Monday, 24 April 2017

Into summer mode....

We survived.
Okaasan and Me and Knee - all week.

The cooking wasn't very creative. She ate prepared food boxes for 3 days while I worked long hours. But she survived.
I survived too. The knee is stronger day by day. Bike rides! First subway ride! Went to a movie theater!

When I had a hair cut I dropped Okaasan off at the supermarket opposite the salon, with careful instructions to meet me in Macdonald's next door when she was ready. She often goes to the big M after the supermarket, so I hoped it would come naturally. I parked the car at the supermarket.

Just as my hair cut was finishing the stylist pointed out Okaasan hovering that the supermarket doors. Looking at people going in and out, looking at the road, looking back into the shop.
While I paid and got my coat and bag etc - she continued to hover. Obviously wondering what she was meant to be doing next.
Is someone picking me up in a car?
Is there someone with me who is in the supermarket still?
What am I doing here?

Sadly, not chooisng the other option of "Go to Macdonald's".

Anyway. I got to her ok and parked her in the big M with a coffee while I did shopping, then brought us both home in the car.

Dear Son is home from the final house clearing.
Three boxes of stuff - he says mainly photographs and some trash he couldn't dump....are also coming.

And so the house sale. And Okaasan will discover this sometime soon.....when the real estate people have to get her permission to sell her home of 30 years.

I'm hoping I can find a photo of Okaasan when she was young to show you!

Dear Son will start summer work soon.
The garden is starting to flower with early spring stuff.
Okaasan has been out several times ALONE for a walk and managed to come home ok.
That final point is a big relief, I wasn't looking forward to us having to escort her all the time. But she seems, at the moment, to be ok.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Diapered.

I just diapered my mother-in-law.
And I'm feeling flushed with success.

I caught her just as she was leaving the toilet early morning. I followed her back into her room and showed her the new diapers.

"Maybe it's a good time to change these?"
"Why? Did I wet myself? I didn't, did I?"
"I don't know, but you wear these now in case you do - and you haven't changed for a few days. maybe fresh is nicer?"

I pulled up a chair, sat her on it, gently took off her pajamas...and pants (Oh...NOT diapers, that means there are soiled diapers somewhere in the room...) and helped her put on the fresh diapers.

"Did I wet myself? I don't think so?" she actually fingered the crotch area of her pants and showed it to me......like kids who pick up interesting bits of sick seconds after vomiting....YUK

But success.

She is just more passive now. Really. If you talk her gently into an action, as though this is a normal thing, we always do etc etc...and then she just follows.

Busy week at work - knee getting better - holding it all together with the help of convenience store food. 

But thought I'd share that big success with you! Cos I know you were waiting to hear...

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Alone again....

Well - a deux again. Okaasan and Me.

Dear Son has gone to the family home near Tokyo for 5 days to meet the real estate agent and look at tea ceremony cups, kimono and what ever else may be of value. I'm hoping he will bring back photographs of Okaasan a long time ago - I'd love to see them and maybe she would like it too. We have no photographs here.


So. Okaasan and Me - we are alone for the week.
My knee is good enough now that I can walk down th stairs, carefully. I went on my bike at the weekend too. I have a busy work week, but we've arranged food box deliveries to help me out when I can't cook.

Best thing is Okaasan and walking. She has been out 3 times now, alone.
Each time she went out just locally and came home ok. Tired. But ok.
One time I found her on the door step - unable to find her front door key, and her handbag was greasy with a half eaten fried bun and the remains of a convenience store coffee. But she got home ok.

She even remembered that my knee is bad! We have just sold our old car to a breaker company. When the driver arrive to take the car away I could hear Okaasan telling him in the entrance area: "Amanda's leg is bad, so she can't come down teh stairs quickly" - which was surprising really, that all of that information was in her mind and she thought to tell someone.

It's such a small point - but really I notice things like that, because it IS a surprising thing, for someone who is usually all internally focused.

Let's see how this week goes. 
Diapers...oh yes...should think about that, too....

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

How to diaper

To diaper.

I think it must be a verb.

Next week Dear Son will escape south to a warm country with cherry blossoms, leaving me and my recovering knee to manage life at home...and his mother...and her diapers.
While he is arranging to sell the family home....

Adult diapers. Somehow, amazingly - he has managed to get her to start wearing them. After a series of toilet accidents he gently explained that it would be a big help to him if she would consider wearing them.

So, every other day he goes into her room and encourages her to change diapers. 

Next week it'll be my turn.
He and I practiced what and how I should say it. How I should get Okaasan standing, open the diapers at carpet level and ask her to step inside....then leave her to pull them up. Retain some dignity in this topic. She doesn't change them herself - takes off the old ones sometimes and leaves them around the room - - anywhere but the diaper bin we've placed near the door....

