Okaasan was 15 years old and at lunchtime the Emperor came on the radio and announced that Japan was surrendering.
What does she remember of that day?
Not sure because her end of war memories get merged in with war and after memories. All jumbled together.
She sometimes says that people were surprised to hear the Emperor's voice, and happy that war had ended. And that when she went back to her school after that a friend called "Yagi" never came back to school - because she must have been Korean and gone back to Korea.
And - of course - that she didn't have lessons and made soldiers' underwear. And didn't have much food to eat because they had no nearby countryside relatives, and that the secret police stole any food packages before delivery.
All of that. Endlessly.
But then: recently she told me that she couldn't learn English wartime because there were no classes and it was the enemy language. (True). And that after the war she went straight to an English circle and started learning English. (Maybe Not True) and then she went abroad to America and South Africa and Hawaii etc (Not True For Sure).
The learning English and travelling was years later - after she married, had the kids, was a super housewife, then husband died...actually about 20 years ago Okaasan learned English and then traveled abroad. First to Hawaii with a hula dance class.
But in her mind the end of war and 20 years ago has all sandwiched together.
Even when I said (because I am a bad dementia carer!!): "Oh? You traveled after the war in the 1950s? I thought everyone in Japan was very poor? How could you travel?"
She came right back with an answer: "Oh my family were quite rich, so we had money and I studied English and traveled..."
Which isn't true.
As far as we know: she went back to school after the war, she helped her mother with the young siblings, she got a job as a book keeper in a local company...and a few years later met a young accountant from Kyushu who eventually became her husband.
No English lessons and foreign trips.
This summer DS and I have no summer holiday as such. I have a lighter work schedule and am slipping away most days to do something relaxing - lunches and dinners with friends, beer garden, movies, bike rides, walking, TV, gardening, cat photo exhibition, eating ice cream.
DS is working - this week 4 days of intensive care for the regular blind lady customer who uses him as a personal assistant while she is in Sapporo - all sorts of far-beyond-taxi-driver-duties such as handbag making and negotiating patience with hotel staff.
So he has been out and I have been holding the fort with Okaasan: lunches and dinners. Mostly I've been out, so she has eaten a lot alone. I've supervised her walks out. Can't remember when she last went downtown. She is only walking locally now.
Mostly ok. Bathtimes. Money supervision. Forgot to order lunchbox for her yesterday and had to rush home with something. She was sitting at the kitchen table with a half eaten fish paste sausage and confusion.
In her room recently she is obsessively putting things into and sorting thru lots of little bags and wallets and purses. She has got more as freebies from magazines and is filling them with rolled up newspapers and single, important items. It is a nightmare for trying to FIND something of course. I guess it is a controlling and organizing her possessions activity. But the result is the opposite: when she is faced with 8 little flowery\pattern bags...impossible to know which one contains a pair of scissors and which contains a New Year card from 3 years ago.
She is VERY focused on her own life and memories. I mentioned that the neighbor was busy with many relatives visiting for the Obon Festival (remembering the ancestors) and Okaasan launched straight into her usual: "Relatives? During the war we didn't have relatives living near in the countryside...so we couldn't get food...we had nothing to eat...it was very hard..." on and on and on and on.
I listened to five rounds of that story and then made an excuse to hang laundry.
Been crazy hot in Japan this past 2-3 weeks. Terrible stories again of old people dieing of heat stroke alone in their homes. One particularly was beyond shocking: three elderly sisters - in their 80s and 90s...died at the same time in their home. They HAD air conditioning, but didn't like to use it. The temperatures were 35 C plus every day....
So easy to understand how it happens.
Okaasan just sits with the TV or sleeps in front of the TV. She only drinks something at mealtimes. I've even found her recently wearing WINTER pajamas!! And once the heated table was actually switched on. Windows sometimes closed - because at 8.30 am the garbage truck had gone by the house and she had shut the windows against the noise/smell. At 3 pm with temperatures roaring - the windows were still closed :-(
I give her water bottles, check the windows, suggest switching on the electric fan. All good daughter-in-law duties.
Happy Summer Everyone :-)