Sunday, 31 March 2013


Escaped. To this. Not a tofu dinner or soiled, pink underpant in sight.
Actually went to the ski resort
which is up beyond there. But you get the feeling :-)
I got up and out early, before the parking area could melt any more - and managed to get the hire car out safely. Went awaaaayyy to ski and have an onsen and eat lunch with newspapers, and do shopping.
And visit a tacky little nature park, but the foxes snoozing in the snow were cute.
And all around was snow, snow , snow - and hints of spring coming.

Took the car back to the car rental - NOW the guy tells me this car has a 4WD/2WD option switch! Like - really? Wouldn't that have been a good thing to mention to the customer when she took out the vehicle...because, like, y'know...she DID say "I'm going skiing". And skiing usually means driving up a mountain road with ice and snow...where maybe a 4WD is useful?
Thank goodness I only ploughed up the parking area at my home and didn't slide off the mountain road into a cliff in 2WD! If I had, I think the car rental office would have been responsible for failing to tell me the car has 4WD as an option switch.


But. The skiing and the whole get-away-from-responsibility was GREAT. The snow was still good. The feeling of just me and the course and snow. Ahh....Quiet ski course because now in Japan it is officially Spring, and only ski and boarding diehards are still doing it. Downtown Sapporo young women are in spring coats and shoes buying summer clothes...

Home by late afternoon with loads of shopping. Okaasan JUST thinking about going the light fades and the temperature drops. Of course.
I walked her to the corner of the street, because our road is particularly bad with melting snow and ruts and iceballs. Set her off downtown.

By 7.30 pm she was STILL downtown. I had planned a nice bowl of ramen for two, but I was hungry so I cooked mine and ate it. The GPS showed that Okaasan was at the local station by 8.20pm, so I went out to meet her - took her by the hand and guided her home. Cooked ramen again. Settled her in for the evening.

* Taiwan Bananas, Part III? IV?
I bought MORE of these superlative bananas yesterday. Cos I thought it would be nice for Okaasan. Was it? Failed again. She ate half of a banana. No, not the right is March, it is too early for delicious Taiwan bananas.....
It is a losing battle. No banana I ever buy will EVER match the taste of some Taiwan banana Okaasan ate 40-60 years ago. It isn't possible. I should give up.

Oyomesan's Vows, witnessed by all blog readers:

1. I will NOT cook with Okaasan ever again. (See New Year postings 2009, 2010...)
2. I will only escort her to a hot spring once in a blue moon, cos I don't need the stress.
3. I will NOT attempt the please her with Taiwan bananas unless a Taiwanese banana farmer assures me that this fruit is the very best he has ever grown.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Just when you thought... couldn't get any glummer.....

I rented a nice green car to go skiing tomorrow...drove home to make Okaasan's dinner and feed the cats before an evening class....and...

A sink hole opened up in the car park outside the house and the front tire went round and round and round.
Okaasan came and loooked out the window for entertainment, until I told her she was only adding to my stress.
Had to call the rental company rescue people. Cancel the student at 6.15 pm....wait...and then finally the kind neighbor came back from his dog walking and gave it a shove and a lift...and then drove it into the parking space.
How I get it out tomorrow is another story.
Came in. Cooked dinner for Okaasan and ate it with her.
And that was THAT week.

Trudge, trudge..

Onwards Oyomesanning...

Somehow I will reach the end of this week, then there will be the weekend and then early next week my other partner-in-care will be home.

Just tired.
Tired of holding it all together.
Tired of winter.

Okaasan has been fine - her conversations this week have been a bit vague - the old stories but with difficulty finding the words to make the stories flow. I supplied the missing words and she was off again.
I worked 3 nights and got home late, throwing supermarket-bought dinners together and sitting with Okaasan to eat them. I did some of her laundry and cleaned up her lunches. She actually washed a few plates.
Now it is a relaxed Friday and tomorrow I am taking myself skiing in a rented car. Just need to go away and relax somewhere away from responsibility.

The new kotatsu is fine and she is happy with that. The cats are enjoying playing with the box wrapping cords. The house is awash with unfinished piles of things: laundry in different stages of cleaning, papers, unopened packages. I am passing thru my home this week and not doing much else.

