas are the best" story comes out for an airing.
Regular supermarkets don't sell these much, the Philippines and Mexico grow them cheaper. Okaasan is adamant that ONLY Taiwan bananas are worth eating.

Last night I found them in our local, cheapo supermarket. Bought them as a sweet present to my dear Okaasan to make her happy.

Happy???????????? Dream on.

See that hint of green up near the stalks? It is a clear sign that these were picked too early, so they won't be delicious. No, not even if we leave them for a week under the kotatsu . In fact...could it be??...maybe they are NOT Taiwan bananas!!! Maybe the label is a lie! Never have Taiwan bananas been seen with green bits like this. No!

After 4  rounds of THAT conversation I was clearing my lunchtime plates and making kitchen escape plans. Yujiro could zap the offending potatoes in the microwave the other night, I don't think that works with bananas. Maybe a pot of yellow paint would be a good idea!
So much for a nice present of your favorite food. :-((

Takes a lot of patience to be an Oyomesan.

* Good News: I haven't had my leg spasms for two mornings now!! I am drinking a LOT of water and eating almost healthily..and two boxes of chocolate are surviving uneaten. Maybe it IS dehydration? I am thinking of getting a humidifier machine to improve my working air.

Got lots of potassium in the bananas though!

Friday, 24 February 2012

All shook up...

Had 24 hours with no thigh spasms, so crossing my fingers (cos it's safer than my legs), that I've conquered this problem.

Drinking LOADS of water.
Eating veggies and fruit. Banana growers in the Philippines are celebrating.
Turned on the steamer on the classroom heater to "high".
Stretching a lot.
Pushed the cats to the side of the bed.
Um...what else?

Yesterday morning I had some small spasms on waking up, and one at the computer table. I felt them coming and started stretching...seemed to keep them at bay.

Lots of advice from students and friends: WATER seems to be a main point.

Okaasan is back on track though: took herself out this week for a walk and went downtown with Yujiro yesterday to do some shopping. Eating loads again.

I talked to her about using the diaper pads at night and left the packet in her room. And I bought a toilet trash box to put near the toilet as a hint to use it for the wet pants. But actually the box is too small for the pants, so I'll have to get another one.
I don't think she'll use it now though. Last week's crises is finished and she thinks she can get up and go to the toilet easily. So she doesn't think she needs to use these "old people pads".
But I sort of hope that if the topic of these pads is in her life, slowly but surely she might accept the idea someday that she might as well use them....if she sees the packet in her room....she won't do it because I suggested it, but if it is there and someday she might....


Meanwhile our Alice in Wonderland life continues: the other night we had the Under cooked Potato event.

Eating Oden, kind of a table top pot full of fish paste bits and veggies. Okaasan really loves SOFT potatoes. But Yujiro has slightly undercooked the 4th time of Okaasan commenting that  the potatoes were hard and that really I like SOFT potatoes...he took my hint and took the offending tubers out of the pot and zapped them in the microwave to make them acceptable to her.
You can so easily understand how domestic violence can occur in families caring for dementia sufferers. Over such a small thing like this: she isn't really complaining. But because she says it so many times, with the same tone of voice you can't help but get irritated and feel your tension rising.
I watched Rain Man recently - Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman. Many of their conversations seemed eerily familiar! No - the maple syrup must be on the table BEFORE the pancakes arrive!!!!!

Grrrrrr: YES! The potatoes are UNDER COOKED BUT OK TO EAT!!!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Night visitors...aghhhhhhhh!!!!

Woke up at 5 am today with the MOST AWFUL spasms in my right thigh.
Lay there scrunched up like a corkscrew moaning and gasping.

It stopped.

5 minutes later it started again.

And again.
And again.

Happened about 10 times between 5-7 am. Made slightly better with stretching and back pushing by my resident ski instructor - in between him on the computer doing internet searches trying to find out WHY.

10 times! Once I was half way up the stairs with two, luckily empty coffee cups - when it struck and I was felled into a gibbering wreck.

By 8 am he and I were at the local hospital, because unlike Okaasan I actually think these places can do some good.
The orthopedic guy had a good feel all over my legs and tapped me in various places. Then sent me for X-rays.

All came: Zilch. Nadda. Nothing.

All looks ok.


I have no idea. Dr. Google has various advice about bad circulation and lack of potassium etc, dehydration, the other suspects are heavy cats on bed, too many blankets, favoring my right leg too much when I walk....and "r" in the month? 
I don't know.

