Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Sliding into paranoia?

Her. Not me. Although maybe I'm not so far behind....

Last night I had Couch Surfing guests (a Korean mother and daughter with the biggest suitcases in the world), so I was out making them welcome and got home about 9 pm.

I'd met Okaasan at 4 pm when I first got home and she was just heading out for a walk. Grabbed some laundry from her room, found the lunch delivery soup pot that she'd lost (it was in the microwave) and managed to do a bit of cleaning.
I cooked her fave flat fish in soy sauce and tofu soup, left it all out in the kitchen for her. Veggies, rice etc.

Got home at 9 pm and found none of it eaten. Okaasan asleep in her room.

???????? Had she come home and sat down by the TV while the soup was heating, and fallen asleep? Had she eaten while out? Was she sick?

Just now I went in to her room to check.

"Morning Okaasan? How are you? You didn't eat dinner last night, so are you ok?"
"I didn't eat dinner? Me?"
"Yes, when I came home at 9 pm from work (little white lie), the fish and the soup etc was still here in the kitchen. Are you feeling ok?"
"The suspicious person was outside, so I switched off all the lights."
"?????But the lights were on....about dinner...."
"There's that sign outside about Don't Ring the Doorbell. Why is that there?"
"Because last week you said someone rang the doorbell at 10 pm."
"Last night a man was in the street, I could see him. It gave me a bad feeling. I switched out the lights.".
"Well, it's ok....don't worry. We have a big strong front door. As long as you are ok, I was worried about you not eating dinner."
"Dinner? I didn't eat dinner?"

....and at that point at escaped!!!!!!!

Is her paranoia increasing and taking root?
Is this because Yujiro is away and she has an underlying feeling of anxiousness?
Or is there actually someone hanging around because the car is gone from outside the house 2 weeks, and lights are on all night in the house?
Or is the moon made of cheese?

Point 1: I must remember to take DOWN the door sign daytime and hide it, so that it doesn't trigger the whole story again. Maybe it is just reinforcing her paranoia. I should put it up just before I go to bed, when she is safely asleep by the TV.
Point 2: It will be very interesting to see if this story continues once Yujiro and the car are back next week. I'm betting it won't.

Mind you - we won't know if that's because the suspicious man has noticed the car and moved on to scare other old ladies, or if Okaasan is feeling safe again and her paranoia has subsided.

I think I need to go and have nice normal conversations with my English class students :-)

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Half-way there...

Only another week to go.
Seems he went away ages ago.

Good things: I get to use the whole electric blanket in bed. And the TV remote. And silence from noisy Japanese game shows on TV.

Bad things: oh you know....

But a good day today cos I escaped out and had fun in the sunshine and snow with the Hokkaido International Adventure Club - snow shoeing in the art park, followed by 20 people plus enjoying cheese fondue and mulled wine lunch.
WISH I could upload the pix of this...the sculptures of naked ladies and animals in the snow...and the food....but my laptop isn't set up for that. So they'll have to wait.
It was great to be outside working up a sweat, trying to balance on the snow shoes made out of bamboo, nylon cords and ingenuity...

I left Okaasan's lunch in flasks on the table, she was fine. Didn't go out again today. Pity, because the morning was nice and not cold....but of course she let that weather slip away.

Funny conversation about the mystery door knocker - who is of course called a "suspicious person" in English.

Okaasan asked me if the suspicious person had come back.
No, I don't think so. I didn't hear the doorbell in the first place. You did. Did you hear it again?
No. I was asleep.
Well, maybe the suspicious person didn't come then.
Yes, maybe....

I'm hoping my Please Don't Ring the Doorbell sign, and the signs of activity near the doorstep (I am trying to make ice candles) in buckets etc will warn off anyone who comes for a snoop.

Tired  tonight. Fun in the sun and snow though. Bit tired having dinner with Okaasan, it was extra-hard to think up conversation topics. I settled for Korean food..Korea....travelling...Kenya...game parks....Chinese tourists have money....Koreans were looked down on by Japanese wartime...
It was ok. Okaasan gets far more chat time with just me - it is probably putting her dementia into reverse.
Not sure what it's doing to MY braincells.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Japanese Immersion Course.

Japanese Homestay to Improve Your Nihongo!

Woman-to-woman conversations twice a day, with regular repeats to aid listening skills!

Wide range of topics: wartime shortages; cooking; sardine fishing; my father did black-market business with American G.I.'s; the health benefits of oranges; how to grill fish bones;    child labor in wartime Japan; knitting with younger siblings hanging off you; knitting V-neck sweaters; how my husband choked on a fishbone.....
....and return to start again.
Catch it all a second, third time and then try our special service: Blended Stories. Can YOU tell where one story ends and another starts?

Come on up to snowy Sapporo - and get snowed/frozen in with a real-life Japanese old lady.

Enjoy hours and hours of one-on-one time to hone your Japanese language skills.

Sign Up: Okaasan and Me, blog.

Soon. Please!

Friday, 27 January 2012

Ringers? Knockers?

What DO you call people who ring the doorbell late at night to check if the house is occupied or not?

In old Hollywood movies there are little boys - probably called "scallywags" by an adult character - who tie strings to door knobs, rap the knocker and run away.

Not sure what the word is for the maybe-person who Okaasan thinks ring the door at night. I don't know in English, and I certainly don't know in Japanese!
I'm using the catch all "warui-hito" or "bad person" in my conversations with Okaasan on this topic.

Last night I was working - left Okaasan the remains of the fish paste and veggie stew thing on the table and hoped she didn't break her neck on the awful ice coating Sapporo roads at the moment.
I was home early afternoon and managed to get her OUT for her walk by 3 pm, at least in daylight.
I went off to work ...and a nice little sidetrip to my curry restaurant for dinner ...and came home after 9 pm hen Okaasan was already sleeping in front of the TV.

I had asked my evening student to write a large sign in Japanese: "Please do not ring the door bell after 9 pm".

