Wednesday, 30 January 2013

It was FUN!


Okaasan said loudly and happily as she came home last night from hula class at day service center.

FUN! It was actually FUN!

Break open the champagne, throw cats in the air, light votive candles to the foxy shrine spirits...

 She actually thought it was fun and enjoyed it.


Dear Son went into overdrive in the morning to get her to go, using all his beloved family member powers to crush any opposition as soon as she tried to say it.'ve only been to this hula class once, you can't judge on one time, you should go again and check, you're mixing it up with another class etc etc.
I stood at the top of the stairs (well, ok...leaned over the top of the stiars with my ears on stalks...) to listen to him work the magic. He was firm and abolutely unwavering....when he does that with me in fights I give him lots of flack back, but Okaasan was powerless in his logic firestorm.

So, she went.

And come late afternoon, in a snow storm - she was back.
Wearing borrowed trousers from the center because she'd had a toilet accident during the day, but really happy about it all. Spoke loudly and confidently. Even bought a CD of the hula music to listen to at home.

Really relieved, and full of admiration for Dear Son plugging away at it. I was ready to cave in 2 weeks ago after her Dementia Cleared Angry Speech.....but he kept on at it.
HUla is 3 times a that's enough...hopefully she'll go in February and March and April....and who knows, when she snows start to clear she might actually continue going....

Monday, 28 January 2013

Family time

He was home for a WHOLE weekend.

It's been wonderful.

A large part of my carer's brain switches off, because it knows there is someone else there to do the thinking, judging and planning.

For ski instructors in January to have a non-working weekend is rare, and this season started early - so it was all the more special.

Lazy family weekend of eating (student gave me wild pig and deer meat!), essential shopping and watching TV (I Know What You Did Last Summer slasher movie Parts I and II)...

Sunday lunchtime we took Okaasan for a walk round a shopping mall as she'd been inside for 3 days. I tried to get her interested in buying a sweater, but a suburban shopping mall only has man-made fibre cheapo clothes and Miss Princess from Kawagoe turned her nose up at those...increasingly rudely - so gave up on that idea. Only pure wool, red, expensive sweaters for this lady.
We lunched in a "Family Restaurant" where Okaasan could have the Japanese-style lunch set and we could have hamburgers...sitting there with nothing much to say to eachother so killing time by commenting on stuff on the table and around the room until the food arrived and we could eat in family-dining-out-silence.
Hate these family meals out. Very boring. Family duty.

Then home to blob in front of the TV....

This week he is home for a few more days...and tomorrow he is going to TRY and get Okaasan to go to the day care place and give hula dance another go. Ballroom dance is only once a month...and it really sucks that she seems to have enjoyed that and not the hula dance...which happens 3 times a month.
Getting into a routine of every week would of course be much better...why oh why do they have an activity only once a month?
I doubt she'll go. It's sad because she was really energised by the experience last week and to have that every week would be great.

And. We have talked about getting in someone to care for Okaasan when we are both away in February. The day service manager says it'll cost Y2,000 for an hour. When should they come? What should they do? It's actually 3 nights, but we think she'll be ok on the first night - we'll order a food delivery and it'll just be like an evening we are out/working for her. By Day 2 and Day 3 someone should come and check on her...and I think they should cook up simple stuff in the kitchen and chat to her.

And....Oyomesan is continuing her plans to become the Most Perfect Oyomesan in the World...I went to a friend's home and joined in a Miso Making cooking lesson! At this rate I will become more Japanese than Japanese people....well, maybe NOT in that apron!!!! (I don't have a cute, ladylike apron because English women stopped wearing aprons in the late 1950s..I only have a joke apron for BBQ parties).

Mash up beans, fermented rice and salt...

Cleavage helps...
Put miso container in a warm place for 2 basket ok?

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Report card

Day service gave Okaasan a great report card.
She went to the toilet twice...and didn't bite anyone.

No, joking aside (but not for long), it really was a very detailed report card about what she did, said, felt that day at the day service center.
Looks positive, she appeared to enjoy it all and interacted with other people. Appeared to enjoy the ballroom dancing.
I say "appeared", because who knows? Of course the day center staff will write slightly postive things as we are customers and they are trying to get us to continue using them, and of course Okaasan in a public place with friendly strangers will look happy etc
But. Looks good.

