Thursday, 29 December 2022

Ending we started...

 So this is Christmas

And what have you done?
Another year over
And a new one just begun

And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

(John Lennon
So This Is Christmas)

Love this song. Poignant. Sad. Hopeful. Realistic.

Well, 2022 - for many of us the first ordinary Christmas after the Pandemic. People could travel again and meet family and friends. Groups were ok, international and domestic travel was ok.
In Japan we are all still wearing masks, and restaurants and shops still have plastic barriers on tables and at cash registers. In Hokkaido daily new infections are about 6,000, with a shockingly high death rate...yesterday 34 people died.
The last figure is confusing though. This is people who died BECAUSE of Covid, or WITH Covid. The media doesn't tell us. But one of my students lost her elderly aunt a month or two, the old lady had a heart attack in her room at the care home. And then the autopsy revealed she had Covid, and the family couldn't have the body for funeral rites - it was quickly cremated.
So, I keep wondering - was HER death included in that day's Covid Deaths on the news? She was a very old woman with a heart condition, so her death isn't that surprising. It may have been as an indirect result of the virus, but maybe not.

Anyway. The virus is still zapping around here as we all wrap up work for another year and enjoy a week of holiday between calendar changes. And Japan is starting to get nervous about millions of Chinese people who are likely to grab the chance and start international travel again, following this week's government announcement. We have the big snow festivals here in early February, which usually attract thousand of international visitors.
There's a slight feeling of deja vu - 3 years ago there was news of a virus spreading in China, and a kind of relief that the big tour groups from China didn't come to the Snow Festival as something called a "lockdown" began. 3 years on though, we do have vaccines.

But old people still locked away in care homes, unable to meet their family.

The Christmas card for Okaasan.
I motivated Dear Son. Found the card. We signed it. He delivered it to the care home.
We hope the nurses showed it to her with bright, happy voices. We hope she understood what it is.
We haven't met her since December 2021.

Our December has been a bit eventful.

My ongoing knee problems prevented any skiing or snowshoeing. But the knee is getting stronger, and I can do ordinary life...apart from walking more than about 1km. So, I've done a lot of reading, TV and online stuff.

Eventful was one of the cats. The fatty lumps around his neck turned out to be cancerous tumors in his lymph glands. Last year similar lumps were fatty lumps of an overweight, middle aged animal. This time they weren't.
Lots of stressy talks with our vet and an introduction to the expert vet at the big regional veterinarian teaching hospital across town. An operation was ruled out because the cancer was in several positions around the neck. Last week he started chemo and steroids.

The strange thing is that he is actually super fine thru all this. Eating, pooping, chasing his brother up the stairs. Noisy.
And after only two chemo shots the neck lumps have vanished. We go back to the vets for Round 3 today. He is 13 years old, and we hope he'll live into another summer of grass and flowers. I also hope my savings for old age won't all disappear into my vet's bank account. Pet Insurance has a $100 a day price cap.

What else?

Oh, yeah. Booked air tickets for England!! Back to the old country for the first time in 5 years. End of HUGELY expensive cost. But now, thanks to Putin's war and longer flight routes, the oil prices etc etc. Also it's direct  flights Tokyo/Heathrow. I can't do a long transit anymore. Just want to get there. The direct flight time is already over 15 hours!!!

So. This was Christmas 2022.
I'm home now for the next week. Eating too much chocolate and watching Netflix. Meeting a few friends. Prepping my accounts for February and the accountant. Monitoring the cat. Doing my leg exercises.

Happy Holidays to you. Let's hope 2023 brings joy to more people.

Tuesday, 8 November 2022

AND another online visit...


Still doing the waving and talking extra loud in front of a screen - held by a double masked staffer at Okaasan's care home.

Gosh, I didn't even post in October. Did we have an online meeting at all? I don't remember.

Earlier this afternoon we had 10 mins again, which is mainly us talking to the nurse and Okaasan blinking a little with closed eyes as she is in her bed. I'm guessing the online visits will continue thru the winter now and well into next year.

New infection numbers have just shot up in this cold part of north Japan, as we all close windows and socialize inside. This region tops the nightly stats on the TV news. My students who work at a local hospital say it's all rampant again - thru the staff and patients - and actually deaths with Covid are up too.

Of course it's not necessarily deaths FROM Covid, but probably a reflection that so many people have got it anyway. One student said her 90 year old aunt dropped dead from a heart attack in her care home, but when they did an autopsy it was discovered she also had Covid and so the body wasn't released to the family for the usual funeral arrangements. That's awful, and so meaningless - the family could at least of had a viewing from behind screens and said their farewells. 

It was straight from autopsy to cremation.