I hung it on the outside of the front door.
Reckon that will at least make the bad person think twice....hmm...maybe there ARE people living in this house, even though the car is always gone.

This morning the sign was missing.
Okaasan had it in her room. She'd seen it through the hall windows when she was getting her newspaper in the entrance hall at 6 am.

"Look at this! Who put this here? xxXXXXXX'&%$#"#GBMJMHJ we should tell Yujiro, we should tell the police! dhmgt543uimkXXXXX!!+``====Look at this! Bad people come to the door and do this!"

(The symbols are the bits of Japanese I didn't understand. My Japanese includes words like "dorobo" or "thief" and "hanin" which is "suspect". I don't know about doorbell ringers.)

"Look at this! Who put this here? xxXXXXXX'&%$#"#GBMJMHJ we should tell Yujiro, we should tell the police! dhmgt543uimkXXXXX!!+``====Look at this! Bad people come to the door and do this!"

Not sure WHAT Okaasan thought the bad person was doing...making signs and hanging them on the doors of strangers....??????????????????

I told her I had made the sign. Three times. Then I got the speech above. So I told her I had made the sign myself. Again. I think she finally got the idea!

I don't think I'll tell the police. Not much they can do. A drive past by a patrol car is hardy going to make any difference.
Although.....it would be kind of fun to see a young police officer trying to take a statement from Okaasan....round and round and round again on the same story!!!!

Maybe I should tell her that I HAVE told the police....

Anyway. FRiday....

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Dinners a deux

Haven't murdered eachother yet.

Had two nights of dinners -a-deux: the dried tofu and radish stew the first night and then simmered fish paste bits and veggies the second night. All ok. I certainly have more "Okaasan-type meals" in mind now than 3 years ago - and not having to plan lunches too is WHOLE weight off my mind.

Okaasan very chatty at dinners about a range of stuff - New Card lucky numbers and lottery numbers, and pets and wartime good shortages etc.....and we went several rounds on the fact that baseball star Darvish is/isn't Iranian but could conceivably be Japanese.....
Have to say it: Okaasan is far chattier when it is just her and me. Having Yujiro there are the table turns us both into his audience, which is relaxing for me and maybe not so stimulating for Okaasan.

Anyway. All ok.
I washed and dried all the laundry from her room and just marched in and returned it to her....with the excuse "It's hard to do so much by hand isn't it...etc".

Okaasan set off so late again in the day for a walk. It's is SO not a normal thing to do. I got home at 5.30 pm and she was fussing about not having any money....and then started ready.
Outside was dark and minus 6 C, the roads were icy, the night was horrible...and Okaasan decided it was a good time for a walk to the subway, then she took the subway downtown and maybe walked on the underground street to the station. And  then came home by 7.30 pm.
Old ladies usually don't choose to go out on a cold and icy evening.....but..

Okaasan also says the mystery person rang the doorbell last night again. At 10 pm. From our second floor apartment we can't hear the doorbell, so I don't know. I was actually awake at 10 pm...but heard nothing.
Hmm. Really don't know whether this is true or not. There is no car in our parking space at the moment...so it is possible someone is testing to see if the house is empty or not....or could just be Okaasan's vivid imagination.
She got a bit snippy with me when I suggested it could be next door's bell she was hearing - "I can hear ok you know!!!"......

I moved stuff around on the doorstep this morning, so an observer can see that things are happening at the house...maybe I should put a trash bag full of beer cans outside so it looks like a beer-guzzling guy is inside!!
Dementia sufferers do apparently have hallucinations, but until now we haven't really thought that much about Okaasan.
Hard to know.

And so. Writing this at work on my laptop, it is too heavy to take to and fro....my thigh muscles yesterday were a bit sore and swollen from carrying heavy work books. And I needed to buy a daikon raddish ;-))
Not having a computer in the house!!! VERY liberating! I actually read the newspaper, watch TV for more than 5 minutes and do other things I should do...but don't.....shhhhh...I could of course make Okaasan's lunch...but let's not go there!!!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

OKAY! Here!

Climbed out from under a mountain of pink, dirty underpants!!

I'm here!!! Daylight! Fresh air!!!


No. Actually....I switched on the computer this morning at home - and 10 minutes later it died on me. Nothing on the screen. Awful silence from the box-thing under the desk.
Computer engineer isn't back till Feb. 4th.....

So, had to wait until I could carry the laptop home from my classroom. Laptop or daikon raddish? Which is more essential to bring home.....??? both heavy. Computer won.

My God! A morning without a computer!! I READ a newspaper! I watched TV for more than 5 minutes. I Played with grateful cats. I even...made a sandwich for my lunch. Ran Okaasan's bath. Prepped my classes and left the house so early that I got to the classroom with the first student just-taking off his coat...instead of sneaking in an unfashionably-in-Japan...."just in time".
Like that awful weekend of March 12-13 last year....earthquake and tsunami weekend...oh...and my 50th birthday. Our home computer server was down and out (probably all the staff were sleeping at Tokyo Station) - that weekend we didn't have a computer at home and it really changed HOW we used our time. Mostly sat staring shocked at the Tv of course....

So. Here we are.

Okaasan and Me.

Day 1 ok - I came home late afternoon to find her boiling an egg and with a roaring heater because her room window was wide open to let in fresh air...probably since morning.
I had an evening class - so I faffed around and left her soup, tofu/raddish, rice, veggies and so on....apologised for being out...but she seemed ok with that...but a little impatient to get money from me for shopping.
Tried to get some laundry out of her room again...but she said "no I don't have anything" and I didn't march quickly enough into her side room to get stuff out of the laundry boxes.
In between meeting me in the kitchen at 4 pm and meeting me again in the kitchen at 5.30 pm she forgot...and asked me if I'd just come home from work. Amazing this - no memory of the egg cooking/open window conversation.

Came home later and she's only slightly burned the pan...and had left plates and stuff for me to wash. But all OK.

This morning she came out of to the kitchen to say Goodmorning...which is encouraging.
I got home at 4 pm - just in time to see baseball star Yu Darvish's farewell press conference in Sapporo Dome - and Okaasan was heading out.

