Thursday, 24 October 2013

Happy feet

She likes them - the coat and the cardigan :-)
Off she set on Monday for a walk in the local shopping area, Tuesday to day care and yesterday to the local shops again - wearing them proudly.
A relief that actually, I had a 30% worry that she would look at the clothes on Monday morning and not like them at all. Then we would have to go to another department store hell and spend more money.
Shonan Love - that's a joke too. ;-))

So, back to walks round the local shops and tired legs that don't quite bring Okaasan home.
Monday night we did the GPS tracking, phone calls and drive around to find her. There she was sitting on the concrete step outside the dry cleaning shop...."near the Korean restaurant". Last night I hunted for her and failed, then Dear Son did...and he eventually found her staggering home - she said she'd had dinner in the Korean restaurant by the station....which may be true, or not.
Her legs ARE getting stronger little by little, and we are still lucky that she hasn't actually taken the subway train and gone downtown alone.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Winter Coat Shopping

Oh. I hate shopping.
Walking round a department store looking at stuff.
Hate shopping.
Specially with Okaasan.

But. We had to do it. Shortly after 9 am we were in the car and off downtown as a family to go hunt down a winter coat for Okaasan. She was so chatty in the car to me, I think she thought it was the day service car and driver - so she chatted away about her husband and his golf playing. Kind of unusual to chat so much to me!

Got to the store too early and had to wait 15 minutes for the doors to open, get to the 5th floor and Okaasan suddenly says she wants to drink a coffee, so she and I sit down while Dear Son goes and buys can...and THEN she needs the toilet, so he takes her off for that and I sit deleting old messages on my mobile phone.

Finally. At 10.30 am?
We are ready to start shopping. Wandering round the designer shops of the store. Trying to get Okaasan interested in a coat. 
This? no. This? no This? no.....
Trying to get her to say what she wants: a red or pinkish half length coat, wool?, with a certain collar, and slightly shaped at the waist etc etc etc. Okaasan has a very hunched back. I think it's why the 5 years ago coat split at arm seam.

Aghhhhhh. That'll be my hell, if I'm not a good person in this life. I'll be doomed eternally to following Okaasan round a department store of coats.

At one point she doubled back and started retracing her steps.
"You've looked there already!" I gasp.
"No, no, this is how you shop - you go and look again and see if you missed anything...!"

"No, no - I don't need a thick coat because the car always comes for me for day care. I don't walk outside. .....Sapporo isn't so cold...."


But. Miracles.
After 30 mins of wandering I spotted a reddish coat and a friendly saleswoman. We got Okaasan into  that shop to try it on and finally Dear Son and I sat at the counter while the whole sales routine chat started. Went on for another 30 minutes.
But the best saleswoman. So, so patient....trying endless variations and suggestions.
There was a warm red cardigan too, which was also on my Must Buy list, because Okaasan only has thin little cardigans and shirts suitable for the Tokyo area in winter.

Then Dear Son glanced at the price tags....
Y150,000 for the coat! That's over $1,000. And the cashmere cardigan? Y100,000......
Oh My God.
But. Okaasan was slowly edging towards agreeing to buy the things. And we certainly didn't want to grow any older by going to yet another

I spirited her away to the toilets and a seat near the escalator while Dear Son paid (and said "no" to the vastly expensive scarf that the saleswoman was also promoting to Okaasan)...and we went off to lunch. Exhausted.

After lunch Dear Son went to get the coat and cardigan and I took Okaasan to the nearest toilets. I waited for her outside on some seats. After a few minutes she came and collapsed on the next seat.
"Tired. My legs are tired. I need to sit down......(five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten)....are there any toilets near here? I need a toilet?"
"You just went in there - look - 30 seconds ago you came back from there...didn't you go?"
"I don't know. Did I?"
"I don't know, I took you to the door..."


But. Mission a success. If she wears the coat that is. We sure hope so.

It's a huge amount of money. My monthly salary is about Y250, Y250,000 on a coat and a cardigan is a crazy amount. It's an air ticket to Brazil to see the soccer world cup.