Now I am drinking lots of water and I'm going to eat a vegetable shop a day.
And go to bed tonight with trepidation.

Anyone any ideas?
This is like cramp, but not. After cramp you can't walk easily. After these spasms - each time- I could walk without any problem.
It was always the same place on my outer right thigh, where my hand touches if I stand.

Awful. Ouch. Blue murder.
Anyway, better go home now and get ready to meet the accountant for my taxes.
More pain incoming I expect.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Happy forgetting...

"Good morning Okaasan! Here's the carpet all nice and clean, I'll put it down for you shall I? How's your neck today?"
"My neck?"
"Yes, you had pain in your neck since last week..."
"My neck? I did? I forgot....maybe it's ok!"

Oh, what a wonderful state to be in. Really. All the bad stuff just floats away and you don't remember it anymore.

I had computer/tax data worries last week....wish I could forget them. :-)

But Okaasan just knows that she is sitting there in her room, watching TV and the sun is shining, and in a few hours someone will give her lunch or clean laundry...and maybe later she'll go for a little walk.
And she is happy in her life: had a loving family, married a decent man, had two boys, traveled the world and saw amazing things, still proudly active and interested in TV and cooking shows, and the newspaper.

What more can a person want?

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Climbing out of the abyss...

She sits upright watching TV.
She gets up off the carpet and walks to the toilet.
She eats a bowl of rice, instant packet soup and a boiled egg left on the kitchen table.
She remembers to complain about the neck ache...sometimes.

I'd say Okaasan is getting better.


But still not eating much: I don't want a bit of dinner....I will eat a, I won't eat now....had that last night in the space of an hour. And ended up with a pan of cooked tofu and egg and a pack of heated up rice going cold...but actually I was happy cos it meant I could have my own dinner on a plate upstairs in front of the TV. Okaasan slept on thru the evening and never took any of the food I'd left out. 

Upstairs I have computer parts and boxes all over the room and a large carpet dripping onto newspaper and hopefully drying, strung across the ironing board and a clothes-frame. The cats are sitting beneath it all watching the drips.

It's chaos.


Yesterday: escaped it all and went DOG SLEDDING!!!!!

Can't upload pictures yet, cos the computer isn't set up for that yet....but here is my friend's picture of  ...Oyomesan walking the doggies!!! Mush! Mush! 

Oh it was FUN!!!!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

We're still standing. A bit.

We did it.
GOT Okaasan up off the carpet.
Out of the dirty clothes.
Into a bath.
While we blitz cleaned her room.
Then with clean body and hair she was safely back - sitting in the kotatsu in front of the TV.

And we fell exhausted into bed by 8.15 pm. Which is why I am now here at 3.30 am.
AND I am writing this on the revamped home computer - which yesterday deigned to relocate my 2011-12 tax data thanks to huge efforts by Yujiro.

Huge efforts all round yesterday.
I sat in my classroom before coming home running over the conversations we could have with Okaasan to persuade her to stand up and walk.

Tried out all sorts of ideas (even though Yujiro was going to be there, as it was me driving this attempt I wanted to have the arguments ready in both languages).

Went home just before 5 pm.
Okaasan curled up on the carpet with pants/papers/supermarket flyers/wet towels/little bags/odd socks/God-knows-what all around her.
I told Yujiro the Action Plan. He agreed. We went in.

He used Appeal to Pride tactic: "Okaasan I am away for two days, dear Oyomesan is out all day tomorrow - we are worried about leaving you alone like this! Can you stand up? Show us you can stand up? What about a nice warm bath? Maybe you can't stand up, maybe we should ask a day care visitor to come tomorrow...etc etc etc. ".

Repeat for the next 40 mins until her pride kicked in "I don't need a day care person, I'm not nearly dead, I can stand up, NO! I Don't need that chair to help me, oh but my neck, oh but my head, I can stand up" on and on.

Her leg muscles were weak and it took a long time for her to sit, and then kneel and finally to haul her body. She stood up and wobbled on unused leg muscles to the waiting bath.

As soon as the bathroom door closed we cleaned her room, working as a team to grab and bag trash and move the carpets around. Another 40 mins of cleaning.

The carpet where she has lain the last few days was soaking wet. With urine.
Worse: it all soaked through the carpet, thru the under-carpet and stained the wood flooring. Don't think this was just from the last 3 days, we think it was long term.
Time to DO something about the incontinence.