Gave me a chance to get into her room, where the "no, I don't have anything" in laundry seemed to actually be 37 pairs of pants, 2 sets of pajamas and a pair of slacks. Meanwhile ONE pair of pants were lolling around in a bowl in the bathroom on their own....where Okaasan had half-washed them during her morning bath.

And so. Onwards into dinner......

Monday, 23 January 2012

Alone again. Unnaturally.

He's gone. My partner in care. Gone ski teaching for Chinese New Year etc. Not back until Feb. 4th. Ski resorts out in east and central Hokkaido.



That's probably Okaasan's feeling too. All that time alone with me and my cooking. Enough to make an old lady worry. Her only social interaction for the next 14 days...is me.

Yesterday he was out working locally, I actually drove with him as far as the outskirts of the city - so we could just have 30 mins sitting together and chatting about stuff. Then I got out of the car near the end of the subway line and went home, while he drove on to the ski area.
I spent the day quietly at home doing stuff and he came back in the evening for dinner.

Noticed interesting thing about Okaasan. As I was home all day and in and out of the kitchen doing things.

Okaasan's body movement is different depending on the time of day!
Demetia sufferers do sun-downing - getting more mentally/physically active towards the end of the day. That's a well-known symptom. Okaasan's later afternoon decisions to go out for a walk...after the sunshine and daylight is just part of this.

But yesterday I noticed that the WAY she sits watching TV changes as the hours pass.

In the morning she is sitting upright under the heated table blanket and watching TV.
By midday she is kind of slumping...and after lunch she is slumping or actually laying down. Slumping and staring at the TV. Doing nothing.

But by 4 pm and after....she is sitting upright again and shuffling through the things on her table, picking up the newspaper and magazines, rooting through the many little bags she has scattered around, fussing over shopping receipts of years gone by.....still sitting in front of the TV, but obviously MUCH more active.

It was so clearly different. Middle of the day and late afternoon.

Anyway. Here we go. Countdown to Feb. 4th....

Sunday, 22 January 2012


There's a Peanuts cartoon strip of Snoopy moving the clock forward so he can get Charlie Brown to feed him earlier and earlier....

I get that feeling with Okaasan sometimes.

Eating times...such a fluid subject.

I fed her lunch yesterday about 11.30/11.45 am (that's actually how we refer to this task - either "feeding Okaasan" or "doing Okaasan") and chatted a bit in the kitchen with her as she ate rice, simmered fish paste and vegetables, salad, pickles, soup etc - explained that I was going out shopping with a friend and would eat later.
After serving Okaasan with her rice I put the rest of the cooked rice in freezer boxes, and left them one one side to cool down.

Then I left home and spent 4 wonderful hours with my recently arrived friend and her baby in a shopping mall and big recycle shop. Just wandering and shopping, chatting and stuff. She needed non-slip shoes and was thinking about an automatic baby rocker...I was ambling happily.
We were once room mates long ago, then friends through email and phone calls for years, with once a year meet-ups for lunches or overnight stays.
Now we are able to amble together on a Saturday afternoon. Still can't get over this really.:-)

I got home about 5 pm to think about dinner.
Lunch stuff was all eaten and the plates as usual were sitting around with bits of water in them on the draining board...ready for Okaasan to wash in that never-coming-"Later".

And one freezer box of cooked rice was missing. And the eggs were on the table.

Okaasan had helped herself to yet ANOTHER box/bowl of rice mid-afternoon. I guess she'd wandered out into the kitchen sometime between 1 and 5...seen the rice box and ....

In her room on the carpet I could see the empty rice bowl, with egg shells in it (Japanese people consider rice and raw egg and edible mixture) - I popped my head into her room to see if this all meant she didn't want dinner...

"Dinner? Oh yes, I want dinner! That rice and egg? Oh that was lunchtime...."

And so it was in her mind. Maybe after the first lunch she'd slept until about 2 pm....woke up and felt a bit peckish...wandered into the kitchen and found the rice boxes....the first lunch and chatting with me in the kitchen was gone from her memory (even though the dishes were still there where she'd put them) and this lady who swears by the mantra "Thou Shalt Not Overeat" had tucked into yet more food.

And then: at 7 pm we sat down (some ski teacher popped in for dinner and bed, don't know who he was...)....and Okaasan ate a large bowl of spaghetti, salad and soup.

I MUST make sure there are snack-type foods for her in the kitchen. It doesn't matter if she eats  rice multiple times a day of course, but her increasing weight isn't going to help mobility etc...it would be better to get her snacking on a piece of fruit or a yogurt.

Okaasan sleeps a lot in her room. She wakes up and has no sense of what time it is. Yes, I know there's a clock in her room...but...

And today? Learned that lesson. I laid out lunch for her about an hour ago - I'm upstairs here hiding cos I can't be bothered to have lunch with her - and I've put some long stewing raddish and tofu potdish up out of sight on the microwave...so she can't: a) attempt to join in the cooking of it and b) eat it.

From tomorrow: the LOOOOOOOOOONG haul of solo-Oyomesannning. He is goes off tomorrow for 14 days...yes FOURTEEN days...of ski work out in resorts in the center of Hokkaido. He won't be back till Feb. 5th.

I've got lunch deliveries.
I haven't got the car.
I've got another bottle of homemade plumwine.
I've got my friend and her baby.
I've got this blog :-) and all you nice people!!!!

I'm buckling up for the ride.....14 days.......

Friday, 20 January 2012

In-to-lunch. :-)

THERE we are. Great scene welcomed me back into the kitchen tonight.
A nice empty lunch delivery box. Food consumed and box nicely washed.
Not a burned pan in sight.

