Monday, 31 December 2012

Bye bye 2012

New Year's Eve in Japan....noodles with fried bits of fish and batter on top.
And bad. Really bad singing shows on TV.
So here we are, another year of being an Oyomesan to Okaasan. A good year really, none of the huge dramas of the past. Family fights, peeing in trash boxes, accusations and violence...
And of course the BIG success of getting Yujiro to face up to his mum's condition and take her for a dementia assessment with a doc, and then assessed for day care...and finally...finally on December 25th - we may have found a day care center she likes.
Hope she goes again in January.
Okaasan's dementia? Well, it IS worse than a year ago. Just watching her trying to get ready to go out shows me that. Her personal care: hair and body washing is less, her selection of clothes is getting strange, she is burning pans and losing stuff. She doesn't do so much personal laundry now. She buys very random things.
But we are keeping her on a steady course of routine life.
Today, last day of the year I went to see The Hobbit downtown and spent a few hours with The Cutest Baby and his mum, then home to "do" New Year's Eve with Okaasan.
Easy actually: just instant noodles and supermarket fried fish bits topping with cut up long onions, some pumpkin and salad.
Okaasan told me on and on about the meaning of the noodles and how she used to go to Kamakura with her husband, and then back home by January 4th to cook a massive dinner for all the office staff. I'm guessing this was before she had the kids, so maybe mid-1950s? A different world to now.
Now, she is sitting across the table from a foreign woman who has just made instant noodles and heated up supermarket stuff. And there are no other family or guests.
Thankyou all SO much for big support via this blog this year. The whole day care assessment saga and final success. It really IS time to get outside help for Okaasan and your comments here gave me the bloody-mindedness to fight on.
And on into 2013.....on and on and on....but at least onwards with day care manager support.
Now, where's my chocolate? Or can I explode a marshmallow snowman in the microwave?
Bye bye 2012 :-)

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Oyomesan's New Year Survival Guide

So, you are home a deux for New Year with your demented mother-in-law.

What's a woman to do?

First you need:

A whole LOT of New Year food ingredients from the supermarket.
Plus: recent cooking lessons in the art of creating traditional Japanese dishes.
Note - you should also buy some New Year flowers for the mother-in-law to show off her once-upon-a-time high level ikebana skills.
But for now she's lost her special flower scissors...and she's forgotten about it.
And then. You will need:

A very cute blue rented car - to get you to the above supermarket, to various ski resorts, out with Friend and Baby, and to ferry Okaasan around and for you to basically escape.

And then, you will need:

Lots of Christmas delicious stuff under the rubber plant...chocolates, cakes, a mini-Christmas Pud, a bottle of sparkling wine, marshmallows in the shape of snowmen....

And then you are set.

Cute Cats - check.
Word games on the computer - check.
Tv - check.
Skis at the ready in the hall - check.
Business accounts since November to input to the computer. Bugger.
Two narration jobs the first working week back in January. Bugger.
New classes to prep. Bugger.

And you are ready.....for a New Year holiday without the other half and left alone with his mother.

Can't believe it really! He's always been around - late - but around, to advice on what food goes with what food and when it is served. New Year is a big deal in Japan. I've had enough years to practice, Now I have to give Okaasan a Happy New Year......

Today I stayed home and was a perfect Oyomesan. I hardly spend whole days at home. So...

I got her prepped up for a bath in the morning, went shopping for all the food haul, gave her lunch and chat about flower arranging, washed up the lunch things; got Okaasan ready to go out (it's getting harder and harder for her to do this); took her to the station, waved her off, cleaned her room, washed her underwear, threw out papers and a rotting pear and old sushi box; made the chicken and veggies stewed thing I learned from the cooking teacher, tracked Okaasan on the GPS and picked her up at 5.30 pm by car from the station, cooked dinner, gave it to her.....and broke open some chocolate coins with a beer and the rerun of the London Olympics on Tv....

All in a day's Oyomesan work.

Umani - chicken and veggies all stewed with soy sauce and sugar...

* Okaasan is definately getting worse at prepping to go out. The endless checking and rechecking for keys/phone/subway card/umbrella/bag/shopping bag/scarf.
She was setting out in a T-shirt and a cardigan, until I got her into a long sleeved heat-tech shirt and a coat...and then she later came home...without the shopping bag. So another umbrella and a pair of gloves has been lost... She never used to be so bad at getting dressed and getting her stuff together. Now, it's a really hard task for her.

Haahhhh..... and so tomorrow is the end of 2012......another year of Oyomesanning.

Friend with Baby said the other day that she has an awful vision of the future: that Dear Son will be paralysed or dead in a ski accident and I will be left looking after Okaasan alone.
No way. It isn't going to happen.
I think - hope - I am getting better at caring for this old lady, making sure her days are familiar and safe.
But no - if he isn't around, I'll be phoning the Useless Older Brother in Saitama and the Uncle to say: "She's on an airplane to you soon, you should prepare a living situation for her."

Aghhhh.....winter holidays 2012-13.....Okaasan and Me.


Saturday, 29 December 2012

Just one night..

Give me just one night, una noche...

Tonight, I dedicate my love to you...

Tonight's the night, it's gonna be alright...

One night. He came home. And left again....for a week.

Girls, don't fall for a ski instructor. Or, if you do - make very sure not to get saddled with holding the fort at home with his aged mother, two cats and a house full of chocolate.

He's just left, off to work in east Hokkaido again and I am the solo uno Decider, Provider and Snow Shoveler in this home for 7 days.