Lost it a bit one evening with Okaasan and told her off for using a harsh tone with me.
A student had given me huge, expensive strawberries and I was about to put them in the fridge.
"No!!! Don't do that! It's bad for the body to eat cold fruit!!No!" Okaasan shrieked at me.
Of course I reacted to her tone: "Oy! Don't use that kind of voice with me! I am family, I am NOT your house maid!"
And we both averted our eyes and busied ourselves with other tasks in the kitchen.....letting the simmering anger seep away.
In a country where there are many news stories of family members murdering the elderly in family fights, this was thankfully a small flare up. I meekly left the strawberries on the kitchen counter and made my escape upstairs.

I guess it IS the dementia, the lack of control over a emotion? A far too strong reaction to something? A casual: "Oh, it's better to leave them out of the fridge, they taste better etc" would have been enough. Not the shrieked orders.

Anyway. Almost the weekend.
It's been a really loooong week. Sometimes I feel every single year of my 52 years. This week was one of those times.
I need skiiing, and snow melting in my street, and a relaxed weekend.
And Dear Son to come home.

* Can't get into a topic about Dear Son's sibling (because I think there is a friend of the family reading this blog)...but just let me say....MAJOR USELESSNESS....we're not telling Okaasan, and I can't get into that person's private business here (just write publically about his mother's toilet accidents!!!!!;-))...but...oh wow.....some people really, really fail to make a success of their lives, despite being given all the tools of success. Okaasan is so lucky that the smart offspring and his super-smart girlfriend are caring for her.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Kotatsu specialist

Went and bought one.
Couldn't be bothered with all the repair it? wait? try it again? stuff.
Particularly since the repair shop said 2-3 weeks to send the heater unit back to the makers. I'd already carted the bugger around all day on my working course round the subways (between classes, I don't WORK in the subways) - and what with too many goodbye-I'm-quitting-your-class presents f rom students really loading me down I was bag lady today.
Left knee - feeeeling the stress.

So I ferreted out a shop display table and heater in Bic Camera, waited 45 minutes while they checked it and packed it, loaded it into a taxi and went home.
(taxi driver has actually nodded off on the taxi rank, I had to tap on the window...didn't inspire great confidence...but he got me home at top speed.)
The taxi fare cost more than the kotatsu.

Then back to my classroom for one evening lesson.
Then back home to dish up curry and broccolli to Okaasan and while she finished off her dinner - including a second portion of rice - I grovelled around on the kitchen floor and unpacked the kotatsu, and put it together for her.
The old one is in bits around the house. Maybe the cats would like it?

Hopefully end of story.
My overriding concern - the more I thought about it - was the worry that the old kotatsu sometimes working/sometimes not feature was an early sign of faulty wiring and that the kotatsu might burst into flames while Okaasan slept. And then I would feel guilty as hell.
So. She is downstairs now. Tucked for the night. Thanks to her Oyomesan. It was yet another loooong day.

And. One more thing.
Today was hula dance at day care.
She didn't put up a fight about going. Off she went and came home happy and tired.


This morning I had to help her get dressed.
Actually had to choose the clothes and hold them out to put her arms into them.
That's a first.

She didn't seem to know HOW to choose a camisole. She stood there picking them up and putting them down again. Or stuffing them in her day care bag (which already contained 4 camisoles and 6 pairs of pants..).
She held the camisoles in her hands and looked at them, as if not sure if this was the right piece of clothing or how to put it on?

Finally I picked one up and held it open for her, told her to take off her pajamas and slip it over her head. Then did the same with a blouse.

It's the first time I've actually dressed her. Usually my involvement is as advisor...but the actual physical act of putting the clothes on she could do.

Not this morning.


Manic Monday

Monday was always shaping up to be a busy day....
Two community center classes.
Finish at 12.50.
Jump on the train. Eat lunch.
Get to the airport by 2 pm to do three tourist business video narrations.
Come home by early evening to do dinner for Okaasan and reassure the cats somebody cares.
Drink a glass of Otaru wine. TV. Bed.
Those were the plans.

And then Okaasan's kotatsu heated table broke down.
First I knew about it was in the kitchen about 7.30 am.
Okaasan was making a cup of tea and wearing her pajamas and her hula dance skirt. Novel combination.