Anyway. My task - one of many, next week.

And day service finished for this winter. 
On Saturday Dear Son let his mother go walking alone! Considering she was getting lost and confused last year, this was a brave...or lazy...move.
But he stayed home and tracked her on the mobile phone GPS. And went out in the car to rescue her when she ran out of walking steam.

I can't walk with her yet. My walking is limited to about 20 steps from car to shop and back again.
But I can let her go out alone and track her progress.

Onwards.

Last night I went in to Okaasan's room to close her curtains...told her food would be ready soon.

"I'm not eating!
"Oh? Are you ok? Why?"
"I don't eat in the morning..."

"It isn't morning. It's 7 pm....dinner time...."
"Oh? Is it???"

I guess my routine is to often go into her room in the morning and OPEN the curtains - so the scenario fit. But it was quirky all the same.


Tuesday, 4 April 2017

The whatsit...in the room

So April.

Operation House Sell this month.

Dearest Son and Boyfriend will go to the family home near Tokyo and meet the real estate agent. Discuss the sale of the house. Look at the maybe-valuable stuff left over from the house cleaning and decide what to do with it.
The real state company will send staff here - over an hour flight to a different part of Japan ! - to meet Okaasan and get her permission to sell the house. Sign documents etc.

Dear Son plans to tell her Older Brother has "moved somewhere smaller, and he doesn't need the house of course and we all agreed it would be best to sell, didn't we?"

Well. Yes. "somewhere smaller". Like a box in the temple!!

Hopefully all of that will go off ok. I think it will. Okaasan is generally less confrontational about things now. She may want stuff from the house - a tea cup and a kimono or two may placate her. Does she even remember things that were in the house now?

And so we sail on - with the death of the older brother as the big No No topic. His picture in its black frame is in our living room upstairs, where Okaasan doesn't go. His Buddhist memorial plaque too.

Yesterday I came home and Okaasan was in the kitchen leafing thru just arrived post on the table. 

"This for Amanda-sa, this for Dearest darling Perfect Son...oh this is for my Oldest Son!..."....the TV cable company had failed on the "please change name on all post" request....and sent the schedule magazine for April using Oldest Son's name.

I made vague sounds about taking the post upstairs, going to the toilet...making dinner...and swept it away from Okaasan's gaze.

She didn't mention any more.
The Dead Family Member Whose Name We Must Not Mention...

* Knee Update - walking slowly inside. Crutches outside. Walked up the stairs last night. Progress!

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The elderly. And the Infirm.

Dear Son.

What did he do to deserve this?

Two women who need his help in endless ways.....must have a whole lot of bad karma to work thru...

Sunday we went out and did a family trip to the shopping mall for lunch.

Dear Son had to help both Okaasan and Me get from the front door to the car safely, across the still melting, icy snow. Had to find sweater/socks/handbag/coat for Okaasan. Coat and keys for Me.

At the shopping mall he had to take Okaasan down the escalator. Then leave her gripping onto a rail. Run back UP the other escalator and help me hop awkwardly onto the moving top step...down two flights of escalators.

Then I hopped thru the shopping center with them.

Restaurant. Noodles for lunch. Okaasan ordered a huge set and Dear Son was in charge of sneaking food off her plate and finally halting her eating, eating....

Then they went shopping. I sat on a bench.

Then he went and got the car and helped his two old women back into the car, and drove us home.

I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

AND.....I've joined Okaasan in the soiled clothes routine....the other night I didn't have the energy to go back downstairs to use the toilet...woke up next morning with a Godfather-life-wetness-in-the-bed. Only it wasn't a horse's head.....

So Dear Son had wet sheets and pajamas and a soiled mattress....which he managed to move into our all day sunny office space - where a lot of baking powder and a hard vacuuming has hopefully cleaned it....Oh. I hate being like this. :-(

He's done a lot over the past 3 weeks. We've got stroppy with eachother several times.  But I AM so grateful to him.

I could give some thankyou back - let him go off yesterday and use two free movie tickets a student gave me. And I agreed that he could and should go ski working this weekend - it will be a boring old weekend for me....but I can just about get food on the table and wash up dishes. Feed the cats. Wash their dishes. Clean the litter box.

I think I can. I am getting around to most of my work solo now. With help from students and center staff.

Last night I walked 3 small steps into his waiting hands - like a toddler. The knee is still swollen and aches. Not big pain. But aches. Behind the knee muscles and ligaments seem....healing....

Oh. Just tired at the moment.

Many people with far worse problems....just feel sorry for myself. I'm not a good invalid.




Sunday, 26 March 2017

8 years ago.....