On the way to day center she was underdressed for a cold day (I know), and in the car she checked several times that it really WAS ballroom dance day and NOT hula.
At the center she went to the dance class, but her heart rate was a bit high (excited?), so they suggested that she just watch...but can't keep Okaasan down when she wants to do something - so up she jumped and joined in. Danced with the teacher. Danced well. Talked to classmates.
After that didn't join a traditional card game, but watched, chatted to people....enjoyed lunch, didn't have a bath because of the slightly high heart rate...cut her own nails, chatted about stories long ago.
All good :-)
And peed twice.
Didn't bite classmates.

You know - this might be better than hula...if she will continue going - because hula is quite an isolated dance style. You stand in your own space, looking at classmates' backs and you don't interact.
But ballroom you touch other people, you stand close, you talk. All of that sounds much more stimulating.

Oh! I soooooo hope this continues.
Slightly cloud on the horizon is that I thought she'd commented on the dance class and said "real"...actually the word she said means "basic" if that thought stews around in her brain for a few days it might become "too basic/boring/low level" and then we'll be back to square one.


Thursday, 24 January 2013

Shall we dance???? Shall we???

Hold your breath.
We may, MAY have success on the day service ballroom dancing class!
Time will show.....I am sure Okaasan's negative thinking will get to work within a day or two and find fault in what seemed to be a good experience today.

Started shakily when I told her at 8.45 that "Today is ballroom dancing, they are coming at 9.30am!"...and she was round and round on the topic of: IS it ballroom? It's NOT hula is it? Ballroom? I quit hula, didn't I? What day is today? Is this ballroom? Where's Yujiro? Who says it is ballroom today?
But she seemed happy and excited about ballroom. In Japan it's called "social dance" - and the slow numbers are called "cheek dances" by leering old men.
I wondered if Okaasan would find her Richard Gere at day care.

By 9.30 am she was almost ready. In a skirt. Minus stockings and socks, and in a T-shirt and a cardigan. I managed to get her into socks for putting on her outdoor boots to walk to the center car.

And off she went.

I managed to be home at 4.30 when she came home.
Thought that was good for her to come home to someone and tea and chat.
She seemed happy, I think she told me it was "real" ballroom, with men, and different steps.
To be honest, I was too nervous to go into the subject with her too much...

I settled her into the TV watching-mode, left to do my evening class, and then came home to get the late dinner on the table.
She was chatty at dinner - told me about her father repairing an American army jeep after the war, and how as a small child she used to have a ride in father's truck delivering kimono drawers to Tokyo.

Neither of us mentioned the ballroom dancing.

But! The day service offered to write a Diary report about Okaasan's day and I have it :-) In Japan teachers for young kids do this every single day - send a note back to mum about what the kid did at school, if it bit a classmate, pooped etc....and day care does the same! (I think we pay for it).
Just wait while I get a friend to translate correctly...but I think I spy the words "enjoyed" in among the squiggles.
I'm hoping. non-Okaasan life...I am making ice candles out of balloons and water and food coloring dye.
And getting wet in the process...and covering the kitchen counter in red coloring.

But LOOK! I think they might work!

Balloons out on the doorstep overnight

3 done...only another 20 to go...

STOP PRESS* Just been into the kitchen...HolyMoly.......Okaasan has done ALL the washing up after dinner! Long may this continue. Day Care is doing wonders for her!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013


Snow, snow, snow here....worked off the Xmas excesses with a LOT of snow clearing and skiing.

Saturday early morning I went with Yujiro to the ski resort he was working at - horrendous two hours drive in the snowstorms reminding me why he SHOULDN'T come home between working days. But I enjoyed 3 hours of skiing in deeeeeep powder....too much snow really!
Then a quiet weekend with Okaasan. She insisted on going out Sunday, so I walked her to the subway station and then she walked herself home in the dark of early evening.

Yesterday Yujiro was home and the Care Manager came to do a regular monthly visit - Okaasan was a bit negative about the hula class, got shown the cell phone video of herself expressing a miniscule amount of enthusiam last week...and will be trying ballroom dancing next....:-)
Yujiro also talked to the manager about our February problem: both he and I will probably be away for 3 nights working. He will be ski teaching for Chinese New Year and I'll be a "Charisma" Travel Expert at a tourist business seminar.....MUCH more about that later....a 45 minute speech in Japanese is looming in my life.

