Sunday, 30 May 2010

Method in the madness...or just memory blank?

Okaasan didn't want dinner again last night.
I was cooking it of course.
20 minutes before - she wanted it.
20 minutes later - she didn't want it.
This stuff drives me nuts!

I'd bought beef so that Yujiro and I could have a rare fry up of beef/Korean kimchee cabbage and lettuce/veggies - our endless diet of tofu/fish/salad/rice/miso soup may be great for my diet - but it's pretty boring.
But Okaasan doesn't like meat so much - so I bought raw squid for her.

Came home and Yujiro agreed that Okaasan probably wouldn't go for the beef. He suggested talking to her about it. Giving her the choice.

Down in the kitchen at 6.30 pm Okaasan had just come home - so I showed her the bowl of bloody beef and then the nice raw squid.

We discussed it and she agreed that she didn't eat so much meat. That fish was healthier. That it was No Trouble for me to prepare two different dinners. Everyone should eat what they like etc.

She went and sat down with her Tv. I prepped 2 dinners.
Thinly sliced the squid, prepped the soup, rice, salad...the beef, the letttuce, the kimchee.

20 minutes later called everyone to order...
"I have a stomach ache, I don't want to eat....."
I took the beautifully sliced squid in to show her, hoping the sight of it would remind her of the dinner plans. She didn't want it. Just rolled over on the carpet and looked at the Tv again...apologised.

We ate our SO delicious dinner. The beef. And the raw squid, and everything else.
Properly stuffed.
Fantastic dinner. Been a long time since we really enjoyed a home dinner like this.

But I really wondered.
Was this a convenient stomach ache?
Did Okaasan only remember the bowl of unappetizing meat? Not the squid?
Was it her way of copping out of dinner?

Later in the evening we noticed that she'd been in the kitchen and eaten some of the rice...and this morning when I checked to see if she was fine for lunch she claimed that maybe she'd eaten a late lunch at the Korean restaurant near the station...which could be a reason why she wasn't hungry...
But I do wonder.
At 6.30 pm she was looking at raw squid and expressing a desire to eat it.
At 6.50 pm she had a stomach ache and didn't want it.
Is there method in the madness - is the stomach ache an avoidance tactic? Or was she hungry one moment, and 20 minutes later not?

All very strange.

In lighter news: the kittens have made their roof debut. Got them into collars and Popo actually bravely jumped down onto the shed roof.
Later I let them both out the front door too. They sniffed around and was So nerve-wracking for me to watch over them. And Popo has somehow got little cuts on his feet - which made him a bit after 10 minutes I managed to catch them and bring them inside safely...

England : not much news yet. I'll call again tonite. I spoke briefly to Lucy, the carer.
The robbery happened at LUNCHTIME on Monday. She stepped outside to enjoy the sunshine while cooking lunch, and the man came round the side of the building and forced her back into the house, tied her up and took the money, rings, phones and car keys!!!
But Jane came back from hospital yesterday. So I hope to call later tonight.

Saturday, 29 May 2010


My step-mum in England had a robbery at the house.
Everyone ok - only money and a ring taken.
But shocking for all.

AND...unconnected with this she is in hospital for some colon polyp investigation. She didn't tell me about that when we spoke last week. It may be bad news...

I got the e mail with all of this last night. Or at least found it when I just did a last check on the computer before bed.
My step-aunt wrote to say it's been a bad week.

On Monday a masked robber came to my step-mum's house. Tied up Lucy the carer and demanded money. LUCKILY did nothing with Jane.
They gave him small amounts of cash and Lucy's wedding ring and he escaped in the car - later found abandoned.
He pulled out the phone lines and took the mobile. So Lucy ran half a kilometer to the next house to call the police.

All very shocking. But thankfully he didn't harm them. Maybe a drug addict needing quick money and sellable ring? The house is full of antiques...but only of use to experts who know what they are looking at.
The house is way out in the countryside, down a track. And I am wondering about the door. Did he come and Lucy opened the door to him? In the past 6 months so many strangers have come to the house - deliveries/care working staff/ambulances....the word just gets out eventually that there is a sick old lady and a Carer living there.

I don't much much more at the moment. Jane is in hospital for the polyps investigation....Step-aunt said she may be home again this weekend.