EIGHT years ago!!!! - we started life together in our new home - the big old concrete box near the subway line in the south side of the city. 
Friends helped us move and clean - our small apartment spilled out into a large house with big closets, we ate sushi as a first night dinner and our old cat Bob and the goldfish were with us.

Life really WITH Okaasan began. The first four months she'd lived in an apartment 2 doors away from our home - but the carrying food between the homes, the cooking, the bathroom....it was all too much - so we moved.]




What a lot of life and death we have already seen here. Bob-cat died. The goldfish ? What happened to them??? I gave birth to a garden. We discovered we had a huge garden shed. And BBQ space. Then my step-mum in the UK had a car crash, then dad died, then my step-mum died......then my ovaries multiplied and ballooned up inside me and I had 'em out....then kittens that grew into fat cats....and...and...and..

And Okaasan's dementia steadily grew. 
When we came here she would wash clothes by hand,leaving half-finished laundry all over the place - and go outside and hang it up in the garden. Go and re-hang MY laundry up in the garden too. She would wash dishes, Heat up food in the microwave. Read the newspaper. Change TV channels if it was boring. Go walking for miles late afternoon, ride the subway.....downtown alone. Tell looooong stories about the war and trips to New York and Australia. About family and husband. Take bath when we told her to - and get out of it alone.

8 years she has changed. Not as badly as we all thought. I think that is our care for her.
There is decline in her abilities, but less because she lives with us and we do so much to fill in the gaps. 

Thankyou if you have reading this blog since those days - since the peeing in trash bins, the domestic violence drama, the fights....

And today? We are going out as a sweet little family: lunch. A shopping center walk for Dear Son and Okaasan. A sit in the car and Pokemon hunt for me...

My knee?
The MRI showed a tear in the meniscus. The doctor says it should repair naturally. The behind the knee ligaments and muscles are improving and today I may stand and take a step. I have been practicing standing the last day or two. Trying to put weight to my left.
Strangely, the day we went to see the doc I was in tremendous pain in the knee. Don't know why. I cried my way thru the doctor talk and happily took painkillers. One day later - pain gone. Don't know WHAT I did to get that.

 I am getting around to my work - with Dear Son's help with the car if I can't park near enough the work place. He is shopping and cooking and doing so SO much.
I'm frustrated. But trying to accept. Go slowly. 

Anyway. 8 years in this house. Seems faaaaar longer!



Sunday, 19 March 2017

Hobblin....hobblin...

Still hobblin.

I don't know. Sometimes I think it is getting a little better...and then I move in a random way and there is a lot of pain. I can't put my leg straight. There is still knee swelling.

But sanity (and exhaustion) - I have gone back to work. With big help getting there etc.
Telling the same old story over and over again. Actually it's a good judge of student's real ability - how much they can ask and find out about the situation from me. Should use a Faked Disability as a level check for future students????

Okaasan.
Her reaction.
Well, of course she sees me hobbling around with crutches and has asked three times why.

Ski accident.
Knee injury. Hurts

Oh? Skiing?

....................

And that is about that.
That lack of empathy really. I could be wearing a bright yellow sweater with live kittens sewn into the sleeves....I think there would be the same response.

None of the: where/why/how....doctor advice?....shared tales....offers to help.

It doesn't matter. I GET all of that from wonderful students/employers at the community centers and my man....but it is interesting how she responds to obvious injury and pain and hardship in another.

Last night she watched me wash up all the dinner plates - sitting on a chair at the sink, with crutches to my left.....and there was no offer to help....nothing. Dear Son was chatting and she was responding....and nothing....usually Japanese women rush to help you even before you have an inkling that you might need ANY help....but no.

It's ok. Just a thing.

A shitty thing.
Dear Son had the full shitty experience.....he is a wonder...he cleaned up the soiled area, washed the clothes...washed his mother's body AND got her to wear a paper diaper.

He is a good man....

So. Spring is arriving. W"arm sunshine. Melting snow. I'm inside.

Going to try driving tomorrow to work. Can get to the classroom with the center staff's help. TUesday MRI.....Thursday MRI result.....

Heard a horror story from a student:
She fell while skiing a few years ago and drove home with pain.
Had pain the following week and went to the doctor. Got some pain killers.
Had a quiet life....but walked the dog and went shopping.
3 weeks later - THREE WEEKS! - she went to a different doctor and had MRI and they found the ligament had broken in her knee....operation...in hospital for a month..physical therapy for three months.....

Oh God. 

But now she is skiing again :-)

I will return. I will return. I will.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Two old crocks


My left knee......ski accident...on my birthday....

SO glad this house has some handles for Okaasan to help me get around!

Also so glad that Dear Son's ski season is nearly done and he can be home to look after two old ladies.

