Saturday, 27 February 2016


My Solo Decider Winter is almost over! He is home - for 3 days now - no work! He is home and getting bossy with the cooking. I have no problem with that - he can do it all for me.

Today we took Okaasan out in the car for a lunch and a walk. Had delicious noodles in a nice restaurant in a village south of the city, and then walked Okaasan round an electrical superstore and a supermarket for exercise.
I feel all my stress levels coming down, just knowing that I don't have to be responsible for everything that happens in this home - from the garbage bags out on the right day to cooking and serving dinner, to keeping the dust levels below knee-level and monitoring the cat and his injures.

Last Wednesday (before he came back) I had an evening class. I cooked two savory pancakes for Okaasan and got her to the table just I was heading out to my evening class.

The pancakes were on the table top hot plate - almost done - all the sauces were there - and the ingredients for my pancakes were on the kitchen counter for when I came home later. I showed Okaasan the sauces and showed her how to switch off the hot plate - and drove away to work.
SLIGHTLY worried about the hot plate and wondered whether to call her and remind her again. Last week there was one badly burned tabletop cooker. But the student came early and I forgot.

Two hours later after 8 pm I arrived home. House was still standing. Relief.
Walked into the kitchen....pancake smell was still strong.
Okaasan was still in the kitchen. Sitting at the table! She'd eaten one pancake - but hadn't used any of the usual sauces - and the second one was browning nicely on the hot plate.

"Can I eat it? Really? Is it alright? This is for me??" she asked.
So sweet. So sad.

She had sat there for two hours wondering and hoping if she could  eat the second one. Couldn't remember what I'd said of course. Didn't notice/understand the line up of ingredients on the counter 1 meter away which indicated the makings of more pancakes.

So sat there and looked at the tempting food. But didn't eat it. For two hours...

And still didn't seem to understand what to do with all the sauces that usually go on this traditional Japanese dish. She ate the second one, browned and slightly dry. But happy.

I do feel she is losing the clear understanding of familiar routines in the kitchen. The tea making. The washing up of the lunch box. The rice bowls. We are prompting her more and more.

Slightly drifting in ability.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Happy Valentine's....

All I really wanted was - a break.

And I got it. Chocolate can be another time. By now I am December and January done of solo house, cats and Okaasan care. It's feeling loooong.

Ski season will continue busy for another few weeks. So he'll be away.

But Saturday night he was home - and on Valentine's Day he gave me: supervising his mother for bathtime and washing her hair. And then he took her out to lunch and left me happily wallowing in my pajamas with the TV.
I gave him? I finally persuaded Okaasan to let me cut her finger nails, which were yellow and long and starting to curl! She put me off twice - "I'm busy putting on face cream!...I'm looking for my big scissors..", but finally I marched in with an old newspaper for the talon bits and two pairs of cutters - sat down on the carpet next to her, took her hand firmly and started cutting away.

She actually told me at one point that Japanese people don't worry so much about long nails, as foreigners do....but I think she meant Japanese bears don't worry too much...

Anyway, a few months of growth was cut back successfully. It is such a personal thing to do for someone: cutting their finger nails.

And that was our Valentine's Day. I stayed in my pajamas. He did family duty lunch...and we watched a lot of TV.
Monday morning he drove away again for another week.

The cat is out of his big collar, but still in the house until his wounds really heal. I bought rat poison to try and kill what he is hunting.....slightly worried he will eat a poisoned rat...but the poison is meant to be quick if I keep him in for at least another week....I don't think cats would go near a sick/dieing or dead rat.

Sorry. You can see my obsession  at the moment. How to protect my furball.

Saturday, 6 February 2016


This was meant to be a heart-warming blog about taking my Okaasan to the Sapporo Snow Festival. Oyomesan and Okaasan, hand in hand, strolling the park and enjoying good snacks and amazing snow statues.

It isn't.

This is me at the snow festival....not pictured are three large oysters I ate, and the Macau egg tart..or the roasted chestnuts.

Okaasan? In her favorite coffee shop with a coffee and her Mont Blanc pastry. Looking out the windows at the Snow Festival.

Both of us happy actually.

I took her downtown after lunch. Via car and a different subway. That threw her a bit. Going on an unfamiliar subway, different names. The festival site was packed of course and she gripped my hand as we set out to look at ice and snow statues. 
She was mildly interested. Kept saying: "this is where I always come!". And then got really fixated on the coffee shop that overlooks the park. I was trying to get her to walk a little more and then go for coffee - but it became a whinge: "there's my coffee shop! You can sit on the 2nd floor and look outside! My coffee shop! We should turn left here...we can see the park from the 2nd floor. That's where I always go..." on and on and on and on.