We cleaned the floor, put down newspaper, rotated the under-carpet - switched the two top carpets and removed one for washing.
Did a massive cleaning in the room - put down a clean sheet and pillow.

After an hour Okaasan got herself out of the bath and sat down in her refreshed room and SAT watching TV for a bit, wanted a bit of light dinner!!! and..then didn't want it....watched some more TV and finally lay down to sleep again.

I looked out the big bag of old people panty-pads. I will try to talk to Okaasan about these tomorrow. Recently she told me she that the reason she has taken to wearing a hula flower skirt at night is so "I can go to the toilet more easily than pajama bottoms", I shall suggest a night-pad and hula skirt as suitable nightwear.

He and I sat in the kitchen eating curry and congratulating ourselves, then I washed the foul carpet in the bath by trampling on it with my jeans rolled up like a French vine yard worker....did that 3 times, and THEN discovered the needle, luckily with the palm of my hand.


In bed, exhausted by 8.15 pm.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Helping ME, to help YOU.

Badly in need of Tom Cruise's persuasive powers here.

Okaasan is still laying on the living room carpet in piss-soaked pants, refusing to eat and rejecting offers of help.

This is the third day now.

Both she and Yujiro subscribe to this: Don't Eat and It'll All Get Better idea, and Okaasan adds dollops of Don't Need Help, Just Let Me Be.

And so she lays there on the carpet, half covered with the heated table blanket, unable to stand up quickly enough and get to the toilet. The stench has reached the kitchen.

Still don't know what is wrong. "My neck hurts" could be anything.

Yujiro just lets her be, while he worries about our computer troubles and his own so-so health. I was out working all day and got home after 9 pm.
He said he'd given her some water to drink and helped her sit up to drink it.

Now is Friday morning and she has been like this since Wednesday.
Tomorrow he goes off for 2 days of ski work. I am going out all day with friends to try dog-sledding.

HOW much longer are we going to let this situation slide on?
As we went to bed last night I told him that if she isn't able/wanting to stand up and come to the kitchen table for at least a cup of tea by tonight - we should be getting outside help and he should be cancelling work this weekend.
I so, so SO want to call an ambulance and get a team of nice capable, bossy professionals to come in and sweep Okaasan off to hospital.

It is SO hard though to know at what point to intervene and help Okaasan. She is so proud and independent. So confident that she knows best in health matters. Hides obvious needs like toilet failures and gets angry if we try to do something for her.

I just peered into her room from the kitchen and I can see that Okaasan has managed to get to the clothes drawers and get out a clean shirt and put that on, and she has moved her position around on the carpet. That's a good sign.
I will go in a bit later with a bowl of hot water and a face cloth and get her to wash her own face and body. It's the least I can do.

It is so Not Good to see her like this. But stepping in to help is hard. He lets it slide on. I think today is make or break day.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Last one standing.

Sorry, haven't blogged.
Too busy being the last healthy person in the household.

Yujiro stopped work finally after 3-4 weeks of non-stop skiing and taxi biking - came home Sunday night...and spent Monday and Tuesday in bed feeling sick (but apparently well enough to watch soccer games on his computer phone)....

Now Okaasan is complaining of a neck ache - which is almost certainly as a result of falling asleep slumped between the sofa and the table - so SHE isn't eating either and is laying low. As before, we'll let her do that for a few days until she forgets why she isn't eating and starts again...

But interestingly, she did remember that Yujiro wasn't feeling well on Tuesday and came into the kitchen to ask me how he was etc.

Of course: mother and son stopped eating in accordance with Nishi-sensei's creed.  Okaasan gives over-eating as the cause of all sickness. In one wonderful moment recently she responded to my gentle, idle chat about the Emperor going in for a heart bypass operation with a comment which kind of suggested even the Emperor of Japan has brought his problems on himself by over-eating....I am imagining maybe the Emperor kicks back on the sofa with a mega-bucket of KFC and a bag of COSTCO potato chips.

Anyway. Yujiro is now back on track and able to battle with our on-going computer computer seems to be a better use of money than repairing the old and my tax data may be rescued and fall emotionally into the welcoming arms of the accountant. Or not.

Me? Working, working and.....TUBING!!!!!

This is what bad English teachers do when a hiccup in the schedule gives them an out-of-the-blue Tuesday afternoon off work !!