My 56th year started so well. Carefree weekend away with my man in the sun...skiing at two different resorts. Nice hotel, buffet dinner and breakfast. Yay! A little worried about the left knee, which has been painful since the stand-and-do-nothing volunteer work 3 weeks ago.
But determined to have fun.
Day 1. Fun.
Hotel and buffet dinner etc Onsen - Fun.
Knee a little sore. But ready for Day 2.
Day 2 - sunny - views for miles.
Skied from 9 am till 11.30 am - snow getting wet and heavy with spring.

Fell at the bottom. Skis over head. Knee screaming.
I actually got up and skied to the coffee shop. Remained determined over a coffee that I'd ski again. But then - after hobbling to the toilet realized it wasn't going to happen.
We came back. 

Now cancelled work, doctor checks. Pain. MRI next week....

Maybe muscles? Not ligaments. Not bone. Instructions to do nothing - just sit. Very hard for me... crutches. Drag myself to the toilet downstairs on my bum. etc etc etc.
GYAAAAGHHHHHH!!! That same old knee from a few years ago.

OKaasan hasn't seen me on crutches yet. Cos I ate all meals upstairs. Good excuse to escape family mealtime (a bit drastic, though).
She'll probably tell me I was over-eating - which was true with the hotel buffet to graze....

So. There we are. Back to damaged knee......bugger.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Cross-cultural mind f***

Knew that cheese fondue bliss would come back on me.
Cheese-overdose....night sweats, constipation...y'know....

Stupid cross-cultural living with a senior.
Rant follows.

It had been a good day, professionally and personally.
I'd taught my classes, visit-taught another teacher's class who love me. Been to the gym (and somehow toned up in after a month of gym absence)...caught some Pokemon. Planned some classes.
All good.
Came home for family dinner. Boring old oden, simmered pot of fish paste, seaweed and vegetables. But ok. Back on family duty time...

We had our beer. We had our food.
Dear Son and Okaasan were doing the ritual "cheers/kampai!" with their glasses, I was momentarily distracted by opening the mustard tube....got to the "cheers" a few seconds late.

"Sorry! I was focusing on the food! Not the alcohol! I was the working person today, so I was focused on the food! You both stayed home :-)"

Except it wasn't received with a Smiley face.

Okaasan looked grumpy and muttered something....

Dear Son jumped in to stop a Female Fist Fight....saying things about : "It's ok, she's a foreigner, it's different, it's ok, but you can't say that, it's rude..." etc etc

I was floundering in cross-cultural confusion.
What? What was rude?  What? Eh???

Apparently: my statement about me being the working person, and therefore more interested in the food - THAT was rude!

Even though....
-  it was said as a joke, with a jokey voice and a laugh
-  but is actually TRUE. They watched TV all day. I worked.
-  Okaasan often says: "I shouldn't eat so much, after all I didn't work today

what the F***????????

I shut up and ate the rest of my boring Japanese traditional dinner of fish paste stuff in silence. Fuming about stupid things in a foreign country. Feeling that horribly alone feeling, far away from good old England and my family and friends. Hating a culture where the senior can criticize a junior like this safe in the knowledge that respect-for-senior will prevent a fist fight, hating these strange family-relation situations. Hating living with another generation.

WAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

Thankyou. Rant finished.


If you are ever given a choice about Live with a Senior, or Don't.

 Choose: Don't.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Ahhhhhhhhh. Happiness....


No. She didn't die!!!

But when my dear, sweet man said "What do you want for dinner tonight, when Okaasan has bought her own food at the supermarket with day service?"

There was only ONE answer!

We ate it together in the kitchen. Okaasan had eaten earlier in front of her TV. We enjoyed the cheeeeeeeeeeseeeeeee winery wonderful fondue.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Turning pro...

Carer's daydream.

When this is all over...yes, when Okaasan dies....I imagine what we'll do.

What I ACTUALLY imagine for the day she dies is a lot of confusion...specially if I am alone here and find her under the kotatsu, with the TV blaring and gone. If Dear Son is away in the mountains I guess I'll just have to leave Okaasan in situ and call him to come start the whole process of police? funeral company? whatever whatever (he is having a practice run with that now after his brother's death).

And cheese fondue.
I actually imagine that our first dinner without Okaasan will be cheese fondue.
Yes. I'm that bad.
In my mind cheese fondue represents our lives Before Okaasan. What we could eat when she wasn't living with us. Of course, we could eat it now and across the table give her something healthy - but my fondue daydreams represent so much more than cheese, flour and wine. It represents our old days. Freedom from responsibility. What we could enjoy at home before we had to consider an elderly Japanese lady and her needs.

Anyway.

After that...I imagine we'll have to decide what to do with the next stage of our lives. Stay here in this house? Move? Move to a ski resort? Open a guest house?

Or.

