Thursday, 9 April 2015

Springing forward

"Spring" as a concept is almost here in Sapporo.
Sometimes. Maybe.
There are days of warm sunshine, when crocus flowers crowd the gardens and park. We walk around smiling.
Then there are days of ear-burning temperatures, swirling snow flakes. Hunched shoulders and grimaces.

Okaasan is alternatively out and about vs snuggled in the heated table asleep.
Her solo walking is getting more regular and safer. A few times coming home late and tired. A few times with no telephone/GPS. No falls.
Dear Son has been home more as the ski season sputters on - so Okaasan has had more conversation and family mealtimes. She even washed up the dinner dishes twice - but the fact that I remember that and recall it here shows you how irregular that action is.

We notice little things about Okaasan and her life-view that tell us her brain cells are drifting away, although day to day she is a happy old lady - giggly and smiley.

* VERY giggly and smiley if she can get alcohol! We have just finished the small bottle of sake that we've been giving her tiny amounts of at dinner time recently. We pour a little in a cup and then hide the bottle quickly.
On the last night I gave Okaasan the bottle and cup so she could look at the label and pour for herself. She put the bottle to her lips, threw back her head - and downed the remaining sake in one! Guy style!
No Japanese ladies of her generation - and probably many generations after too - would ever do something as uncouth as that :-) It's a childlike untrammeled joy in something tasting good. Very uncharacteristic of a polite, elderly lady.
And a very good reason for hiding bottles of alcohol.
I think the day is a-coming when DS and I won't be able to have glasses/cans of alcohol on the dinner table - because if we have it and Okaasan spies it - she wants it, and more, and more...

* Another evening we gave her the box of heated rice and her rice bowl to serve herself. However, there was a tea cup in front of her too - and I watched Okaasan carefully move the steaming rice with her chopsticks - from the box into the tea cup.

Giggles all round.

* Missing stories:

Sad proof that one of Okaasan's old stories has gone - temporarily or for ever.

I have a new student who is born in Japan, but introduces himself as Korean. I was talking about that with Okaasan. How many such people have "yagi" as part of their Japanese family name etc.
I waited for her once-familiar story to appear: My friend at school was called Tamako Yagi, but the day the war ended, she never came back to school - maybe she was Korean and her family went back? 
I've heard that story a million times. Three/four years ago.
Now I told my story a few times, she told me that "Yagi" is a common name used by Korean families in Japan etc. But her school friend's story didn't emerge.
THEN I told her story as if it were my own.
One of my students wartime had a school friend named Tamako Yagi, but the day war ended she didn't come back to school...
Okaasan just made "really? Yagi is a name used by Koreans in Japan" replies. 
Her own story, once an endless part of her repertoire, just gone?

As a reader of this blog commented once: the annoying, repeated stories become almost like friends - when they have apparently gone, you kind of miss them.

The Oliver James book Contented Dementia recommends identifying A Primary Theme - a story/experience that the "client" holds special, that as the dementia progresses you can use to enter their world by key words/gestures - when speech is disappearing.

I made a list of Okaasan's favorite stories when I read the book - four years ago?

1. Korean food is best - New York and the JTB guide - Ikebukuro restaurant.
2. Tamako Yagi and school.
3. Father bought crab home and I waited up for him.
4. Father drank sake and gave me drinking snacks.
5. Our house had a telephone and neighbors came to use it.
6. War started and there were no lessons, I made army underwear and picked vegetables. No food.
7. I played with my brothers by the river.
8.The US didn't bomb Kawagoe because of its history.

Now? 1 and 2 seem to have gone. We don't hear those stories now. Even if we prompt with the key words. The others are maybe there - 6 and 8 particularly.
And so it goes....

MY life - and kind DS too - was rather than over my the cat crisis of a close friend. One of her indoor cats vanished for 9 days. As she had just come out of hospital after knee replacement, we headed the search for her - with a poster and flyer blitz of the neighborhood. Police and vets and every possible way we could think. Rushing away with a cat trap in the middle of dinner when a possible sighting was reported etc
On the 9th day - my friend found cat poop and hairs in her English classroom........
A few hours later she had caught her kitty and he is fine. We are all amazed.


Plans for the screening of Mainichi ga Alzheimer/Everyday is Alzheimer, the documentary films by Yuka Sekiguchi - plans are in motion. Just about to get the event flyer printed...6 weeks now to the event, time to crank up the promotion and gather a screening day team for May 23.

More on that later.

I see sunshine and blue may be spring...I should go check. :-)

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