Saturday, 29 August 2015

Magazine buying..and buying...

This is not a good sign: multiple magazines...

Until now Okaasan always clearly knew which magazines she had already bought, and which she HAD to buy right now.
Magazines are one of her passions. These young women fashion magazines. Always. She never buys middle aged or older person magazines. Fashion magazines with free bag offers.
When I moved/tidied away her magazines a few years ago she got really angry with me and accused me of stealing etc etc. It ended up as a huge family row...was that the time DS hit her and I left home for 4 days? I can't remember now. but maybe. All over her precious magazines.

So, I was surprised a little sad to find all these multiple magazines in her room this week. Not a good sign: she is beginning to lose the memory on something very important to her.

Next morning I asked her politely if she needed all these magazines and whether I could take some to give my students. Okaasan was as surprised as me to see multiples: did I buy these? All these? Why? I must be losing my mind! 
But she gave them up willingly and my Friday students were happy with the windfall. Funny though: my 50-70 years old students all said: Oh, I don't read this magazine myself. My daughter/daughter-in-law would like it though!!

But 85 years old Okaasan loves these magazines :-)

Meanwhile. Family trip to the local festival this morning. Walk in the local area. Sit in the festival. Eat some food. Say hello to a few familiar faces. Okaasan enjoyed it. Maybe. Sat looking at it all. Responded if we talked about something. Ate her way through a curry, some Chinese dumplings, some soy bean snacks and half a sausage. Came home hand in hand with her son.
Family outing. Makes me realize always how frail she is really. Watching her walk. Get off balance easily in a dip in the tarmac. Clutching onto walls and fences.
We are lucky that she doesn't go so far alone now. Downtown by subway is maybe twice a month now. Most of her daily walks are very local.

I'm off away tonight to stay at a friend's home and then early tomorrow driving a few hours east into the mountains to do another day of kayak training. Yippeeeeee!!!
A little scary. But yippppeeeee!

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Calling home

Saturday - Okaasan got stuck downtown with no money.
But, luckily, had the smarts to ask a station staff member for help - and call her Dear Son.
Luckily too - that Dear Son and That Foreign Woman were still at home and able to drive downtown and get her. They were just 45 mins away from leaving the house and going out to eat meat and beer...

Good really.
Okaasan gets herself in these situations - heading out without enough money or without her prepaid subway card - but can rescue herself with the help of others.
She hasn't been downtown in ages. And this wasn't a very successful trip.
Don't know what happened with the subway card. She has it in a little leather pocket holder, but moves her things around between multiple it could be anywhere.
I really should go into her room and extract about 20 bags. Give them to the charity to auction online again. Reduce the number of places where Okaasan can hide stuff away.

*** About the November Memories Trip to Okaasan's Hometown - DS says he will talk to his uncle and see if they are home at that time. And if so, go ahead and book air tickets and hotels.
Students have said to me: Is Okaasan excited about the trip?
They are a bit shocked when I say we aren't consulting her about it all all. In fact we probably won't even tell her about it until about....2 days...3 days? before the flight.

Telling her earlier would over excite her. Get her into a panic of clothes checking/shopping/washing/packing/repacking/stressing.
And probably: I need new clothes for the trip! And I must buy souvenirs for everyone!

DS will already be in Tokyo then - he will go a week ahead to meet, greet, eat and drink with friends. So it would be ME on the receiving end of all Okaasan's pre-trip panic.
I don't need the stress.
If we go - I will wash and prepare her clothes. Get her to the hair salon. Get her to have a bath. Buy and send souvenirs to the family.

Tell her...oh..I don't know...2 days before the trip maybe?
That's more than enough time for her to get in a tizz about it.

We'll see. Not decided yet.

* Dad.
Long term readers of this blog (congratulations!) will know that a few years ago I had a terrible, terrible year when my father and then my step-mum died, AND I  injured my knee and could hardly walk AND developed a multiplying ovary system and had an operation etc.
The start of it all was 6 years ago.
My step mum had a car accident and was in hospital.
And Dad...weighed down by a lot of stress...died one evening at home. Cooking sausages. 
It was 6 years ago that he died. 6 years. I miss my Dad still - things I would like to tell him/ask him. Things I know he would laugh at. He'd LOVE the whole Donald Trump madness in the US at the moment.....silly things....
I miss my Dad.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Coming soon....the Homecoming trip?

Road trip with Okaasan.
Yup. I'm clearly a masochist: I have just suggested to DS that this November we should take Okaasan with us when we go to the Tokyo area!
Take her to her birth town Kawagoe to see her brother etc. Walk the old streets of her childhood memories.

Last chance while she is able to walk, talk and understand?
Chance because we are both going this year (he to his usual 1 week of old drinking haunts and me for a short trip so we can both go to the Elton John concert in Yokohama...).