Become a professional carer?

This is actually the point of this blog. Not cheese fondue on the night an old lady dies.

Caring skills. I'm getting pretty good at this - I DO say so myself. I could do this and get paid for it. :-)

I'm basking in Carer Confidence after this weekend's Bath time.
It really all went well, with a few minus points, but I'm really getting the hang of this. And Okaasan followed directions and was happy and didn't slap me. Progress.

Start the bath running. Heat up the changing area. Set out a chair, pink towels (not the frayed at the seams one, otherwise she'll fuss about sewing it).
Tell Okaasan it's bathtime.
Encourage her to switch off the TV and go to the bathroom.
She undresses herself.
Check water temperature.
Leave her for a bit.
Check the water temperature.
Go in about 4 more times under different pretexts - now I am SO much better at just walking into her bathroom. Bright smile, chat. Most normal thing in the world to be standing with you next to the bathtub.
While she is bathing - do a quick clean of her room. Grab laundry.
After 45 mins start encouraging her to get out.
Keep at it.
And again.
Finally start talking about "lunch is ready" and gently tapping her hands and then the bath rail to show her HOW to pull herself up out of the bath.
Direct her with gentle finger taps to move her bum around so she is in the correct position to stand.
Repeat.
Start draining water from the bath.
Finally, put my hand under her armpits and lift her up to start her standing.
Let her get out of the bath.
Sit her on the bath-stool. Wash her hair. Chat.
Help with towels etc, back to her room.
Toe nail clipping.....and under toe nail scraping (wow! 86 year old body still growing!)
Hair drying....encourage her to use the dryer.
Give her water to drink. Time to cool down.

Start cooking lunch.
All of that between 9.30 and 11.30 am.
She was mainly happy and smiley. Didn't get stressed or angry. Didn't slap my hands or shout. Only screamed once - I give myself minus points for forgetting to warm my hands before touching her body in the bath.

Pretty successful.
A year ago I still wasn't confident about even going into the bathroom with her.
Now? Old pro!

So. Should I forget the daydreams of owning a guest house in a ski resort and welcoming guests from around the world? Should I think about opening a care home for seniors?!!

Probably not.
It's one thing to do it for someone out of love for their son. Family duty. Easing the guilt I feel because I didn't do much caring for my own parents in the UK. It would be a whole other level to do this day in and day out for strangers....I admire people who do that SO MUCH.

Pat on the back - with warm hands - for carers everywhere. We are doing a great job. :-)

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Spooooky!!!!

The world really IS a small place.

A friend in the UK met her new neighbor the other day. Discovered that she'd lived in Japan. Had missed Japan after leaving. Had started reading a blog about life in Japan as part of her reconnecting.

A blog by a British woman living with her Japanese mother in law.

Who has dementia......


Yaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!

me! here!

Hi Erin!!!  ;-)

Isn't that strange??? There are many, many blogs by expats living in Japan. I know quite a lot of people in the UK. Sarah was an old colleague from my journalist days in the UK 25 plus years ago. I haven't actually met her for years, we connect on Facebook now.

And her new neighbor is a reader of this blog.

Spooooky!!!

And in other, less happy news.

I did one day of volunteer work for the Asian Winter Games. Then quit in disappointment and anger. And exhaustion.

My volunteer place, the VIP and event executive HQ hotel. They had too many volunteers and the staff (civil servants from many places around Japan) didn't USE the volunteers for much at all. Just made us stand in the hotel lobby....for hours. Decoration volunteers.

I directed a few people to the breakfast room. I helped a Chinese women with a suitcase. Showed two businessmen (not AWG people at all) the way to a lunch place. Err. I held up a sign "Observation Tour" for 20 mins.

Errr. That was it.
Really.
I didn't escort ANY VIP to a waiting taxi. Didn't share any local knowledge with anyone. Just stood for 5 hours. Then lunch. Then stood some more...

So I quit. Told the Volunteer Center why. They offered more work in a different place, but I'm already hearing tales of boredom and frustration fro students and old friends at other venues. So - No thankyou.
I'd rather have my life back.

So. Here is a picture of me as a brief volunteer at the Asian Winter Games..


Okaasan?

Dear Son is home and looking after everything. Best of all he provides a bit of dinner-time chat to enliven the evening.

One thing. Okaasan and pee smell. She really really smells strongly of pee. After she's been to the toilet it even wafts up to the 2nd floor.
Is it her body? Her urine-soaked clothes? I must do a major laundry blitz.
Or does her actual pee smell so strong???

I have to investigate.

Oh, and the cat has a lump on his neck. Have to take care of that.

No time to dwell on volunteer disappointment!! Got Pokemon to catch, pee to check, cat to attend to....onwards.