What to do with Okaasan? (and cats for that matter...I am casting around for cat hotels).
OKaasan really can't be left alone for 3 nights. Even if we order in food delivery. Her mood alone for 3 days and nights will go WAAAAAY down and she'll burn every pan in the kitchen trying to cook rice/water/eggs.
I don't want to get into the habit of asking Friend with Baby to come in and help - it's not fair on her and we have to start using public assistance for our situation.

Sapporo's Day Care system means we can't get a one off home visit for free - only regular home visits are free - so we'll have to pay for someone to come in and cook/chat/check on Okaasan. The Day Manager is going to check for us.

It's a hassle, but necessary - I'm hoping he and I will actually be able to go away together sometime. It takes planning, with two cats and an old lady - but as a couple we need it.

Some Japanese friends/students have expressed surprise when I mention creating "couple time", I guess it's a Western concept? The whole humdrum life thing of family responsibility/work/shopping necessities - I used to be an avid Cosmo magazine reader, so I learned that men and women have to do stuff together as a couple sometime to "keep the spark alive in your relationship".

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Are we there yet?

Questions, questions, questions...

I took Okaasan to a hair salon appointment today - just near my morning class, so convenient for her and for me.
As we arrived downtown in the car, to slightly familiar places, she was constantly asking me:
Is THAT the salon? Is this XXX station? Is this XX shopping mall? Is this near XX?

It seems to be a desperate need to confirm knowledge, to make sure that YES, I do still recognise places.
We used a parking area behind the hair salon building and went in thru the back door, so it was all unfamiliar. I took her to the front door and showed her the sign and the main entrance. I asked the staff to take her to the building front door after the cut and perm, and point her along the block to the central subway station.
I wonder how much she is recognising downtown now on her trips there?
We know from the GPS that she goes to the same places every visit, and I suppose that is really hanging on to familiar.

Late afternoon she got home (in a taxi from the subway station - the instructions about NOT walking on the icy roads has sunk in) - all very stylish with the new hair-do.
Couldn't remember if she'd eaten lunch or not...and opened up her shopping bag with things inside...foodstuffs from a department if seeing them for the first time: "What is this?"
"I bought these red bean jelly sweets for my friend in the  coffee shop, she loaned me a neck scarf!"

2 minutes later Okaasan came into the kitchen....with the open sweets box in her hand and started eating them, offering them to me etc.

"Aren't they for your coffee shop friend?"

"Are they? Did I buy them?"

Literally, her memory of the sweets shifted 3 times in 2 minutes...

And so, and so...the world according to Okaasan trips merrily along.


Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Yes, you will....

Here  is Okaasan - forced out into the snow and dragged away by an overly-kind day service driver to a horrible, warm, bright building where she was threatend into dancing and eating and drinking tea.

It's old lady abuse.

And? She...kinda liked it.

It was a "ma-ma, so neh" in Japanese at the end of the day when her scheming son videoed her on his cell phone as he cross-examined her about the day and whether she'd enjoyed it.
"ma-ma, so neh" means "Hmm, well, it was okay, I guess" in Japanese. It's probably as enthusiastic as she is going to get. And now Dear Son has it taped so he can show her anytime and prove that at 5 pm on Tuesday January 15th she kind-of-enjoyed-herself-at-that-place.

Yesterday was his day to activate Okaasan and wow - he did. I leaned over the upstairs balcony and listened in as he told her/cajoled her/explained to her/told her/strictly/jokily/kindly/ etc that YES - TODAY YOU ARE GOING FOR THE SECOND TIME TO A PLACE YOU LIKED BEFORE.

I felt bad for Okaasan. Kept waiting for her to fight back and stand her ground...but she didn't. She bowed to his power and let herself be guided into it. I couldn't have done it. My language skills just aren't up to it. Neither is my relationship with her.
He did it.

And next week? We'll see what happens then.

Sunday, 13 January 2013


So, how are you today Oyomesan? (as Facebook is now cheerfully demanding of us...)

Me? Oh I'm FINE.< is there a sarcasm smilie? :-()

Gave out huge doses of reality today.
Let the cat out of the bag and whirled it round my head madly.
Walked the elephant right thru the room.

And other bad plays on language.

I told Okaasan she has dementia.
And I hung up the phone on Dear Son and told him to stuff it.

And then I happily babysat for 3 hours. ANYTHING is better than this bloody family.

