Thursday, 31 December 2020

Happy New Year...from a big social distance...


So - Happy New Year from one selfish British woman in north Japan, to women and their foreign daughter in laws - wherever you are!

It is hard...for all of us...but in the name of international understanding and family love...we gotta do it!

Well - you gotta do it. This year. I don't.

But these few winter days every year remind me of a time I did have to do it: the cooking, the celebrating, the one-woman show of This is Japanese New Year!

The lily bulb buying, the time Okaasan and I tried to cook New Year food together, the time I had lessons to learn how to cook it, coming back from skiing and trying to buy last minute stuff. The kitchen table conversations...the TV...and wine escape.

This year. None of that. Well, maybe wine...

Okaasan is in her care home, and they have one more positive case of Covid. This time a staff member. But that is good news, because since the first case 3 weeks ago we kept wondering what had happened. Searching the TV news for a cluster.

But if it is really only two cases in 3 weeks? That's amazingly wonderful.

But we still can't visit. So we are home - him and me - quietly eating to much and watching Netflix. Walks. A ski or two. Snow shoes. My new camera. Dozing cats. More eating. Wine.

Tonight HE is going to cook the soba/ I am just going to eat it. And wine!

Saturday, 26 December 2020

Christmas 2020 - oh yeah....


So, this is Christmas.
And what have you done...

Happy Christmas from north Japan!

VERY unusually, Dear Son and I are together at Christmas. Ski teaching, as you might expect, is not a booming business at the moment, so he is home to sit and eat a mountain of food with me.

After all those years of lonely Xmas eating with Okaasan at the kitchen table, while he is away at ski resort was very very nice to have him home.
A friend came and dined with us. We were masked and had windows open...sat at distance round the big table in my classroom (which is the only room decorated in the house) and STUFFED ourselves on delicious, slow roasted pork, burned sausages, veggies and cheesecake!

It was great. I had one class on Christmas Day, but a favorite student - so it wasn't too hard. And after she left I got cooking, and created the kind of Christmas feast that Brits love. All piled up on the plate, covered with gravy. Nothing fancy or nicely designed about a British Christmas plate.

Christmas Eve I went to the lobby of Okaasan's care home and delivered a card and present (flower pattern nightdress and pink socks). We included photographs of us in the card, so that the staff who opened it with her would have something to talk about. A few days ago Dear Son called Okaasan, but he said the call was pretty hard...he was talking into the silence....and he could hear the care home staff making sounds to encourage Okaasan's engagement in the experience.

But, we hope she was happy to hear his voice.

So, Christmas at home. My part of Japan has got the Covid new case numbers under some kind of control again...we are down to about 100 a day...while Tokyo soars to over 800 a's all a stay home holidays.
We cancelled our plans to go to Okinawa in January. Just seemed like a bad idea, because Okinawa as a group of islands has limited medical services and will, inevitably, be a popular destination over the holidays. So, we did the responsible thing. We might do a local trip in February, to enjoy winter scenes.

So. Feasted on roast pork and mulled wine last night. Friend left around 8 pm, and he and I were snugged down by the TV with full stomachs and wind-down.

His phone rang.

It was the care home...

Staff reporting that they have one case of Covid-19 in the care home now. So they will only be able to do basic services from now on, trying to limit contact between staff and residents etc. Reassuring that they will continue to do their best with Okaasan and her eating troubles.

A shock to get a late night phone call.
Not such a shock to hear the reason....not really....
Kind of relieved that it wasn't something more dramatic, about Okaasan in, that she'd seen a New Year food thing on Tv and used knotted bedsheets to escape and go shopping for lily bulbs?

And so. We hope they can contain the virus. It's a big building with 11 floors of offices and residents. But, as we all know, when this virus gets into a building with sick and old people the situation isn't good. Back in November they had two cases in the connected hospital. Now it's in the main building.

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

To eat or not...

 Okaasan's eating ranges  from 20-80%, apparently.

Some days pretty ok, and other times not at all. She's lost 7 kg in weight since last year.

The doctor, the nurse and the care worker have telephoned for discussions with Dear Son, and it seems that while they are worried - it isn't a crises level worry. Okaasan had put on weight in the past few years, because she sits around too much and now EATS BREAKFAST!

So 7 kg isn't a big loss, but of course any more would be bad. And they worry that she loses the automatic swallowing skill little by little.

WE suggested the Aloe yogurts that she loves, and we hope that helps. But really, as we can't be there in the care home - we don't know.