Hi Erin!!! I am thinking to come to the Uk in September - we can meet!!

Sunday, 19 February 2017

I want?


Okaasan peered across the table and into my bowl of ramen with slices of pork.
"I don't have that? Why? Those pork slices?"

"You want to eat it? Usually you don't eat pork meat. So we didn't put any in your bowl, you have many vegetables...but here, here you are, you have one of these slices!"

The three of us settled down - in uncommon family style for a winter home lunch together - and slurped noodles in silence.

A few minutes of slurping.

"Dear Son! Here, I don't want this! You have it!"

She had picked up the pork slice in her chopsticks and was waving it across the table him. We choked and gulped our laughter.....oh ho ho ho HO!

And I reclaimed my missing pork slice.

Just so funny. The instant of "want", and then once possessing the thing: "why do I have this? I don't want it". 
Childlike. Really. We've all seen kids shout and scream for something they want, only to cast it aside once the possession is completed.

So funny.

A quietish week or two for me with Okaasan care, because Dear Son was home more from skiing and took over the house duties. Gave me time to focus on work and going to the gym, and preparing to be a volunteer at the Sapporo Asia Winter Games.

Day Service came twice a week and Okaasan went out with them. She also went out with Dear Son a few times. Fussed around in her room a little. No major drama.
I think she is sitting more and more in front of the TV shopping channel and not opening her room curtains. Sitting in the half light, peering at the TV.
I go in and open curtains, change the TV channel, remove the food packages and the empty cans of sweet sake. ANYTHING we leave on the kitchen table she eats. The whole mantra of "I don't eat before 11 am. Eating too much is bad for you" is an alternative reality. Trump style....

THis coming week I will be a volunteer at the HQ hotel of the Asian Winter Games. Probably escorting VIPS to their cars and standing in the cold making sure taxi drivers are waiting at the right pick up point. Wasn't quite what I thought i'd be doing - I'd prepped a lot about helping foreign visitors  with shopping and dining information. But anyway. Helping somehow in the Asian version of the Olympics.


Friday, 3 February 2017

In control. Maybe.

Getting better. I guess - because I haven't run to the toilet for a few days now. But all is not 100% inside....if you know what I mean.

BEST event this week was that Dear Son came home for 3 nights and took over the cooking duties. I felt so much more relaxed, just knowing that another human being was at home taking care of stuff.

A registered letter addressed to Dear Son arrived from a real estate agent in Okaasan's home town - a valuation of the land  and house - and she just took it from the front door and left it on the kitchen table. But I wonder. She must have seen what kind of company it was from and where it was from. Did it not set off any questions in her mind?

I know he is busy at the moment and his time off is busy too, but I think he is skating on thin truth-ice with this topic. Better to tell her about Older Brother and get on with sorting out the house with Okaasan's knowledge (patchy) and consent (probably also patchy).

Anyway. Hope it doesn't blow up on MY watch.....

Onwards into February.

Sapporo Snow Festival starts next week and then in 3 weeks time i'm gonna be a volunteer at the Asian Winter Games, nicely situated at the information counter in the biggest, oldest hotel in town. Near a Starbucks.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Let's hospital.....

Okaaasan and me went to hospital. Oh yes indeedy.
A wonderful weekend of togetherness.

All started Saturday morning. In the toilet.
I'd had a party with students Friday night...eaten and drunk too much. Had an upset stomach. 
Thought that was it. Planned to spend the day quietly anyway with a Downton Abbey Season 3 and 4 DVD catchup. Felt a bit hungover.

Saturday passed. So so feeling. Quiet. Bit tired.
Lunch and dinner with Okaasan. 

Saturday night...Sunday morning.

Toilet hell. 
Both ends for me. Diarrhea and vomiting.

And the missing toiletmat told me Okaasan was having diarrhea too.

Sunday dawn I was in her room - weakly - checking for soiled towels and pajamas.

A kind friend whose husband has just spent a week in quarantine in the guest room with a stomach virus etc was advising me via Facebook thru the night and so I bagged up my and Okaasan's soiled clothes and two toilet mats and started the search for a hospital open on a Sunday.

I mailed Dear Son at the ski lodge. Told him that I was definitely going to get medicine. He agreed I should try to take Okaasan too. I'm 56 and can probably fight off a virus. She is 86.

I dreaded it. Really didn't have the energy to fight it out with her. Hospitals no no no...doctors no no....medicine....no no! I decided  to try and gently trick her into it. And if she fought me on it not to waste my dwindling energy on her.

She seemed fine. Of course didn't remember anything about her diarrhea. Even when I showed her the mat and pajamas covered with.....

At 10.15 am I entered her room and brightly suggested: "Let's go out! Nice weather today" She willingly scrambled up and started getting ready for "out". Hoping shopping and food. 