Just a little side note: cos it isn't big enough to deserve a whole blog entry of its own. Our local city services free newsletter has a big feature this month about dementia and people who care for family at home and MRI imaging etc.
I left it for Yujiro to read and absorb. And then...I brought the extra copy from my English school classroom and slipped it into Okaasan's morning newspaper too.

I really wonder WHAT a person with dementia thinks about their own condition. Okaasan isn't so far gone that she isn't aware of her own failings, I am sure of that. I hope that reading about the newsletter advice about the importance of exercise/ chat with family/ helping out around the home etc will nudge her to think: "yes, I should be doing these things, otherwise these little memory lapses I have will worsen".

I don't think the newsletter advises being extra kind of your Oyomesan though....

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Ignoring the right-thing-to-do

Didn't do it.
Take Okaasan to the Snow Festival.
Made her go on her own. Alone in the dark and minus temperatures.
While I caroused with friends and enjoyed food and alcohol.

Is that bad enough to get the gates of heaven slammed in my face?
I expect so.

Just couldn't summon the energy to be that giving and nice.
Last week was a loooong week. I needed "me" time.

So yesterday I gave Okaasan lunch and sat chatting with her for a bit.
Then mid-afternoon I revitalised the leftover kimchee nabe dish from 2 nights ago by adding in more tofu and left it for Okaasan on the table-top cooker. Made sure she had some pocket money.

"So sorry Okaasan, tonight we have to go out with foreign friends from Tokyo - who are noisy scary gaijin that only speak English, you'd hate to meet them, so best to stay away...".
Well, didn't say the last part, but implied it.
"Oh? Is everyone going to the Snow Festival?"
"Yes, tomorrow is the last day - if you want to go you should go this afternoon!"

Okaasan looked a little sad to be left out of our plans....and be left home with reheated nabe. But, but, but - that is tough life when you get moved to live with the younger generation - sometimes they will want to do stuff without you.
It's the sad part of getting old and needing the life care of others, unavoidable because your life and the younger generation life aren't always going to neatly dovetail like a soppy Hollywood movie.

So. I left home and went by myself to the Snow Festival - after a week of people, people, people it was relaxing to just alone in the crowds down in the park - admiring the big snow statues.
Can't bring you pix because the desktop computer is in pieces on the carpet behind me and never bothered to put photo upload things into this laptop.

Later I enjoyed a Happy Hour beer in a bar overlooking the ice festival, then met up with 12 others for our annual Sapporo Couch Surfing hosts and surfers dinner and festival night walk.
We came home after 11 pm shattered and happy.

Okaasan had eaten the nabe. Burned the pan a bit. But the house was still standing.

Today I am home in my pajamas recovering from a Night Out. Had lunch with Okaasan and heard that she HAD gone to the festival yesterday and eaten and drunk something ( she can't remember what) in one of the covered festival eating sheds. She is still capable of going and doing something like this...thankfully!

So, at least she saw the festival a bit. And we did too. Separately this year. 

....How late in the day is it ok to stay in your pajamas until?

and OH MY GOD ! Whitney Houston? I am so sad. So sad. What a beautiful lady and voice. So sad.

Friday, 10 February 2012


Snow Festival.
Couch Surfing guests.
Friend's parents and guest and a sushi birthday party.
Taking people places in my car. Hotels, suitcases, clean sheets for people.
HUGE melt of 2 days, and then the whole city refroze into an ice rink.
New students.
Potential new students.
Choose a text book for a class from April.
Computer still broken - because he doesn't have time to fix it...
ALL my 2011-12 school accounts are IN the computer....and tax season is now.
More of this
And that.


Sapporo is REALLY icy now, after 2 days of April-level temperatures. Followed by freeze.
I stopped Okaasan going out on Wednesday, she really can't judge weather conditions and road surface.
But yesterday I got home and her little pink flowery slippers were in the hall and she was out in the ice.
I called Yujiro at work to tell him and he agreed to use the telephone GPS to find her downtown and bring her back safely.
He found her in the Seicomart coffee shop in the underground station area and took her for dinner, and then brought her home by taxi.

