Thursday 1 February 2024


A rose for a wonderful lady.

No. Not THAT one!

Our neighbor. The old lady who lived across the road for all our time here. We heard from her family that she passed away earlier this month in her care home.
She was 102?

About 2 or 3 years ago, after many falls in her home at night, the family managed to persuade her that care home life would be safer and she moved. The house stayed empty and another old lady took over the garden, growing lots of vegies and flowers.

But Mrs Hoshiba - our friendly, chatty neighbor. Gone now.

She was very happy when we moved in...15? years ago...because the house had been empty and at night the street was dark etc. She also hoped Okaasan would become a friend. But Okaasan was a little bit proud of her Tokyo life and experiences and didn't think Mrs Hoshiba was quite in her league.

But Dear Son and I were friendly with her. Chatting about the gardens and the cats. Chatting about her memories of moving to this area 60...70 years ago as a bride. Before all the buildings and the subway line. We also helped when there were technology problems in her house, or power cuts, or falls.

I lit a candle and put it outside her front door this week after hearing the news.
Good bye Mrs Hoshiba. 

 

Friday 19 January 2024

Dragon power!

 


Belated - but Happy New Year to anyone who still drops by to have a read here!

Remember this card? Designed by the son of one of my students for 2012. This was the last dragon year in the traditional Chinese/Japanese zodiac.

Dear Son, that English woman, Okaasan and two adorable little cats.

Now? 2024?

Dear Son - isn't a ski teacher anymore. House husband and snow clearer.

English woman - working hard to pay the Japanese government all the taxes they want.

Okaasan - in a bed attached to tubes, unable to talk or eat.

Little cats - one dead, and the other a fat, old boy who yowls in his waking hours.


Ahh, the memories!

This winter he and I have stayed home a lot. I hung out with friends over the holidays, catching up on lives now the Pandemic has ended and people are meeting again.

The friend who used to live in Sapporo with her baby and husband visited over the holidays because that baby is now old enough to take entrance tests for private junior high schools! And he got into one of them and they will move back here in spring.

My knee is little by little stronger - and in fact yesterday he and I went to have a VERY gentle, short ski on the local hill. Huge step for me. I had actually given up on skiing. But I could do it! In the sunshine and with wonderful snow it felt great.

This morning the knee is a little sore...so I must be careful. But after 2 years of no skiing - progress!!!

We visited Okaasan last week.

She was awake. Eyes mostly open, the head shaking, the not-so-happy sounds....eye contact a bit. 15 minutes of bedside words and hope.

Care homes and hospitals here are often still restricting family access, due to Covid. I guess we should just be grateful that they are letting us going in at all. :-(


So here we are in north Japan ^ lots of snow here finally. And soon Snow Festival and the visitors that always brings. Onwards into dragon year - with POWER in whatever you do :-)

Friday 22 December 2023


Christmases past...

Because there isn't much Okaasan and Me on Christmas 2023.

There she is in the picture above - maybe 7 years ago...in our kitchen at home, opening a present from me as I served her some kind of seasonal meal - and Dear Son was away ski working and partying at a ski teacher's home in the mountains.

And the 2nd picture is maybe 5 years ago in the first care home - we took in a present and some can drinks. Sat in her room and had some chat, pushed the wheelchair up and down the corridor and looked at the city view from the windows.

This year. Okaasan is in a hospital bed about 3 km from here. Tubes attached. Hasn't eaten anything for two years. Can't sit up in bed. Sometimes awake and maybe conscious of who is near her. 

We visited her this week. She was awake - but to be honest, I wish she hadn't been.

At the beginning of our allotted 15 min visit time she looked at Dear Son, then moaned and gurgled loudly...shaking her head violently. Then she shut her eyes. When he stroked her head she basically flinched away. So he stopped.

We sat and talked soothingly. We played White Christmas from YouTube on my smartphone. She kept her eyes closed. Her breathing calmed down.

Then we came home. A bit shocked and silent in the car.

He was sad to his mum this way. Was she happy? Was she angry? The nurse said she often makes those sounds/movements if they do something  - like moving her in the bed, changing the tubes. They don't SOUND like happy sounds.

Hard to know. I tried to reassure him that it could be confusion sounds, kind of raw emotion. Not necessarily anger or unhappiness. But even I don't believe my reassuring attempts.