I could come in at 6.30 pm and start making the miso soup, the pork and veggies Chinese fry thing in a packet sauce, the rice, pickles and left over tofu/spinach something.
Okaasan got back in at 6.45 pm and she and I sat and chatted about how much money Japanese star pitcher Yu Darvish will get to play in the US and how much his ex-wife will get etc etc
And my tale about 3 students cancelling classes this week as influenza strikes led Okaasan into a new - a NEW! - story about how she kept her little boys at home and healthy for the first 3 years of their life and how 1-year old Yujiro went off walking on his own....told me THAT story about 10 times...obviously she loved telling it and giggling at exactly the same place on each telling.

I had a little tremor of fear when I mentioned the lunch delivery etc and Okaasan said: "There's no need to go to the trouble of ordering me lunch like this..."

I thought she was about to say: "I'll cook my own lunch and burn the house down for you!", but she seemed to be saying that she could go OUT to lunch etc.

I quickly stamped on that idea and talked about the weather and the icy roads etc etc....better to stay in at lunchtime and how this delivery system was SO convenient.....PLEEEESE just enjoy it...and let me get on with my working life. Well, I didn't say the last part.
I mentioned that when Yujiro is away it is hard for me to cook lunch and dinner every day etc....so "just while Yujiro is working away a lot let's use this service shall we?"...and Okaasan seemed to accept that idea...I think. Hope.

Oh God I hope.

So. Friday night. And look what I got!!! Two students gave me presents this week: homemade plum wine and strawberries and cream.......so that's what I am into tonight.....

**** Bit puzzled about this....my blog counter thingy on the side here says there have been OVER 200 blog visits today. I don't know why. Haven't been that many since we had our domestic violence interlude 2 years ago or when my Dad and step-mum died....or the recent F&%$#}{|! Sale story....why? Are old lady lunch boxes so interesting? I can't think that my topic labels of "dementia" "cooking" and "day care avoidance" or whatever could attract so many views.
Very odd.
Facebook is somehow now connecting Network Blogs...maybe it's that.....I'm not so sure everyone I know on Facebook really wants to/needs to read these domestic ramblings.
Very odd.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Getting in some help.

Gonna have a lunch box delivery service next week, and maybe beyond, to give me a  chance to breath.

So happy about that. A big part of my brain is jumping up and down making whooping sounds. ;-))

We did it before - 2 years ago? - and now we decided to bring it in again.

He came home last night with his ski teaching schedule into February ....day after day after day of being away basically. A night or two passing through home. But basically away till February 4.

I said I couldn't. Needed help.
No big drama. I just suggested the hot lunch delivery service and he agreed.

Making lunch for Okaasan ISN'T hard. It's troublesome, and in a busy working week it is One More Thing To Do. The past week we haven't had heavy snowfall, if we do, then clearing snow outside the front door will ALSO have to be factored into the morning duties.

Usually, sometime between a shower/getting dressed/packing my work bag/settling the cats/finding my house keys....somewhere in there I am usually in the kitchen heating up something/quickly cooking something to put in Okaasan's lunch flask, heating up the rice, cutting up some pickles, putting some kind of vegetable out, putting the instant soup packs in a bowl etc

Then, when I come home, I usually wash all the dirty plates because she doesn't. She thinks she will "after a bit of TV and a sit", but she doesn't.
And in between work I am thinking about the shopping for this: what kind of sloppy food I can make to put in the flasks.
The other day I risked giving her a half cooked flat fish, showed her the fish and explained she just had to heat it. Left her to it. Came home 6 hours later wondering if I'd find a burned pan...or worse. But she HAD managed to do it with minimal burn.

Okaasaan really can't cook. Just about heat something up. Put an egg in a pan of soup. Can't really use the microwave. She wouldn't starve. But she wouldn't eat well, and the kitchen would look like chimpanzee cooking day at the zoo....because she doesn't wash or put away stuff. And last summer we were getting to the 3 burned pans a week stage...which added a whole other task into the late afternoon...scrubbing the pans usable again.

So. Hot lunch delivery service commeth. Okaasan had it before and it was ok. But after a while she said she got bored with the food and wanted to go out for lunch. Was that winter? I don't remember.

So happy about this. 
Yes, I CAN do it. But day after day on my own - not to mention the whole dinner duties too and what-to-talk-about - it is just grim. When he is here we take turns with it all, and it doesn't seem so bad. If he is away for a week and more - I think I might go pop.
Of course I could make more time in my morning - get up earlier, stop wasting away time playing Wordscraper games on Facebook etc...stop going to the gym in the late afternoon and shop and go home and pre-cook stuff.

But why should I?

I have a life. This isn't my mother. This family isn't poor. Paying for a hot lunch to be delivered to this old lady would be a BIG help.

I'll take it.

One of my students was so excited to hear about this today, she said it could be a first step in Yujiro accepting that we need outside help etc - and once again I got the Day Care Centers Are So Wonderful speech from a concerned, kind person.
I don't think this is going to lead direct to day care. Yujiro doesn't want to face THAT hurdle yet. Doesn't want to initiate the inevitable fight with Okaasan on that topic. Doesn't want to admit to himself maybe that we can't do it all.....
He is happy to let it all drift along - with he and I taking turns to make it all go smoothly. And generally it does.

But when he is away for more than a few days the balancing act becomes a lot harder and I'm reaching out for the support now.

Still have to do dinners though :-(

Monday, 16 January 2012

Ongoing Oyomesaning

Just doing it.
Days and days of it.
Ski season is in full thing here, so he is working like crazy and away at different ski areas.
He works for a ski instructor agency, they supply staff to different ski areas as needed. He works two or three days, then appears here at home for a night or an afternoon...and then gone again.
Sometimes with the car.

So. I am The Decider. The Shopper. The Cooker. Usually The Washer-Upper too. The Okaasan Bank. The Okaasan Chat Machine. etc etc etc.

My friend has moved in down the road, which is SO strange...to think that she is here in the same city, and not hundreds of miles away in another part of the country. It'll be a new stage in our friendship, to be near neighbors at a different part of our lives. Once upon a time we shared an apartment, when we were single. Now she has a husband and child. And I have a ski bum and his mother.
Sapporo put out the welcome mat for her by having a week of minus temperatures.....how far can it go???? Tomorrow might be "Warm", only minus two daytime. We'll all break out the spring clothes.