Okaasan today? Looked ok, I guess. Not much I can say. The same as she always looks. We just hope she hears friendly, bright voices around her a lot and enjoys the bedside massages and body moving. Bathtime.

Sorry about silence in October. I've been very preoccupied with my own injury - the knee all over again, and trying to get back some mobility. The good news is that the chiro is a wonderful guy and I feel so glad I am going to him.

We've got me able to stand and do household things like cooking and washing up. I can garden for about 20 mins. I can ride my bike short local distances. This week I am teaching special classes at a local company, and with the help of a high stool and taping - I think I can do it.

Let's end on a happy note. I've done a lot of family history research online to use up time sitting down....and in particular exchanged fun e mails with people living in a small village near Cambridge - where my maternal grand-ma came from! Discovering that she was probably illegitimate, but taken on by the good man her mum married when she was six years old.

Here she is, in the front row at school and later in the early 1900s in England!!

Friday, 23 September 2022

Trying to focus

 Another month

Another online visit to Okaasan.

Strange times we live in. ๐Ÿ˜–

She was...well...I don't know. Okay? She was in bed, on her side and had a tube up her nose. And her hands were in big gloves to stop her pulling the tube out.

Her hair was cut short, and with the pressure from the pillow had quifted up in a little grey spike, like Tintin in black and white. With a lot of encouragement from the attending nurse, Okaasan focused in one the tablet screen for a few minutes. Every now and then her eyes would slip to the nurse, or the bedside curtains.

She appeared to nod. Maybe smiled? Hard to know.

These online meetings leave us grasping at tiny straws for some evidence of connection to our "visit". Does she know us? Is she happy?

We grabble on about the changing season, the temperature, the cat, Queen Elizabeth, our grey hair....anything to fillout 10 mins between the endless: "Hi! Okaasan! It's us. Can you see us? Okaasan! Hi!". Until the computer clock that we have successfully filled out the time and can start doing a minute or goodbyes and see-you-next-time chat.

Then the nurse/we click End Meeting at the bottom of the Zoom screen and it's over for another month.

We go back to watching Stranger Things 4, and prepping dinner.

Okaasan goes back to lying in a hospital bed, with tubes for nutrition in and out. Staring at a bedside curtain or wall. Listening to voices and sounds around her.

I don't want her living in the house with us here. I'm no saintly daughter-in-law who will camapign to Bring Mother Home, so we can have the tube changing/bed baths right here in our lives. But still. I feel sad that her life is this now. ๐Ÿ˜ข

If she were MY mother. Would I feel differently? If this were England, and I could raise hell in my native language, with a care system I can easily understand? Like a heartwarming movie, would I Bring Her Home to Die? Set up the living room with the care bed, and have quirky care helper come in to do the medical stuff, so I could sit at my mother's bedside and have meaningful end of life conversations?

Maybe. I am certainly up for being the difficult customer and fighting a hospital/care administration - mainly because I watched my own mother battling unfortunate service workers over the years. But I'm not sure I would sacrifice my own time and easy life to care for somebody in my home. That's a huge thing. Respect to the people who do it. But, most of us are pretty selfish and are relieved to let strangers do the caring at the end of our elderly's life.

I used to have a middle aged student, whose severely invalid mother had months to live. As her sister was a nurse with necessary skills, the hospital allowed mother to move back to the family house where she amazed everyone by living for almost two years - enjoying her favorite icecreams, visits from the great grandkids and hand massages. It was a wonderful situation. 

But I know I don't want to do that. Can't do that.

Sunday, 11 September 2022

Normal...but not for all.

 Yes - still here.

Still can't go into the care home to meet Okaasan face to face.

Once a month, 10 mins online meeting is all we are allowed. New infection numbers are falling all over Japan, after an August 7th wave. The Japanese government has cranked open the borders a little by allowing fully vaccinated foreign visitors to come in on approved escorted/planned by unescorted tours - the tourism industry is whirring into action.

All over Japan there are summer and now autumn events - beer gardens, music festivals, sport and concerts. Japanese people are jetting off for holidays around the world. Classes and work are pretty much face to face.

Quite a few friends who travelled overseas this summer caught COVID and had their return delayed - when the J government still demanded negative tests 72 hours before flying. Or, others got back into Japan ok - and THEN tested positive and had to stay off work for a further 10 days.

Even I toyed with the idea of going back to the Uk for a trip. But 15 hours rerouted via the Middle East or Alaska, crazy prices with fuel surcharges...and a work pattern that is JUST starting to return my earnings to pre-pandemic levels...all of that knocked those idle fancies on the head.

Next year. Next year.

We're ok. The cats are ok. Okaasan in her cocoon/prison is ok.

Summer is sliding into autumn and I've done a lot of kayaking with a friend. Normal life.

But not.