Monday, 30 November 2015

Back to reassuring routines

First week back after all that excitement.
Okaasan seems fine. 
I did worry that the whole experience would push her into a new level of confusion, and certainly while we were on the trip we saw lots of confusion - now we are back home all appears to have reverted back.

After we returned there were 3 more days of autumn, time for me to hastily prepare the garden and put up Christmas lights over the front door - and then BOOM! A record breaking 42 cm of snow fell in 24 hours and turned everything into winter.
So Okaasan can't go out walking. The day service people are coming for a chat tomorrow about what kind of help we require this winter. At least once a week take her to the supermarket, dinner and chat would help me get thru the winter again. If they offer more....even though we'd have to pay for more....would be nice.

Okaasan mixes up objects at home a lot now. Cups and bowls and mugs. What to use for what food/drink. I saw her poking an apple with some scissors the other day.....

But so the warm feelings after the trip to hometown continue I have printed up a big picture of the family group. Put it in a frame and given it to her. Plus a small album booklet of pictures.

"Did we all go here?" she asked me. Probably not sure WHEN we did, but the photograph is proof that sometime we did go and meet those people.

And so: winter Okaasaan and Me. Always fun. While Dear Son is away being a ski instructor for weeks on end, Okaasan and me and home a deux for endless dinners and wartime memory chats.
ho ho ho.

Watch this space.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Return to...where?????

There we are - back in Kawagoe, back with the family, back with the memories.

We did it! She did it. I did it. He did it. Success.

Along the way....oh.....ho ho ho.....

First of all: she enjoyed it. She got noticeably brighter when we arrived in Kawagoe. Lots of old chat came out. With the family she didn't know who they were at first ("Hello? I think we met recently?", but then understood and smiled and laughed and chatted.....and DOESN'T she look great? So young and beautiful!

It was a good thing to do. Worth all the work...all the work....for her and for her family members. One of Okaasan's brothers is not so well at all, and this may be the last chance for them to meet. 

Oh, but.

You can imagine...the GETTING there was one whole HUGE puzzlement for Okaasan. Out of her familiar surroundings she was all at sea in confusion of place and time and reason. She depended on us a lot. Her dementia leaves her very vulnerable to confusion.

At 6 am on departure day she had no idea we were going anywhere. No idea there was a letter. Wanted to know WHY we were going. Wasn't at all interested. It was a major effort to get her up off the carpet and dressed.

Mind you: she then happily told everyone she met along the way: "I love going places. When they invite me to Tokyo I jump right up and say "Yes!""....yeaaaah. Right. Oyomesan groaning in the background...

The packing was a nightmare. Couldn't do it. All she could do - after a lot of pushing from me - was to put hand towels and handkerchiefs in a handbag. I packed her suitcase out of sight...and unpacked the towels and handkerchiefs....then unpacked and packed her in Yokohama and Kawagoe hotels.

And place: "Where is this?" was a constant, constant refrain. Every few minutes. At the airport, on the bus, in the hotels, in the streets, on the trains, in the hotel elevators, in the toilets...
Funniest was: "Is this my room?"...standing in the hotel bathroom? "Is this where I/we live?"
"Is this Yokohama? Is this Sapporo? THIS is Kawagoe?"

Return to Kawagoe.

And toilets: I KNOW I have been in and out of every single public toilet in Yokohama station area and then between there and Kawagoe, all over that town, and back to the airport. Know it. 
Actually maybe our trip was a tour of toilets.
We did well finding toilets and averting accidents - the final trip back to Tokyo airport I let Okaasan go into toilets alone and she chose the Japanese style squat cubical...minutes went by and she didn't come back...then started calling my name and banging on the door!
She had fallen down on the toilet floor, with her clothing round her knees...and couldn't stand up. Her body was wedged against the door - so I had to force my way into the cubical to haul her up off the floor....and get her dressed again and safely out.

While we were at the Elton John concert - 5 minutes away from the hotel - she was dozing by the TV in the room. But locked the door from the inside...had to telephone and bang on the door constantly to get her awake etc But she was safe.