Okaasan is ok.
I feed her. Chat her. Make my escape.
She has got out most days, and come home again on time.

I notice she is watching a lot of TV shopping now. Most people would find this boring and switch channels after a few minutes. She doesn't. Maybe she doesn't realise it IS TV shopping, with the same slogans and videos of amazing results and bargain prices - repeated and repeated.

Saturday night I couldn't face a dinner alone with Okaasan, so I slipped away and took myself out for a huge plate of spare ribs, a beer and a movie (Dominic Cooper throwing off all the Mamma Mia! traces by playing a psychopath and the body double - Saddam Husein's crazy son Uday. Good movie.)

Sunday morning Okaasan caught me in the kitchen and told me that somebody had rung the doorbell at 4 am. She'd gone to the entrance hall, but the mystery person didn't say our family name...and had gone away. She thought that was a bit scary.

I don't know. She might have imagined it. She sleeps with the TV on, so a doorbell on the TV and her in a half-awake state. Who knows? Yujiro was away with the car, so the house may have looked empty...but Okaasan's TV blaring can be heard outside. Was somebody trying the door?

But it WAS interesting that she actually TOLD me about it. Usually Okaasan hardly ever volunteers some information into a conversation. She doesn't relate incidents from her day, or something she's seen on TV. It's what makes conversations with her such hard work - because we have to do all the input.
But this time she, maybe, remembered something that had happened to her. And told us about it later. That doesn't happen much.

* Did anyone else in Japan see the Tv advert about dementia? I caught it last week I think. A family sitting round a table for lunch with a big tray of sushi. The man reaches for one of the sushi, and his elderly mother stops him saying "No! No! Don't eat that one, my son likes that. It's his favorite"...and the man and his wife exchanging rueful, heart-warming smiles about that.
Did anyone else see it?
I was surprised to see dementia used in a TV ad. Even in this warm, fuzzy way.

Anyway...off to relax a bit. Newspapers, the end of the beer, some TV and then bed with two cats.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Remind me...

...never to move home ever again!

Yesterday tried to help - a bit - my friend and her family move into their apartment.
Boxes, boxes, boxes....5 adults and a baby in a smallish apartment....OMG.

Moving is hell, however you try to make it easy for yourself.
My friend was amazingly calm through it all, I'd have been knawing at the curtain rail.
I don't envy them one little bit having to do all of that. My friend's parents are here for 3 days (staying in a hotel) to help, but the trouble with unpacking stuff is that only the people who are going to live in a place can really unpack and decide where to put the stuff...there was a lot of hovering and "what can I do?" going on, which wasn't really helping.

It brought back memories of our move almost 3 years ago (wow time flies when you are having fun!!), when we moved Okaasan and ourselves, and the cat, and the goldfish - into this house. Luckily this is a big old house, with lots of space to absorb our stuff. I am sure there are things under the stairs I haven't seen since we moved in.
And made me think what will happen next. Our next move in life....when Okaasan goes into care or dies. This house is actually too big for just two of us and two cats, and not so well located that I could move my English school here. Maybe we could have a lodger.
When Okaasan....what? Is that bad of me to think of that? I can't help it. This is just a stage of our lives. It's been 3 years now, and she is still basically strong of-body...and mostly of mind. Living with us has slowed the progress of her dementia, I think.
She could go on...and on...and on....oh shit...at least another 10 years!!!

I'll confess: there is a small, evil part of me that hopes she will have a slip or a fall which will speed it all up a bit.....There. I've said it. I'm not so evil that I'll actually stick my leg out and trip her up...but y'know, can't help hoping....that "something"will happen and and then she'll be beyond our home care, and I won't have to struggle with Japanese cooking and underpants anymore.

I expect this blog entry will be used by the police as evidence against me when Okaasan DOES have an accident...

Meanwhile I am Kind Oyomesan.
Okaasan came home 2 nights ago with only one glove, and a left hand the color of a lobster in minus 7 C temperatures. Lost glove. Again. She spent ages hunting in her room for it. But of course she didn't go out originally with only one glove, so I'm 99% sure she lost it when out. Or the infamous Glove Thieves of Sapporo stole it.
So yesterday, after work I bought her some more gloves. She can't go OUT to shop for more gloves, without gloves on her hands....

Yujiro's away for 2 nights so I am on lunch and dinner/chat duty. Doing it.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Still here...

Haven't disappeared under the snow...still here.
Just starting full schedule work week and he was home, so Okaasan care was less. And my friend's family are moving here this week, so I was getting heaters/unused curtains and stuff to offer them....etc etc
Sapporo hitting a cold spell - I think it was minus 4 C daytime here...tomorrow night could be minus 11 C!

Okaasan fine, as much as she does anything of interest.

It's funny what she remembers and what she doesn't. The short term memory is a strange thing.

Yesterday she was watching a TV program about Tahitian dance - which looks like Hawaiian dance but with more power - and when it finished she came into the kitchen where I was making dinner.
I commented on the program, and to my surprise she remembered it (from 30 seconds before) and we chatted about that. It sounds so normal, but for Okaasan it isn't - many times I comment on something I know she's been watching - cos you can see her TV from the kitchen - but she looks blank.
This time the Tahitian dance information was still there in her short term memory.

Her memory power varies, stuff you'd think would stick obviously hasn't...and then random things have taken root in there somewhere and she can recall them.
The strangest I reckon is the shopping - something Okaasan has bought, and brought home, by the time she has got back and it is in the kitchen...."did I buy this?".

But now I am used to saying "Good morning" several times in the space of 20 minutes, or repeating the first part of a story for her, or describing again where something comes from. Somebody gave me gingko nuts recently and Okaasan must have asked me 10 times: "WHERE do they come from?"...all in the space of about 5 minutes.

Memory interests me, maybe cos I am a language teacher and I wonder how and if students will remember vocabulary etc.