Hah. Got a LOT of agro to get out here.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

Taking a break from doing my taxes, I wander thru the kitchen mid-morning and Okaasan asks if Dear Son is home.
No, back tomorrow night. Anything I can help you with?

Cue: 20 minutes of VERY angry Okaasan telling me exactly why she does NOT want to go to that place in Sumikawa with the hula dance, and the lunch and the hairwashing.
What IS that place? Who are those people? Why is Dear Son spending money to send me there? That teacher is no good. The students just sit around. It is much better that I go and walk myself downtown to exercise. Those two men came here last week and we signed a contract. Why? I don't want to go there!

SO much fury. She was almost shouting. She almost pushed the table to one side in fury. Slammed her hands down.

But you know what. She was clear-headed.

It wasn't the dementia talking.
It was Kazuko, clear and loud, telling me what she wants. Or, rather  - doesn't want.

So. I talked to her. I sat down on the carpet and talked for 20 minutes.
Ok. So that "culture school" is not interesting. But exercise is important in winter, because your body and mind condition declines - so why don't we spend the money on booking a taxi to take you to the subway station regularly? Then you can go and walk downtown, meet your friend in the coffee shop etc.
How about that?
And she agreed. Much better.

I don't want to end up like that old woman across the road, she is senile - she forgot that she asked me to get a bag for her. Exercise is important for brains.

Yes, well that woman does her own garden herself in summer, but in winter she stays home all the time. You too - it's bad for you. You forget many things, you repeat stories many times - Dear Son is worried about you. That's why he thought "culture school" was a good idea.

After 20 minutes I brought her down to calmness.

But instead I had her fury inside me... I booked a taxi to come and get her after lunch. I came over all heavy with a friend on Facebook about her health decisions (SORRY V!!!)... I emailed Dear Son and told him to cancel the Tuesday day care and accept ski work for Tuesday. Let's just accept that now isn't the time for Okaasan to go to Day Care. Later it will be time - we don't want this negativity stopping her when she REALLY has to go etc etc. Just accept for now that the money should go to taxi rides in winter....we all tried, but maybe we have to accept that she isn't ready for it....etc etc etc.

I had lunch with Okaasan. She told me the same I went to healthy cooking school - film star house nearby -  husband came to look- story 8 times.
I had too much emotion boiling inside me.

I TOLD her she'd just told me the same story 8 times.
She asked me: Did I? What, today?
Me: No, now, in the past 15 minutes while you've been eating that food. THIS is why we are worried about you. Your body is healthy, but you memory now is very bad and if you don't exercise it will get worse. It's not just old age, it is worse than that. It's very hard for us to have these repetitive conversations.

Broke every rule in the Dementia Rule Book didn't I?

You are not meant to tell the sufferer they are suffering? Right?
I've done it a few times in exasperation: kind of like when a child is whinening for sweeties at the supermarket check-out and mum says: ok, ok, I hear you, I hear you!!!
But I've never said it to Okaasan as part of a calm, almost-logical conversation.
She was surprised. But agreed that exercise was important to preserve memory ability, and so going to the subway in a taxi is good idea etc. It was actually all very calm and accepting.

Cats and elephants out in the open.

I read blogs of people in America who know they have dementia, I read blogs of carers whose loved-ones know they have it - doing this whole charade thing is exhausting.
Yes, you have a problem. It's ok, we will help you. You are interested in health matters - and you know that walking and eating correctly are important. We agree.
Surely that is right to do?
I don't know. But it's what I did today. And she was surprised, but not bowled over. Is openness better?

Finished lunch.

Then Dear Son phoned Okaasan and told her: you are going to "culture school" next week.

Then Dear Son telephoned and hassled me for getting into this topic with Okaasan.
Told me he will be home tomorrow to make sure she goes to Day Care. No, she is confusing day care places. She MUST go.

Me: NO, I am the person that pushed us all to do this. I am telling you now - I made a mistake. We should accept she doesn't want to go. Taxi is a better use of money. Etc etc etc.

 I put the phone down on him. And switched it off.

Sent Okaasan off in her taxi.
Finished my tax data on the computer and met my Friend with Baby to go downtown.
Surprised her with a ticket to see Le Miserables and kidnapped Cutest Baby in the World for 3 hours of babysitting at the nearby community center.
Sitting with him was SO theraputic. All my anger and stress disappeared. Feeding him yogurt and fruit, exploring the community center from a 1 year old's viewpoint (ooooo!!! locker doors with keys! ooooo!!!! whiteboards with wheeled feet!!) - so relaxing. He's cute. I love him. 3 hours of cuteness. Soothed.