"I'm sooo cold!!! Is Yujiro here???? Where is he? I'm sooo cold, the kotatsu is broken!!! In the middle of the night my room was soooo cold, I couldn't sleep, soooo cold......"

A kotatsu is a heated table. Coffee-table level, it has a heater under the table and is covered by a big fleecy blanket. It has been the center of Japanese life for years, in a country where room heating wasn't common - whole families sat or lay under the kotatsu, ate dinner, chatted, watched TV, read New Year cards etc
Okaasan lives in her kotatsu. It IS the center of her life.
We gave her a sofa, we gave her a futon and bedding.
She doesn't use any of that. All day and night she is under the kotatsu.

Now broken? Or faulty?
My quiet....get-ready-for-a-busy-day morning vanished in a frenzy of kotatsu electronics checking - as I took it apart, tested it in plugs around the house, gave Okaasan a substitute table and showed her (again and again) that the room actually has alternative heat sources: a hot carpet AND a great big room heater.

Okaasan wasn't coping well with the drama. Of course: the important place where she lives, sleeping, eating, TV watching, peeing was disturbed.
She had coped with the crisis on one level: by putting on the hula skirt in the middle of the night to stay warm. But had failed to use the bedding in the other room (she just uses it as a clothes dump spot) OR to turn up the room heater above its usual 10 degrees.
On the room heater we've put a sign "10-15 degrees is ok" - when we first moved here Okaasan played with the settings constantly and often turned the room into a tropical zone, and as she sits in the kotatsu 90% of the time she doesn't need high room heating.
But with the kotatsu not working it would of course have been a good idea to turn up the room heating.
"But the sign says 10 degrees!" she explained....having taken the sign as a literal Do Not instruction from the heater manufacturer....

Between 7.30 am and going to work I learned a whole lot about kotatsu functions. Had the screwdrivers out and took the heating unit off the table. It worked 50% of the time. But that obviously isn't any good for the heating source at the center of Okaasan's life.

My Manic Monday didn't have ANY spare time to fit in a visit to an electrical shop. Friend with Baby kindly offered to take it somewhere local. I left the heat unit in a bag outside the front door and finally got out the door at 9.15 am to be a language teacher and video narrator.

Left Okaasan with hot carpet and room heating and multiple instructions that NO, you DON'T need to go downtown because now the room is warm (and a lunchbox delivery is coming, so you have to be here to receive it).

Oh...and throw into the rest of the day: a Hokkaido train service that groaned to a stop all day due to electrical faults. Hundreds of trains cancelled. I had to get to the airport by bus....4 hours of narration in a sound room that was actually the size of a telephone box - a chair and the microphone - and the director cues coming from a waving hand thru two windows across the office.
Know that film about the man trapped by a sniper in a New York phone box? That's how I felt. They let me out for air and water every few pages of narration...

But: fun to see behind the scenes of the airport - is every single woman who works there a former Miss Japan? And the translation company staff was a great woman I used to work with years ago, so we chatted and chatted.

Home finally by 7.45 pm with a box of KFC and just about enough energy to chat to Okaasan about snow and flowers and train services.

And Friend with Baby reports that the electrical shops don't know about the heater. I'll take it to bigger shops after work today....or buy a new heater.
Okaasan seems to have slept okay under blankets and with the hot carpet and room heater.
So, that was Monday.

Oh joy! Something to blog about :-)

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Doing a weekend.

Did it. All went well.
Gosh. I AM good at this.
Taken me...oh...getting on for 4 years....early readers of this blog will remember the times of stress and panic, of peeing in trash boxes and guilty secret dinners.

But now - all sweetness and light as a dear Oyomesan in Japan.
Amazing really.
I dished up 4 meals to Okaasan. Joined her for 3 of them. Chatted about flower arranging classes, and wartime foods, and the miracle that is tofu, snow melting and flowers, cats and stuff.
She was fine. A bit rambling in conversation last night and had to be reminded to eat the food in front of her. Had  bath when told to (gave me chance to hunt down the toilet accident pants). Today I told her to go out and enjoy sunshine. She was out for almost 5 hours downtown and came home with a heavy bag of MORE magazines and a bunch of flowers.

All smooth sailing. Hardly a gripping weekend for me. But that's fine. I am saving energy for the working week ahead. Yesterday I saw friends for lunch and tea. Then just watched TV all weekend.