But! I will get a rented car, at a slightly inflated holiday season price, so I have wheels for my winter Okaasan to the station...I put my foot down and said I REALLY needed a car for the week. We are paying half each for it.

Last night he got home about 7.30 pm with the New Zealand ski instructor he's been working with recently, she was a jolly, friendly soul - she stepped out of the car and into our family dinner.
I'd primed Okaasan about 90 mins before about Incoming Guest, so she could get out of her pajamas and move a bit of stuff around in her room. She even tried to clean the kitchen carpet....with a rolled up ball of newspaper!
The ski instructor was jolly, but not with many Japanese language skills - so Okaasan was a bit overwhelmed by all the English at the dinner table, and looked tired by the end of it all.
By 9 pm I packed the instructor back into the car and took her off to my English classroom, where she was staying the night. I came home and my Beloved was already in bed almost much for romance.
I drank and beer, ate some chocolate and watched TV.

This morning, he and I had couple time...of about 4-5 hours. Watched some recorded TV programs, played with cute cats, talked about the kitchen light fitting that needs replacing. All essential stuff. Just enough to oil the relationship wheels....just.

Had a threesome-lunch with Okaasan in the kitchen....

And then he is gone.

It's my winter holidays now. Since yesterday - and yesterday I WENT SKIING!!!!
Just 1 hour away from home, a subway ride and then a beautiful...I skied happily and felt all my usual life melting away....English teaching, snow shoveling, Okaasan and her life worries, house cleaning, impending New Year food cooking, dental problems...all melt away...

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

A day service center present !!!

She liked it.
THAT is my best Christmas present this year.
Forget the piles of chocolate and biscuits and magnetic Scrabble tiles, cute cat cards, cat muffler, Marks and Spencers mince pies etc etc.
No - all I wanted for Christmas was a Nice Day Service Center with a Nice Hula Dance Class.

And I got it.

Okaasan came home just after 5 pm with a nice day center lady in a car and I helped her inside, helped her make tea, gave her a Japanese-style cake from a class party and carefully DIDN'T mention what she'd been doing all day.
I didn't want to go there as a topic at all, didn't want to get a reaction from her while she was tired, didn't want to ruin my Christmas Day. Just left it.
She seemed happy, but of course a bit tired from being out for hours.

So, for our Chrstmas Night dinner I had slaved round a department store food section for 20 minutes with my credit card - actually I HATE department stores, so it was kind of hard!- and bought crab legs and lots of little starter things in a pack, and combined that with rice and soup and mulled wine from some students.
Instant - great dinner.

Yujiro got home at 6.30 pm. We opened a few presents round our rubber plant and then woke Okaasan up and the three of us sat down to toast eachother with mulled wine: "Merry Christmas!"

Okaasan LOVES crab. It takes her right back to the night when she was a child and she stayed up late waiting for her truck driving father to come home with a fresh crab he'd bought at a port somewhere. It's a big, happy memory for her. Waiting for father to come home and being allowed to eat crab, which was unusual in those days before refrigerators and credit cards in department stores.

So, she was happy, we were happy - the crab was delicious. It was a giddy, jolly dinner. Dear Son cutting up crab claws for his mum, me quaffing mulled wine...cats hovering at the kitchen door.
Okaasan was giggly and merry.

"I love crab, can I have more? I'm hungry because I was doing hula dance today!"
"Oh yes, how was it, was it good?"
"Yes! It was fun! I enjoyed it, it's a nice place, not so crowded, the people are nice, I met that man who came here the other day - is he the manager or something?"

Oh!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The warm, happy feeling that spread silently between Dear Son and Me. Oh joy! She liked it. Oh joy.

Happy Christmas everyone.

Onwards into Japanese New Year and Oyomesan tries out her newly acquired skills on traditional Japanese New Year foods. :-)

Watch this space.

Now? Think I might have a mince pie and stollen bread for breakfast. Healthy? no...

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Mei- ri Kurisamasu

Good morning from northern, snowy Japan! Season's greetings to all! Christmas morning? Have to be quick here because I have an ordinary Tuesday of classes today. Bah! Humbug! Baaad.
Love my students a lot. But I'd rather stay here in my pajamas and eat my way through my Christmas presents from friends, watch TV, go skiing in the sunshine...and cook some kind of family dinner tonight.
Instead I am prepping for work. And trying to reassure Okaasan that today's hula dance will be FUN! Fun! FUN!
She isn't convinced. I printed out a sign for her table in Japanese : Hula Dance Bus is coming at 10.30am.
She's repeatedly asking me me/telling me that the class was bad, the teacher bad, don't want to go. I am constantly telling her: DIFFERENT class, place, teacher, students! DIFFERENT! this is Christmas.
But I've just given myself a quiet 30 mins over a bowl of cerial and a cup of tea and opened presents. Every year it is embarrassing a little, because there are many presents for me and hardly any for Yujiro. So it's kind of better to open them on my own and save a few for when he is home later.
Solitary splendor of present opening with BBC news on cable TV.
Last night? Christmas Eve? I lunched with Okaasan and then left her curry dinner on flasks on the kitchen table... escaped it all and went to:
A SMAP Concert! The oldest boy band in Japan. Has been popular for years, the members are superstars of TV, film, CMs and cooking shows.
An old student got tickets thru the fan club and we went :-)
Great concert. FOUR hours of it all...
Great concert. Very good value for money. Shit - these guys work hard.
I got home around 10 pm exhausted from it all.
Walked into the kitchen, Okaasan looked round  from her TV watching:
"It didn't come! Dinner didn't come! Nothing came!"
"Your dinner? No - Okaasan you ate it! Look! Here at the dirty dishes, you ate curry and rice about 3 hours ago. I had to go out! We had lunch together, and you ate dinner here - look here are the dishes!"
Happy Christmas everyone!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Keep plans simple

I really MUST try harder to simplify when I tell Okaasan what's gonna happen.
Long, complex stories just don't register anymore.
Got to boil down the basic facts.