Dear Son calls to apologise. BUT he will try day care again on Tuesday.
Pick up happy Friend from the movie theater and we head home...
Okaasan calls me from the subway station. I tell her to wait. Okaasan and I  ride home together in a taxi.
I cook dinner.
Okaasan and I chat about all sorts of stuff.....she is almost coherent.

It's been a fuck of a day.

Facebook. There isn't enough space in that status update space.
That's why I rant into a blog.

Saturday, 12 January 2013


So, there you are.
Sitting at your computer. Hi, there!
Yes, Blogger now has spy camera technology - I can see you - sitting there with that cup of wine to hand, reading the blog of that British woman in Japan with the mother-in-law and she has dementia..

In a few minutes from now one of your family members will come into the room, armed with rubber gloves, a bucket of water and some towels and start talking about cleaning "that stain on the tatami mat".
And they will start cleaning away at a brown stain on the floor, and you won't know why.

And they will talk about you had a little diarrhea this week and there was a little mess, and they will continue cleaning.
And you'll stand there and wonder why, and remember nothing about having an upset stomach last week.
Even...when they show you some of your pants...all very dirty.....
You won't know WHAT they are talking about.

You'll be gobsmacked, won't you?

Okaasan was.

I HAD to go in openly this morning and do it.
He is away for 3 days with the car again, so Okaasan probably won't go out...and really that kind of stain can't be left for many more days....
I wondered about making up some story about some OTHER kind of stain. But the trouble is, I don't have a routine of going into Okaasan's room and cleaning WHILE she is anything I did was going to be strange.
Finally I decided not to lie and layer on the deceptions: just do it openly and honestly and non-fussily, like a nurse. No nonsence practical.

Of course Okaasan had NO memory of " a bit of an upset stomach last week", and even when I showed her the soiled pants (which I fished out of the cat toilet box trash bin) she had no idea.

LUCKILY the stain seems to have...errr...soaked thru the tatami mat, so with a bit of water and towel you can't see much now.

I sandwiched this experience for Okaasan with nice stuff; gave her new, winter pajamas last night - and then tonight bought her favorite classic sushi. I just hope the nice experiences will counter out the confusion.....

Oh, sorry - you should go now - I think that family member is coming in to tell you something....

Friday, 11 January 2013

Dinner for two....

Took my Okaasan out for dinner last night ;-)
Just her and me.
I'm ashamed to say it isn't something I do much, her and me time. I do what I have to do at home, and wait until he is around to do family-type trips out together with her.
A big reason is...that even after 20 years living in Japan...I wonder what on earth I will talk to her about in Japanese. Will I have enough conversation to make it go ok? Okaasan doesn't initiate conversations...much, so the whole burden of chat is on me.

But last night - oh two large narration jobs this week, and going back to work shock, and poor Okaasan had been stuck inside for 4 I got home and invited her out on a date: Come and eat ramen at the local delicious ramen restaurant.

She jumped at the chance. Got her dressed up and out the door into the car.
Heart-stopping moments trying to get her FROM the car into the restaurant, because the icy road is now almost 20-25 cm higher than the summer level and there was a trecherous ridge down to the car door to the street level.
But she grabbed my hand and followed my directions.

And we dined together.
Actually, ramen is easy - because it comes quickly and once it is there in all its steaming, oily glory the Japanese-style is to chow down and stop talking.
So we did. A few words of appreciation and comments on other guests and their orders, and the pictures on posters near the table....but really silent eating and companionable satisfaction.
I even heard that dreadful Stevie Wonder/Paul McCartney song "Ebony and Ivory" on the radio...and heard the lyrics " together in perfect harmony....".

After dinner I bought my more knickers for Okaasan at the supermarket near the parking area, and then picked her up and whisked her home.

But.....oh...but....there is a problem....lurking at home.

Yesterday morning, while Okaasan was in her bath. I went into grab her dirty laundry and hunt down the soiled clothes from Monday and Wednesdays toilet accidents.....aggghhh...found the soiled pants overflowing damply from a small plastic bag....onto the tatami mat in her room.
Brown stain on the tatami.