Okaasan's short term memory varies. Just when you assume she probably doesn't remember something...she surprises us and clearly DOES remember.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Let's NOT have a bath....

"Let's NOT have a bath!"

Which part of that didn't you understand?

You know that old joke?

Conversations with Okaasan run along these lines - she gets the topic, but not the detail.

After we stood in the kitchen talking about bath - should I have one, no I had one yesterday, so maybe I don't need one, should I have one before the hair salon?, maybe no, it would take too much time, no bath is ok - I came upstairs to switch off the computer and returned a minute later to the kitchen to start prepping lunch.

Okaasan was in her underwear in the kitchen, fussing around with a towel and running a bath for herself!

No point in stopping her once she'd started in on the activity, so off she went to have a bath and I moved the lunch plans back an hour.

Dementia really screws up the understanding of conversations: the topic stays in the memory, but the details of it fly away as soon as they are heard. A decision isn't a decision 1 minute later. A need or a like - it has gone, or changed.

So, bath, lunch, get dressed, get ready to go 30 minutes early - and off we went together across the snowy local roads to the subway. Ride the train companionably into town. Guide her to the hair salon.

Do I have my subway pass? I usually get on the train here, I use this exit usually, where are we going, have I been here before, why are we here, did I come here before?....all the usual worries, the checking questions, the anxietes.

Delivered her on time to the hair salon and came home to relax.
Yujiro picked her up in the car on his way home, well almost didn't because he hadn't read my mails to his cellphone after work, but by 7 pm Okaasan was back home ok with a stylish perm and looking tired but happy.
All ok for another month or two.

Saturday, 7 January 2012


"Let's...." is an overused Japlish phrase which is used by businesses to encourage customers in the merry deed of parting with their cash. Usually ignoring any English grammar rules and combing the chirpy first word with any old noun.

"Let's Tennis! Let's Sale! Let's Cute Dog!"
And after that shocker of yesterday I expect there is a "Let's Fuckin' Sale!" somewhere in Japan...

I'm employing the Let's magic to chirp-along Okaasan into doing stuff. Or, allowing me to do stuff for her.

"Let's bundle up your old newspapers!"
"Let's make a hair appointment for this afternoon!"
"Let's skip having a bath before you go out, cos it will take a bloody long time!".

Suddenly thought I should get her along for a haircut and perm before I go back to work and I get busy with my friend's home moving next week. So...off we'll go this afternoon..probably hand in hand across the ice.

"Let's slip and fall together! Yay".

I've had 72 hours off Okaasan watch because my old boss came to town for 2 nights with a young homestay guest, and we enjoyed a night out at the Sapporo Beer Garden with BBQ lamb and veggies, and then long, long chats over a second coffee and dinner.
So we left sushi on the table for Okaasan the first night, and Yujiro came home from work and "did" Okaasan the second night. Okaasan let a whole nice sunny day slip away and then set out as dusk appeared at 4 pm. As usual.

My old boss was full of advice about How to Manage a Demented Oldie, but however kind it all is...the reality is different. I have to remember to let concerned people shower me with advice and not get het up about it.

Yes, I KNOW there are day care centers and assessments and professional help.
But I have a son who thinks his mum is basically ok. And a woman who hates hospitals.
Yes, I KNOW it is dangerous for her to go walking at 4 pm.
But, how the F}{~$# do you actually stop her?
Yes, I KNOW.........

Let's Lunch!
Let's Get Dressed into the right kind of clothes for January.
Let's Put on Boots not Shoes!
Let's Go!  (Repeat for 20 minutes)
Let's Perm!

Friday, 6 January 2012

F%$!*`=)' Sale!

You are reading that right.

This is nothing to do with Okaasan and Me (that's a F%&#!+*~ Something else sometimes), but this is doing the rounds on Facebook at the moment in Japan and beyond - a shop in Osaka and their January sales slogan.

Gallerie by Spinns.......that's the shop. And this is their current slogan.

There is some explanation for this, maybe....although I still think this is someone in their copy writing department who is hoping for a new job in 2012.
The explanation seems to be that "fuku" in Japanese means "luck", and Japanese shops in January sell fukubukuro or Lucky Bags. Bags stuffed with unsold stuff, which they bag up together and sell cheaply and customers hope to get something good inside...along with lots of stuff they don't need at all.

So a Fuckin' - maybe Lucky fuku Money kin Sale??

Or not.

(For Japanese readers: "Fuck" is just about the strongest swearword. Really shouldn't be used unless you know people very well. It's common in U.S. movies now of course, but really in polite, every day conversation you just DON'T use this....I use it to myself, to Yujiro when I am angry with him, to Okaasan secretly....).

Amazing....I think this will live as an Only in Japan story for years to come...like the old one about a Santa nailed to a cross in a department store...

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Double act again. Phew.

Cats enjoying a You Tube video about squirrels....

Back to the double act again.

He returned from skiing at the far resort, with the good news that he'll be working nearer the city for the next 4 nights at least. So out early every day and home for dinner.

I could relax. Just get the dinner to the table, sit back and let him chat on to entertain Okaasan.

I'd had a quiet day. Stayed home in the morning, got Okaasan to have a bath. Met no resistence to that idea. Recently I've just been TELLING her that her bath is ready - as if it is an already decided event. She seems to accept that.
While she was in the bath I took some dirty underwear etc from her room and hunted unsuccessfully for the soiled clothes following the toilet accident (WHERE did she hide it???).

Then had lunch with Okaasan instead of doing my 11 am-escape-out-somewhere.Talked to her about my friend who is moving here next week from Tokyo...got Okaasan talking about how she'd lived in Osaka as a young wife etc.
It was ok. One meal a day with Okaasan is doable without my brain imploding. Two meals is hard-going and I make an excuse or plan my day around having to be out between 11 am and 1 pm so I can avoid lunch with her.
To Carers of old people everywhere - you KNOW what I mean. Actually mothers of small children probably know too. I'm lucky that this "child" can be left to cope with some flasks of food on the kitchen table! It isn't Okaasan's fault that she is boring conversationally...but given the choice - I'd rather avoid having to eat with her. I do it if a) she probably needs the mental stimulation or b) the weather is bad and I can't be faffed to go out.

