Sunday, 24 November 2013

Downtown return

Okaasan went back down town yesterday - first time in 3 months!
August 27th she had that drama of getting to the subway station and unable to walk and being brought back in a taxi and then we carried her into the house on the garden chair.
And then weeks and weeks of pain....and finally starting to walk far as the local shops.

But she never ventured downtown at all. Passes the subway station almost everytime she goes out. Has a rail pass in her handbag. But didn't go. The old routine of the coffee shop, the shopping mall and the convenience store cafe seemed abandoned.

Yesterday Dear Son and I didn't get out of our pajamas. Both struck down by whatever bug we picked up in Tokyo. Headcold central. All day TV and boxes of tissues scattered everywhere.

Checked Okaasan on the GPS about 4.30 om and there she was: right in the center of Sapporo again! Excellent!
She came home also ok a few hours later - and had a vague thought that maybe she'd been downtown...wasn't really sure.....

I reckon it's due to the day care center outing they did on Thursday. They took her and other members in a minibus to a cafe in the center of town for tea. I think it jogged Okaasan's memory of downtown and its delights. So she went herself.

Mind you - today she seemed back to confusion.....went out for a walk mid-afternoon and came home within the hour....knee hurting and NOT happy because she'd left her handbag at home, and had no money for shopping or taxi...and ...and ...and...she looked tired tonight from that stress.

But - she got downtown and home again successfully. Winter is just about to arrive here and her walking still isn't as strong as it was, I think this year she won't go out so much.
I hope she won't.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Before I forget...

I'd better update on the events of last week...before I forget, and before the next wave of headcold bleughhhhness overcomes me. Still not 100 %. Feeling bleugh.

Last Sunday, 40 mins before leaving for the airport I went into Okaasan's room and told her that both Dear Son and I would be away until "the day after tomorrow", and I gave her his letter describing this and the day service visits to cook dinner, and the cats away information.
She didn't seem too worried, and said she had no questions. Sorted thru the money I left her.
I escaped.

Outside the concert - we even got interview by a TV crew.

Y16,000 for seats soo sooo far away!

Post-concert ribs...

Our main event in Tokyo was to the concert - which was great. He sang a lot of Beatles music, both well-known and not, various Wings' songs and tribute songs to John and George. He played a variety of guitars and two pianos, and amazingly - his voice was okay. Good actually.
It was all worth the hassle and the expense of going to the big city. And, thankfully - no earthquakes while we were there.

But we also visited Kawagoe, a city about an hour from Tokyo. Had a dinner out with Dear Son's old work friends and a look around the old town with its historic buildings.

Kawagoe is where Okaasan was born. It's the center of most of her stories - her father had a haulage business, and local cabinet makers would bring their precious cabinets to him to deliver to customers in the Tokyo and Yokohama area. This is pre-war, when having a driving license and having a vehicle was unusual. The home and business was one, they had a telephone that local people would come to use. Okaasan was the oldest of a big family, she looked after the younger kids. She ran in the long grass by the river. She made underwear for soldiers instead of going to junior high school, she worked in the fields. She remembers an American plane crash landing and someone sending for the school teacher, because he spoke some English. She remembers the American soldiers driving around. She remembers the police opening and stealing food packages...and no food.
It's another world: the Japan of her childhood.

It was so strange to be THERE, at that place of her childhood. Dear Son's uncle still lives in the city, maybe his house in next to the land where Okaasan's family home stood. He isn't quite sure.
So, before the co-workers party we ambled thru the shopping area at dusk, a long, lively pedestrian street of shops and lights. We walked out the back of the department store, where shoppers were hurrying home - and stood for a few moments in the back street outside uncle's house. I wondered how much this had all changed since little Kazuko's days with the cabinet delivery business.
I felt sad that Okaasan now lives hundreds of miles away from this town - she lives in a cold place with snow and ice and darkness. She would be so happy to live in Kawagoe, never really very cold, with that shopping street and familiar place names.
But - only her youngest son was prepared to look after her when dementia robbed her of self-care abilities. And his life is near ski areas in the cold, wintery place.