"I don't think I've paid that much money over the past 20 years for ALL my clothes!" Dear Son muttered to me as we waited for Okaasan and another toilet stop.
He's loaned money to Useless Older Sibling in the past year, and it hasn't been paid back yet....I guess we'll be borrowing some of my money....

"Can I have the cashmere cardigan when she dies?" I mutter back.

We head home for well-earned beers, TV watching and family duty done.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Fantasy worlds

Thankyou all kindly for comments about the maiko pictures - it really was a fun thing to do and worth every yen of the Y18,000 it cost for  make up/dressing/photo posing inside/photo posing outside and rickshaw ride/undressing and make-up washing.

Yes, walking in the high wooden sandals - called pokuri? - is hard, the bottoms are sloped, so if you lean forward too much the whole balance gets out of whack. Also in kimono you have to take tiny little steps and sit down with care. The photographer had ideas about me sitting on the tatami mats, but with my knee and general all-round inelegance I didn't think it was possible.

Ahh......that was a dream now! Only a week ago.

Back in my reality we are dealing with Okaasan's fantasies.

Basically she is much better now - been to day care twice, and even joined in the hula dance class at the center. We took her out for a sushi dinner and she walked with me...slowly ...down to the restaurant.
The weather has been crazy with a massive typhoon in Japan, and here we had strong winds and rain and then SNOW in some areas a few hours drive from here! So Okaasan hasn't been out for an independent walk this week.

Yesterday I washed all the clothes that she has piled up permanently on her sofa. About 20 camisoles and 4 pajama jackets.
They still weren't dry by evening, so I thought I should tell her as there was a big gaping clean space on the sofa.
"Oh, those clothes? They were all mixed up, but I think they were all clean!" she said in surprise.
"Um, I don't think they were so clean....they are drying now. They'll be ok tomorrow."

Funny - I guess to her they are things that have just been in the laundry and are waiting to be folded and put away. Only she never puts them away. Ever. She paws thru them and selects one to wear, then when she takes it off she just puts it back in the jumbled mass again. I haven't washed any of these camisoles since early summer...and I know she hasn't.

So. Not so clean then.

And. The Winter Coat Fantasy.
The department store woman in Tokyo who sold me my coat 5 years ago is going to come to Hokkaido and deliver me a new coat, because I ordered one from her.

This fantasy appeared last year when Okaasan's winter coat was split at the back arm seam (her back is so bent, it distorts ordinary clothing). When we talked about buying a new coat she came up with this story of the already-ordered coat from Tokyo.
Dear Son was with Okaasan in that Tokyo department store and he knows that the sales staff was just making polite chat about "oh, you are moving to Hokkaido with your son! oh, Hokkaido, maybe I will come one day! how interesting! etc".

In Okaasan's fantasy this has grown into an actual relationship with that woman. Okaasan has written notes on bits of paper - kind of practice letters - saying "how are you, I'm ok, it is cold in Sapporo now, I look forward to seeing you when you come with my coat...." I've found these bits of paper on her table.
Of course, she doesn't know the woman's name, address of the department store or any other thing. And certainly Tokyo department store staff don't personally deliver single coats to one-off customers!

So. This weekend we will set out as a happy, stressy family to the big department store IN Sapporo to buy a new coat. We planned to do it weeks ago but the whole Leg Pain Can't Walk saga put it on hold.
When we've mentioned this plan to Okaasan she immediately tells us: "Oh, we don't need to buy a coat in Sapporo, I've ordered one from Tokyo!"

Dear Son will tell her directly: "no, that woman in Tokyo never promised to deliver a coat, you are wrong, let's go!" And Okaasan will look confused and constantly question his version of events. It must be so confusing - something you are certain is true. To be told that it didn't happen. 
You have to trust the people who are telling you so much. Trust that they may be right. Trust their version of your own life.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Oyomesan away

It was a great escape - to real Japan, Kyoto.

It was hot and green and touristy. I just blended in with all the other foreigners and indulged in stuff before my long winter of almost solo-Okaasan caring.
One night in a hotel - HUGE bed and fluffy towels! - and then 2 nights with a Couch Surfing host who has traveled to amazing places and done amazing things.
I walked, and the knee survived, and I sat in the sunshine and looked at the trees and the sky.