And Kawagoe. The three of us walked and bussed around the old historic town, where little Kazuko had played long ago. She and I went inside the old house where a shogun was born, saw treasures and autumn leaves. She had great delight in showing off all the history and telling EVERYONE: I was born in Kawagoe!!!

We even found a town history exhibition with a friendly curator. He was obviously very interested in Okaasan and what she must know, but his questions confused her and she kept repeating: my friend lived in that shop, I don't know her name, where did I live? I don't know, I was born here!, my friend lived there, I played there, we went to the doctor's office in a rickshaw...
Frustrating for the curator. A child of course doesn't know the names of places and people. And now Okaasan has child-like memories. Lacking the facts.

"My friend lived here, we played together!"

Funny which experiences or information stick.
As we stood in the hotel foyer saying goodbye to family members I commented how well T-looked: "Was he here today? Did I meet him?"
But next morning: "H-san didn't come yesterday, because one of her husband's relatives is very sick."
So she forgot the brother who she sat next to for two hours. But remembered the sister who didn't come...and why.

And so. It is done. My good deed. I promised myself that she should go two years ago when I visited her hometown. And we managed to take her.
Today she is tired but seems fine. Chatted away. I will make up these photographs into prints and give them to her to aid her memory of the trip.
It was a huge amount of work - but the results for her and her family were good.

Now. Winter.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015


Panic packing x2

I'm packing.
Okaasan is packing.

And the taxi is coming in 45...30....20 minutes.

I am packing her suitcase surreptitiously in the kitchen.
She is packing a shopping bag with endless hand towels and scarves.

I failed to Stealth Pack at 10 pm and 5 am...because she was awake and I couldn't get into her room.


We are packing.

6 am conversation:

"We are going to Tokyo? When? I didn't know? Why? What letter? When? Today. Why? I didn't know!".

Pray for Oyomesan.


Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Stealth packing...

I'm waiting - Ninja like - to pack Okaasan's suitcase for our trip starting at 7.30 am.

She's failed to pack. :-(

This morning we talked about weather and clothes again.

I came home from work at 3.30 pm.
No sign of packing.

I got a bath running and got Okaasan to have a bath, so she is fairly presentable for the family...and other airplane passengers.

While she was in the bath I brought the suitcase out and put it on the carpet near her sitting area.

After bath and hair dry and relaxing TV...I started trying...nudging...reminding....

5 pm...6 pm...she is looking at The Letter and looking at the TV. Doing nothing.
I offer to help, and start picking up some of her clothes to put near the suitcase. It gets her up and active...but then she gets fixated on a stain on the trousers she must have worn yesterday. Angrily refuses my suggestion of a little dabbed water and fusses on.

At 7 pm we have dinner and I talk up the excitements of Yokohama and Kawagoe again. What fun we are going to have tomorrow! You can show me your hometown because you know it so well!

Now it is 8.30 pm.
She has turned off the main light in her room and is stretched out on the carpet, under the heated table...with her face to the Tv. As usual.

3 pairs of pants are nestling forlornly in the suitcase.

I realise now I should have done the packing while she was in the bath. And put the suitcase in the hallway out of sight. Should have done it for her this afternoon.

So. I am waiting till I can hear her heavy, sleepy breathing (which is when we usually turn down/off the TV or lights) - and then I will sneak into her room and pack her stuff!!!!

This IS gonna be a good trip, gonna be...gonna be....

"This here letter..."

Okaasan is getting with the program.

Yesterday morning she called me into her room and waved The Letter at me - asked me about it again, talked about clothes and weather. Seemed a little interested in going to her beloved hometown...

Yesterday afternoon I got back to find her sitting half dressed, with the letter in her hands:
"This. Are we going now? Today?"

"No, 2 days time.  Today is the 16th, look at your desk calendar. Look it says "18th" on the letter here and here, and here on your calendar it is marked with a red circle on the 18th. You can relax. The day after tomorrow!".

Hmm......maybe good. 
She didn't start moving clothes around yet. 
I've done as much washing of stuff as necessary. I've put a small suitcase in her side room, and taken the cat hairs off it.

Wait and see.

Last night I tricked two lovely relaxed, happy felines into horrible carry boxes and transported them to Kitty Hell in the vets office for 5 whole nights. A house without a cat is not a home.