Oh god. Please don't let the end of my life be like this.

This week a British Tv personality called Esther Rantzen has joined the Swiss assisted dying clinic and says that is her way out if her cancer treatment isn't successful. If I lived in the Uk I would do exactly the same. But the reality of me aging or sickening here in Japan is that I can't see HOW I would make the long flight to Switzerland to die there.

Dear Son and I talked about assisted dying the other day, how neither of us wants to be in a hospital bed for years, attached to tubes and non responsive.

"But Okaasan's situation is harder" he said....meaning that she IS responsive. She knows when somebody is there bedside, she maybe knows it is him (and me)...

We are both pretty certain Okaasan herself would never have wanted to be like this. But there is no other choice. When she stopped eating the doctors inserted tubes, and that went on from a week or two, into a month...and then into a year...now two.

And at that time 2020 she was fully conscious, able to understand the world around her. If assisted dying was possible in Japan, is THAT the point she would have chosen it? Is that the point I would chose to die? 

Would I value my life and want to continue doing it in a hospital bed, with tubes. Watching the TV, listening to music/podcasts and having visitors. I guess that is doable. At what point would I decide it wasn't?

However, the dementia makes all of that less and less certain. If she didn't have dementia, I guess now we would visit and have a few short conversations with her. Tell her about our lives, chat about the pretty flower arrangement and Bing Crosby songs. Maybe she would watch TV from her bed. Maybe she would laugh with the chatty nurse. 

ALL of that would be a life. Some kind of life.

But, what she has now is bed. Sleep. The sound of TVs nearby. Apparent stress when people do things to her. Memories? I hope she has happy memories, at least.

If we could visit more and longer, we could try to make things better for her. Play her music, massage her hands, chat brightly. Bugger COVID and the ongoing restrictions at this hospital. 15 mins a month is an impossible situation to make any meaningful difference.

Oh bugger. Pretty depressing.


 

Tuesday 21 November 2023


Memories ...November 2015...
There we are, the three of us in Kawagoe, Okaasan's beloved home town. This was the trip we made to meet up with family members - while Okaasan could still enjoy the experience and one of her ailing brothers was still alive.
I can't remember exactly, but I think Okaasan and I went to Tokyo separately from Dear Son (he was already there visiting friends) and then he and I went to an Elton John concert in Yokohama and left Okaasan alone a few hours in a hotel room, with TV and green tea?

It was a successful trip of laughs and memory reliving. Also stressful, because 10 mins before leaving the house she still wasn't packed...and I have a memory that she fell inside a locked toilet cubical at a bus terminal and Dear Son had to climb into the cubical to free her? I should check back on the Blog for clarification. :-)

Anyway. 8 years ago.
Now Okaasan is in an elderly care home hospital in Sapporo. Living in a bed, her body hooked up to tubes which put nutrition in and take out waste. Not speaking anymore. Not eating. Understanding? Maybe....the immediate environment and hopefully happy memories like this.
We visited yesterday - still only allowed 15 mins a month.
AND>>>>> she was "asleep" again.

I say that in "" marks, because I think this time it was less actual sleep, and more drug induced closed-eyes resting. I noticed that one of the tubes had a tag with the words "Dopamine" on it - and reading a little on Google tells me this is commonly used to aid the elderly bed-ridden in swallowing, and to prevent pneumonia onset. I guess it also makes you "sleepy".

So, for our allotted 15 minutes of visit time, again, we sat bedside and talked and stroked her face. She lay there with closed eyes and occasion involuntary arm and face movements. Her eyelids moved more than before, so maybe it wasn't exactly sleep. But she looked peaceful enough.

And, to be honest, this kind of visit is easiest for us. We don't have to fill in the time with bright, friendly chat. We don't have to suffer her angry or sad expressions - and feel guilty. We just sit there and offer gentle comfort.

And then go home and get on with our lives for another month.

But still. 8 years ago Okaasan was chatty and active, enjoying a visit to her old haunts. Eating everything we put within reach and enjoying life.

I'm so glad we did that trip. A few years can make a whole difference in an elderly person's abilities and cognition. If you have elderly in your life - make real plans right now to go do that thing that'll make them happy!