Today was actually NOT snowing. Glorious blue skies, cold and sunny.
I had a lunch buffet date with my Friend and the Cutest Baby in the World - to celebrate the season and her almost 1 year of life in Sapporo.

I decided it was a good opportunity to get Okaasan out of the house. She's sat watching Tv and shuffled to the toilet and the kitchen table every single day since the election trip last Sunday. Sooo bad for her body and mind.
She'd also had a toilet accident and I needed to get her out of the house, so I could go into her room and find the soiled clothes...

Plan into action.
I told her I was going downtown at 11 am, would she like to come with me to the station etc Walk safely together. I was "meeting a foreign guest for lunch, but you can go and meet your friend in your fave Doutor coffee shop can't you? etc etc"
By 10.40 she was still in pajamas. By 11 am I got her out of the house and we walked gently down across the snowy streets to the subway.
As it was cold and my friend and her baby hadn't arrived yet, I sent Okaasan off thru the ticket gate and waved her off. Heard a train come and go. 5 minutes later my friend arrived and we went to the platform.
Okaasan was waiting for us.
She just wasn't getting it. The concept of being escorted to the station over the bad streets, and then setting off alone on her routine downtown routes. She asked if she should wait in Doutor coffee shop! No, no! Go where you like - department stores, the park, the Seicomart, the underground walking place...
YOU are going downtown to do all of your routine things, WE have to go and have lunch with a foreign person who speaks no Japanese. A Lie that, but "a foreign guest" is usually enough of an excuse to explain why Okaasan isn't going somewhere with us.
Not today. She wasn't getting the whole flow of events really.

Certainly NOT going to include my MIL in my end -of-year-blow-out with Friend. We all got on the next train together, a bit awkwardly split up in the carriage because of the babycar...and at the central station I made sure Okaasan got OFF the train and told her "your friend at the Doutor Coffee Shop" one more time to reinforce the idea of what she was going to do next. of the lucky things about Okaasan is that she is very independent and has always happily trotted off on walks and shopping, and lunches and coffee shops alone. Proudly so.
I got a glimpse today of a future where she won't know WHAT it is she is doing, until pointed in the direction.
I shouldn't have mentioned anything about "meeting a foreign guest for lunch", should have taken her to the subway station. Put her on the train and left it at that. She didn't need to know - and get confused by - all the extra information.

Learned that.

Tomorrow Christmas Eve. Emperor's birthday.
I'll do lunch with OKaasan and then escape for a gloriously silly night out at the SMAP concert with an old student and her brother.
And then Christmas Day. Have to prepare something entertaining to do in the two classes I have.
And then cook or order something for a semblance of Happy Family Dinner when Yujiro comes home in the evening.
And Okaasan - December 25th will be Day Service Hula Class, The Sequel.

Saturday, 22 December 2012




So. This is Christmas.

Staggered to the almost-end of 2012 working year: next week two more days of full work (yup December 25th included!), and one day of half-work.
Ah. Hate December.
Am waiting for the Christmas joy to settle on me.

But maybe, just Christmas present this year will be: Okaasan finding a day service hula dance class she actually likes.
December 25th she will be going off AGAIN, to another day service center to try out for another class.
Dear Son and Manager Man succeeded/*******************************************

Those stars are actually the cat's addition to the blog. He is now sitting on the keyboard.

Blogging round a cat.

Yesterday Manager Man came again and Dear Son did some straight talking with Okaasan: You MUST go out and exercise in winter.
Manager Man found another local center with Hawaiian dancing. Okaasan said the first class was bad because: the teacher was "rude" and the students were "not serious about learning". For heaven's sake!!! Picky, picky....

And so we try again.

Christmas morning I will be working for the first time in years anyway, so getting Okaasan set up for Day Service departure will just add to my joy.
Dear Son will come from ski work for one night, and hopefully Christmas Night the three of us will sit and eat chicken or something and celebrate a successful hula class.
I'm grateful they managed to try again with Okaasan. I fear we may go round and round all the day service centers of Sapporo and find fault with every single hula dance class. But for now I will be grateful that Day Service Round II will happen.

End of Year stuff....just on and on and on really. The Mayans got it wrong, December 21 went on for hours and hours. I got to the end and collapsed in bed. Couldn't actually believe that stuff i'd done in the morning was all on the same day - it seemed so long ago.
Dear Son came home at 10 pm Thursday and left at 6 am Saturday. I was working Friday, and there was some sleeping too - so we actually only interacted with eachother for about 5? 6? hours. Interacted on the the level of conversations about: replacing the oil tank, getting more oil, ordering lunch boxes for Okaasan, cat injury reports, laundry, who is cooking dinner, schedule for next week...errr.......errr....
Not a whole lot of romance in any of that.
He'll come home Christmas Night. Then away, then away for New Year for another 10 days.
On its own I don't mind. He is a ski instructor. Now is the busy season. I knew it when I met him, I don't mind. But adding in Okaasan care...and no car for things like shopping and my own skiing trips. Aghhh.... bugger.

