Visitors have come and gone; ba-chan away and back

Arriving in Saiki
Kai, Nina and Elizabeth arriving in Saiki on the train I've dubbed the crayola train

I started writing this right after the kids left, but then things got a bit hectic. Here are the details:

totoro bus stop
Totoro bus stop in Ume

We had so much fun while Kai, Nina, & friend Elizabeth were here. The weather did its job and we were able to be out and about almost every day. They stayed here for almost two weeks and stuck to Oita Prefecture for their adventures…former castle sites, temples, cousins, hot springs, yakitori, ceramics, miso making & cake decorating, ex-pat fraternizing, long drives, fishing bob collection museum (housed in an lighthouse), sushi, guest teaching, homemade chocolates, saltwater baths, stone Buddhas,  and family time. The only thing missing was Shoga (the dog had house sitting duty in Oregon). The time went by so fast, but we’ve got lots of great memories to keep us lifted until we can all get together again. We are so glad that both Kai and Nina could visit at the same time. Nina and Elizabeth headed east to Thailand and SE Asia for a month (they end their trip next Monday-we will try to see them during their overnight layover in Fukuoka) and Kai returned back to Portland and the dog.

Yonezawa Family
Yonezawa Family

A few days later, the futon had all been aired and the only physical traces of their visit were hand-dipped chocolates and login screens on social networking sites. Both Jiro and I were settling back into the routine here and Ba-chan seemed better than she had been in awhile. Her overall mental condition fluctuates and it isn’t clear what triggers her listlessness and confusion.  For the most part she is engaged and tries to keep active by gardening, but she doesn’t have much physical strength so she watches a lot of TV. During the winter it is too cold to be outdoors, so she is often bored and lonely. When the kids first arrived, she seemed pretty happy but  after a few days she seemed less interested in them, maybe because she wasn’t able to be the incredible host that she used to be, or maybe because she wasn’t able to join them on their day trips. Most likely it was just part of her fluctuating mental acuity.

Teacups and coffee mugs drying before firing (Onta)

A few nights back into our regular routine, Jiro ran to the store to pick up some groceries and I had bathwatching duty. Ba-chan bathes herself but isn’t always able to get out of the tub on her own so one of us is always at her place when she takes her evening bath. We usually check in on her if she isn’t out of the tub in 10 minutes or so, so I went in to check on her and she was clearly in trouble. I ran over, and saw that she had let the bath water out and had turned on the hot water…she was sitting in scalding water! Luckily the bath plug had been pulled so the bath wasn’t filling. I turned off the hot water and turned on the cold and had her sit for a few minutes in the cold water. She kept saying that she was fine and I kept talking to her to check on her mental state. I got her out of the tub-she was able to stand on her own but I noticed her heel was blistered badly. She was able to dress herself and she said she had no pain. Unbelievable!-considering that when we took her to the hospital she was admitted with third degree burns on both her feet and her buttocks.

塩湯 Seawater Bath in Kamiura

So that was the big scare-she has no recollection of how it happened. One day after her hospitalization, she was convinced that she was ready to come home. Luckily it’s the doctor who decides when it is time to go home.  Ba-chan stayed for a little over two weeks and is now home again. Her burns are healed and she is getting back into life at home. She had been attending day care two days a week, but now she’ll go three. We have to watch her more carefully and ba-chan-proof the house.

Ba-chan has been home for three days now and the sun is out again today. I don’t know if she fully understands the need to be careful.  She always assures us that she understands our instructions, and will follow them when we are around. But much like a three-year-old child, once we are out of earshot she ignores all she has agreed to and does what she wants. The worst part is that she attempts to hide her attempts at independence, so it can be a few hours or days until we discover what she has done. Seriously, you cannot wash disposable diapers in the washing machine!

Usuki statue on hillside behind temple

This is the first time that I have written in much detail about caring for our aging family member. I am not sure if I will again. I have avoided writing at all this past month because this responsibility has been weighing pretty heavy on me. I am hopeful that the drama has ceased and we are back to some sort of routine again and future blog posts will be about adventures on my bike or my garden space or good food.

I finally met with my supervisors at work. They pleaded with me to reconsider, but I had let them know my decision back in October and they didn’t say anything to me at all until late January (at a meeting that I scheduled). I am sorry that they haven’t found anyone yet, and I’ll help them out but not as a city employee. One more month and then….

One thought on “Visitors have come and gone; ba-chan away and back

  1. Jeanne Saso March 11, 2010 / 9:31 pm


    Your mother-in-law is so lucky that you both moved back to take care of her. My family tells me all of the time that I am not patient with my mother and she does not even have dementia, but does have other things happening (thank goodness my sister is involved also). It would probably be even more difficult if it was my mother-in-law (who is no longer living).

    I am also doing caregiving for 2 women through an agency (and not getting paid nearly enough). The one who is 2 years younger then my mother has dementia, but it is very difficult to tell. According to her daughter she had the doctor fooled for years. I feel like “Alice in Wonderland,” I no longer believe anything she tells me, nothing is ever what it seems. Emotionally she is much better then when I started, but as far as the dementia goes she is worse.

    Be sure to take care of yourself and remember it won’t last forever. You are giving your kids a great example, not many people would make the move that you and your husband have made. When I wish my 2 “adult” children would move out I think about how much you miss your’s and try to be more patient (ha ha, NEVER my strong point).

    Well off to “wonderland.” Sorry this was so long, just wanted to let you know I feel for you.


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