And I sit in Japan and have that ex-pat guilt feelings about living a life thousands of miles away. can't do anything apart from telephone sympathy.
I'll call Jane this weekend.

* and I've just realized. This week a year ago my step-mum had her mystery car accident. A year ago her and Dad's life started unravelling....

Friday, 28 May 2010

Short term memory.

Okaasan's short term memory blank is just amazing.
I've been watching it up close for 18 months now, but sometimes seeing it in action (or inaction) just takes my breath away.

Last night at dinner we had mochi - little squares of pressed rice that you heat up in the oven and wrap in dry seaweed, dip in soy sauce and eat. We have loads from the newspaper delivery company as a renewal subscription gift and from friends at New Year.
So we are sitting there eating and talking about why we have so much.
Yujiro gets up and gets several bags of the stuff out of the kitchen cabinet to show us.
"Look! we still have loads of the stuff!"
The 3 of us chat about how luckily the Mainichi gives Okaasan presents and the Japan Times gives me nothing.
We 3 eat what we have.
About 3 minutes later we decide to be pigs and eat some more.
Yujiro gets the bags out again of the cabinet just to Okaasan's right and puts some mochi in the oven.
Sits down.
3 minutes later he gets up and brings the mochi from the oven to the table.
We start eating.
"Okaasan, do you want any more?"
"More? Do we have more?"
"Yes, we have a lot from the newspaper company."
"From the newspaper company? Really?"

It really is incredible to see. Writing about it somehow can't give the full feeling of it.
She had NO memory at all of us talking about the mochi glut, of newspaper gifts chat,  of Yujiro handling the bag full of mochi twice just next to her...NOTHING.

I can understand how coversations don't fix in her short-term memory, but actually SEEING the bag full of mochi twice just minutes before - and she didn't remember that.

Incredible. I try to imagine what that must be like - I'm sitting here now at the computer and just now I heard one of the cats rustling through the plastic trash box in the next room, Yujiro went downstairs the shower - these things I KNOW. But how would it be if I had no memory of those things?
Okaasan is really living In The Moment. Now. What she is doing and seeing Now.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Okaasan goes for a health check.

She did!
This morning Yujiro and Okaasan went to the local hospital with their health cards and got the free medical check-up.
She was happy to go, after a bath and some luandry washing...they finally got out of the house after 10 am.
I'm glad it worked an Okaasan will at least now have some medical file in the local health system for future events when they happen.

Meanwhile I went across the road for my weekly injection of hyalurionic acid in my knee. It felt so-so after my Monday and Tuesday classes, but okayish this morning. I almost didn't have the electric pulse treatment...and but did just to be safe...and then settled down on the clinic bed for my injection.
Looked at the beige wallpaper as usual as the nurse prepped the needle.
Looked at the wallpaper and made little squeaky sounds as the needle went in.
What the fuck did he hit?
It felt like the needle had plunged into the bone marrow.
The doctor apologised and then shot away to his next patient in the next room. (Japanese clinics have a strange conveyor belt system where the doctor pops back and forth into patient cubicles).
The nurse showed me out into the waiting room

I sat there and balled like a baby.
It hurt so much. It was such a shock.
Nurses rushed over with tissues. The doctor came back guiltily. More apologies: "My injection wasn't so skilled this week, your muscles tightened around the needle, sorry".
After 15 minutes of sitting wettly, I was able to stand and gingerlly walk to the reception to pay for the Shock Agony.
I have 3 more of these injections to go....

I got down to the street. Met Yujiro and Okaasan and went to the local good soup curry restaurant for a huge lamb and vegetable soup curry.
Came home and sat down, went to bed mid-afternoon. Weeded (sitting down) for 1 hour.

And that was Wednesday.

In all the agony - I AM a truly selfish person - I didn't write anything about Okaasan and the medical check-up. 
Well, really nothing to report. No big news. She is of course physically healthy. They had blood tests and the results will be ready on Friday. But I'm not expecting any big news. Yujiro said this check-up was just a battery of regular blood/urine/heart rate tests. In the few minutes each nurse would be with Okaasan she is just another old lady who chats about the same things a lot. Okaasan is pretty good on short conversations with strangers, and sometimes can do pretty normal longer conversations too - she isn't Lady Gaga yet.  (although I think the costumes would suit her...).