Look on The Bright Side!
:-) 3 days now with NO work.
:-) Cat injuries healing nicely and he will continue in this collar for another week.
:-) Healthy stomach and only ONE more dentist vist to go...
:-) I might ski this afternoon!
:-) I am going to a SMAP concert Christmas Eve afternoon! (SMAP, oldest boy band in Japan)
:-) There is mulled wine, sparkling wine, chocolates, biscuits and stollen bread under my rubber plant.
:-) Two Couch Surfers arrive today for the Christmas holidays.
:-)  My Friend and her baby are inviting me out for a buffet lunch.
:-)  Les Miserables AND The Hobbit are at the movie theaters.



Okaasan will try hula dance class at day service again.

BIG :-)))

Wednesday, 19 December 2012


My stomach is all pink and healthy and "perfecto", according to the doc.

Big relief.
You don't realise what stress you are under until it is lifted.
I celebrated with a Starbucks blow out of beef sandwich, nutty latte creamy thing and a cinnamon roll.

And thankgoodness! The hospital used lots of knock out drugs, as my student had promised. I was a gibbering, tearful wreck even at the check-in counter for endoscopy so they could all see clearly what kind of patient I would be.
I took a stomach cleaning liquid first, then a throat-numbing jelly for 3 minutes and then was put on the examination bed and injected in the arm with sleeping drugs and a stomach calming drug.
One moment I was on my left side staring, tearfully at the wall - and the next moment I was on my right side in a dark, curtained off recovery room.
Obliviousness. That's what I wanted. Soooo glad technology has improved in 10 years.

I can now eat myself stupid for the holiday season. :-)

Another day at home for Okaasan...Dear Son is maybe home for 2 days from tomorrow night, we should take her out in the car and let her run around somewhere.
Another quiet dinner with her tonight. Mentally she seems fine. No toilet accidents. Yet.

Ahhhh...relief. I think I might go and open a Christmas present and eat the chocolates I know are inside. I don't have a Christmas tree at home, no time to set it up and I worry about the cats, but I decorated the rubber plant and put my presents around it.

Looking deeep inside

Off to hospital this morning to submit myself to a stomach camera.
Hoping the docs and nurses will knock me out with lots of drugs.
I feel it is "nothing much", just a sack or a blip, or a benign something. But of course, you wonder: is this the day I discover I have a serious condition. Is this the start of a round of treatments and worry?

That's how the multiplying ovary problem started out 2 years ago. First a bit fat, maybe a worm infestation from the cats? Something a bit odd. Oh, have got a day of no work so the chance to check it out at hospital - and suddenly the world of ovaries and operations hit me.


Doing my usual running-like-headless-chicken routine in a working week. Keeping all the balls in the air. Work/Shopping/Cooking/Okaasan/Snow Clearing/Cats/End of Year cards and shopping. Thankgoodness for taxies - getting to all the places I am meant to be at the right time. I am taking the taxi money out of Okaasan's spending money store - cos I am a headless chicken because of her.
She has just stayed all nice and quiet at home with the TV. Sapporo has had stunning amounts of snow.

I have a question for any of you blog readers - cos I know there are some dementia-experienced people here...
Does anyone know: does writing a letter to a dementia sufferer help them understand something?
Long conversations with Okaasan seem so pointless. She can't remember the start of the conversation, and often just responds to an idea or word at the very end of it.
She doesn't know WHY this conversation is happening.
I often wonder if a letter - laying out the reasons that Going to Daycare Is a Good Idea in Winter - would be better?
Then she could sit and read it, look at it, many, many times...and kind of debate it in her own mind.
One big frustration for me is that Okaasan is very interested in her own health and the importance of exercise. She knows the roads are snowy and dangerous. But connection those ideas and looking at the day service going as an option seems impossible in conversation.
What do you think? Has anyone tried this?
We leave messages on a little whiteboard for Okaasan: We are out with foreign guests, here is your dinner. Please eat this. etc
But would a longer letter be an idea?
It's too late this year. The Day Service manager man will come again on Friday and talk to Dear Son and Okaasan again. She will tell them all about the Saitama culture school and its rooms on the second floor and how her husband wouldn't let her work, so she tried many classes. And they will talk. And she will tell them about culture school in Saitama....
But I wonder about a letter?

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Weekend of changed plans...


Hmmm....if Japan allowed foreigners to vote if you've lived here 20 years and paid taxes to support the country - this is the bunch of people I could have chosen from today.

Hmmm....spoiled for choice really. An alien in a suit doing a fairly good job of being humanoid, three men in suits with glasses and a woman who likes pink.

Today I reached new heights of Oyomesan duty by taking Okaasan to exercise her democratic right and vote at the local elementray school.
In the mornng she and I agreed that it was snowy and not a good idea to go. By lunchtime the sunshine was out and she was chomping at the bit - incongrously recently, she puts on her hat and T-shirt, and is still wearing her pajama bottoms in the kitchen. It's quite a sight.

I was home for the day. Another snow storm this morning. Had to put off the sking...again. A little disappointed, but actually - time at home was good too after last week.

So I cleared snow all morning. And celebrated by crafting a snow monster cat in the garden.
 At night he'll have a candle in his big mouth...his eyebrows are dried lavender. Maybe at night he'll sneak round the corner to the neighbor's monster.
Cooked lunch for Okaasan and ate it with her. She was actually pretty lucid and we chatted about food and names and her husband who never cooked.
After lunch, we wrapped up and set out together to the voting station. Only 10 mins walk from the house, but took us about 25 mins. Okaasan VERY slow and cautious, shuffling along. I took her hand and guided her. Her eyesight is good, but she said that she can't make out the snow surface and its bumps.
"Yujiro will be angry if I fall down and break something" she said several times.
I was thinking: "he'll be angry with ME too, if you fall down and break something, on my watch".

