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...


  1. Hi there;

    Very interesting story, reminds me of talking to my wife's grandparents. Grandfather was an aircrew member during the War, but nobody ever asked him about it. He loved having someone interested enough to ask about his experiences. One thing I am curious about is: how did your husband, as the youngest, get the duty of caring for his mother? That is not the "done thing" in Japan at all, especially when there are surviving and financially capable older siblings available. Hopefully the shirkers are at least kicking in some money to help out.

    1. Hi there - thankyou. Yes, it was very interesting to be right there where all Okaasan's stories are based. I hope we get to take her back there one time - she would have so much pleasure to see those places again and hear familiar names. And "why" younger brother is doing the duty? Well, older brother is useless. That's the short answer.
      Long answer is that younger brother is much closer to Okaasan and he is more pro-active, he went to see her when he realised her life was falling apart, and he took the decision to care for her. Older brother is single, sick (bad diabetes) and at that time was working. He got the house...we got Okaasan. Financial contribution??? oh ho ho ho younger brother recently made large financial contributions to older brother's basic life needs.....this family doesn nothing by the tradition book!

  2. Fascinating history . I loved learning the local history there in my 10 years, and seeing it in action in the old towns like Kawagoe. LOVE the old architecture. Have been MIA for a few months, but trying to catch up, Sounds like you have had some amazing adventures. Paul Mac........WOW !!! I last saw him in Piedmont Park in ATL, GA a few years ago. It was FANTABULOUS !!!!!!!
    Can't ever get comment published under my name/domain. Anon is the only thing that will work for me.
    Mata ne......Liz in Ga, USA