Monday, 24 May 2010

Velo Taxi driver....

At your service!
Yujiro and his Velo Taxi on the streets of Sapporo.
The photo was taken by a customer, who has just sent the picture.
Y300 for 500 yards.....any blog readers here in Sapporo, if you see this guy PLEASE give him business!
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No dinner...again.

I cooked dinner.
Okaasan didn't eat it again.

This time it was her sleeping which got in the way.
She was sleeping deeply from about 4.30 when we woke her up around 7 p.m. she was all befuddled and didn't want to eat.

Should we just let her sleep? Should we wake her and try to keep her connected in on the scheule of the day?

After all she is almost 80 years old and older people sleep. But she sleeps so much.
Of course her room arrangement doesn't help: she sits on the carpet with her back against the sofa, her lower half under the heated blanket...and often just keels over sideways onto the nearest pile of newspapers/underwear/pillow when the TV gets a bit boring.

Yesterday she was awake 7.30 am to at least 9 a.m. cooking fuki in the kitchen.
I took Yujiro to work and stayed in town 2 hours to buy a digital camera (there WILL be pictures on this blog when I work out how to use it....)
I came home at 11.15 a.m. and Okaasan - surprisingly - was out. The fuki was all finished.
She came home around 1.30 pm.
At 2.30 pm I talked to her and saw that she'd bought pre-cooked fish and bits and pieces and eaten them for lunch - we chatted a bit.
By 4.30 pm she was asleep.
Still asleep at 7 pm.

So at 7.15 pm we ate dinner and Okaasan came and sat at the table with us, drinking water and giving Yujiro grief over Not Wearing Sunscreen.

By 7.45 pm she was back in front of the TV.
By 8.30 she was half sleeping again.

I guess it doesn't matter so much. She ate lunch. She chatted to us in the morning, afternoon and evening. And slept.
If she was in an old people's home the nurses might come along and wake her up...but in a busy home maybe not...

* The fuki was good. Not blow-your-mind-delicious ...but ok in a cooked celery kind of way. We made sure to praise Okaasan's cooking efforts a lot. But she didn't eat it...

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Fuki Factory

The fuki is done.
Bought on Wednesday and finally all cooked by Sunday.
Thanks to Yujiro's gentle nagging about - What about the fuki? Did you finish the fuki? No, we don't have white sugar, brown will be just as good. Is this fuki ok? No, we don't have any white sugar, brown sugar is ok. Are you going to cook the fuki?

A huge bouquet of the stuff has been soaked in vinegar for two days, and boiled into submission in the Japanese all-purpose seasoning: "then add soy sauce, sugar, sweet rice wine...".
The kitchen smells like a sugar factory. In the pan is a medium-sized bowlful of fuki.
I think actually sansai (edible plants) is a misnomer.They aren't actually edible at all. It's stuff that poor people saw growing around them centuries ago, and they made it edible by cooking it for ages and adding lots of soy sauce and any other seasoning.
Really now with supermarkets and farming: why go to all this effort for something to eat? Brocolli is delicious just as it is. No need for all that salt and sugar and boiling!

Anyway. The kitchen looked a mess. I was working Saturday lunchtime and we were out Saturday night, so we left food out for Okaasan - amid the fuki cooking she ate what we left out, and didn't wash any dishes at chaos reigned. Every surface was covered.

But it IS good. She bought something and cooked it herself. Whatever the outcome: she was active with her body and brain doing cooking, an activity she used to be good at. And I expect the results taste good. I sure hope so!
Supervising the cooking is a hassle - like a small child who needs supervising in the kitchen, if we left Okaasan to her own devices I think the fuki would still be in the newspaper wrapping under the heated carpet.
And there is the question of the OTHER fuki package. I am sure I saw it in her room on Friday morning, I've just looked now and I can't find it anywhere under the piles of newspapers and underwear, banana skins etc - but I still think there is more fuki lurking there.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Talk....and she shall buy.