Not allowed to photograph IN the hall...cos???
Finally got to the school. I gave Okaasan her voting card ftom the safety of my handbag and watched her shuffle off across the school gym hall to tables, desks, boxes and cubby holes.  Okaasan took ages. In Japan you have to write the name of the candidate yourself, I wondered if she knew who it was....

Helpful cartoons about the voting process.

After voting, I'd hoped to take Okaasan to the supermarket and maybe put her on a subway downtown. Or take her home.
She had different ideas. Plans to go to Macdonalds and drink coffee.
I actually had shopping and cooking to do for the local teachers' association xmas pot luck party, so I sent her off alone with repeated instructions to come home by taxi. The pavements on the main roads are okayish, the side roads a nightmare...but of course going by bus from your doorstep to a nice big day service center once a week to exercise inside somehow doesn't seem like a good idea.....
"I can walk on snowy streets, and I WILL!"

I rushed home to cook. Washed and ironed some of Okaasan's shirts and added to her clothes rail two more long sleeved pink shirts I bought for her recently. She has very few long-sleeved shirts. Her response recently to me cutting out the ripped lining of her fave old cardigan (she thinks she did it herself) had given me the courage to intervene more about adding new, essential clothes to her rail.
Recently I've added black trousers, and now two shirts - the trousers she just wears and never commented on where they came from. I'm hoping the shirts too.
Going shopping with Okaasan is a HUGE hassle, because she chooses what she likes...not what she needs in cold snowy Sapporo. If I can stealth shop for her it'll be easier.

Using the GPS I kept an eye on her. I could see when she left Macdonalds and tried to walk up the main street home.
Luckily the Friend coming to the teachers' party with me lives nearby, so we managed to cordinate her coming to me in a taxi with also bringing Okaasan home in a taxi.
Then I left dinner for Okaasan and escaped to this...
YUM! That's what I call a xmas dinner !!!

And so, another weekend. Saturday was ok - I worked in the morning at a seminar for local tourism. Then lunched with some friends, and then home to do student Christmas cards...and clear more snow. And at 6 pm one cat came home flecked with blood from another had to go to the vets in a taxi...luckily no stitches this time. But he's in a plastic collar AGAIN. Had to cancel my going out to party plans to stay home and check he didn't get stuck in a narrow place...

I've recovered some of my energy from the madness of Friday. I think.
Onwards into another week. One more full week to go...and then a few days...almost holidays...
Dear Son will be home mid-week. It will be good to be two again.
Tomorrow is just an ordinary Monday for Okaasan now. The day service was cancelled. The manager man called Yujiro Friday night. So, I'll just leave Okaasan lunch as usual and let her veg out by the Tv all day.
Seeing her walk on the snowy streets today showed me yet again, she just CAN'T go out walking easily from here. Even on a sunny day with slightly wet snow. It took all her focus to stay upright and safe.



Saturday, 15 December 2012

And after...

He's ok with what I did.
I'm not cast out into the snow with the cats and no home.

He and I talked on the phone, and he understands why I called - actually thanked me, in fact - and we mulled over it all.
Leave it be. Leave her quietly vegitating on Monday morning. I guess the bus won't come. I'll just make her lunch and leave it for her in the flasks.
He'll come back next week and the Manager man will come again. Okaasan will have another whirling around on all topics chat....and then we'll see....

Okaasan and I ate a quiet dinner a deux. Talked about cats and snow, and natto and tofu making. She was fine. I was knackered. It's hard to put on the "normal" face when inside you just feel disappointment and resentment. But she doesn't know. She has no idea how much effort there is in the background. She didn't talk about the manager visit, I cleared away the day service center leaflets and we carried on as normal.

But, a funny flashback to yesterday: while I was listening at the kitchen door I heard the manager talking to Okaasan about me:
"Amanda's a good Oyomesan, isn't she?"
"She is English." (my nationality is of course a guarantee of being a good person :-))
"Do you speak English with her?"
"Me? No! She has lived in Japan a long time, she knows Japanese and Japan, many things".
"Ah, it's nice to have a kind Oyomesan, isn't it".

Mmmmm... that'll do. :-)

*I'm off now into another weekend of things-I-must/want-to-do: got a tourist association foreigners survey job this morning, then maybe lunch with friends, then a party tonight (am I actually able to stay awake and GO to a party that starts after 8 pm?), then tomorrow is the Hokkaido teacher's association Xmas potluck....and I think I'll have to drop an anti-nuclear film and a talkshow by a Hiroshima survivor from the schedule.
Oh! And Christmas cards for all students and friends in Japan to write....and Christmas lessons to prepare.

Bugger it all: I want to go skiing.
When I first came to live here I used to ski every week, sometimes twice a I seem to be awash with things-to-do.

I need to go skiing.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Taking matters into my own hands

The Day Care Manager has just left the house.
After an hour of sitting in the kitchen trying to get Okaasan to give Day Service one-more-go - but not hula.....


The Manager tried. He really tried. But I think he failed. I don't think she will go next Monday.
He will come again to sit in the kitchen when Dear Son is home late next week...and to talk all over it again.

So. I did it. Thanks to all your comments - specially Francesca who told me to take control of the chain of communications. And my Friday morning students who said too: "it's the Day Service Manager's job to help you and Yujiro persuade Okaasan to go, you shouldn't have to do the stressful Monday morning..."