We also don't know how the Covid-19 situation is in the care home and its connected hospital. If it was Cluster No. 61 in our region a few weeks ago - and that is only my guessing - then that cluster is now buried way down in the nightly news information, overtaken by newer clusters. OMG - one hospital in Asahikawa, a big city 2 hours north of here, has over 100 cases now...

So. Maybe our home/hospital contained the virus? Maybe. No news is maybe good news.

In OUR lives, we had a stressy week with a sick cat who vomited endlessly and then stopped eating. And work stuff, I am doing product description text for an online shop and struggling to write about make up and health products - NOT my kind of writing, at all.

I am a writer, and adapting to a situation or requirement eachtime is hard. First I was in newspapers, at first news and later features. Then I did academic writing - again a big struggle to write long, involved sentences. Later I did tourism blurbs, and English-teaching texts. More recently, writing for Instagram and Facebook about travel.

And all thru I was doing more personal writing - like THIS! - at first long letters to my mother, then diaries, then short stories...and the world of blogging.

This recent job is writing text for selling face cream and wonder tea, made of seaweed....and  text about all the little taste and quality differences between rice brands. I am learning a whole lot about these products, while I write.

But it's a job. Gotta do it. Thankful, really, to have the chance to do it and earn money in this strange year.

Already December. Settling in for a quiet, stay  close to home winter.

Dear Son's digestion problems are improved, but still not good enough for a full schedule of ski teaching work. He is kind of semi-retired now, checking his stocks and shares and making money that way, mainly. My work is half what it was...although I picked up some extra teaching for a downtown company recently, that should help this winter.

We had booked a very discounted holiday in Okinawa for January, and we have until Christmas to cancel it for full refund. The Japanese government is forging ahead with this Go To Travel campaign, trying to boost domestic travel - while COVID-19 new case numbers surge in Tokyo, Osaka...and right here in Sapporo.

Of course, we will only go to Okinawa if we feel it won't cause more problems for hospitals on the islands, and that seems more and more likely. So we'll cancel. I've heard of people taking secret domestic trips - but that isn't me....


Sunday, 22 November 2020

Other a time of COVID

 Early morning phone call - it's never GOOD news, is it?

Okaasan's Care Manager rang to report that she is having eating problems. Well, swallowing problems. She is losing weight fast and they wondered if we'd give permission to put her on a direct-feeding bag and tubes....

It's a common problem, I gather, for people with late stage dementia. There's a medical word for it, but basically it means the automatic act of swallowing gets weaker and there are increased dangers of food getting stuck/going down the "wrong way"/choking.

I've written before that we've noticed this past year how Okaasan stores a mouthful of saliva in her cheeks, and then it all spouts out when she attempts to talk or can't hold it in anymore. But, until now the care home was happy with her eating routines.

Now they are concerned.

We DON'T want her to have all the tubes and procedures to have direct-feeding. It isn't a pleasant procedure, and once on it - you never get off it. In fact, we both confirmed with eachother this week that if WE get to this stage - "please don't do it to me". It's got to be better to get weaker, sleep, have gentle end of life support and then slip away....if possible.

Of course, the care home is closed to family visits at the moment as Sapporo is one of Japan's latest COVID-19 hotspots. So we can't go in and try and encourage Okaasan to eat.

But we plan to tell the nurse to try aloe yogurts and the sweet sake drink that Okaasan loves so much, it won't be enough for sustenance, but maybe even SEEING the containers will jog her memory of pleasant eating experiences?

Hope so. And I HOPE we can get into the home and see her soon.

We don't actually know the Covid-19 numbers in the hospital/care home at the moment. There isn't any point in hassling the staff by phoning. On the local news "Cluster 61" was at 8 or 11 cases a few days ago. I think that may be our care home hospital. But don't know.

So...not happy news...

But, let's end with a positive! FIVE years ago, thanks to Google Photos for telling me this, we were down in the Saitama area visiting Okaasan's family for that big trip. She got to meet a brother before he died a few months later, and her oldest son...who also died a year later...and the three of us walked around her old home Kawagoe...the old shops, the shrines.

It was a stressful trip for us to arrange, but she enjoyed it so much. And it was the best timing. A year later - was it that? - she fell in the kitchen, broke a bone in her spine, went into hospital and her dementia levels went thru the roof...

But this day in November 2015....all was well....for a while (I seem to remember a stuck-in-the-toilet-incident at the Yokohama bus terminal...;-)