THEN I escaped - walked 20 minutes (being able to walk is still such a joy!!), to an old, local hot spring where I joined lots of old ladies in a good soak and a quiet think, and then took the free shuttle bus back home. Hot springs/onsens are really ALL over Japan, most tourists think of the classy hotels or the simple, rustic places at scenic spots. But here in a city the size of Sapporo, the hot water bubbles out of the ground at various places and there are numerous, small, unstylish onsen centers with slightly dirty tiled floors, ageing game machines in the entrance area, 40-year old lockers etc. I'd been to this one years ago with a friend who had a discount voucher. It's nothing special, but sitting in hot water in naked anonymity is very, very relaxing.

Overheard good conversation in the bath: one old lady telling her friend that her son's family came for New Year holidays and how the Oyomesan kept avoiding all the hard work of cooking and playing with the kids because she claimed to have a bad back ache....so...SHOCK HORROR...her SON - a MAN!!! - had to help his mother cook and take the kids to the park. I silently saluted an unknown Oyomesan who was tough enough to stand by her needs. :-)

Back in our home dinner was easy: a nabe/one pot hotpot with lots of veggies, the chicken bits that Okaasan didn't eat in the failed ozoni, fresh tofu AND yet more mochi/rice cakes all melted into the bubbling stew-like mixture.

We are STILL eating our way through the mochi rice cake a student gave me. This is a New Year tradition. Blocks of pounded, rice (the idea is to save rice cooking over the holidays) which are puffed up under the grill and then dropped all melty into the ozoni soup.
I tried twice to make the ozoni soup and obviously wasn't really getting it.
So two nights ago I gave up, and just made the usual miso soup for dinner - a spoon of miso paste and some raddish, long onions and a sprinkle of the little dried tofu bits from a bag in the kitchen cupboard.

Okaasan picked the bits of dried tofu up with her chopstick: "I've never seen these in miso soup, I've seen them in XXXXXX, but I've never seen these...."

Instead of quailing with fear and disappointment as I did, endlessly, a year or two ago, I made soothing noises, about how it was tofu and tofu is often in soup isn't it - maybe in a different form - but NOT so strange really etc And I told her that once I REALLY shocked her son by adding tomato to the miso soup. Joke, joke. Just let the complaint slip by.

Then today I happened to pick up the dried tofu package. And noticed the picture on the package:

It's miso soup. With the bits of dried tofu floating in it. This is the main idea of this product! The package back shows other ideas of mixing it with seaweed etc etc...but front picture? Miso Soup.

Don't know WHAT Okaasan was rambling on about. I can't believe she has never had this in her 81 years as a Japanese miso soup drinker. Maybe she thought the bits were something else? Maybe she is only remembering miso soup as a child - when maybe this product didn't exist.

Don't know. So glad though that I didn't expend too much emotion on her complaint.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

And ANOTHER night...

He was due home tonight.
But come 6 pm I got the call from the ski area...he'd got a booking for another day's work, sorry etc etc etc...but won't be home.


That's actually how I feel.

But, good little Oyomesan. I put a smile on my face and cooked dinner for Okaasan and Me.

In fact, after a vast, 3-hour lunch with a friend at the French buffet in town, food was, unusually, the last thing on my mind...but have to go through the motions for Okaasan.
And hope she doesn't go thru the "motions" all over the carpet tiles.
I reckon this time the toilet carpet tile isn't worth cleaning and rescuing. Better to throw it out and put down fresh carpet tiles. The toilet bowl mat I cleaned this morning....while I was having a shower.....

At 6.30 pm I went into check that Okaasan wanted dinner.
She had her mouth full of something and waved her hand and shook her head.
You don't want dinner? I looked back at the kitchen where it was all coming along nicely.


"I don't eat".
"You don't want to eat? You feel sick again, is it your side?"

"No, I don't eat at this time. I don't eat in the morning."


"It's 6.30 in the EVENING!!!!"

"Is it? It's evening now? I thought it was morning? oh, ok...I'll eat then..."

And she did. And I guided the conversation around here and there and got her chatty. I did my duty. 

But oh,,,, I so hoped he sould come home and make tonight easy.

I lied to Okaasan. Told her he was coming late tonight. Tomorrow I'll tell her he left early.

Okaasan's grip on time isn't great. is it January 1st now? This food will be delivered on December 31st....when is that? Is it afternoon? I was asleep...

MY grip on time is all too accute, I am counting the minutes and seconds till he walks back thru the door and I can take a back seat in the conversations...such as they are.


Monday, 2 January 2012

Ozoni Part II

Tried that New Year traditional soup again tonight, having studied all the Internet advice and my cookbooks.
Worked out ok, I guess, Okaasan said there wasn't enough salt in it and took a handfull to add to her bowl. But old people need stronger tastes, so I wasn't too bothered.

Actually today...nothing bothered me too much because my head cold settled in for a kick-around and I stayed in my pajamas all day...woke up at 9 am! And then after setting out Okaasan's lunch, I slept again from 11 am to 2 pm.
Spent a lot of time reading gossip magazines a friend sent me for Christmas.
Outside I could see the 90 year-old neighbor's family arriving with food and things to spend a few hours with her. The son and his family, the grandkids all chatty. That lady has the ideal family life - poor Okaasan had two sons, neither married and one of them lives with a woman who serves strange food. I can see why some of my older students worry about their kids not getting married - they face a lonely old age if there isn't anyone to play happy families with.

I reassured Okaasan that there WAS no ice outside now and that the streets were safe to walk - she simply can't get all our early to mid- December advice out of her brain - and finally at 3.30 she set out for a walk.
I asked her to buy carrots, for the soup, but of course she didn't. I spied on the mobile phone GPS that she took the subway downtown - for about 40 mins - and then came straight home again. Wonder why she did that? Who knows.