Their class finished at 12.
I bought sandwiches from 7-11 and after a couple of gulps for energy. I mashalled my Japanese skills and called the Manager man.
He - they - were wonderful. Instantly understood what I was saying. Were obviously concerned that Dear Son hadn't told them the whole picture about the hula class....and asked if they could come round and talk to Okaasan right away!

I cancelled my last class of the day and went home by taxi at 3 pm to clear the snow for the manager's car and to alert Okaasan to the imminent arrival of the "culture center staff who want to know how you enjoyed your first visit this week...."

She got all active:" should I tell them the truth about the hula class????" She bustled around getting dressed and looking for tea to serve.

A nice young man in a suit arrived. The three of us sat in the kitchen. I was actually sitting at my first social services, public assistance meeting in Japan...

The manager asked polite gentle questions. Okaasan said the hula wasn't interesting and she  didn't want to go again. He gently - ever so gently - suggested other classes...and she whirled away on each gentle push ...into her own stories of a culture school in Saitama she used to go to, to the cooking school in Tokyo, to her husband who wouldn't let her work, to Korean restaurants, to New York, to Ishihara Yujiro's house near the cooking school in Tokyo, to Nishi-guru and his exercises, and round and round it went.
He...we...couldn't get her interested enough in another class: flower arranging? - NOT the right form, stained class making - NO, bag making - NO? singing...NO...on and on.

It was actually fascinating to see a professional at work with dementia. He let her talk on and on in her stories. And then when she reached a  natural stop, he waited a few seconds, leaned forward and brought her back to - so how about trying one more time next week, but not hula?"....
And Okaasan would alternately stare at the day service pictures with teeth sucking, or go off again on a complete tangent - the phrase "I know,I husband told me I shouldn't work when we got married, so I went to all these kind of classes, he wouldn't let me work...". She didn't actually say directly: I don't want to go. But the avoidance was there on every single try.

It was hopeless. God. I couldn't do that job!
I live with it. But I can escape upstairs. This poor guy has to sit there for an hour and listen to it all - the same stories round and round. And then try and push again.

I sat there most of the time. Letting Okaasan and Manager man talk. I escaped to fake "phone call from work" a few times. I stood listening outside the kitchen door. I listened to the poor guy trying. Bet he was thinking of his Friday night beer. I know I was!

Finally after an hour he left it that: well, I'll come again next week when your son is here and we'll talk again.
"Talk again? " Okaasan was surprised....she can't understand why there is so much interest in her, I guess.

And we saw him off at the door. And came inside. Okaasan busied about with a pot of yogurt and talk about the cats still outside and snow....and then went back to watching TV.

And I?
Now I have to tell my partner that I disobeyed his instructions regarding his mother. That I took it into my own hands to bring in the outsiders into his mother's situation. And that it probably failed.

So, THAT'S gonna be a bundle of couple trust laughs. On the telephone. Both in our second languages.
If he goes out tonight in the ski resort and drinks himself into the bed of a sexy young ski Japanese ski instructor I couldn't blame him.

I will be sitting here eating dinner with his mother and listening to all the same old stories again and again and again.

Tried and failed.

And that really is the last thing I am going to do about this.
She won't go. We'll have to order taxies to come and take her out twice a week, take her to the subway station so she can get downtown and exercise.

And wait until the dementia is more advanced and she isn't so fiesty. Wait another year or two until she doesn't know where she is and who these nice people are. Wait.

Oh. Tired.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Following orders

Oh - thankyou SO much for so many comments!
It really is amazing, I started this blog to tell friends how my new life as an Oyomesan was going (trying to save on endless, repetitive e mails)...and now 4 years later all sorts of people I've never met are reading along and supporting.

Well, I have my orders.
Dear Son has finally had a call from the Day Sevice manager...checking up on how their latest customer is doing.
And he didn't tell them that she feels negative about hula dance!
Yup. That's right. He actually talked to the person and didn't tell them this essential info.
They are going to come and meet everyone again here at home on December 21st, when he will finally be home. Then there will be more talks.

He says he will telephone Okaasan on Sunday and talk to her about it, persuade her to go along on Monday morning and show off to all the other ladies what really, high level hula dance is all about. Appeal to her pride in her skill.

Then next Monday Dec. 17th he is hoping that Okaasan will let me get her ready for the 9.20 am bus arrival. Hoping she will get all interested in showing off her hula skills.
Yeah. Right. Like that is soooo going to happen.

Just makes me want to beat my head into the nearest snowdrift, of which we have plenty after 50 cm of snowfall in 72 hours.
WHY couldn't he just be direct with the manager person??? Why, oh why?
Now, of course, this also means I can't really telephone the manager myself today and tell a different story from my "husband". Bugger.
I wanted the manager to take control now and come and discuss with Okaasan what other exciting things she can do next Monday. Now she will refuse to go, then there is one more chance before the end of year closing...and then in January we will be trying to start a routine again.

Monday morning. stomach polyp is expanding with the stress of just thinking about it.

Neighbors' snow monster...

Meanwhile in Okaasan land comes the Tale of the Afternoon Tea Bag.
That's a bag, made by a company called Afternoon Tea. Not a teabag.
Yesterday, in a spell of sunshine, I told Okaasan to grab the chance and go out.
She asked for more money: "Mrs Hoshiba over the road, she admired this shopping bag and asked me to buy one for her! I'm going to go downtown and get it!".