Instead we drove to a local hospital.
As we entered the parking area I made an excuse: "Oh, I was a bit sick last night, I need to get some medicine here, yes...yes...come in with me...waiting in the car is cold..."

And she came with me. No fight.

A full waiting room of zombies. Sweaty, dull, exhausted people. Influenza and stomach virus is everywhere here now. We registered and sat watching TV for an hour or more.
I had a temperature of  37. 4. Okaasan was 36.

Finally saw a breezy, cheerful doctor who managed to process us both within 4 minutes.

"Ichoen". Stomach virus. Not Noro Virus. Not food poisoning. Not infectious, unless you cough on people or share a dirty toilet seat.....and then eat food with your hands....

He questioned Okaasan, who agreed with the last thing suggested to her - without really knowing what was what.
"How many times did you have diarrhea? 4 or 5 times...?"
"5 times? yes, maybe..."

I was worse than her. Luckily. About to fall off the hospital chair actually.
They put me on a IV drip for 40 minutes.



OKaasan sat in the waiting room with all the sick people. She looked tired. She needed lunch. I needed my sofa and a blanket. But I couldn't think of easy food at home to give her, and I felt sorry that her trip out in the car was this tiring,. negative experience.

So, after we got our medicines I took her to lunch. Let her order what she liked. I ordered the smallest thing on the menu for me. And ate about 25%.

She was happy! Not a care in Okaasan's world!


THAT is all her lunch set. And still many Japanese people say - "Oh Americans/foreigners eat so much! The meals are too big"
Look at all of that. Soba noodles, 4 pieces of sushi, tempura and egg custard.

Made me feel ill just looking at it. But I managed to take away half the sushi and all of the tempura while she was looking at fallen bits of noodles on her lap. She didn't notice at all. Didn't notice the big space on the tray. Short term memory loss has its uses. The waitress looked surprised - specially as the sushi was hiding on the seat next to me. But I managed to make excuses and get it taken away.

And then. Medicine time!
"Okaasan, time for our medicine! Yes. You and me. The doctor said. Here you are. Yes. You should take this. You and I had bad diarrhea last night. very bad. Yes. We need medicine. I don't want to clear up the toilet again  this afternoon. Yes. Medicine. Here is the water. Here. Yes...here"

And. 
She took three pills.

Even exhausted. I was elated.
Mission accomplished.

Got her home. Got me to the sofa. Slept for 3 hours.
Went for a hair cut and gentle chat with my kind, sweet hairdresser at 5 pm.
Gave Okaasan small dinner and MORE medicine.
Ate half a piece of toast and dosed myself.

Slept for 10 hours.

Now? I still have diarrhea. Yesterday 70% energy. But I did classes and a magazine interview about Hokkaido tourism.
Okaasan seems fine. No diarrhea I think. My Friday night part students said in Monday class that they were all fine - it wasn't food poisoning from the hotel party food.

I'm still operating at 80%. And very careful what I eat and drink.

But. The GREAT takeaway from this is that I CAN manage Okaasan and a medical situation. I can trick her gently into coming to a hospital with me. And even into taking medicine.
That is a win-win.

Excuse me. The toilet is calling.


Sunday, 22 January 2017

Don't let it be me

Don't let it be me to tell her...that her eldest son died.

Please. Not me. Too much to do.

I'm living a bit on nerves about this, because now letters are coming to the house that the post office are redirecting from the family home - letters with eldest son's name on them. Nothing personal, letters from utility companies mainly as they close down accounts.

Okaasan doesn't see the mail every day. She usually only goes into the entrance hall when the lunch box delivery comes. And the mail usually comes later. But still. I am nervous.

Dear Son came back last week from the funeral and house clearing. Came back with things he can use etc Things he wants to keep.
A house clearing company will go in this coming week and sort through, clear out the rest. It will cost about $10,000!!! Ten thousand dollars!!!!

And if he decides to sell the land and wants to demolish the house..that would be another $8,000 plus. 

He says he would investigate future use of the land. If he needs Okaasan's involvement in anything he would retrospectively tell her Older Brother died. "Well, he died, didn't he, last year...so we have to do something with the house".....she didn't remember the fact when twop of her brothers died...so a false-but-you-knew-this-didn't-you maybe a gentler way of giving her the information.

I'm hoping that will be the way. Not her standing in the kitchen holding a letter she's just found asking ME "Why is OLder Son's post coming to this house!!! Why???"  He is back skiing again, and home on and off until the end of February.

Dear Useless Brother - his death has softened me - is with us. With me. In the living room is a black framed photograph of him from the funeral, and a wooden stand with a paper attached. On the paper is his after-death name. Not sure how long DS will want to have that in the living room.