This would mean me preparing Okaasan to leave this house, take her to the airport, fly with her to Tokyo and take her to Kawagoe.
Then hand over to DS and the family.

All sorts of things to consider.
But DS can see the reasons why this might be the year to do this trip for Okaasan. 
He goes every year for a week of meetings friends. But this year I am going too.
And Okaasan is still physically and mentally able to do this trip.

A big problem would be how to keep her away from her old house - where useless brother lives now. Once she got in THERE we might never get her out.....or she might want to bring everything in it back to Sapporo...
And another problem area is what to do with Okaasan the night we are at the concert. Could we leave her alone for a few hours in a strange hotel? Would she wander? Get lost?

I feel we should leave her with family that night.
DS thinks it is all too much travelling.

Anyway. The idea is out there this space.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

70 years ago today..

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.

So. Confusion.

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 we couldn't get food...we had nothing to 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 :-)

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Sake into water

Okaasan is 85 years young.
Yesterday we celebrated by taking her to a fancy crab restaurant downtown - private room, multi-course dinner of yummy crab parts... and some miracle working.

Dear Son, who is trying hard to become an  alcoholic, insisted that we go for the all-you-can-drink plan at the restaurant. I'm not too bothered if I drink alcohol or not at this kind of family duty meal. Okaasan shouldn't drink more than a small amount. And he can out drink a fish. So really he was choosing only for him. Typical Japanese male. All members of the group have to have the same plan. It's an aspect of Japan I don't like. The pressure to drink.

Anyway. He started drinking beers. I ordered one wine. Okaasan ordered sake and it came in a little glass bottle so she could pour endless top ups into a small glass for herself.
Just dangerous. I KNEW this was going to happen. Why didn't DS think the same?
He knows what his mum is like....why oh why oh why did he think this was a good idea?

After she'd downed two glasses of sake in five minutes I took control. We couldn't let her drink like this and get sick...on her birthday, in a public place....on a hot age 85.

I ordered a glass of water for myself, then distracted Okaasan with chat about the menu descriptions - and with my left hand grabbed the sake bottle and hid it under my side of the table. Poured the sake out into an other container, poured the water in - added a tiny amount of sake for taste - and sneaked it back onto the table behind Okaasan's tabletop cooking pot.

Held my breath....when she reached for the sake bottle....and....she drank comment at all about "this sake tastes weak" or "this isn't sake!!".

We continued our dinner.

Then the waitress brought out the Birthday Surprise for the celebrating guest. We'd expected a few candles in a small cake or something. A little present from the restaurant.

It was a traditional (but actually plastic) keg of...sake! Huge amount. 
Okaasan was delighted. Of course. She banged the keg top with a mallet - see picture - and the waitress opened up a golden ball with streamers and Congrats message.

Now we had even MORE sake to spirit away :-(

So we let her drink a little of the keg. We drank some too. 
Then...more distracting...more under the table hiding, transferring, rebottling of water...and DS and I ended up drinking a whole lot of sake ourselves. Neither of us really like sake...but it had to be done.

Okaasan never noticed me moving the bottle and returning it to the table top. She never noticed that she was actually drinking water. Strange. But a relief. Sake looks like water too - that is a BIG help. 

Meanwhile under the table on the tatami mat near my handbag I had a whole collection of glasses and sake box cups filled with variations on the sake to water miracle.....

Happy Birthday Okaasan.
Roll on another year....

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Don't mention the GUESTS!!!!

Made a mistake today..

Like British comedy hero Basil Fawlty's "Don't mention the war"...I should have known better than to mention "guests" to Okaasan.

Casually as I prepped Okaasan's lunchtime I first mentioned them. As in: sorry I am not eating lunch with you because I have German guests arriving at the station and I'll eat with them maybe.
Just getting back into Couch Surfing again after a long absence.

Okaasan fussed a bit about me cooking her lunch when I should be going to meet my guests..and I reassured her that they hadn't arrived yet.
Later, while she dozed in front of the Tv for the afternoon I went to welcome the young Germans and their huge backpacks. Took them to the classroom...showed them shower and bed things. Left them to recover from 20 hours of flying.

At home Okaasan was stressing.
The guests. Should I tidy my room? Are they coming here? Is this blouse ok?
On and on and on and on.

However many times I said: you won't meet them. They are staying in my classroom. They are asleep. They won't come here. Don't worry. Don't worry. They won't come here. Don't worry.

She did. Worried about her room, the kitchen, her clothes.

Got ready to go out - still worrying. Will the guests come into my room?

Came home late: but the guests are still here? Are they here? Is there dinner?

So tiring. I didn't snap at her. I was good. But it was endless.

"Guests" = Major Stress.

I should never have mentioned them.

* on a positive note. Okaasan had a bath and I gave her my nail clippers and showed her how to clip her talons...really really long finger nails. She has also had a hair cut.

All ready to celebrate her 84th birthday next week :-)