I made a small promise in my heart that we should try to bring her here at least one more time before she dies. It would be a huge stressy time to do it, but I think we should.

And so. Home again on Tuesday afternoon.

Day Service had got their information mixed up and taken Okaasan for her Tuesday session. We'd actually cancelled it, thinking it would be too much for them to come to the house and get her ready without us. But somehow they did.
It gave me a moment of panic though: I arrived home and found her out. Assuming she was in the local shops I casually checked the phone GPS map and peered desperately at the map that popped up on the screen showing her location.
Where is this? Not the local shops? Where IS she???
Missed a heartbeat - and then realized it was the day care center.
Had a bit of a thing with the convenience store lunch box delivery people, who had brought Okaasan's lunch and found the house empty.

(Dear Son complained to the day center about it whisking Okaasan off without our permission and the center Manager and a staff member came to our front door Wednesday night to apologize in person - that's Japanese customer service! Then they went to the 7-11 to apologize in person to the delivery man!).

So Tuesday night the three of us gathered to have family dinner. Of course, we couldn't talk about what we'd been doing (concert and Kawagoe), because we were supposedly away working. And Okaasan doesn't ever ask us anything about what we've been doing. So it was a silent dinner.
Our life back again after the excitements of Tokyo. He and I had good couple time before winter comes and he disappears to the ski resorts.

Okaasan was fine with our absence. Maybe she didn't really remember it clearly. I commented that the day service lady had come to cook and chat twice, and she nodded vaguely and said something about going out in the day service car. 
Of course the woman hadn't cleaned in Okaasan's room - there were old food boxes and dirty laundry, wet towels etc. But for 2 nights it was fine. When we go away for a week next year they will need to do more.

And the cats? Chichi and Popo. How did they survive?
A bit thinner and very clingy and happy to be home. But they survived. SO friendly. Animals give love to us, whatever horrors we impose on them.

And then he and I got sick. Probably too much excitement and late nights in Tokyo. We are getting old. I got it first and now he has it. We are both creeping around in our pajamas, wrapped in blankets.
Thankfully my headcold didn't hit till after I'd done the narration job on Tuesday afternoon.
But now...just feel bleu8gh...

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Am here. Sick.

Yes, we went to Tokyo.
Yes, Paul McCartney was great.
Yes, Okaasan survived.
And Yes - the two cutest cats in the world survived.

I came back on Tuesday and went straight from the airport to the classroom and then a recording studio to do a voice over job.
Wednesday was kind of busy.
Tickle in the throat started.

Now I'm full on sick with a headcold. Cancelled classes today.
Probably Yamanote Line bacteria on every hand strap.
Will blog aian when I am feeling better.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Trying to get out.

There they are - my poor little fur balls - all scared and shocked that they've been torn from their comfort zones and forced into cages....
I cried at the vets :-( and felt stressed all day.

Trying to "get away" is a hassle, isn't it? All the stuff that needs doing. I haven't even packed clothes yet, or thought about what I'm going to do in Tokyo...

The morning stress with the cats hung with me for a few hours, and I found myself crazily cleaning bits of the kitchen counter and inside the fridge because the day service woman will be here looking at the mess I call a food preparation area. I actually felt embarrassed that a woman I don't know will be here looking at it all. So I cleaned it.
Also had to plant spring bulbs in the garden. Last week we had a snowfall and ice - but today was thankfully a return to autumn and I HAD to get out there and do that.
Then I had to set up the classroom for the Couch Surfers who will stay there in my absence as they are coming to Sapporo for the Arashi pop group concerts. I have met one of them before - it's not like I am giving the keys of my classroom to total strangers.
But - you know what? I found myself guiltily cleaning the kitchen in the classroom too!