I was pleased that Okaasan was making friends with Mrs. Hoshiba now, and also a bit amazed that she even remembered that conversation from the time 2 weeks ago when she lost the front door key and knocked on Mrs. Hoshiba's door for a place to sit. Ironically, Okaasan has had at least two occasions of borrowing money from Mrs Hoshiba and fogetting that she had done so...leaving the poor woman to come to us later and ask to be repaid.
So happily I doled out more money than usual and went off on my day of classes and an end of year party.

Got home almost 10 pm.
Okaasan was all riled up, loud voice and stressy: "I went downtown and bought the bag, but when I took it to Mrs Hoshiba - she said she'd never asked me to get one! What do I do now?!!! I bought it for her!".
She told me this story about 4 times in ever louder tones, while I tried to back away and off to bed.
The bag only cost $10, so it isn't a huge waste of money - I worry more about how Okaasan will now have a negative attitude towards the nice, potential-friend neighbor.

Who knows what really happened. Mrs Hoshiba-san is sliding into dementia too - so maybe SHE forgot her request. Or maybe it was only chatty praise for Okaasan's bag and never meant to be a request. Or maybe Okaasan chatted to someone on the train about the bag and THEY said they'd like one too.
Any of that is possible.

Ho hum. It's Thursday.
I have a monster of a day - classes, end of year party lunch, two more hours in the dentist, then more classes....
My friend is going to come into the house late afternoon and feed the cats and put Okaasan's dinner out for her. I can't do everything I have to do today PLUS Okaasan and her dinner.
Thankyou Friend!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Shades of shit.

My shit.
Other people's shit.
It's all different.

Realized that today. Yet again.
Got ready for work in a depressed funk, plodded thru the snow to the station... head full of Okaasan and her troubles. Wallowed in it all.
Should I just leave it all be and let Dear Son talk on the phone to Okaasan and tell her to go along and be the leader of the hula dance class etc? Should I call the care manager myself and get them to help? Would they be calling Dear Son anyway after his mother's first day service visit?
Should I just step back and let it all waft on out of my stress levels - and focus instead on taking my stomach and its suspicious polyp to the hospital next week?

Wallow. Funk. Snow.

Got to the first class and a dear, dear lady who has just battled cancer this summer - told me she'll be absent in the next few weeks because she has a retina problem and has to be hospitalised soon for 5 days.
Got to the afternoon class and found a sweet guy, who had a cancer operation this summer - HIS latest checks have revealed suspicious raised areas and shadows - and he will be in hospital again next week for further checks.


So, those two bits of sad news put all my shit into perspective.
My shit. Their shit. Very different.

I just have a difficult old lady to contend with. Have to give her dinner and chat every evening. Have to manage her money and dirty underwear.
It's easy.
If Okaasan won't go to day service - with her son and service manager's persuasion - then sod it, she can vegitate in front of the Tv for another winter. Get weak legs, go out and fall over - hopefully end up in hospital with a broken hip.
I have done as much as I can.
Just dish out the dinner, chat and smile. Dole out the money. Do the laundry. Clear up the literal shit. Focus on me.

So. That's what I've just done.
Luckily a student cancelled tonight, so I got a rare whole evening at home. I came back, shoveled snow, fed cats, threw in some chat into Okaasan's room, watched Al Pacino in "Insomnia" on video, made an easy dinner, gave Okaasan chat about winter and Japanese food and snow and cats and winter.

Did my duty.
It's enough.

* But thankyou all for so many ideas and support - I think actually the care manager has got to step in and deal with Okaasan - offer her a different class to try next week. Jolly her along into it all. It's their job. Dear Son is away till late next week. He will just be a voice on the phone.
Either he or I have to tell the day center that Okaasan isn't so enthusiastic.
Next Monday I will prepare Okaasan's bag with a change of clothes in it and indoor shoes. And leave for work and my life. The day service people can fight it out with Okaasan when they come to get her.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Day service debut.............

The day arrived. Day service for Okaasan.
After all the long waiting and trying to arrange and pressuring and couple tantrums and fixing.

The bus was due to come at 9.20 or 9.30 am - which is just after the time I should really be leaving for work.

But I knew Okaasan would need help in getting ready. The day service manager had left a note with instructions - but still she would need help to get the hula skirt, socks, T-shirt, change of underwear etc into bags.

At 8.55 am she was still her pajamas......

We had 30 mins of ever increasing panic. Sooooo hard to keep my cool in this. But Okaasan couldn't remember what she'd already chosen and put in a bag, so she tried to gather more clothes and put them in another bag.
She fussed terribly about what blouse to wear, what socks to wear, whether to wear a coat etc etc etc She and I circled around her room and the kitchen and the hallway - fussing, fussing, fussing. Was there money in the purse? Was the front door key in the purse (FOUND the 2 weeks ago lost key in yet another little bag!!!) and on and on and on.

I really had to leave by 9.25 and I imagine the bus came shortly after.

All day I wondered about her. Like a mother with a child at school for the first day...what was she doing now? Was she happy? Was it confusing?

I rushed home mid-afternoon to get there before she arrived back: because I hadn't been able to get into her room for more than a week - since she didn't go out - and I knew there was dirty underwear lurking.
She'd had a toilet accident last Friday after the day service people came, and sure enough - I found several soiled underpants all wrapped up in newspaper in one of the laundry baskets....:-(( And about 25 more needing laundry.

At 4.20 pm the bus pulled up outside. I ran out and the driver threw open the doors and put down the special steps...and Okaasan was helped out. A few other old people peered out at this unusual Oyomesan.
Okaasan seemed animated and happy - a bit tired - but happy enough. Her hair looked newly washed and brushed. I made her a cup of cocoa and she said it had been "fun", and lunch was "okay". The hula dance was "easy". Hmmm...

