Tuesday, 22 August 2023

15 Minutes of Visit

 More time this month.

Okaasan awake, too.

Slightly better feeling? Maybe. She looked at us, then sometimes made groaning sounds, scratched at her arm with one hand and rocked her head violently.

How is that somehow "better"? I'm not sure.

Dear Son had the bright idea to take in a photo of her husband and the older son. So we showed her those pictures and talked about them. She focused on the photo of her son in particular.

The crazy summer heat continues here. It has been 30 C plus for days and days...tomorrow will be 35 C!!

The hospital had the curtains closed, and fans to move air around. Of course they have air con.

We came away feeling slightly more comforted than last time. But not much. I guess I am glad that her dementia must be so advanced that she has no awareness of the time. Just the moment. The bed. The table beside the bed. The woman in the next bed. Nurses coming and going.

Not the days, weeks, months...years of this slow death.

Friday, 4 August 2023

 Okaasan Birthday week. And this pic is memories of much MUCH happier times.

2016 we took her to dinner at the fish market in Sapporo and she had a bowl of crab and rice - and maybe we managed to control the sake intake :-)

2024...and a Pandemic later....Okaasan is curled up in a hospital bed, with tubes bringing nutrition to her body and removing waste. Unable to talk, and that smile is gone.

We had the monthly, 10-min visit this week and it was grim. I KNOW that visiting elderly/sick people often gives you just a snippet of their time and probably an unbalanced image of their health and happiness, but this was a sad visit.

We went in with lots of positivity. Took a funny card and a tiny bunch of silk flowers in a brightly colored display bag.

She was sleeping.

In a 10 mins visit the first 2-3 mins were her sleeping. She looked kind of peaceful.

Then, in response to our gentle voices, she did wake up and we showed her the card and flowers. Talked about 93 birthday and congratulations.

Okaasan did not seem content at all. She made terrible groaning sounds and appeared to shake or rock her head from side to side. It was a bit scary. Was she angry? Was the frustrated? Was she sad?

The nurse said this was fairly common and was her form of communication - since she hardly speaks now. It looked very stressed and unhappy communication. We tried to be soothing and loving.

And then the 10 mins were done and we had to leave.

We drove home in silence. Back to our lives of work, beer festivals, friends, gardening and summer heat. Leaving Okaasan in that bed.

Why do we do this to people? We help animals we care for die. We ease THEIR suffering. We help.

But humans we care for. We keep them alive. Make them unhappy.

I'm 100% sure Okaasan would not choose this end to her life. But in 2024 in Japan there is no other way. She never signed up with a clinic in Switzerland...or Oregon? She has to go thru this. If her doctor or family do any more we can be arrested.

I hope humans can progress to a better way - and hopefully in the next 20-30 years when it comes my time to die.

Dear Okaasan, I'm sorry.

Thursday, 29 June 2023



A rose of Okaasan.
Hello, again! Remember us?
Dear Son...and that troublesome woman!

Yup. We are back to chat in your direction and disturb you.

Finally got into the hospital and upstairs and into Okaasan's room this week. First time to see her since November 2021.

We had to fill out a lot of paper work at the hospital reception desk. Temperature checks. Vaccination Status. Promise to contact if we have any sickness in the next 10 days. etc etc.
And then - given Visitor Tags and sent upstairs, the nurse gave us a kitchen timer set at 10 minutes, pressed to "On" switch and we were away on this month's visit!!!

Okaasan was in a shared room of 4 people, in a bed by the window. View over the rooftops. But she doesn't sit UP to see the view, or use a wheelchair. Life is spent lying down on the bed. She had tubes up her nose, but her hands were free.
I think she knew us. There was a glimmer of a smile, and her eyes went from the rose to our faces. We were not allowed to leave a live flower at her bedside, so it came home with us in a drinks bottle in the car. But at least she could see it.

We chatted on to eachother/her...about roses and weather, and our grey hair, and summer. Usual stuff to fill the no response "conversation". She looked well enough. Tired. But ok.
The Visitor Info Paper had asked us to keep a 1 meter distance, but as no nurse was actually watching I stroked Okaasan's hair.

And then the kitchen timer alarm went off. The nurse came to collect us. Okaasan looked confused by our sudden movement and "bye byes"...and we were gone....until next month. 

It was a looong time coming. But there we were.

This weekend we are having our annual big bbq bash. The one Okaasan used to hate. But I'm thankful I don't have to sober up at afternoon end to make her dinner, and placate her about all the people in the garden. All of that time has gone. Now I can just enjoy a bbq in my own home.

Onwards to next month. Another 10 mins on the timer?

Monday, 12 June 2023

Face to face meeting!!!!

 BAD blogger!!

I actually have something to blog about. And I forget to do it...for two months. Until a plaintive little message from a reader reminds me to come back here.

So, you can all thank "Kentucky Lady" for forcing me to get here.

And yes - in two weeks we will have a real face to face meeting with Okaasan. Finally!

The care home relaxed rules to allow family visits, once a month for 10 mins - probably swathed in no-contact masks/helmets/gloves and gowns like extras in a alien-invasion movie. But we will be there.

Wondering if this will be in her bedroom, or they will wheel her in the bed or a chair to another room? Whether we can hold hands etc. Don't know yet.

But finally. 18 months we haven't seen her. It's a breakthru.

Because life in Japan IS getting back to normal. We've just had the Yosakoi Dance Festival weekend - thousands of amateur dance teams letting it all hang out and flow in the streets of Sapporo. The festival food was back and only a few people wore masks in the crowds. It was wonderful to be out in the sun and enjoying life again.

We had some YouTubers as guests. A British couple who are driving around the world in their old camping car. I found them online and invited them for the festival and free parking in our neighbor's empty parking spot. It's often hard for overnight parking in a city area.

And we got to see their old van and chat about their life on the road. When I finally retire, Dear Son and I are planning to live like this all over Japan - so we picked up lots of ideas for them. From the practical (aircon and toilet types) to the personal (where do you go after a couple spat?).

So life is back in normal ways: we got beer festival tickets. Our huge BBQ party is planned. I saved the hollyhocks from the city grass cutters.

And we'll see Okaasan without a screen in between us. "Kanpai!"