Will HAVE to clean that, in her absence or when she is there - I know our cats are doing merry damage to the doors upstairs of this old rented house, but tatami is pretty special in Japan and HAS to be cleaned...


PS Francesca....liked your comment about Dear Son having to knuckle to and clean up after his mum this week on the toilet floor...yes, I thought it was a good, learning experience for him. Reality check BIG TIME!

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Fighting down baaaaad thoughts....

Ok. Confession time.
This is just between you and me, right?
Well, and the lady on the subway, and the mother of one of my friends in the UK, and Dear Son's old friend in Saitama who I think is reading this blog....and a few just a small group of what....60 plus people?

Confession: I hope Okaasan gets sick or has a medical problem.
There. Said it.

I'd like the respite as a carer. I'd like to eat cheese fondue for dinner. I'd like to really get in and clean her room out.

Bad, aren't I?

This week Okaasan has some kind of pain in her right ribs, she is finding it hard to stand up - and finally was able to stand when I gave her the kitchen chair to push up on.
And me? I thought: "Oh great! I wonder what's wrong...maybe we can get her to a hospital!"

Isn't that bad.

Of course, I'm not going to injure her, or poison her, or force her into dangerous situations - but....if something would be....kind of....good.
Okaasan, being Okaasan - won't let us TAKE her to a hospital while there is still fight left in her body....but I can still dream....

Actually, I don't think this pain in the side is serious. I think she had it before, too much sitting down and laying down on the carpet on one side all the time staring at TV shopping programs for diamonds.
It explains the two toilet accidents this week. She couldn't get up off the carpet and get to the toilet in time.

I'm back at work this week, he is away ski teaching again for a few days - so Okaasan hasn't been out since Sunday. The Oyomesan taxi service has finished. She is sitting a lot.
I suggested to Dear Son that we could maybe get Okaasan some taxi vouchers to use, so that when she gets back to the subway station and the weather is bad - she could just hop in a taxi and come home easily.
Can't give her money, because she'll spend it on mountains of yogurt and rice crackers. But vouchers might  be possible.

And so...onwards.
I found Okaasan's black muffler - tracked it down...not in the subway Lost and Found office, but in Doutor Coffee Shop where she always goes. I'd looked round department stores for an identical replacement, but drawn a blank. Glad I found the original.

It's one more thing to tick off my mental list "Okaasan Needs" - Haircut...New Pants...New Pajamas...Walking Stick?

Back to work - a half schedule of classes this week, no evening classes, which is kind of nice. But two large narration jobs - yesterday a Hakodate tourist guide script for visitors to access on their smart phones...go to a place, touch the screen and MY voice will jump out and tell you the brief history of what is in front of you.
It was 2 and a half hours in the recording studio yesterday.....the microphone was picking up the sound of the heater, so the technicians switched it off...and I sat with a hot water bottle on my knees prattling on and on about Hakodate history.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Same old, same old...

So - 2013 dawns. And in this home we are back to fighting the old battles.

That hula dance class and the rude teacher.

Day service manager came yesterday to get Dear Son's signature on the contract for the latest day service center. I wasn't here (thankfully!), but he says it was a struggle,,,with Okaasan caught in the no-it's-a-rude-teacher-I-don't-want-to-go loop...many...many times.
They would tell her that THIS was a new center, with a good teacher, that she'd been to already and enjoyed...and she would hold the thought for all of 30 seconds...and then lose it and go back on the loop again.
It is sad that she remembers the negative experience more than the positive experience. I wonder why?

The hula class will be almost every week, slighly different days...but hopefully often enough that we can get her there and she can get into a routine. Sadly though, not the SAME day every week. It'll start again next week.

It's something. Outside help with Okaasan. Dear Son's recognition of the reality about his mum. It's all good.

And to reinforce that reality - Okaasan had a massive toilet accident after the manager left. Dear Son had to clean it all up - toilet mat and carpet tiles and hand towel and toilet control panel...and..yukkkk...his own slippers....I am sure the stress of the meeting gave her the runs.

Luckily, he is escaping too much reality and going away on another ski job for a few days today.

* And finally....this is very strange...yesterday I met a blog reader on the subway!!!
Sitting there quietly after classes reading my newspaper and a woman sitting next to me suddenly says:
"Excuse me, are you English?"
"Are you Okaasan and Me blog writer?"