Arashiyama, an area just outside the city, with loads of shrines and bamboo groves - just beautiful. My Couch Surfing host and I wandered here for hours chatting.

The part of Japan I live in is not really Japan at all. It is the northern frontier, with two or three generation migrant-families and wide open landscapes. Kyoto is the total opposite - the heart of Japan as Japanese and foreigners alike would like to imagine it.

And the maiko dressing - such such such FUN! If you are living in Japan, if you will visit one day I totally recommend it. It is a touristy thing to do - but you do it with Japanese tourists, in a little old house and as you shuffle around in costume, dipping under low door frames with your wig and headdress - you are somehow connecting just fleetingly with another world.

But I couldn't escape Okaasan completely.
While in Kyoto I was thinking that she used to come here when Dear Son and Useless Brother were little boys. When they lived in the Osaka suburbs, she would catch the train and go into Kyoto for a day out.
She was that kind of mother - scoop up the kids and get out of the house. Go and DO something, have a day out.
I tried to imagine Okaasan 50 years ago walking the streets of Kyoto with the boys. Only 50 years ago. She was a woman with two boys on a day trip to a big city. And now she is sitting in front of a TV and folding up bits of old newspaper repetitively. Only 50 years.
We should all get OUT of the house and do stuff, while we can. Because our lives pass so quickly.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Reset to normal

After weeks of physical and mental stress all round- just a normal week.
As normal as it is to track someone with GPS and fetch 'em back from the local shopping center by car; wash their underpants while you are showering and scavenge around their room for forgotten food wrapped in old newspapers!

Okaasan's leg pains have stayed away and she went walking alone locally. Went to day service center...almost willingly. There is another member who is kind of bossy and Okasan doesn't like her - so she has to be reassured that "THAT woman isn't there today" and for their part of the center staff are trying to keep the offending person away from Okaasan more.

I'm standing aside and letting Dear Son tell Okaasan about day care at the moment. Then I help with the final 5 minutes of packing the bag. She is getting worse at this: deciding what to take and finding it and putting it in the bag. The center have actually asked us to pack stuff secretly and just give it to the driver - obviously Okaasan has turned up at the center with random stuff in her bag.

On Sunday I took Okaasan to the hair salon by car. First time for her downtown for ages. She walked ok from the parking area to the salon - a bit weakly, but ok. I hope the trip doesn't jog her memory of how fun downtown can be so that she tries to go there alone by subway - fetching her home by car from local shops is easy. Downtown will be a hassle.

Debating taking the old people's subway pass OUT of her bag, so she would be flummoxed at the subway station and give up on the idea...

* Laundry.  I tried to give Okaasan some newly washed underpants and the hanger - to encourage her to hang up her own washing for the mental exercise...she used to spend hours doing this. But...she just glanced at it, thanked me and her attention went back to the TV. 24 hours later the laundry was unhung...she'd climbed over the bowl several times..and I did it myself.
She used to do so much of her own laundry and take interest and pride in hanging it just so. Now that has almost gone as an activity.

* Hallucinations? Last night Okaasan called Yujiro to catch "those moving things!"on her carpet. Turned out to be pieces of black paper. She was convinced they were moving...

:-) But generally, she is much better mentally - all good as the temperatures drop and the bad weather of autumn and winter comes.

+ My leg pains???? Haven't come back yet!!! Did that mysterious, off-the-wall treatment work? Am I thinking it might work, so it works? Don't know. But happy not to have spasms.

So happy in fact...that.....

I bought a kayak!
Yes. I am mad. But a nice Canadian guy came to show me his old kayak and I fell in love right there in the street with the thing...and it was only Y10,000 (with an old lifejacket and spray skirt included) I bought it.

The cat approves.

Now. That car. You may notice...kind of small.
I didn't notice.
Have now had a few days of worry - will the kayak fit ON the car roof? Will every police patrol car in Hokkaido home-in on me and set up road blocks to happiness?
The Suzuki dealer guy had his mind a bit blown by my question: "an Alto Eco and a KAYAK?????", but the measurements are just about ok, and the police website maybe says it is ok.
Next stop will be an outdoor/car accessories shop...
October...November...hmm...can I squeeze in a kayak debut before the snow comes?