Fuki is a rhubarb-like wild plant in Japan, with big leaves and a thick stem.
Some people go out in spring fuki gathering, and bring it home to cook.
The other day I saw an old man out behind our house under the subway line collecting fuki and by way of something to chat about on Sunday lunchtime, I mentioned this to Okaasan and we chatted a bit about edible plants.

Wednesday she came back clutching a large bunch of the stuff from the supermarket.
Talk about a food...and there's a big chance that Okaasan will have the topic in her mind the next time she is in a shop, and decide to buy it.

So, yesterday Yujiro was home all day and he encouraged Okaasan to DO something with the fuki. I spent my day asking students how to prepare and cook it in case Okaasan lost interest in her purchase and WE ended up having to do something with it.
But Okaasan seems to have managed to start at least. The cut fuki stems are soaking in vinegar and water in the kitchen at the moment....Okaasan went and peered into the pan a few times last night and asked: "did I add vinegar?" several times.
It's good - we hope she will do things in the kitchen more, as long as she doesn't waste too much food or burn the house down. Once upon a time Okaasan was an excellent cook and it must be good for her to do some kind of activity in the kitchen. And who knows - we may even get some food out of her efforts!

But there are limits....just now as I was making tea in the kitchen I glanced into Okaasan's room at the TV weather news. 
On the carpet, between the TV and the table...I can see a newspaper wrapped package of something. It looks suspiciously like MORE fuki!!!

How do you get a topic OUT of Okaasan's mind once it is there????!!!

*  Okaasan and Yujiro didn't go to the hospital on Wednesday for free health checks. We had the kittens, my knee injection and hours of trash TV recordings to decided to leave it to another week.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Dinner Missteps...again

If I was the suspicious type (which of course I am not...) I would think that Okaasan actively tries to avoid my dinners.
Last night again - she came home late, and then when the food was all set out in front of her - didn't want it.

She isn't planning this I know. And I let the ripple of exasperation run thru me and try to move on. But it IS frustrating.

Tuesday is a busy day. Classes. The knee. I did some shopping afterwork.
Home. Kittens (last supper before The Snip).
There were the remains of tofu and egg and instant miso soup scattered around the kitchen counter and in a pan. And a supermarket pack of shellfish left on the kitchen table in the warmest day of the year. I guessed Okaasan had gone out, done some shopping and then tried to cook something. We had a left the "Go out for lunch" notice on the table, but maybe she'd shopped and amazingly tried to cook something herself.
She'd also done a lot of handwashing of underwear.

At 5.50 pm Okaasan went out again.
Yujiro came home.
6.30 I started cooking dinner - a stir fry with the mushrooms and fishpaste sausages Okaasan bought the other day.
Yujiro checked on the Internet about how to wash out the shellfish by putting them in salty water to make them open up.
At 7 pm we called Okaasan and reminded her...again...that family dinner is at 7 pm so please come home.
As usual: she was 10 minutes away in the Macdonalds drinking coffee and eating MacNuggets.
We ate our dinner. It was pretty good I thought.
Okaasan came home at 7.25 pm.
She sat down at the table and looked tired.
I reheated her food and served her.
She looked at all the plates: No, I'm not so hungry. I ate when I was out. I'm tired.


So we made gentle noises and cleared the table. I went upstairs to call my step-mum in England (who is doing great!!! Yeah!!) and Okaasan finally settled down under the heated table blanket and with the TV.

I KNOW she doesn't plan it. But it does seem that when I cook - and when it is half way deliicious - she isn't feeling like it. Or comes so late and doesn't want it.
Yesterday she may have eaten when she went shopping, she ate something at home, then she had MacNuggets at 6.30 pm.....

*  Yujiro is just beginning to realize that his mum's conversation style isn't normal - he is talking to more elderly people now in his Bicycle Taxi job. He says he notices how lively and engaged they are in conversation - and how different that is from Okaasan. In the tennis game of conversation she doesn't  do serves herself, and often doesn't return serve at all, or goes to the ball late, or the wrong ball. Or she just stands at the baseline while balls bounce around....and as I've mentioned, I think recently her ball contact time has decreased. 