At 6.30 pm I went downstairs to throw the soup and other stuff together for dinner.
Found a major toilet accident all over the toilet floor, mat and into the entrance hall....oh yuk.
Cleaned that up and used a lot of floor cleaner.
It's hard to do THAT for someone, and then sit across the table and make polite dinner chitchat!

Okaasan was apologising for not having bought the carrots, and said she didn't want to eat much (my stomach feels strange)....but she ate through the soup and one rice cake and picked at a few more bits.

And so another day.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Ozoni help!!!

Anyone got an easy ozoni recipe?
I used this ready-made stock tonight. I used 1: 6 stock: water...but the result looked very brown, so I added more water...and then I cut the mochi up too small and Okaasan said they were hard....and I think the chicken pieces were too small...and...and ...and

Oh help!
This is the hardest thing about Japanese cooking - this basic balance of stock/soy sauce/sake....

Anybody got a fool-proof ozoni recipe that I can try for tomorrow night's effort?

Grumpy New Year

Have to laugh.

All the preparations for HAPPY New Year dinner as a nice, little family....

And....wait for it....Okaasan was a fug and didn't want to eat anything!

Yo ho HO! Please give a large bottle of rum.

New Year is a big deal in Japan. It's the time when families come together, even if they don't want to. There is special food, special Tv and first shrine visits, and special greeting cards etc etc.

We planned that Yujiro would be away skiing during the day, but late afternoon I'd take the train 30 mins along the coast to meet him, and then I'd drive back home, where our packs of instant buckwheat noodles (which Yujiro swears are just as good as the real thing), and a $100 box of traditional food would have been delivered by the supermarket.
We'd sit and enjoy all the food and drink some wine and toast another year together, and then retire to our living rooms to slump in front of the tacky TV singing show that dominates the airwaves every year.

So I fed Okaasan and chatted to her at lunchtime and set out to meet an old student for a coffee before catching the train. I put the instant noodle packs in the kitchen all ready to use, and left a note for the food delivery guy.
Okaasan had suddenly cottoned on to the fact that New Year = House Cleaning  and was frantically scrubbing the carpet with rolled up bits of newspaper. I gave her the vacumn cleaner, explained how to use it and left her happily vacumning her room.
A few misgivings about that. Would she trip over the cord and kill herself on the table corner? Would she get frustrated with not being able to remember how to switch the cleaner off?
But anyway. Left her to it.

Coffee. Train trip. 30 mins. pacing up and down in a cold, tiny, village station waiting for Yujiro to finish work. Back to the ski school. etc etc. Finally, 6 pm we headed home. Took the expressway to make sure of getting there.

Burst in through the kitchen door just before 7 pm ready to do the whole Happy New Year dinner thing.

Large box of New Year food ready and waiting!

One pack of noodles was missing...
Okaasan had eaten it.

Her face looked all crumpled up and her eyes were squinty, she was clutching her side: "My side hurts, inside hurts. I don't want to eat anything. The noodles? Yes, I ate those at lunchtime (already fogotten tofu lunch with me), cleaning? No, I didn't do any cleaning. I feel bad. I don't want to eat. Maybe a little rice. My side hurts. I feel bad. Rice? No, I don't want to eat anything...."

And on and on.
Finally WE ate a lot of the boxed foods, plus Okaasan's soup and half the rice. And drank all the wine. She sat with us at the kitchen table and looked at the glorious arrangement above.

But didn't eat any of it.

30 minutes later we all retired to our living rooms. Okaasan fell asleep in front of the Shopping Channel and we slumped in front of the singing show....with wine and cheese and chocolate.

What on earth happened to Okaasan during the 5 hours I was away?
Did she trip and fall  over the vacumn cleaner cord and hit herself? Did she get frustrated with trying to turn it off? Did she think we WEREN'T coming back and had left only instant noodles for her New Year dinner alone?

What? Could have been any of that. Or nothing at all.
At 1.30 pm she was fine. At 7 pm she was all gloom and doom, complete face difference. Voice difference.
So. All that train trip and driving and food ordering....for not a lot. I didn't mind whether Yujiro came back for Dec. 31st night or not. I'm beyond that. Happy with the TV and some chocolate me. We made all that Must-come-back effort to give Okaasan a good feeling!

Not her fault of course....but ...agggghhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

By 9.30 pm we were in bed....and that was 2011 for us.

Up at 6 am today January 1 2012 and drove BACK to the ski area. He had all day work and I used a discount ski pass and had 3 glorious hours in almost deserted courses to enjoy myself!!!

First sunrise of 2012...a special thing in Japan.

Arrival at Kiroro.

First run of 2012!!!!

The mountains! The sea! The snow!


Ringing in lots of good luck for New Year.

MY lunch. a bowl fo rice, topped with salmon flakes and roe.


Left Yujiro up there to work and stay a further two nights. I came home to find Sapporo looking like almost any other day of the year, shops open and people rushing around. Hell, even our local supermarket was open?
This just isn't right. It's January 1st. EVERYONE....well apart from emergency workers, train drivers, ski teachers, hotel staff serving yummy salon roe...should have the day off....

Came home a little fearful. What state would Okaasan be in? Crawling around rubbing bits of newspaper on every surface and howling at the new sunrise?
She was sleeping and the remains of the New Year food box lunch were around the kitchen. So she'd eaten.

I've just been in to chat to her...and she still has the pain, just under her right breast (a fall and a bruised rib maybe?), I asked her to lift up her pajamas and show Oyomesan-world-medical-expert her right breast.... I can't see anything apart from the red area where she keeps rubbing it....I made her a cup of tea and delivered her one and only New Year card.

She says she wants dinner. I'd better start checking the cooking books about how to make Ozoni, the traditional New Year soup with rice cakes in it.

Onwards, onwards into 2012 and all the mayhem that will hold.

This is our New Year card for 2012. Designed by the son of my student, who did last year too. Dragon year. But can't show it to Okaasan...the way she is clutching onto my ample thighs isn't so great!!!!