One more day to go till blast off....packing is coming.

I STILL have a suspicion Okaasan is going to pull a sickie and say she can't go. Like last year when I bought the concert ticket for her and that evening she claimed to be sick and unable to go. 
We'll all waste money if she doesn't go: flight ticket/hotels for 3 people, family dinner at a hotel. I am not 100% sure I will be on a bus to the airport with her 24 hours from now...

Monday, 16 November 2015

We have lift off. (muted)

You know those moments before you tell somebody something...

Shall I do it now?
Or now?
What about now?
While they are still eating?
When they have finished that drink?
When they come back from the toilet?

When shall I tell them??????

Like the moment you break up with a lover, tell someone you are sick, tell someone you are angry with them...

I told Okaasan at 7.25 pm. After the haircut, after she'd walked home by herself, after a nice a deux dinner, after some shared beer....

"There was a special reason you had a nice haircut and perm today! Dear Son has a lovely surprise for you! Look! Here is his letter!!!"

And I gave it to her.

She read it. I waffled on brightly about how nice it will be to visit Kawagoe etc, how exciting, how nice to see her brother and his wife etc..

Her response? Muted. Not negative (thank goodness), but strangely muted. I might have suggested opening the window for some fresh air.....

We talked about it for a while.  Well, I talked and she responded...mutely.

Yes, Kawagoe is where you were born - it isn't where your house is.
Brother's wife's name??? No idea
Yokohama - maybe Chinese food?
Wednesday morning we are going to the airport.
Look I circled the days on the kitchen calendar!

She read the letter several times. She did understand. But her reaction was massively muted.

I guess she needs a long time to process this new information and think about what it means.
There was a news report recently about how changes in sense of humor can signal dementia, with inappropriate laughter at bad news or events etc. I think too many emotional responses are off-balance: lack of empathy "Oh Paris? many people died? Oh, yes" to this muted response to news about a trip to see hometown and family.

After dinner I came upstairs to watch Richard Gere movies and a program about person-centered care for dementia sufferers, and Okaasan sat in front of yet another ice skate program (Japanese TV is full of them) and read her letter.
She kept ON reading the letter...when I was in the bathroom before sleeping I could see her still reading the letter.

So. We'll see how she feels about this trip as today plays out. I have work, but am home to catch cats for pet hell late afternoon, and then home again after an evening class.

Will she get in a panic about the clothes required for the trip? Or get annoyed that a visit to her house isn't included?

Wait and see. :-)

Friday, 13 November 2015

6 days and counting....

He's gone.
I've got the letter. Three copies in case she loses it.
I've had my hair cut.
The cats are booked in for the pet hotel.

Okaasan doesn't know what delights are ahead for her.

I'll get her to have a bath today or tomorrow.
I'll try and get a few more clothes out of her room and cleaned.
Take her to the hair salon on Sunday afternoon.

Meanwhile my brain is going into overdrive about what MIGHT happen...the other night I had a dream where I was in the kitchen and DS was leaving at the front door while Okaasan had washed ALL my clothes and her own clothes and laid them out on the kitchen floor to dry...the bathroom was full of wet clothes, the sink area...and I had to shower and rush to work.
Okaasan-in-the-dream was telling me that this was the correct way to dry clothes and wouldn't let me pick anything up....

I also have a worry that she will actually refuse to go on the trip at all: because "I am sick"/ "I don't want to meet people"/ "I have nothing to wear".
With pop concert tickets, flights and hotels booked I will have to leave her. Get dayservice to come in and care for her and leave without her...
Actually that would be a better trip....

So. You can see I am in a very relaxed mood pre-trip.

Sunday evening at dinner. Okaasan will learn what exciting things are about to happen.
May the force be with me.


Saturday, 7 November 2015

Countdown to THE trip

Two weeks and counting.
Actually in 2 weeks it will all be over.
The trip to Okaasan's hometown and family.

She, of course, doesn't know anything about that. We hope. Think.
Fairly easy. We usually don't talk about DS's annual trip to party with his friends until the day he goes: "to a national ski teachers' meeting in Tokyo". Okaasan has accepted that lie and his absence quite happily for a couple of years.