* Talking of balls - Chichi and Popo have gone in to the vets for the Big Snip. Yujiro and I actually went and slept at my English classroom last night, so we wouldn't have to spend 3 hours this morning with desperatly hungry and confused kittens. No food before the operation of course. But they don't know that.
Poor little buggers. One website said they will be more affectionate after the operation. I hope not: if Popo gets any more affectionate I won't have any neck or face skin left!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Hospital visits for everyone! (minus the goldfish...)

We are all going to the hospital on Wednesday - hopefully won't get the appointments and treatments mixed up.

Yujiro and Okaasan - got Health Check-up invites from the ward office, Yujiro seems to think that Okaasan will happily go along with him for that. I have my doubts...because she doesn't think regular, mainstream medicine has any value, and that she is perfectly healthy.
I think she probably IS physically healthy actually: she eats loads and is active with the walking and the dancing. I doubt the basic health check-up will spot the dementia, and even if it does - neither Okaasan nor Yujiro will want to do any more medically about it. And really...why bother? She's almost 80, dementia mendication would slow the inevitable process...but not stop it. She has good quality of life now, and in a few years we will all descend ever downwards into chaos.

But I hope she does go along for the check-up because it will get her into the local health care system and on the official radar for future.

Oyomesan - heading for my second knee injection. The knee is so-so, I am taking it all very carefully. I sat down in most classes today. I sat down all yesterday afternoon.

Chichi and Popo - will head to the vets and become - New other words, have their little, black furry balls snipped off. New Halfu is what Japanese media dub the various gay/transvestite TV talent people who appear all over the I am hoping that Chichi and Popo (which are pretty good New Halfu names in fact!) will come home from The Snip and become expert at interior design and make-up makeovers. They can start right here: the house and me.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Accentuate the positive...

Is that how you spell "accentuate"????
I can't be bothered to check. Lazy blogger.

The knee is maybe a little better. The doctor said a few days for the acid stuff to kick in. And I haven't been walking much. Every time I sit down I try to stick my leg up on something. At my own classroom is it usually easy - under the table I can stretch my leg onto the nearest, unused chair.

Okaasan seems ok.
Fairly normal conversation a lot of the time. It's these spells which make you think all is well.
She chatted to Yujiro about the local political candidate the other night, and apart from a few coversational repetitions, it all seemed fine.

Then last night at dinner she said she'd eaten at the Korean restaurant at lunchtime, I had my mouth after I finished chewing I swallowed my food and said: "Korean food is delicious isn't it?" - hoping to set her off on the Korean Food/New York JTB guide/Best in the World story....
But Okaasan looked surprised and looked at the food on her plate.
"Is this Korean food?"
"No! You just said you ate Korean food at lunchtime..."
"Did I. Hmmm"
"Yes, in England there aren't many Korean restaurants, but in New York...there are many...."
"New York? hmmm...."

No response. No flow into the usual stories....
So strange.

Yesterday Yujiro finished work a little early and went with Okaasan to shop for trousers. She claims to only have one pair. She couldn't find what she wanted. I feel sure there MUST be another pair somewhere in her room. When she is out I'll have a look. I don't think she knows what clothes she has really.

Fruitbowl: still in the kitchen.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Return of the knee

It's back.
Swollen, painful and not happy. The knee returns.

After much discussion with Ridiculous Man I decided to go back to the same doctor: he speaks English, he is 5 minutes from home, his clinic has a car park. He'll break down the costs and tell me if he thinks expensive treatments are really necessary.

So. Back to the clinic.
He says the gap between my knee bones is slightly smaller in one area (naturally), so maybe that is why the pain feels bad. And the bone is not so strong (it's a different color on the Xrays from a year ago).
I got Xrays, electric pads on the knee and a painful knee injection of some kind of acid which acts as an oil. I'll have 4 more injections over the next month.

I am so so disappointed. A lot of tears yesterday. The young, sweet male nurse in the rehabilitation room just opened the floodgates with his sweetness. He's probably 25 years old. I was the blubbing, middle aged woman behind curtain 5.

ONE YEAR later and this is still so bad?
I really tried in Tokyo. I took taxies. I limited my walking. But still too much.
I knew I wasn't going to climb mountains this summer, but recently it was so much better and I could walk around the shops downtown, walk upstairs almost equally on both legs etc. I hoped I'd be walking in the park to see cherry blossom. I hoped to ski next season....