Funny - Okaasan was apparently surprised to know there WAS a Sapporo Snow Festival happening in the park above the coffee shop.....of course the city subway posters, the local TV, the newspapers have been full of nothing but Snow Festival news for days now, we've talked about it endlessly - but somehow none of that had actually stayed in her mind as a fact: There is a festival in the city center park right now.
I wonder if we should take her...or not?
I'd rather not. Just go and enjoy it all myself, or with a Couch Surf guest. If Okaasan doesn't really realize it is happening anyway....I guess she wouldn't feel disappointment in missing it !!!

Monday, 6 February 2012

Mission Accomplished

2 weeks in my care and Okaasan is still alive. And I haven't gone stark, raving bonkers. (lovely old British phrase that...)

On the final day I slipped away early and took myself skiing, came home mid-afternoon to find the hallway full of bags and skis and boot and stuff. He was home.

Okaasan all happy to see THAT strange man in the house.
Cats predictably terrified by the sound of rustle-rustle ski pants.
Family dinner round the good old nabe stew pot.

This week is Sapporo Snow Festival week - a major event in this city. He is working as a bike taxi driver at one of the festival sites and will be home every night. I have Couch Surfing guests, and my friend's parents are in'll be a busy week.

SO relieved that 2 weeks of care is done. Easier than in past years because I am getting less flustered with the cooking and the boring conversations....but still not a great way to spend 2 weeks.
All over for now - let the festival begin :-)

Here is the blog of a sometime-student of mine, she works as a tour guide and takes great pix of Hokkaido life and food....she did these pix of the festival yesterday.
Kimi-Tourguide's Sapporo Snow Festival 2012!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

The end is nigh....

Counting down the hours now...

And I went out on a double-header of meals with Okaasan. Lunch AND dinner.
Got power knowing the end is nigh!

Had hoped my friend and her baby might be here at lunchtime to ease the conversation load, but a sudden snow shower kept her home till later in the afternoon.

So lunch with Okaasan: easy reheated curry and chat about knives and forks and wartime supplies and crabs.
Then Okaasan branched off into a new tale about how "rough" wartime soap was on the face, it had bits in it and that scratched the face...
I sat there thinking: "funny, haven't heard this story before, wonder why she is talking about this directly from food topics etc"...and then I REALIZED!
Just before lunch Okaasan had gone to wash her face and hands in the bathroom, where the past week or two I've had out a nice soap someone gave me...and it has seeds in it, I forget what, but little brown seeds...and yes, they do come out onto your skin.
With washing hands or body it doesn't matter - a little skin rubbing - but on face I'm sure it isn't nice.

How interesting! I'm pretty sure that the just before lunch face washing stayed in Okaasan's mind, but somehow slipped into her usual wartime food/father brought crab/food shortages chat.
Maybe of course there WAS rough soap wartime in Japan, and the rough soap in our bathroom triggered her memory of that. Interesting.

My friend and her baby finally made it to my home mid-afternoon - she's lived in Sapporo 3 weeks now, but this is the first time weather and our schedules actually fitted to get her here.
We had coffee and cake time, while the cats bolted for safety at their first encounter with a human baby sound, and later Okaasan got introduced - which she enjoyed....chance to coo over a baby and it set her off on "when I had babies I didn't go out with them for months and months cos of infections"....tales which she told me again and again all over dinner.

And so.
He is home tomorrow.

...this afternoon in a quiet moment I....


NOW I am really going. July 25 to August 11. 17 whole wonderful days.
It's my reward for the past 2 weeks of Oyomesanning.....well, I am paying for it's my reward to myself.

Oh yes. ;-)

Throwing beans at scary men.

Bloody foot prints across the hall.
The victim stretched out sorrowfully by the heater.

Detective Oyomesan was on the case.
But the fat cat victim couldn't talk, and his fur is so thick I couldn't find the wound.

And I had to go to work.

Came home early to take Popo to the taxi....
The vet too had a hard time hunting around the fat, plush pussy for a wound...but finally found a torn paw nail and a little bit of blood.
Two years ago these two kitties came into our lives and I wanted to celebrate that happily, not with some rush-to-the-vet-with-credit-card-drama.

Two years ago they were like this: skinny and scared.

Chichi (left) and Popo (right).

And now they are fat, muscular and far too confident....

Popo (left) and Chichi (right).

ANYWAY. Back to the old lady. Cos this blog is supposedly about life with HER...not me rambling on about my cats....

