Sunday, 16 December 2018

Navel gazing

Tis the season to get sentimental.
Christmas baubles, memories and all.

A grey, strangely warm day with Sapporo streets full of dirty melting snow. I walked and rode the streetcar to spend time with Okaasan.
Sometimes a bit of a toss up: Should I go spend time with the old demented lady who knows who I am, but not when I last came? Or should I spend time with my comatose friend who probably doesn't know who I am/when I came/that I'm there?

Okaasan won. Dear Son was home for two brief nights and  day of car problems. So he hadn't been. I felt it right that I go to Okaasan.

There we are. Cans of fermented rice drink, sweet bean and rice snacks. Eating at the little table in her room, where we watched a fascinating nature documentary about unusual apes in the Amazon jungle.
We walked with the walker around the care home corridors. Briefly went out to the entrance area and fresh air. One toilet visit. 
She was ok enough. A little down, I felt. Any topic I tried to chat about - rich Chinese paying her son to teach them skiing/Korean food/holidays bin America - nothing seemed to spark much interest. She glanced around and said "Oh, I don't know, this old lady doesn't know anything, I don't know anything" in a pitiful voice...
But she made eye contact and smiled as I tried to babble on. We enjoyed the amazing apes program together.
I made a promise to my guilty heart that next time I visit I should get her out in the car or a taxi - to some department store and Christmas lights and fun. It IS hard to feel a spark of anything in a care home.

Guilty heart.
Today's sentimental theme.

I've been hooked on the US TV drama "This is US", a two season drama of family - race/addiction and lots of guilt. Almost at the end of Season 2 now. Hooked completely.

Made me think about my own childhood and parents....unfinished stuff and guilt.
All 4 of my parents have died. Birth parents and stepparents. I'm the product of a divorce, but to be honest I never know any different -so I was/am entirely happy with the way I grew up. Lived with mum and her partner, holidays with Dad and his partner.

I inherited good and bad from them all: Good includes a lot of independence and adventurism, adaptability...Bad list could probably be headed by too emotional/too independent/too judgemental/apt to fly off the handle and go my own way...

Guilt? Like in the TV drama?
They all died when I wasn't there. I was here in Japan.
Long term readers of this blog will remember the awful 2 years when I flew back and forth between my two lives - sometimes in a wheelchair after knee damage and an ovaries operation - as my dad and his wife were hospitalized and in care....and finally died at home. I had to go and sort out the house. The most exhausting, emotional thing to do.

On the other side. My mum died almost 20 years ago when I first came to Sapporo. Her partner got a new lady friend - moved her into his and mom's home and she looked after him  (so I dodged that care giving), then when HE died - he left the house to use as long as she needs....he and I - never so loving - had a kind of rapprochement when he was sick. A few friendly letters...

If I have guilt about unfinished stuff. It is mum.
I went back to the UK when she became sick - I got a job and shared a house with strangers - to try and share the sickness with her etc. But it was hard - she and her partner had been doing it all together while I was away in Japan - and, of course, they couldn't really open up that cancer fight togetherness battle to me....there was a lot of friction between me and stepdad. 
Finally, in a very unhappy time - I escaped to the last part of my life that had felt happy- back to Japan. Bought an air ticket and had to tell the family that I was leaving. Again. Leaving my dieing mother. Not being dramatic. She really was. We all knew it. She knew it.

I can't think how painful that must have been for her. To know that we would probably never meet again. We didn't say that, of course. But by them, she was sick enough and a realist know it.

I left her and my step-father to battle the cancer with the doctors.
I came back to Japan to start a new life. Here in Hokkaido - where eventually so many great things have happened to me.
A few months later mum died in England.

One of mum's friends told me later that she'd been happy to get letters from me in Japan, telling her about life there. Happy that I was happy. As parents are. I hope that is true, and not just an adult's comforting words to a child.

But I do have guilt. That I escaped the sickness and death. The family fights and stress. I wasn't there.

Which a very long Me and Okaasan. 
I think I am trying to absolve some of that guilt with my care of this old Japanese woman. It is my time to care for an elder and do the duties. To help someone end their life happily. The boring visits, the snacks, the TV watching, the toilet jokes and laughs. Happy to get a smile and laugh out of her.

Mind you - it's a LOT easier to be kinder now she isn't living with me :-) A lot. Once a week I can be kind and generous with my time. Ease the guilt and do some good.

Long, waffly confession. My god. Am I really going to push the button and put this out there in blog land.Guess so. Not a Catholic. but good wallow in inner feelings and stuff.

This is Us. Good drama. Give it a try. Will make you think a lot...and then spill it all over the internet.

Finally. Let's leave on a lighter note. As I was on my way to Okaasan today, the screenshot below came up on my Facebook memories...two years ago...when I came home to find Okaasan had probably eaten grass seeds intended for feline hairball easement....Oh the fun times we had then :-)

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Winter routine

So. Another winter of Okaasan and Me.
But I am here at home. And she is there in HER home.
Relaxed!! That's me...I think she is relaxed...

Dear Son left for 10 days work at the ski resorts and the house became a Cat Super Playground day by day....pieces of string on the carpet, chairs and boxes made into tunnels...mangled bits balls of fluff.
And I got deeply hooked on an American TV drama called "This is Us".

Occasionally I emerged into daylight to go and do some work or shopping, and then returned to entertaining cats and watching TV.

And Okaasan. At the weekend I bought cans of hot, sweetened sake and some rice cakes - went to the care home for an hour. Impossible to take her out in the wheelchair now, because the roads are icy and snowy.
 She and I sat in her room, with the food and drink - watching her TV and chatting. Then I got her up and into the walking frame to totter around the corridors. Took her in the chair to the care home front door for some fresh air. Did a toilet visit with the help of one of the staff - I haven't actually changed Okaasan's diapers at all - the staff rush in to do that ....thankfully.

She seems happy. Chatted about the food on the TV, the snow, the Christmas decorations....we talked about travel...and she had no memory of going to America or Australia....those stories seem to have vanished. Long ago I sat night after night listening to her talk about her travels...revolving stories with the same she doesn't have those memories....

Did I tell you that the doctor thinks her Care Level is better now? Last year they thought it was Level 4. Now level 3. Mentally and physically she is improved from this time a year ago....not near the level where she could be alone at home OF COURSE!!! But a calmer level.

Onwards to Christmas...