Meanwhile Okaasan potters on in life. TV and mealtimes. Day service trips to the supermarket. Lunches and dinners with me. Eating anything she can find.


Sunday, 15 January 2017

So. Life. Ongoing.

Oblivious in Hokkaido.
Our life goes on. Me and Okaasan. While Dear Son is away in the family home clearing up his brother's life. The funeral is tomorrow.

A few close shaves when I thought Okaasan might find out. But I think we are safe. 

The lock company sent the bill to this address, so suddenly there was a letter from Okaasan's hometown...from a lock company. Addressed to DS. She saw it. Left it on the kitchen table. No comment.

Then yesterday DS sent a large box of his brother's stuff here. Again, it was sent from the family home etc. By DS himself. If Okaasan had seen the box and read the labels.

But she didn't. I caught sight of the delivery truck and ran down to meet the driver in the hallway, so he never rang the doorbell. I could take the box upstairs out of sight.

Safe.

She's had a good, normal week.

Two visits and outtings with day service.

Two baths and a hair wash. FINALLY I managed to get the timeing just right and get into the bathroom with her before she stepped into the bath. Cheerfully started in with the water and the shampoo. Just a little resistence, before she enjoyed it and let me go ahead.
I got soaked though. Glasses got misty. Sweater got very wet. Have to perfect that skill. Maybe I should be naked too???!!! :-)

Okaasan continued to eat vast amounts. 4 bananas one day - but forgot the lunchtime rice in the microwave. Ate a whole packet of cookies. Anything I leave out really. 
Making and  forgetting many many cups of tea. Or pouring cold water on the powder and then having to start again.

And today I took her downtown for a walk in the underground shopping areas and then a sit with magazines in her fave coffee shop, while I sneaked away to catch Pokemons.


No. That isn't brother sitting next to her! It's foreign man...who might not like his photograph on the Internet. 

Anyway. She was happy. Let me lead her to her usual shop to buy magazines, order the usual coffee and cake. Happy to sit for an hour. She's quite passive. Happy, I think. I brought the car outside the coffee shop so she didn't have to walk any more. Her walking is much weaker now.

And so.

Brother will be laid to rest tomorrow.
A sad life really. To die at age 60 from a medical condition you get from overeating and drinking. To die with nobody noticing. No friends worried about where you are. No close family to worry.
He was a nice enough man. I only met him three or four times. I kind of felt he was a product of the Japanese business world of the 1980s and 90s. All work for the company good. No time for self. Happiness was working and making good contacts for the company.

Now Japanese companies are better at monitoring their staff health. Advising people who are too fat and unhealthy. But in his days they didn't. Work long hours. Travel. Stay in hotels. Eat bar and shop food. Drink. And by the time he was in his late 40s he had diabetes. His sight failed in his 50s. He died at 60.

Meanwhile his younger brother jumped out of the company rat race. Quit the job in his 30s and went off to follow his ski dream. Same family. But so different.

Anyway. Sad.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Be careful what you write...

Oh my. 

December 28th? What did I write about older sibling? Oh.

He has. 

DS's older brother has died.

Alone in the family home. DS called the police on Monday after a longer than usual silence from his brother. Last contact was November 1st. Then no response to phone calls, e mails or a letter.

A lock company broke a window at the house and the police went into a place full of mail and rubbish. And found a man.

Now DS has gone to the family home area to talk with police, arrange a funeral and close a person's life.

Really, we are still in shock. Something that we'd joked about - black jokes, we are that those kind of people - but the reality is a shock. At the age of 60, probably from serious diabetes. Alone. Maybe in November or December?

In this blog this man has always been characterized by me as Useless Older Brother. Useless in relation to Okaasan. No care for her. No interest. No help.

But he was a real person. And he has died. 

So. I'll put the criticism aside for now and just record the fact.

Of course, we hope to NOT tell Okaasan. Probably fairly easy. There was so little contact between them. He never telephoned or visited. She never talks about him. The trip we did in November 2015 to visit the family was almost certainly the last family visit. Okaasan's brother, who was the focus of that trip, has since died. And now her eldest son.

Of course, there is the house. Japan is funny about inheritance. Most families don't have wills. It all just trickles down. The house still belongs to Okaasan. For DS to make decisions about the future of the house he will probably need Okaasan's participation. But that may be just a matter of using her seal on documents. Hopefully she won't have to attend in person - because THAT would be a whole confusing experience. She isn't mentally up to that, but she would think she was in charge. Maybe easier to actually wait until she has died? Just leave the house empty? Then it will legally belong to DS and he can act easily.

Anyway. All of that is to come.

For this week there is a funeral of a man who died. Of course, I am staying here in Sapporo with Okaasan. Life goes on as normal.

Be careful what you write...