(I held off cleaning Okaasan's room - the day care woman can see the state she lives in.)

And then an afternoon narration job, which should have been last week, but the whole thing slipped into Saturday and I was in a studio trying to sound excited and authoritative about Sapporo hosting the 2017 Winter Asian Games. Kept wondering if the director and customer could smell kitchen cleaner on my hands...

Mid-afternoon I grabbed myself a walk in the park for some sunshine.

Okaasan went out for a walk, but came home quickly saying her foot hurt....oh no....NOT again...but she was actually pointing at the sole of her foot. So it wasn't the leg and hips. She seemed fine later on in the house....I don't think it's an emergency - but we should tell the day care person to check.

And prepping for next week: I teach and have another narration job straight from the airport. I've officially started working-like-a-Japanese.

Late afternoon hair appointment. Made my stylist SO jealous about the concert.

And home to cook dinner and hear Okaasan tell me several times about wartime food and the police stealing food packages. I know what my winter will be : many many nights like this with this story!!!
I mentioned that Dear Son was probably drinking a lot tonight at the ski association meeting he was at....and she agreed that ski instructors are drunken bums....although not in those words, of course.

And so early tomorrow: escape.

My house seems so quiet without the cats. I keep looking around, and all is silent. Last night Chichi was here torturing a ball of paper in a dry cleaning bag...and now the bag is silent.

My fur balls are 500 meters from here in a cage.

Paul McCartney Mr. Multi-Millionaire with a Hair Piece and  Young Wife had better be good.

Hisashiburi dinner a deux

Hisashiburi - a word in Japanese that means Long time no see/after a while/long time.

One of those cases where the Japanese is more convenient than the English - because it's usually said with a warm gush of excitement at meeting someone: "HiSAshiburi NEH!!!!". Catchier than the English: "Long time no see!".

Last night: Okaasan and Me Hisashiburi dinner together. Because Dear Son is at a ski association meeting. In Tokyo.

I had some afternoon cancel classes, so I had managed to get home mid-afternoon to prep dinner and remind Okaasan to go walking before dark. I got home at 6.15 pm, she got home at 6.30 pm and by 7 pm we were settling down at the kitchen table for dinner.
I didn't mention Dear Son, and waited to see if she would ask about him or mention him.

We ate and I chatted and she responded - food - weather - food - New Year food - modern Japanese people eating too much  meat - should only eat what is grown in Japan (Okaasan happily unaware of TPP and the coming invasion of cheap foreign foods)

I mentioned "Yuki (snow) next week"..

"He's coming back next week is he?" (Dear Son is called YUjiro. YUki/YUjiro - same sound).

"Yes, next week...."

And I didn't say anymore. She didn't either. Just accepted his absence happily.

Great. All down to me as a super amazing Oyomesan - have made a nice little safe routine of life for this old lady, so she doesn't feel panicked by her son's absence.
I am great :-)

My powers of greatness will be tested in the next few hours though.
Before Trip to Tokyo and Paul McCartney concert can happen I have to:
Catch Two Cats and Put Them in These Carry Boxes and Transport Them to the Vets Pet Hotel Torture Cages.
I have a narration job at 1.30 pm and a hair appointment at 5 pm. And the vets closes at 7 pm.
So the cat catching has to happen this morning.


Friday, 15 November 2013

Trial run...

So. He's gone to "a ski association meeting". In Tokyo. A meeting which includes a lot of drinking and eating and a Paul McCartney concert.
And I am going to "an English Teachers' Association meeting". Which, funnily enough, also includes food, drink and an old guy with fake hair belting out songs of yesteryear.

And the cats are going to be stuffed in carry boxes and imprisoned in cages for FOUR whole days and nights at the local vets clinic.

And Okaasan? She stays snugly under her heated table with the TV, lunch delivery box will come, and at 5 pm a friendly lady from the day care service will come and cook dinner and chat. For two nights.