During the day, thinking about how the cats came to us 2 years ago, I realized it was  Feb. 3 Setsubun, the Bean Throwing Festival in Japan. 
Originally I'd wanted to call the cats "Mame" and "Maki", meaning "Bean" and "Scatter/Scatter", but agreed to Yujiro's wish to delve into his childhood for manga character names instead - he chose the names of two wolf brothers, thus ensuring I will stand in the garden for years calling names which sound in English like Moulin Rouge showgirls.

Bean Throwing Festival is a driving out the bad luck, welcoming in good luck event. Families get dried soy beans and in the evening throw them around the house saying "Demons go away! Good luck come in!", then you eat the same number of beans as your age and eat a roll of seaweed stuffed with vegetables and fish facing in a different lucky direction every year.

Drive away demons! Great! Excellent chance to bond with Okaasan over a traditional event and drive away scary men ringing door bells. Yes! Bingo!

I bought the most traditional-looking box of beans in a supermarket full of peanuts, chocolates and even chocolate-covered soybeans (Hokkaido isn't so traditional) and bought two big sushi rolls.

Got home to whisk the cat away to the vets in a waiting taxi, found Okaasan washing underpants by hand in the bathroom....and wearing NO underpants....just a pajama top. 
Just as well I hadn't brought my friend and her baby home as planned before injured cat saga. Okaasan is increasingly get strange about her clothing choice....this is the third ? time recently I've found her at home without underpants on...

An hour later Okaasan, finally wearing suitable clothes, decided to go out. I gave her money and off she went. I prepped the dinner: HER favorite fish salmon, potatoes, veggies, soup, sushi roll etc etc and a box of soy beans for banishing demons.

Dinner time. Okaasan didn't come back.
Happens all the time.....grrrr...I plan something....and she doesn't show in time, or doesn't feel like eating it.

At 7.30 pm I ate dinner alone. Read the newspaper. Washed my plates. Went back upstairs. Poured a glass of plum wine. Found a movie on the TV. Sat down.

The front door opened downstairs.

Grrrr.....back downstairs. Heat up the food again, chat, chat, chat.

Okaasan was VERY happy about the soy beans. All giggly. We went into her room, opened the window and she took a handful of beans and tossed them out into the snow. Then she gave me beans to toss too. 
Hope THAT drives away the scary door bell ringers from her mind.
Maybe it'll just attract crows near the windows to eat the beans and the sound of their wings near the windows will give Okaasan all kinds of other scary imaginings.

Back to the kitchen where I served up her dinner and sat awhile talking about the lucky sushi roll and things. Then finally, about 8.30 I made the friend-telephoning-soon excuse and left her eating alone.

One more day to go! One more day to go! He just mailed me that he hopes to be back tomorrow afternoon. And then my Full-time Oyomesan Duties will be over, for now.
And will the doorbell ringer stop? I guess so.
Whether scared away by the sight of the car in the parking area, or the reassuring presence of Dear Son in the home....or by the magic of dried soy beans, we will never know.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Bells, bells..

The Phantom Doorbell Ringer is getting braver.
According to Okaasan.
He came and rang the doorbell in broad day-light yesterday!

She says.
No - NOT the lunch delivery company, it was after that.
And before I came home at 3.30 pm.

I went and rang the neighbor's doorbell. Partially to see if that sound would get Okaasan scurrying to our front door, and also just to see if they'd had any similar problems.
She didn't. They hadn't. Nice couple. He walks his dog and coughs up his guts a few times a day, she delivers food plates to someone locally. She even came by later and gave me their phone number and said Okaasan should ring them anytime she is nervous and we aren't home. Nice neighbors.

But still. Okaasan believes someone rang the doorbell and then ran away by the time she got there. At this rate we'll have to disable the doorbell or reroute it only to the second floor.

I prepped her dinner late afternoon and went in at 5 pm to say I was "out to work this evening, but not home too late. Your dinner is all in the kitchen for you"....had to narrowly avoid Okaasan's kind offer to wait for me so we could have dinner together - Noooooooooooooo!!! I wanna escape! I wanna have dinner alone without you and boring conversations! Pleaseeeeee!!!

Actually an airy lie:"It's ok, sometimes my students at late, so I am late. I'll eat something later, don't worry!"

Unluckily, one of the cats escaped outside and hadn't returned by the time I left, so I had to leave the door a little open for him (and all the bad men of the area), after the class I got my curry as a take-out and came home to make sure the cat had returned (and that Okaasan  hadn't lost all her pants to an intruder)....but it was STILL nice to eat alone with the TV and a beer.