God this blog is getting boring. I'm getting too good at being DIL to an old lady in Japan. Her dementia isn't throwing up lots of interesting stories, she is trotting thru her days and weeks with our support. Well, a lot of MY support.

The coming week she has one day of daycare. I have a large video narration job ahead, some editing work, some classes - and three evening classes. I recently told myself to do no more than 3 evening lessons when he isn't here - because otherwose I'll go pop with trying to do it all.

So. Onwards into the week.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Family ties

Had a wonderful ordinary week.
He was home.
I relaxed. The cat relaxed. Okaasan maybe relaxed.
Just doing ordinary stuff together was soooooooo good.

And now he's gone again for 11 days. The final big ski job of this season.
I'm back to being the Decider.

Just simple stuff was great - someone else to break up all those old supermarket boxes and take them to recycling. Someone else to check that niggly point on the computer. Someone else....

It was also a big stress reliever that Wednesday was a holiday in Japan - first day of spring. So I had 2 days work, a day off and then another 2 days of work. And only one evening class. I could go home at normal time, eat dinner and watch TV. Bliss.

We did a family trip to a shopping mall. Gave Okaasan the trolley to push around for us while we shopped - honestly, that's what it is like. She doesn't do much actively about shopping - stops at her fave foods and looks for a loooong time and then finally chooses something.
So, like a small child helping mom - she pushed the trolley and followed us round the shops. Then we sat in the food court and had a coffee - looking at people.

The little dementia oddities are there all the time. They pop up and remind you that Okaasan's view of the world is a bit off.
In the gas station I chatted about how self-service stands were unusual when I first came to Japan 20 years ago.
"Yes, it all changed after the war" commented Okaasan.
??????? the war???? No! Only 20 years ago! The war was 60 years ago!!!
And she giggled and agreed.
And then said the same thing 2 minutes later...

Later, in a convenience store, she bought a magazine and followed Dear Son to the checkout to pay. Then walked to the store entrance. Turned around and looked: "I wonder if they have magazines here?"...
You just bought a magazine! Look - in your hand, in that bag, it's a magazine...
More giggles.

And day care. She went quite happily this week to ballroom dance. Dear Son got her out the door and away. Then helped me swoop into her room and clean up stuff. Next month there is day care and dancing every week.

It's all good. Ongoing.

11 days of Being Full Time Oyomesan.

'ere we go :-)

Saturday, 16 March 2013


Thank God It's the Weekend.

The cat is eating and miaowing again.
He's gone away skiing for two days - but promises to talk to the ski school about turning down some work next week...because he wants to do the last big work of the season March 22 to 31.
So he'll be home next week. Mostly.

And I have a whole weekend ahead of me to relax mind and body.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Fire fighting life

When you ease back in the dentist's chair with a sigh of relief - and then almost fall asleep between treatments.
You KNOW your day is bad.

Awake between 2 and 4 am reading newspapers and trying to cheer up the cat.
Huge melt of snow, streets full of 20 cm of dirty snow melt. Hard to drive or walk.
TWO hours at the vets, while he does blood tests and checks, and talks to you at end up with the same diagnosis: your cat is depressed and has a gum infection.
Missed appointment with the accountant.
Almost missed 11 am class too.
Then no time for lunch.
Rushed to dentist. 20 minutes of relaxation while the new night guard fitting is checked.
Home to lunch, livened up cat on antibiotics, watch TV, make Okaasan's dinner and put it in flasks on the table.
Back out again at 4.15 pm.
Second appointment with the accountant. I OWE the tax office $50.....and the account charged me $300 for telling me that.
Streets now freezing into deep ruts of dirty snow. Have to clear shovel some outside the house to stop passing cars getting stuck.

Finally, at 8 pm back home exhausted with it all. Dreaming of a glass of wine and a quiet dinner of maybe the deer curry pack I brought back from east Hokkaido last month.

I find the food flasks open, but the food uneaten - and Okaasan says:"Oh, but I was waiting for you to come home, so we could eat together!"

BUGGER! Bugger Bugger.
DON'T want to have to eat with her after all that long day.
But have to.
Don't have any more energy left for making conversation.
I heat up her food, dish up leftovers for me and eat across the table from her in silence.
10 minutes later I tell her I have a cold coming and should go straight to bed.
One blog commentator praised me for not taking out stress on Okaasan...well, I don't beat her up (like far too many awful stories in Japan recently), but there are many times when I just don't have any more energy to give her - in conversations or brightness.