It's all a trial run for next year when we are going to Brazil for 7? 8? crazy nights of international flights and non-stop party for the football. We, the cats, the vet, Okaasan and day care - we all need a trial run of how that will be.

To be honest: the hardest part for me is the cats. They've never stayed in a cage at the vets. Popo is in and out of the vets with the wounds of many fights. Chichi went once for kitten injections and once for a wound check.
They are both going to be sooooooo stressed. And I'm going to be stressed trying to catch them and take them in the carry boxes. :-(

Dear Son left yesterday. He didn't say a goodbye to Okaasan. No point in adding "he's not here" into her thoughts just yet. He was "out meeting a friend" last night, maybe tonight he'll be "got a work meeting"...I'll probably move him to the ski association meeting by Saturday night dinner.
She is fine with her daily routine and me at the usual times.

He has written her a note: telling her that we are away and about the day care staff coming and the cats being away. I'm to give the note to her on Sunday morning, before I leave, so she can understand it all. By then it will only be "away until the day after tomorrow", which doesn't sound so long at all.

I'm in busy mode; so many things that need doing before going away. Work too - I got the offer of two narration/voice over jobs; and had to arrange the subbing teachers for classes I will miss, do Japanese homework, have a hair cut - AND try to plant out the spring bulbs in the garden before the snow comes back and the ground freezes.

Okaasan has been fine this week. Gone to day care happily. Went out and got caught in an early snow storm, I brought her home by car.
But me bad: when I borrowed Okaasan's telephone to boobytrap my classroom with beeps and alarms for a Halloween class, I set the phone onto Manner Mode - twice recently we tried to telephone Okaasan endlessly and got no answer! My fault.
Now, hopefully, it is ok.

And finally - just a picture I took in our local park on an early morning walk. Isn't that beautiful?! Two seasons collide. It looks like Narnia, that way is winter and the Snow Witch - this side are friendly woodland folk and muffins for tea...

Sunday, 10 November 2013


Okaasan had a gooood day yesterday.

I gave her a bowl of just washed laundry and the clothes hanger, and shoes for stepping outside to the laundry line - "can you do this yourself?"and she actually got up off the carpet and away from the TV and did it right away - outside hanging laundry like a professional.
I'm not being cynical here. It really WAS hung like a professional. I should have taken a photograph, but the neighbors would think me mad for photographing socks and pants...
The tea towels were hung in patterns like ladders with clothes pegs, the socks and pants hanging just so. It was a marvel.
And she didn't do it just once. After I'd gone out, she went out to the line again and rearranged my badly hung laundry too.
It's this life as a super housewife in the 1950s and 60s, an era when women did hanging laundry with care and thought. Now we peg stuff frantically at all angles as we are already 10 minutes late for work. Well, I do.

So, Okaasan did great. Used to do it almost every day when we first moved here. Has only done it a few times this year.

It was a last glorious autumn day - Okaasan went walking locally. Of course saying that she was going downtown, but not heading there at all. That routine appears broken.
4 hours later and it was dark and cold we started trying to track her on the GPS and phone, but she never picked up the phone and we wondered whether to go and get her from the convenience store coffee counter or supermarket.
10 minutes later the GPS showed her nearing the house....??????....and we looked outside to see Okaasan arriving home by taxi. She had enough money to pay for it and came in clutching a heavy bag of glossy fashion magazines. Home alone successfully and happy, ready in time for dinner.

All good.
But as always - the fact that we noticed that she hung laundry well, and that she took a taxi home from the shops with a heavy bag - shows how UNUSUAL those actions are for her.
To take the taxi she had to make several decisions: deciding that she didn't have the energy to walk, looking for a taxi, checking for money, finding the address card in her handbag...all easy stuff really, but not for Okaasan. A series of decisions.

But she did it.