Now. I don't know. I hate this. 2 years ago I could run 5 km marathons. I could climb volcanoes. I could ski like a mad thing.

I'll try the injections. We are also going to order up some of the miracle stuff they advertise on TV Shopping that helps old ladies run up and downstairs. Any other ideas?

So. Had a quiet day.
Ridiculous Man was being Supportive Man. He fed Okaasan and then he and I drove to a good hamburger cafe near Hokkaido University and had couple time over greasy fries.Then home to TV (Adam Lambert on American Idol as a mentor!!! he reminds us how dull this season's entries are)....and then I cooked dinner. At the airport bookshop I bought a great Japanese food cook book to give me some ideas. So I tried Lotus Root Fish Paste Sandwiches....Yujiro and I thought they worked. A bit fiddly, but good.
Okaasan came home at 7.45 pm just as we finished dinner. I left her and son in the kitchen. I could hear her complaining a bit about about the Lotus Root....something.

I don't care. She lives here. She has to eat what she is given my the 'Orrrible Oyomesan.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Still here

Still around. Haven't killed them all with an ax. Yet.
I went to Tokyo Saturday and Sunday. Then had busy Monday and Tuesday at work.
Now Wednesday morning and trying to pick up regular life again.

Okaasan fine.
Dutiful son took her to eat sushi for Mother's day.
Fruitbowl still on the kitchen table.
Okaasan went to hula dance on Monday. With the event money. I left her rice and seaweed stuff on the kitchen table as a light-meal before her class.

Had a WONDERFUL time in Tokyo with old friends. Remembered my youth when I came to Tokyo and did all the "wow! Japan!" experiences. Stayed in Asakusa and walled gently through the Senjo-ji complex in the Sunday morning sunshine...had a 3-tier afternoon tea at a posh hotel terrace overlooking Tokyo Bay. Sunshine, flowers, green.

Came home to 5 degrees and windy.
A Couple Thingy with Yujiro which I won't even deign with blogging because it was so stupid. Men are ridiculous.
The kittens wrecked destruction on the the apartment because they weren't happy at being left alone too long.
Maybe if Yujiro could rip up paper and scatter toilet sand round the room too it would be better for him.

And my knee. It is all swollen and painful again.
I walked too far obviously.
Despite all the taxies I took in Tokyo and the care.
It was too much.
However much you try to take elevators, the Tokyo subway system is vast.
A year after the original injury I am so, so disappointed.

Back to the doctor? Back to a different doctor? Will my private insurance cover an MRI? Shall I just throw about \1 million at the Japanese health system and join up?

oh. And it's raining on the cherry blossom.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Okaasan blues...

Okaasan seems a bit blue.
There is no particularly reason we can see of course, and she isn't acting up.
But she shuffles around the kitchen and her room: washing a few clothes, watching TV, making cups of tea, eating the food we put on the table...but there isn't much spark.
At dinner she eats with her eyes on her food and listens to Yujiro prattle on about stuff, with occasional responses.
Not much laughter or eye contact really.

Should I just give her the fruitbowl back? At the moment I've hidden it behind the flower vase, so it doesn't come into Okaasan's view.
Is her moood connected to the fruit bowl? Or completely something else?

I wish (yet again) that I was the kind of person who could prattle on - in any language - because that's what Okaasan needs....but apart from the weather, cherry blossom arrival guessing, the flowers on the kitchen table...I can't think WHAT to prattle about!
Yujiro prattles well, but usually about stuff he is interested in: the difference in price between 2 supermarkets, the man he met who was a Brazil soccer team fan...Okaasan can't really latch onto any of these topics and join the conversation. If she ventures into it - Yujiro knocks her back (figuratively of course!) with a "Eh, no, I'm not talking about that!"....and she retreats again into silence.
I still reckon Okaasan has better conversation experiences when she is with me alone, because I don't have much language skill and it is easier for me to get her onto Korean food/Kawagoe/crabs/wartime...and let her bat that subject around herself.
But sometimes even the Favorite Topics don't seem to ignite a spark. I mention Korean food...and apart from: "Korean food is the most delicious in the world", there is no development. It's like Okaasan lets the tennis ball serve drop onto the court on her side of the net. On a good day the "Korean food" ball would instantly get lobbed back with the tales of going to New York and how the tour guide said Korean food was deleicious etc etc...but on a bad day the topic just dies.