I snapped at her. Actually dropped her hand and let her shuffle across the ice and snow alone while I followed a few paces behind. Gave in and went to the coffee shop. Settled her on the 2nd floor with coffee and pastry. And went back out for an hour to enjoy the festival.

Here is some Sapporo Snow Festival :-)

I went back after an hour and she was happy enough looking out the window at the crowds. I sat for a few moments, then suggested we walk on...and she came willingly. Through the shopping mall, the subway, the supermarket...and home.
It wasn't the idealised trip to the festival together - but we both did what we wanted. And she had some mental and physical exercise.

This week she was fine. The cat wasn't. He bloody well went out and got a NEW injury! Ripped out his left thumb and damaged his right. Somehow. Needed 4 stitches in the wound. Is back in the collar and under house arrest. I'm back to barricading him into the 2nd floor of the house and dealing with two cats and medicines.....aghhh....

Okaasan didn't mention her brother's death at all. I didn't either. Just let that be....Dear Son is the person to talk about that, if she wants to again. She went out with day service ok to the supermarket on Wednesday.

One slightly strange thing: for the first time she asked me WHERE very familiar things are in the house.
"Where is the toilet? Where is the tea?"
Haven't noticed that before. Confusion about what is inside the house itself. We maybe need to put up Toilet signs...

Finally. Like everyone I get on YouTube and end up finding all sorts of random stuff. Cat videos. Adam Lambert as a high school boy. A guy snowboarding in New York recently.
Also things about Alzheimer's. Found this video. It's a very interesting and moving description by an American about her mother's stages of Alzheimer's. 7 stages she gives.
If you have time have a look. It IS VERY religious - be warned if that isn't your thing. It isn't mine. But if you can get thru the Bible quotes and the annoying guitar playing. Interesting. 
I thought Okaasan was at stage 5..6....but as the narrator says - dementia isn't linear. There are ups and downs of ability and outlook. Lovely photographs of this lady's mother. 

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

A timely visit.

Okaasan's younger brother has died.
The gentleman and his family who were the main focus of our visit to the hometown in November last year.
SO good that we went when we did.
That evening in the hotel he was well enough to be with us, talking and eating and drinking - meeting his older sister for what we and his family knew was probably the last time as he battled cancer.

So Dear Son - on a one day visit home in his crazy ski season - went into Okaasan's room to tell her yesterday.

She appeared to take the news well enough, looking many times at the party photograph she has by her sitting place. Mind you, she did comment: "I thought he'd got fat at that party, people shouldn't eat too too much, it's probably why he died, eating too much!".
Her answer for all of life's illness. If Dear Son dies in a bus crash in front of his mother, she will probably say: "ahh, he ate too much".

Anyway. All that work and stress to get Okaasan to go to Kawagoe with us in November. It was worth it. The family came together that evening and all met again. Kazuko and her brothers from those sooooo familiar stories I hear every evening at the kitchen table.

The stories are still there, although often mixed up. One evening this week Okaasan was gaily telling me that she herself didn't ski as a child, because she was always busy looking after the younger kids and helping with housework...but that her youngest sister Hiroko skied as a child near their home.

Hard to believe that in the early 1950s in the post-war Tokyo rural hinterland little Hiroko somehow had the family money and connections to go a usually no snowy place. LATER in life, when she married and her daughter married an Austrian there was skiing...but that must have been the 1980s.....

But on the other hand - at the kitchen table Okaasan on another night stunned me with a comment of such complete clarity I almost didn't understand it.
"This plastic tablecloth  comes from your family home, it's useful because you can wipe it clean".

At first I was confused. Japanese language doesn't have pronouns, so I thought she was talking about HER family home. But, no - she meant MY family home in England.

Just amazing. She remembered that I brought this back from the UK after my Dad died, and yes - this tablecloth has been part of my memories for years. We haven't talked about that at all recently, so this knowledge from six years ago is there and suddenly popped up - clear and correct.

Such is dementia.

Busy January is over. It was crazy. And the result was obvious when I ventured back to the gym after one month absence: I weigh 63 kg. Usually 60 something. 59 something If I am very good.
But 63 kg is waaaay too much.

Having to fight back on it. Have started a secret Facebook group of supportive friends to help me Get Back on Track by mid-March and my birthday.

So February. Got some new students. Got a narration job. Got editing jobs. Have just put my foot down over needing more pay for a particular job - got Couch Surfers coming for Sapporo Snow Festival.

The cat's ear has recovered. But it is bent back at the tip. Like a boxer's ear. He is back outside getting into trouble. He and his brother sometimes fight because they are bored with inside life.
They came to live with us six years ago today. I found them on a poster in a convenience store and couldn't chose which one - so brought home both...

Love them. Despite all the noise, fights, stress, vets bills....