So strange!
She is actually a former student of Endo-san, a teacher/interpreter/tour guide friend of mine - and our blogs are linked.....and somehow this lady recognised me :-)

Strange experience. You sit here, in your pajamas, writing thoughts...and press a button on the computer...and sometimes forget that REAL people out there are REALLY reading this.

Onwards into the joys of new year.


Saturday, 5 January 2013


Okaasan said "Sorry!" to me this morning.
This is the funny old thing about dementia- what is remembered, and what isn't.

She can't remember that the machine in her handbag is a telephone and that you press the numbers on it to get a free phone call home.
But she can remember that I was non too happy with her last night - and come and apologise in the kitchen this morning.

Odd. Odd. Odd.

Should do my taxes this morning and check a narration script for next week.
Think I'll go skiing instead.
Winter holidays nearly finished.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Okaasan service....

Just running around doing my job...getting frustrated with her....come here to whinge.
You can move right along to the next blog on your list if  whinge isn't what you fancy.

She tried another cooking this morning - at 11 am - a time when she is usually by the Tv and not thinking food at all.
Luckily I'd started preppping her food before going out to lunch with a friend, so it was all there in the pan and around the kitchen counter.
Okaasan was sort of heating up the tofu and onions, had failed completly to understand the frozen box of pre-cooked rice and what a microwave might do to it....and had other things out of their packets strewn around.
I really think the whole New Year memories of long ago cooking for 20 people from her husband's office have over-stimulated her to be IN the kitchen and cooking, at the moment. So I've removed the New Year decorations and hidden the New Year cards from the daycare centers.
New Year is finished. I don't think Okaasan needs the stress of the memories of that hugely responsible, busy time.
Well, I don't need her to remember it and keep trying to cook!
I want her comatose by the Tv until called to the table again.

She was wanting to go out again today - so I promised that I would get home by about 2.30 and take her to the station.
Had one of those afternoons - lunch (very relaxing chat with a friend) - then Okaasan to the station (WHERE IS MY BLACK MUFFLER????????!!!) - and then to my classroom to check water pipes in these freezing temperatures - then out for two hours shopping with Friend and Cute Baby...then home again by 5.30 pm to start monitoring Okaasan on the GPS.
And monitoring...and monitoring. And I called her 3 times and suggested that she might like to come home. Once she was just saying Goodbye to the coffee shop friend - I could hear the woman's farewells (she actually exists :-))),,,and I expected/hoped Okaasan would come home then....5.45 pm.
I kept checking the GPS and saw her go off to another coffee shop.
Then the department store.
I was prepping dinner - checking on the computer for Okaasan - and hanging up her latest round of laundry.

By 7 pm I cooked my own dinner.
At 7.20 pm I checked yet again...and there she was at the local station.
Drove down to get her.
Found her with station staff looking for a public telephone to call home.....because she does know that she has the home numbers and address on a card in her handbag.
Seems to have forgotten that the cell phone IS a phone and that Button 1 is Dear Son and Button 2 is Dear Oyomesan.

Aghhh.....brought her home, heated up the dinner bits again.
Left her to it.
Of course, she is sweetly apologetic - saying that she met her friend after a long time and got chatting- which is great. But THAT ended at 5.45. There was then another hour of wandering around and another coffee shop.....the sense of time gone gone gone.


Being taxi driver for Okaasan this winter holidays is kind...and very, very frustrating.
I MUST get a cell phone with the GPS tracker on it so I can track her without having to use the house computer. Today I cut short time with Friend and Cute Baby because I thought I should be home by 5.30 pm to get ready for incoming Okaasan.
No way. Rolled in here finally at 7.30 pm....

Ho hum.........aghhhhhhh...

Spending quiet time on my winter hols. Lunches with friends. Walks in the brilliant sunshine with daytime temperatures of minus 6. Soooo cold. Watching movies on TV. Eating chocolate.

And being the best Oyomesan in the world.

There. Whinge is over. I feel slightly better now.

But you know...I realised today - I am now not actually counting the days of Alone with Okaasan. Used to blog Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 etc....counting I just live it.
Is that progress?

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Awake and feisty

You know that Robin Williams film Awakenings? Where the doctor brings back people who have been vegetables for decades? They stop shuffling around in their slippers and staring at the Tv and start dancing and laughing?

Feels like that with Okaasan sometimes.

A switch has been turned and she is so active and feisty. Lively with a hint of manic.