I escape upstairs to a glass of wine and some cheese.
And the cat is STILL lively. THAT is a good thing. Is he still on the drugs-induced-happiness...or is he really feeling better? Anyway I dish out as many expensive dried food snacks as he wants to eat. Just happy to see him eating again.

Thought quite a lot about stress and life today.
Maybe something has got to be changed in our winter life - because obviously the cat is feeling stress, and I know I am feeling stress. I don't have any ovaries now to multiply and pop... I expect some other body part could go wrong.
It all stems from his job as a ski instructor and being away for long times at a stretch.
And my job being morning, afternoon AND evening.
Something has to change.
The trouble with working freelance - as we both do - is that you don't want to turn down work when it's offered.
So he says "Yes" to every ski job, and I say "yes" to every evening class.
Maybe in winter, when he is away, I should limit the number of evening classes I teach to 2 or 3 a week. So I can come home late afternoon and be here for the depressed cat and make the old lady's dinner and eat with her.
Or he has to say "No" to more ski jobs and be home more.
When a family life is over-stressed the stress filters down to the lower members and in our case it was the cat. Stuck inside in a crazy-weather winter. Left alone while mom and dad work. Ignored by his sibling who goes out more to climb snow drifts.

Yesterday was just an awful day - I just ran around putting out the necessary fires of life.
Something's gotta give.

52 years old. Got be apply some wisdom to life.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Birthday moan.

It's my birthday, and I'm feeling blue.
One of the cats is sick again. He was fine Saturday morning - we went away for the night - and came home and he wasn't eating, miaowing or walking around.
Monday morning the vet said he has a bad gum - could be stress, could be a cold. That's why he isn't eating. Poor little bugger had a shot of something and came home stronger.
Now he is all moping around again.

And it's my birthday.

We went away for a night to ski and enjoy hot springs and good food.
Did. In a way. Kind of.
Yes another weekend of blizzard hit north Japan, and after nine deaths last weekend in cars and among people who tried to walk home from their stopped cars - the TV news was full of warnings and advice.
We packed a blanket and shovel in the car and drove away, leaving a cat sitter for the cats and three lots of meal delivery for Okaasan.

Windy weather and snowy roads, but we managed to ski at my favorite ski area for a few hours. Then drove to a wonderful little lodge in Niseko to stay. He'd stayed here during working (it's owned by a ski teacher) and the decor, food, welcome and all was fantastic.
We had hot spring at dusk in the local big hotel - mixed outdoor bath with about 20 people of all sexes, ages and sizes - then dinner at the guest house.

52 years. Oh God. Feels so, so adult. Guess my life is now.
We have a vague dream that when Okaasan dies we'll live in NIseko - with all the skiing. Maybe I'll teach in Sapporo 4 days a week, and then home to the snow. Maybe we'd have a guest this? It was nice to sit there and think about that.
(Although I wonder about the reality of growing old in a place like Niseko....we are in our 50s now, if Okaasan goes on another few years...we could be late 50s before we start a new stage of life...and that would give us 10 years of healthy life to be able to cope with living in a deep snow, countryside place).
Sunday morning the TV was full of even more warnings - so we gave up on the second day skiing and came directly home. Via the long route on the main road, round the mountains. Took us about 5 hours. Thru a blizzard, thru back roads and then double back because we were low on gas. Thru a couple-in-car-fight. Joys oh joys.
Came home to relax. And find our poor cat all sick and moping.
I feel guilty that our recent lives has given the cat stress. Yujiro away all the time, me rushing in and out trying to do home and work and cooking and shopping. And spending too much of my home time here - right here - on the computer, playing wordgames, reading blogs and making comments on Facebook.
And the poor cat felt the stress of all that. They can't go out so much because of the snow. And I'm hardly here.
You can see how I can load on the woe.
And he went away again today working: for 3 days.
And it's my birthday.
Okaasan seemed to cope ok with another abandonment. She ate all her delivery meals, and left the packaging all over the kitchen. Today she went to day care for hula dance. Yujiro had the joy of getting her ready and out the door.
Oh, but. My cat.
I cancelled my evening class to stay home with him. I have an easy dinner from a department store. A wonderful friend has just come to the door and given me a basket of goodies.
Life IS good. Really. Just feel blaghhhh...
Yesterday in Japan was the 2nd anniversary of the disasters that hit Tohoku. Just thinking about all of that puts my moaning into perspective.
My birthday will always be linked in my mind to the terrible Tohoku disaster. I celebrated 50 years old with a surprise limousine and champange, while thousands died.
I went to the bank this morning and set up a regular donation to a charity I support in the disaster region. There are people with broken lives, families and businesses.
I have it good. Very good.
But thankyou for listening to my moan.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Locked out.