This time his trip will turn into the Happy Family Trip as Okaasan and I fly to Tokyo a week later to join DS for a) he and I going to a concert and b) Okaasan going back to her roots and family.

But we aren't telling her until it is necessary, because she and we (mainly I) don't need to stress of her getting in a tizzy about the trip. 3 days notice is enough.

So. We make plans while Okaasan is oblivious.
He bought the souvenirs to send ahead by delivery company to all the family members we might meet, or who might know we are in town. Japanese custom - LOTS of gift giving. 
I'm all primed with the air ticket details.
My student who is a taxi driver is all primed with pick up information to get Okaasan and I to the airport bus stand, and then 3 days later pick us all up at the airport.
DS has the tickets for Elton John concert and all the hotel details.
Okaasan's sister in law is organizing the hotel and the family dinner.
DS goes off to meet his friends in the Tokyo area next week, leaving Okaasan and me as a happy twosome for six days.

In the final countdown:
I'm getting some of Okaasan's clothes washed/cleaned ahead of time so she can panic over clean clothes about what she needs for a two night trip
I'm booked in for a hair cut.
I've booked HER in for a haircut next Sunday afternoon - which will give me a few hours to get her clothes in final order.

And on Sunday evening next week I will tell her that DS has a surprise.
I will hand her a letter from DS (so she can keep all the information straight) - and announce:
"Hey! You and I are going to Tokyo in 3 days time!! You need to put a few clothes in a bag."

It won't be that simple......
His letter will tell her that
* The souvenirs have all been bought and sent
* You don't need new clothes for a simple family dinner
* You only need clothes for 3 days

And we'll try to leave any mention of Okaasan's old house (where useless brother lives) until....we can think of a good enough excuse for why this trip isn't going THERE.

Oh, about useless brother.
I casually mentioned to DS about who might come to the family dinner. Brother and his wife, a sister? A sister in law? The useless son/brother....

"Err...I didn't tell him. He has diabetes, he has XXX, it's not good for him to eat a lot of food..."

What the Fuck???

Men can be so, so dense sometimes.

Of COURSE useless brother should be invited! This is probably his last chance to meet his mother before she dies! He never comes here. He hardly phones. She probably won't be physically or mentally able to do and enjoy this kind of trip in future.
Whatever the man's failings as a human being...he IS her son and for his sake and her sake they should meet if at all possible. A child and mother relationship is important. Never mind coming to the funeral when she dies (as they all will I am sure) - NOW is the time to come and spend a few hours with the living person.

I couldn't believe the man-of-my-dreams could be quite so highhanded, stupid and dense. And I told him so.

Anyway, at the moment nobody has been able to contact UB - so maybe he won't come. Which will be a real shame.

Hey ho. Strange family.

Okaasan drifts along, sleeping/eating/the occasional walk/lots of TV.

We notice more and more little strange things creeping into almost every day.

* She is rearranging the toilet mat again. Sometimes level with the toilet,sometimes with the door frame. Sometimes at an angle touching both! Obviously it bothers her - that this mat is in the wrong place....but what is "wrong" changes daily.

* Had a saga with a lost kitchen knife, I asked Okaasan if she had it in her room ( because she peels apples while watching TV), but she was amazed that a knife may have somehow migrated anywhere near her...and kept offering me the TV remote instead...then came to the kitchen and tried to show me how to cut chestnuts with a carving knife....
But surprisingly - 20 minutes after I'd got back from the local store with a new knife - Okaasan had remembered long enough what I had been hunting for and found it under all her stuff.

* Oh...and trash.
She goes out often with scrunched up newspapers in her handbag....containing trash to throw away. One day it was toe nail clippings,another day a rotting shrimp from the lunchtime box a few days before.
She has two trash boxes in her room - which she uses. She also (occasionally) puts things in the kitchen trash boxes.

Not sure why she thinks it is a good idea to take trash out of the house in her handbag :-)

And so.
She is getting out for a walk sometimes.
Not far. 
Hope she will HAVE the energy for a whole airport/Yokohama hotel/trains/Kawagoe and family thing.

Hope I have the energy for it too......