Yesterday morning I started her bath, gave her the hairdryer and told her "bath is ready".

She was up and busying about:

* these underpants aren't good for old people because the lace is nylon

* I must talk to Yujiro about that rude hula dance teacher, I don't want to go there again! Absolutely, don't want to go there.

After bath...

* Today is January 2 isn't it? It's January 2! After all the New Year food, simple food is best, I'm cooking rice and water and egg.....

When can I go out? Now? In an hour? I want to go out!!

Sigh. It's good I know, that sometimes the inertia of dementia recedes and the independent person emerges...I kept silently telling myself I vaguely supervised her heating up rice and egg in a pan, and debated the scratchiness of underpants...and said "talk to Yujiro on Saturday" about the rude hula teacher. Took her to the subway by car at 2 pm, gave her new gloves to replace the lost ones and then picked her up again at 6 pm when she came home.

But the "rude hula teacher" mantra is an ominous sign. There is no point in saying that the rude teacher was at the OLD class, the LATEST class is all Hawaiian sunshine and politeness....because she is only going on the negative memory.
Hell, she probably isn't unhappy about the hula class at all. There is probably something else - the stress of not sending or giving New Year cards, memories of hardwork in New Year 50 years ago - something. Her stress just flaps around and settles on a recent bad Point - the rude hula teacher - and that is what she complains about.

To try and lower the stress, I removed the Day Service pamphlet from Okaasan's table. She sits and looks at it endlessly, but maybe that is bad - just reminds her of the bus coming - the going - the strangers - the class with teacher etc.

So I removed it from her sight. I won't talk about it. I think Dear Son will be here next week when it is time to go again - he can be stronger and tell Okaasan to go. But for now she should stop having the trigger that reminds her of the day service.

Anyway - I'm having a relaxing winter holidays. Stayed close to home yesterday - a little walk locally in sunshine and then watched a  film on TV and ate melted Peeps marshmallows and Christmas pudding in the afternoon....lazy.............

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Oh Oyomesan All Powerful!

Bow down before me - cos I am awesome.

Thanks to cooking teacher Akiko (who will be getting pictures and a pressie tomorrow) this very British woman from Putney, south-west London managed to cook up, decorate and serve a Japanese New Year dinner to an old lady who was once a Wonder Cook.

And she ate it.

And she said it was good.

AND...she was surprised I'd made some of it!!!

So, what we have here is (starting at Noon): Assorted sweet bean paste filled sugar things from a shop; a glass of wine; the browny/grey thing is simmered-by-Oyomesan root veggies and chicken; then clear soup with a melted gooey rice dumpling; marinated smoked salmon, and finally a plate of pink and white fish paste, Oyomesan-made fishpaste/omelette, shop-bought seaweed with fish roll and shop-bought sweet blackbeans!

Only taken me 4 years to get the hang of this.....

Okaasan was in fine form tonight. She and I chatted about how it was the Year of the Snake, and what year she is, and her husbanmd, and the boys, and then we got onto blood types (she claims that her AB type is smart people...) and then why does the calender have a rabbit on it for January...and Snakes, and blood types...and on ...and on.

I reminded Dear Son at the ski resort to call her and wonder of wonder - the OTHER son, the Really Useless One...he apparently also called Okaasan today.

So, all round successful start to 2013. Hope it goes on this way.

I got out early, left Okaasan's lunch in flasks on the table and went out to my fave ski resort for 3 hours of steamin up the slopes. No photographs cos every time the sun appeared it took me so long to fumble for my camera with all my gloves, that I kept missing the beautiful shots. But I had a great time and remembered past New Year Days when Dear Son and I skied here together...but was just very, very VERY grateful that now my knee is strong enough to do many runs at almost my old speed.

The little blue renta-car is a nice drive - up and over the snowystorm mountain pass and I got home mid-afternoon to veg.
 I got loads of New Year cards from students...this year I was so shattered by December I gave up completly on sending cards...bad of me I know...but something had to give. I sent Christmas cards to all my school students and friends galore...but the community center students slipped off my Must Do list this year.
Okaasan? Maybe she got one card from someone, I could see it on her table. She bought cards recently, but I don't think she sent any. Does she know anybody's addresses? Every year I think it is something I should help her do, but I fail - because I run out of energy in December.

But today - skiing and cooking up the Osechi. A good day :-)

2013 - let's be having you. All Powerful Oyomesan is Ready!