Okaasan got locked out of the house in a snow storm tonight..
But luckily, went to the 90 year old neighbor and hunkered down in her living room to discuss shopping bags and bad families that abandon old ladies.

Morning was like spring. Sapporo filled with the sound of dripping as meters of snow got a brush of sunshine and the big melt started. Of course this meant that all sorts of roof tops became danger-zones.

Neighbor's garage gets a "little off the top" before collapsing.

Anyway, nice day. I had no classes and because I am my own (bad) boss, I gave myself the day off. Went to the gym, we had family lunch. Nice day, so we sent Okaasan off for a walk.
Then he and I went to see a movie.

Came out around 6.15 pm, checked some sports clothes shops...checked his phone on our way to the car - and found SIX messages from Okaasan.

She's gone out without her key.."Please come home, I'm waiting". An hour before.

We got back - now the spring melt had reverted to the usual snow storm - and found Okaasan in the neighbor's home. No key. And no coat again - wearing a thick cardigan and a muffler...
Brought her in for dinner etc. She seemed ok....we all just ate and got on into our respective evenings by the TVs.

But, but....haaa....we should have checked. We were here in the house when she left, we should have checked she had cell phone and house key in her handbag. And was wearing a coat.
When she leaves the house and we are not home - she has to have a key to lock the front door - but when we are here somewhere she just trots out without having to look in her bag.

Old lady care. Have to think all the time. :-(


Monday, 4 March 2013

Ongoing sweetness..

I. Am. Gooooooood.........

Thanks to the supermarket and some pumpkin soup I had in the freezer - I managed to create a happy Doll's Festival dinner for Okaasan. And even risked sharing a small bottle of sparkling wine with her :-()
She loved the cherry blossom motive plastic box with rice and fish bits, she loved the soup, she loved the bean paste Prince and Princess sweets - loved it all and prattled on and on happily all thru dinner about them.
Dear Son didn't get home from skiing until almost 10 pm - so Okaasan and Me enjoyed our girls' festival dinner together.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

A busman's holiday...

What does an Oyomesan do on a Saturday night off?

Go see a documentary film about dementia...毎日がアルツハイマー (Everyday is Alzheimer's) is a Japanese film by dierctor Yuka Sekiguchi about living with her mother and the big A - Alzheimer's.

I went to see it for several reasons: a) to compare Okaasan to this lady, b) to try and see how I and Dear Son could be doing better and c) to see what our future might hold.
Excellent movie. Really recommend it. Hate the phrase heart-warming, but it was. And depressing. And funny. And a bit scary.

Sekiguchi returned to Japan after 29 years away in Australia - so virtually a stranger to her mother - and moved into mum's home  to care for mum amid a house stuffed-full of STUFF.

Lots of familiar things: the food hoarding, the mess, the compulsive buying (toilet rolls), the repeating conversations, the stony face, the worried face, the giggles and simple laughter, the negativity, daytime sleeping and nighttime activity.
All there and so familiar.

The movie spans about two years, and mum's face changes - as her eyes show more confusion and sadness and her personal care gets worse and worse. In one shocking scene the daycare workers get mum's socks off and everyone realises she hasn't cut her toe nails in ages...and they are knarled and yellow and animal-like.
There are two interviews with a doctor - the old "What day is today and can you remember three things I told you a few minutes ago?" tests, and brain MRI, and interiews  with experts. And many, many scene of life at home.

The audience in the movie theater was mainly middle aged women - I bet all of us carers to demented family members. All of taking a night off at the movie theater with a film about our daily lives!