Every dementia guidebook for carers says: you should develop an interest away from the caring. You will need it for your sanity. Too right. I do.

Oyomesan is on holiday from tomorrow for a few days: heading to Japan. Real Japan on my own for a trip. Kyoto - Imperial Palace Tour AND gonna dress up as a maiko.....oh yeeees.

See you soon.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

All happy again?

A good week - finally - for Okaasan.
And us.

She went to day care twice (the second time the staff came early to help get her ready, so she wouldn't shout at me!!), and she set out alone late afternoon to walk round the neighborhood.

I brought her back by car twice, and the third time two young women helped Okaasan home.
Her walking is a lot better, but of course she isn't judging how far is too far - so ends up 1 km away and then has no energy to come back.
Mentally she is much better too - much brighter and generally connecting to things around her. Chatting to her son about things, commenting on the food. Makes us realize that she hasn't been "normal" for weeks and weeks.
We are beginning to think again about all the Okaasan necessities that came to an abrupt halt on August 27th: hair cut, dentist, buying a winter coat.

The whole rigmarole with Okaasan exhausted us both. Even earlier this week, we were still tired and stressed. I fell apart in my Japanese lesson and cried....he was gnashing his teeth and talking in his sleep.


I went and tried the mysterious seitai treatment for myself!
My old leg spasms have been coming back recently - I haven't been to acupuncture for about a month...hoping that the pains had eased. This week coming back....yesterday morning I had more than 10 minutes of cramping/spasms.
Dear Son urged me to give seitai a go. Open your mind (and wallet) to the possibility that it might help. 

So I called up the woman that Okaasan went to last Sunday and took myself along to the old house just off the shopping street, where a young mum has a treatment toys and wall painting surround a bed for Japanese style osteopathy/massage/whole body treatment/chiropractic.

Pretty odd, to be honest.
Not sure whether to believe in it, or wonder at my sanity. 
Waiting to see how my body feels in the next few days.

It was a mixture of very gentle massage/joint manipulation, then laying on of hands a la Jesus-style, LOTS of sympathetic listening while I moaned about life-as-an-Oyomesan....and some very mysterious circular hand motions in the air above my liver...all to do something about my life force ki and body balance/flows.

Pretty alternative.

I imagined Okaasan here in the same room, on the same bed - probably moaning about life-with-that-British-Oyomesan.....

So. Waiting to see if THAT helped any.
Crystals are next. Then leeches. And a friend who does hypnosis has me in her sights.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Shouting...and apology.

Okaasan shouted at me again.
I shouted at her...again.
And then, she a very round about way.

Tuesday morning day care were coming at 9 am.
I told Okaasan this at 8.30 am....she nodded and continued looking at the TV...
10 minutes later I told her again.
She turned round, wagged her finger at me and shouted something.
Of course I flared up too and shouted back at her.
Closed the door and went back into the kitchen, shouting at her...

Not a fine moment.
Thought later: must learn to control these shouting responses. She can't help it, the frustration comes out and is directed at me sometimes. I need to get her thinking positively about me so she is easier to manage this winter.

Anyway, she went off to day care seemingly happily and with little leg pain. Vast improvement on recent weeks.

Come evening: she is back again, eats dinner with Dear Son. I am working and get home late.
Dear Son looks at the day center daily report paper: my name is in it! Okaasan told the staff that her Oyomesan had told her to hurry up to get ready in the morning and that she'd told me to "Shut up!", but after that she felt sorry and wanted to apologise to me!

Apologise to me!!!! Yes!!!

What is interesting about this is that:

a) she remembered the shouting
b) remembered what it was about
c) trusts the center staff enough to tell them about it
d) wanted to express remorse

I am particularly happy about c) in fact. It means she likes and feels safe with the staff, that she will tell them something that is in her heart. It's a good sign.

And of course, a little apology to Oyomesan is a good thing too.