I prepped dinner. Went back to my classroom for the 6 pm class. Then took a taxi home to get dinner on the table....
Okaasan and I ate and chatted about this and that...I mentioned the day service place lunch....and the hula....
"That place the hula is low level, I can do better than that. I don't need that. I won't go again. Those people have just started haven't they? I won't go again. It costs money to go doesn't it.....I won't was boring....I can exercise myself, every morning I do my exercises here, I don't need to go there......".


I tried to do the voice of reason: but your room exercises are not enough, because last winter your legs got weak and you fell over many times. Yujiro is worried about you. You should go, just once a week in winter and exercise and enjoy it. Just once a week, it's easy in the bus.

And then I stood up, put my dinner plates away, swept the cats off chairs and left the kitchen before I got too angry and frustrated.


This mixture of pride and false sense of abilty, mixed with the dementia is SO bloody hard.

Just talked to Dear Son on the phone and he advises leaving the topic alone. Hoping she will forget the negative feeling. And then getting her ready again next Monday morning the whole Getting Ready thing again...or what? Refusal to go?
I can't actually do that at the start of MY working day. I was 5 minutes late for class this morning anyway, can't be late again next week.

I wonder if we should get the day service manager to come in and talk to Okaasan again - persuade her to try again, or try a different exercises class?

Aghhhhh..... bloody hell.

I knew it of course. No matter how much we all strived to set it up and get her there - the real task is getting her to continue going...


Sunday, 9 December 2012

Japanese cooking lesson

Look at this wonderful Japanese dinner! (well, not the salad obviously...) - but the simmered veggies with chicken on the left, and egg and fish paste pancake in the center and seaweed rolls with salmon inside.

Amazing! And I made it! Well, actually cooking teacher Akiko made it and Mary, a fellow foreign Oyomesan, and I cooked under her directions. But I had a hand in it all.

And I just served it to Okaasan and she said: "This is delicious isn't it. Did you buy it? You didn't make it, did you? It's hard for you to make. Hmm...delicious...".

Oh yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mary and I went to Akiko's apartment mid-morning, armed with plastic food boxes to carry our food away. Mary even brought an apron - because she's been in Japan longer than me and knows that you should always go fully prepared for doing something in this country.

And we cooked. Akiko was great, showed us how to cut the vegetables just so, how to get the seasoning right, how to roll salmon bits in slippery seaweed....

Great. I may eventually get the hang of it all.
At dinner I told Okaasan a friend had cooked it, and let her tell me that this was good and how hard it was to make. 3 weeks from now? I might just try it!!!

Bonding time...again.

He's gone............10 days work at a ski resort far away......gone.
Time for Okaasan and Me to bond over lots of shared dinner times and chats about wartime Japan.

Joy to the world ;-)

Saturday, 8 December 2012

So. Yes :-)

Finally. Almost 4 years to the day since Okaasan came into our lives - we get her set up for outside care help.
Only once a week for now - that's the level of care she qualifies for at the moment - but it's a start.

He goes off for 10 days ski work from tomorrow ;-( and I have a week of end of year parties, two dental appointments and all sorts of other stuff - so the help is very needed.

Monday morning the sled will arrive and take her away to a pink palace of fun and stimulation. And bring her home again in late afternoon. She'll have lunch there too (and hopefully it'll be so big she won't need me to cook dinner...).
And we've ordered in Tuesday to Friday lunchbox delivery for her - this time from the convenience store 7-11. He took her yesterday to buy new slippers for the day service center. On Monday morning, before I go to work, I'll get her ready to go...

So, I have to do dinners, and underwear washing, and room cleaning, and dinner chats, and money supervision...and try to get her out for a walk sometimes.

AND my usual end of year over busy schedule......

He says the contract signing went well. This time 3 people came and talked about how it will all be etc. Okaasan seemed positive about it and even noticed with excitement that the day service center has flower arranging. But when the service staff asked Okaasan whether she ever falls down, she denied it and wasn't happy to be corrected by her son in front of strangers...
And later I found a toilet accident on the floor that she'd tried to hide....
So - we SO need this outside care. I hope that eventually they will be able to talk to her about diapers etc...I hope.

But. I am happy. I have done it. I have brought about another level of care for us all. Now the outside world knows about Okaasan and her family (well of course YOU all know!!!!) - and we can get help in future.

And. Are you sitting down? I think you should....

Tomorrow Oyomesan is going for a cooking lesson.
A Japanese food cooking lesson.......
In fact: a Japanese, traditional New Year food cooking lesson!!!

Yup. I'm gonna try and do it this year. I'm not lazily ordering from the store. I am going to try and create seasonal magic out of vegetables, soy sauce and a huge amount of sugar.
The friendly cooking teacher in my gym has invited a friend and I to go cooking in her apartment Sunday morning - both of us foreigners with Japanese families.
I am actually looking forward to this. Teachers love to be on the other end of learning - and I really would like to know the mystery of how to make something that resembles a traditional, Japanese dish.

New Year food - if I learn to make even 10% of this, I'll be happy...

4 years ago Okaasan was able to show me a little, 3  years ago she was more confused and unable - it was the terrible 5 hours cooking saga that left us both knackered and confused, 2 and 1 year ago I ordered pre-cooked food from the store.

This year? I am going to try and be an Oyomesan. Try.

Hey - guess what? I got a new hair cut. Bravely went to a new hair salon and told them to make me into a new woman....the result...

Now need a facelift to banish those baggy eyes...