Comparing Okaasan? I think her conversation powers are not as strong as Sekiguchi's mum, and her determination NOT to do something (hula/social/buy a coat) is very strong. But she goes out a lot and wants to engage with the world more. That's good.

As I trudged home in the blizzard - Sapporo got hit by a huuuuge

storm yesterday - I felt that the main take-home message of the film was the importance of human interaction, the chats, the little laughs, the breaking up of a day, light, activity, routines, more laughs.
Scenes in the film between mum and grand-daughter were pretty awesome, the simple communication, and then the final scene - where mum watches a video of grandson in Australia playing piano - and her eyes soften as she enjoys the music and applauds. My old, stony heart was warmed.

So, back at the local station I popped into the supermarket to buy cat food. And then bought some sprigs of plum blossom for Okaasan.
Today is Doll's Festival in Japan, a day for families with girl children to display dolls and eat foods colored pink.

While I was out at the film, Okaasan was home with a tabletop cooker pot of food....which she somehow managed to burn. I think I'll be scrubbing that into reuse...

But, for a moment I put THAT to one side, and like a little ray of sunshine I trotted into Okaasan's room just now and asked her advice about arranging the plum blossom. Then together we cleaned the Japanese room display area and set out blossom, dolls, snacks and sweets.
(while she was kneeling I checked her toenails.....all ok there, she is still doing that herself!)
Okaasan happy. Chatting about how she had a big 7-step display of dolls when she was a child. But then all the younger children were boys, until the final girl. And then there was the war....and then her childhood was over.
Happy and chatty. Positioning the dolls, dusting the alcove.
A little bit of happiness in life.

I think I do a good job with Okaasan generally. But I'm not a chatty, big personality person at home (THAT all goes into work as a language teacher), and I envied Sekiguchi her ability to chat along, roar with laughter and generally be a force of energy in her mum's life...and her ability to hold a camera and think of camera-angles while doing domestic stuff.
But I can try to do the little bits of lighthearted things. The chats, the playing cats entertainment, the seasonal/traditional things. I can do that.

A day to be good to my Okaasan and lighten her world.

* P.S. "busman's holiday" is British? slang for a holiday that isn't really a holiday, cos it is doing a familiar thing. Bus drivers who go on a bus tour for their holidays aren't really escaping their everyday working lives.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Made it so far. FRiday.

Got to Friday.
Seems like a loooong week. I'm hanging in there.
Okaasan hasn't been any trouble, no aggression, no terrible crazies.
She went walking a few days (hat and gloves...but no coat, just cardigan), she even washed a few dishes, she didn't try cooking and she bored me stupid with dinner time chat about movie star homes, flower arranging and climbing Ayres Rock in Australia.
Those subjects in themselves are not boring - well flower arranging is a pretty anal topic - but if you take each story and repeat it endlessly, in 1 to 2 minute loops.


I did escape one night. Left food for her, and after an evening class I went to my fave curry restaurant and had beer, seafood and spinach curry and a large plate of nan bread drowning in melted cheese. Read the newspaper, sipped beer. Relaxed.
Trouble was - all of that meant I didn't sleep so well, so then lack-of-sleep was added into the end of week mix.

She asked about Dear Son a few times, but is never too bothered to hear he is working and will come home at the weekend. She feels relaxed with her Oyomesan.
The cooking has been okay. Just. Thankgoodness for supermarket pre-cooked stuff and the freezer. And delivery lunches.

But, this week I heard a sad story from a student - that just puts all my stuff into perspective.
My student's sister-in-law killed herself a week ago today. Took lots of pills and jumped from her apartment roof. A year ago she tried and failed and has been seeing doctors and taking meds ever since.
And about 10 years ago.....her brother killed himself too.
Left behind are a 16 year old daughter, about to do lots of end of year tests at school, and her husband with a oneman business to run.
I remember last Friday - I was busy after the trips - classes and prood reading, thinking about Okaasan and dinner - a bit hassled in life.
But somewhere here in Sapporo this poor woman was beyond that. Far beyond.

Suicide is so awful for the families. So many people seem to be determined to kill themselves, whatever the situation of their lives. If they failed once, they will almost certainly try again.

And this family I heard about this week: what about the next generation? The 16 year old has lost her mother and uncle to suicide. How will she grow up....?

As I say, it puts things into perspective.

And so I plod on.