Talking of which: one of you kind readers asked me if it is possible to eat dinner and watch TV at the same time with Okaasan. To ease the conversation.
Well, not really - the TV is away in her room, and not actually in the kitchen. We have watched and ate together at important times (when that judo star had a tacky public wedding on TV or when there is all-important Japanese ice dancing), but generally the TV is turned off during dinner.
Also - although it's a big hassle for me to do these dinners, it IS Okaasan's only conversation of the day. So it is valuable for her. She talks to nobody else. So....hassle is ongoing.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Silence is...silence.

Another day, another night.

Last night's dinner was hokke/mackerel - one of my favorite fish, plus huge, gorgeous tomatoes from a friend's mother and the usual rice, soup, pickles.
Okaasan was ok...but not so positive.

As I was exclaiming over the delicious fish and the sweet tomatoes...she was saying: "hmm, has a lot of bones, I prefer salmon" and "do you think it is sweet?"....not actually complaining - but just not giving me warm positive stuff to work with.
This telling-it-as-it-is about food is very depressing - I usually take it personally and think it's an attack on my shopping/cooking, but really it's a Japanese thing....criticising the food. I see friends and students do it in restaurants with eachother - a great course lunch and they say "hmm, this fish isn't so delicious is it?"  in some strange group whinge. I don't get it. Of course, in England - if the food really isn't good people say so - but I feel that Japanese people enjoy a good group-whinge about the food...and then eat it.

In a restaurant it is a bit sad, in a family kitchen when someone else shopped and cooked for you? Pretty unfeeling I'd say. But then - luckily - I am not Japanese! :-)

Anyway. It shut me up a bit. Can't work without some help here Okaasan!
Give me some positive vibes!

So I ate silently...for about 10 minutes.
It's hard to do. Eat and make only appreciative noises about the food.
No words.
I kind of waited to see what Okaasan would do, she sighed a few times and ate.
I ate.
She ate.
Finally....:"When is Yujiro coming home?"

This almost complete lack of conversation input is interesting. I wonder what is going on in Okaasan's head? Does she feel the silence stretching on and on...or does she think it's only been a short time since the last words...and is waiting for another word to come along?
But unless prompted into one of her favorite topics by me - she doesn't start a conversation, even something banal like weather/TV/food.....the familiar old band-aids of any conversation.

Anyway. Another night done.

Tonight I am taking myself out for a curry dinner. I have an early evening lesson and I'll slip home mid-afternoon to feed cats and set out leftovers in flasks for Okaasan...and then have myself some relaxing time with food, beer and a good book.


Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Routine, routine...

Trying to banish all thoughts of scary men (and it IS always men isn't it!), I gave Okaasan a day of good, reassuring routines.

Took the newspaper to her room and chatted about the weather.
Started the morning bath running and gave her the hair dryer.
Left for work with a cheery "Goodbye! I'm going now!"
Lunch delivery while I was away.
Came home at 4 pm and my coming into the kitchen kick-starts her late afternoon activity - so she got up, got dressed and set out for a walk.
Laid the table for two and heated up various leftovers.
Okaasan home at 6.15 pm. More weather chat.
Dinner on the table at 7 pm.
An hour - an HOUR!!!! - of chat about flat fish, prewar fish supplies to Kawagoe, wartime food, fish types of Japan, fish prices, Okaasan's mother's family in Sapporo a long time ago (10 children !!), crabs, rich Chinese tourists, flat fish...

....and finally I washed my dinner dishes and she washed her dishes and we both retreated to our living rooms and TVs.

I didn't put the sign on the front door, and decided to switch off the outside light. There is a scattering of ice candles outside, in various stages of success as I battle with buckets and water, so I think any bad man can readily recognise that someone cack-handed is living here.

Not a scary man in sight.
I hope.

It's February!!!! He is home....???? Saturday??? Sunday??? 

This past week I've heard 3 different student stories about relatives starting day care center attendance. Sounds soooooo nice. Hope I can push the mountain of indifference (Yujiro) and get Okaasan assessed, accepted and willing to go to day care by next winter.
That's how I think of it: first have to persuade Yujiro that this IS something worth pushing for. Then of course, supporting him while he persuades Okaasan to go for a health check with a despised doctor...then beyond assessment and far, far into the future there would probably be a visit to observe a day center and then hopefully a grudging agreement to try it.

One day my day care center service will come.