Last night dinner was pretty quiet and the 3 of us stayed in the kitchen washing up for a while, but Okaasan seemed locked away in her thoughts while Yujiro and I chatted to fill the void.

This weekend I am away in Tokyo for one night and Yujiro has work/kittens/Okaasan to deal with, so there won't be much mental stimulation for Okaasan. I hope she is ok.

Last night the Hula Dance Friend called Yujiro to say there is another hula event coming up and Okaasan needs to pay some money for the costume etc, of course she hasn't said anything about this event and Yujiro will make sure to put the money in an envelope in Okaasan's bag on Monday morning - and then the Friend will make sure to ask Okaasan for it and look for it at the class.

Meanwhile - British politics unravels and unravels and nobody knows where it will go. I've been watching it all on the BBC website live newsstream. It  seems many worlds away.

Thursday, 6 May 2010


Okaasan is laying claim to my fruit bowl.
Maybe it looks like a bowl she has in the house in Saitama?
Or a bowl in her childhood home?
She is so convinced that it is hers that talking to her I begin to doubt my ownership myself!

Yesterday I gave her lunch and sat and ate with her, to give her some nice memory-land chat.
As we sat there I pointed out that I'd bought some apples and put them on the table - including a green apple because she always says green are better - but I couldn't find the fruit bowl.
I casually asked Okaasan if she was using it.

"Ahh, yes, it's quite valuable you know. It shouldn't be used in the kitchen. I've put it in the tokonoma (display area in a Japanese room), it's my bowl and it's quite special".

"'s my bowl, and it's not special at all.  I've had it for years, it was a guest present at a friend's wedding 10 years ago I think...I've used it as a fruit bowl for years....maybe you had a bowl that looked like that?"

And so we went. Back and forth on that subject.
She went and got the bowl and brought it back to the kitchen.
But she isn't convinced.
And Yujiro says she's mentioned this quite a few I expect the bowl to migrate to her room again....soon....

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

A bad night of confusion...

Tired....we had a bad evening with Okaasan yesterday.

All was ok daytime. Yujiro was working. I was out in the morning and we left the "You should eat lunch out" sign on the kitchen table.
I actually came home about 12.45. Okaasan had just finished hanging laundry just-so, and was getting ready to go out. I could have changed the plans and given her some food, but thought I should just let her carry on getting ready to go and then head out into the warm sunshine for lunch and exercise.
She did, and when I popped down to the subway station area in the car to pick up some drycleaning I actually saw her (ok, I DID follow her a bit!) head into the Korean restaurant near the station around 1.45 pm.

So all ok.
Afternoon at home with the garden and kittens.

Started making dinner around 6 pm.
Yujiro came home at 6.45 pm
Okaasan telephoned him at 7.10 pm: "I've lost my Senior Discount Card for the Subway, and I don't have any money to just buy a ticket." She was at Sapporo's main rail station.
Several phone calls as Yujiro got her to look through her handbag etc.
Finally he suggested she take a taxi and we'd pay when she got home.


20 minutes later another phone call: "I'm going to look for a toilet first".


30 minutes another call: "I can't find any taxies. There are no taxies. I'm in a bus queue?"

We decided to drive downtown and get her. Told her to sit and wait. Don't move.

At 8.15 Yujiro found her sitting on the south side of Sapporo Station, where lines of taxies are waiting on the big taxi rank. I played pretty-please with a policeman about the parking while Yujiro hurried to get Okaasan and then we brought her home.
She was tired and very apologetic.
"Lunch? No, I didn't have lunch! I didn't have enough money!"

But when we got home she unloaded all her shopping cheerfully on the kitchen table: Look! I bought this and this and this! Bean paste candies, seaweed wrapped fish, dried mangoes, receipts from shops all over town - coffees in coffee shops, a noodles set lunch the day before (probably about 2 hours before coming home for dinner) etc etc etc...
And of course: the Seniors Discount Subway Card, safely tucked into the card her pocket....

And then. Finally at 9 pm. We had dinner.

