Wednesday, 26 April 2023

Another month. Another online meet and greet.


Here we are.
Another cherry blossom season.
And still we are not allowed to meet Okaasan...
This week we had another 10 mins of shout and wave time. Okaasan's face a bit puffy. On its side in a hospital bed. In a room we've never entered. With staff we've never met.
15 months ago we delivered her to the entrance hall of that hospital/care home. Said our goodbyes as she lay on a stretcher near the elevator doors. Then she was whisked away upstairs.

And since then. Online meetings once a month.
Bloody COVID.
Japan IS getting back to normal. The non-mask wearers are increasing, and this summer's slate of events looks almost normal - beer festivals, flower events, concerts. My god, Dear Son and I may even rouse the neighborhood by holding our overflowing BBQ party again.

I hear from students and friends how they get into care homes and hospitals to meet elderly or sick relatives. It is happening. Some restrictions, like 10 mins in the lobby, or plastic screens. But also I'm happy to hear some nursing staff are ignoring the rules and letting families hold hands. We just have to wait....and probably wait some more.

Next week is Golden Week in Japan. Several public holidays together. A time to travel and relax. Traffic jams and crowded places. A time for us to hang out quietly at home. I might tidy the garden. Read some books.
Recently just getting into my new work routines. Thankfully I picked up more work this year, which will make the bank account a little healthier (JUST in time for the UK spending credit card bills!!). Dear Remaining Cat is getting his mojo back, heading outside more to catch mice, and learning how in the bed/on the sofa/under the blanket are ALL his space now. 
We paid a lot of money to give him a total heath check. And were so relieved that it came back: All Good. For a 13 year old, kind of overweight feline - he is doing okay. Needs some special food to keep his kidneys healthy. Needs supplements to help his joints up/down stairs. But not likely to plunge us into a health crises in the immediate months ahead.

We can't do that again right now. I still dream of his brother. Dream of two cats running around the home. Still walk into the living room and pat the little ceramic jar that holds the slightly smashed up bones of my sweet furboy. I still can't believe he is gone for ever. He often sat here with me at the computer. Heavy against my left arm, forcing me to reply to Facebook stuff with one hand typing in all lower case.

Rambling here. 
We are fine.
Okaasan is fine.
There are cherry blossoms in north Japan.

Sunday, 19 March 2023

Good bye little furball

 We've lost a furry family member. One of our dear cats has died.

It seems strange to report it here, on a very...VERY occasional blog about shared life of a Japanese lady and a foreign daughter-in-law. 

But the puss cat was one of our family. I know some old friends and old students read this blog, so it's a way to share the news.

Yesterday afternoon our cancer kitty lost the fight with the disease that was first diagnosed only in December. Just 4 months ago he was a fat, over-eating ball of cat joyfulness, when I first took him to the vets a little concerned about yet more fat "lumps" in his neck.

Chemo treatments, CT scans, radiotherapy...visits to our vets...the university teaching animal hospital...even another vet that offered slightly alternative Vitamin C serum shots...for him and for us it's been an increasingly sad winter - all the ups and downs of this disease.

Towards the end Dear Son and I were slightly at odds about how "the end" was going to be. I was ready to accept the end and ask the vet to ease the suffering about a week ago. Dear Son wanted to try the Vitamin C treatment he'd read about online. I agreed, grudgingly. But understanding he needed one-more-try.

That failed to have any impact. By midweek I was sleeping on the living room floor. Furball had stopped eating.

Our own vet wasn't keen to step in and put Furball to sleep earlier this week - when he was still able to stagger to the water bowl and into my futon. It was a bit frustrating for me, but not a surprise - many vets in Japan are not supportive of pet euthanizing until there is clear suffering.

But when he'd stopped reaching the water bowl himself, they set us up with subcutaneous injection shot kit. We did this for our old cat and his failing kidneys - years ago back at the start of this blog - so it was doable.

Toilet accidents. No food. Shots of water to ease dehydration, then the real physical signs of "end". Yesterday we took him to the vet and let him pass on to the great grassy field of cat heaven.

Very hard. Our home is full of memories of him. His brother has seen the body twice - looked, sniffed and turned away. He is a bit needy and clingy. We are exhausted and sad. Tonight a mobile cremation service will come and do the cremation in our parking space. And we'll keep Furball's ashes to scatter when the snows have melted and the house is surrounded by the wild grassy areas he loved.

5 days now to comfort eachother. 5 days for me to get my head ready for a trip to England. I haven't travelled outside Japan for 5 years? With all of this I haven't time to think of it. But now I must.

Thankyou Furball for the love of 13 years. He often sat in my arms here at the computer.

Everywhere there are memories of you.

Sunday, 5 February 2023

Hoping for a downgrade

 Another month.

Another year.

Another 10 mins waving at Okaasan thru a computer screen.

She was on her side, face slightly swollen, the tubes in place, blinking at the screen. When the nurse moved her face tubes Okaasan moaned...a cheerful doctor told us all is well as it can be.

The Japanese government is getting detailed about downgrading Covid to seasonal flu level this April or May, and along with that (we hope!) many things in life could change. Mask wearing outside should become more the norm, events will be at full capacity, more hospitals can treat Covid-like symptoms.

And care homes and hospitals? Will they open up for family visits?

It will, of course, be totally up to the facility management and my guess is that they won't. They'll leave current systems in place thru May and June...and IF things look ok they may consider relaxing visiting rules in the summer? Will we get to see Okaasan this summer?

If I was betting. I'd say no.

In other news: I am going to the UK for the first time in 5 or 6 years. End of March I'm flying for hours and hours to avoid Russia, and will blow a lot of my savings on air tickets and care rental. But it will be good to eat carrot cake, cheese, roast meat...and see friends again.

The cat is still fighting the lymph cancer. 5 lots of chemo now. He's lost weight and is subdued. But we try to make his days happy, somehow. It's been a crazy cold winter - minus 12 here in the city at night and electricity bills have gone up by 30%. But the cancer kitty must be warm and comfortable. More savings gone.


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.