* year World Cup football tickets? We didn't get any on the latest round of FIFA random lottery....try again next week in a who-can-log-into-the-website-fastest ticket application period. 
...and winter snow? THIS year I am gonna have myself a snow blowing monster machine! Dear Son has just bought one off the Internet, by a mechanic who was happy in her/his job and understood what s/he was making. And I will be blowing snow with power this winter - to keep a space in the garden clear for parking when he comes home between ski jobs..occasionally.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013




Hiding upstairs and drinking wine, next I'm gonna watch old Friends episodes with the headphones on....

...and my work shoes are here, under the computer table. Not left in the entrance hall, as evidence of my guilt.

Bad? Yes. That's me.

Dear Son is out at a bike taxi driver end-of-season piss up and I could be having dinner with Okaasan.
But I don't want to. I had a good day of work, Japanese lesson and study, exercise etc....and now I just want to be selfish and relax.
Hence hiding.....

Next week he will go to Tokyo for more piss-up and I will have to have dinner with Okaasan on 3 nights....but tonight I really, really don't want to. I had a huge lunch with a friend (so actual food isn't an issue), and I told Okaasan a big fat lie: "sorry, I have to go out again...I have a 7 pm class....would you like dinner now a little early, or shall I put it ready for you in the flasks?"

She chose"now", so I served it up and made "off to work" noises...and crept back upstairs (trying to remember which is the squeaky step)......

Sooooooooooooooooo glad we moved into a house where we live upstairs and she is downstairs. And that she doesn't climb stairs!

But Okaasan's walking is better and better. She's been out in the local area, to her favorite convenience store for a coffee and magazine read and come home 3 or 4 times now. Proudly wearing the coat and cardigan that is worth my monthly salary. Buying her own snacks and magazines (same magazine twice)....but back on track.

Snow is forecast for next week, so it is very important that Okaasan is strong enough to go walking and come home again.
All is good.

I LIKE "working" with a glass of wine to, Jennifer and the gang...where are you...

Friday, 1 November 2013

"Good" times a-rollin'....

Okaasan is getting back in her groove.
Back at day care twice a week - and enjoying the dance sessions. Even managing to remember some dance steps, apparently.
Back to walking on her own round the neighborhood, and actually having the energy/muscle power to come home by herself. Twice.
She hasn't been down town yet on the subway alone and walked round all the fun of there. Thankfully.

Interesting that although she apparently doesn't really remember the leg pain saga of September and October ("I didn't go downtown, the roads were bad condition?"), she has some sense that downtown would be a step too far.
She has the subway card, she passes near the subway station on local walks. But she doesn't go in and take a train downtown.
Some sense of her inability? Or just out of that routine now for over 2 months?

As a family we enter winter mode from now on. He has just stopped his summer job as a bike taxi driver. He has the usual November off, to see friends and drink himself stupid and to do all the little jobs I have been saving up for him around the house. Then December he'll start work as a ski teacher. And MY winter job of full-time carer for Okaasan starts.....cos he'll be away for several weeks.

So, with Okaasan getting stronger and walking more we are back to our kind of "normal".

I rush into her room as soon as she is in the day care car: to scoop up old half empty lunchboxes, dirty underwear, old papers, yet MORE bags (will blog about those another time), and try and keep the clothes piles on the sofa and floor to below UNESCO registration as mountains levels.
We shop and cook, and room clean for Okaasan, we do her laundry, we clear up the occasional toilet accidents, we switch her TV channels from repetitive weather or TV shopping to actual programs, and we make sure he has just enough money for magazines and a few snacks.


* My blogging life and so-called reality are gonna meet! I've had a message on Couch Surfing from a woman who is a reader here - and she is coming to Sapporo with her family later this month!!! She recognised me from my CS profile!!! Small, small world.....
I keep hoping the handsome, blonde American exchange student at my university in the 1980s in England will also find me on the Internet....but that hasn't happened yet.
I bet he has an old mother to look after anyway....