Okaasan was very, very apologetic to both of us. We were forgiving. But tired.

Today is the last day of the Golden Week holiday. I'm just planning a quiet day with the headcold, the doorstep planters, the kittens. I'll give Okaasn lunch at home and try to keep her calm for the day.

Physically able dementia. It's hard. because they can set out happily into the world and get into all sorts of scrapes. Luckily Japan and Sapporo is very safe, understanding society. And we have a car to go rescue. But it's a hassle.

A translator I used to work with is dealing alone with her mother who has dementia, advanced from the sound of things. I see her about once a week near my English school - sometimes her mother is in a wheelchair and sometimes striding along with her daughter in armlock...heading somewhere, for something, for some reason.
I fear Okaasan will be the same. Her physical ability, which is good for a lady who is 80 years old this year, will continue even though her mental state declines. And we won't be able to phyisically contain her.
She'll shop and eat randomly all over town, and lose train passes and keys and the way.....and  still she'll think she is perfectly healthy.

Onwards, onwards on this life of ours...............

Monday, 3 May 2010

Golden Week catch-up

I've got a headcold - so haven't been up to any coherent thoughts.
Of course, I now have 4 days off work during the Japanese series of public holidays called "Golden Week" - typical!
I wasn't actually planning anything interesting - just quiet down time at home with the kittens and the garden. Yujiro is starting training and work as a Velo Taxi driver and the weather has FINALLY woken up and geared into spring.

We fixed the front door steps. I'd take a picture - but I just dropped the camera as I was trying to negotiate kittens gate with an armful of too much - and I think I've broken it. :-((
Anyway - cement/fake stones from the homecare center (we seem to spend 90% of our couple time at that place), and $40 later there is a stylish array of half steps for Okaasan to use as she returns from shopping expedititions with her loot.

A slight blip on the event was that Yujiro said airily at breakfast: "I don't think it's necessary, I asked her and she says she is ok on the steps now!".
I set him straight with on overly direct: this old lady doesn't know what day it is today. HOW can she judge whether she can manage steps of not? She is just being polite and doesn't want to cause a fuss and naturally doesn't want to think herself that her physical condition is not so great. So of COURSE she says: "I can manage, no problem". The reason she is living with us is that WE can make this decisions for her, to make life easier. We can't let her deny she needs help with some things.

It frustrates me that sometimes he wants to take the easy way out, and doesn't want to see his mum as a) a healthy but sometimes physically challenged senior b) a woman with dementia which effects her ability to make judgements/decisions.
Of course he is remembering the young mother who could do anything and the middle aged woman who was fiercely independent. I've only ever known this sometimes befuddled senior. So I am a lot more direct. She couldn't get up the steps the other night. A month ago she fell and grazed and bruised herself badly on these steps. Time to act.

So. The steps got bought and made. Looks good.
We celebrated by actually sitting outside and having our first outside lunch of sandwiches and beer of 2010.

Apart from that.

I've cleaned 37 pairs of Okaasan's pants. Now I have to find devious ways of slipping them back into her room so she can find them when she needs them.
I smelled them first. can imagine. Luckily this blog comes without pictures or smells.
2 days ago I could smell something funny in the hallway. I thought Okaasan had had a toilet accident. But after cleaning the floor the smell persisted.
Then I realized it was coming from the otherside of the door into the tatami room, where Okaasan keeps a lot of clothes and stuff.
I found her dirty laundry basket overflowing underwear. So I took half of them and hurled them in the washing machine. Dried them upstairs in our apartment...and now I have to get them safely home, a few at a time while she is out. Just leave them on her laundry drying area, on the sofa, on the floor etc.
She does do her own underwear washing by hand, but usually about 4 pairs at a time. She'll never get to the bottom of 40 plus pairs of pants!

But Okaasan is getting into laundry mode again. The good weather means she can hang stuff outside and rehang it to her hearts' content. She did it endlessly yesterday. Our laundry. Her laundry. Our laundry again. She loves hanging laundry.

And she is starting to go out every day again. Walking for a bit late afternoon. And coming home almost on time for dinner. All great.

Time to go. I am cooking her lunch today and while I got it all going she asked me to delay...because she was busy washing more...laundry......