CHANGE OF PLANS, MORE ON MY ABSENCE

painting (excerpt) courtesy of hotdogandbun
painting (excerpt) courtesy of hotdogandbun

Our original plan was for Mrs S to simply return to Japan to handle all of her mother’s legal and financial dealings, because there was a house at issue, then return to Los Angeles.  She left on the 16th of October and the intention was to return on January 7th, so that her mother could have one final New Year’s with her before she passes on into the next realm.  She has a brother who has been living here all along, and throughout the entire 20 years that my wife had been living in the United States, it was understood that since she handled their father’s end of life affairs back in 1998 when he succumbed to throat cancer and since he was her mother’s favorite, that he would be the one to handle their mother’s end of life affairs.  Things simply didn’t turn out that way.  We had noticed last year in her annual 10 day visit that she was talking a little slowly.  Mind you, Okaasan (Japanese for Mother), was always tough as nails, no joke nor exaggeration, believe me.  We would often joke that she might outlive us, she was so tough.  But we did notice in the previous year, a slight change in her speech since she seemed to be speaking a little slower when she came to visit.  At first, we thought it was simply that she was just getting old, but upon arrival to Japan, she realized that her brother wasn’t very useful and Ma didn’t really like his wife or how either one of them handled things.  She was a normal size and weight, the last she was with us, even looked okay.  She’s 77, but today she looks 97, as she had lost an alarming amount of weight.  Because she’d been having trouble swallowing, she simply wasn’t eating.  My brother-in-law and his wife were pretty much just showing up with a bag of takeout food and leaving it behind for her to eat, which wasn’t happening at all because of her swallowing difficulties.

When Mrs S arrived to Japan and started going frequent doctor visits with her, she implelmented a treatment program of tube-feeding Okaasan directly into her stomach, as well as administering her medication in the same fashion and feeding her actual healthy foods.  Ma, she always preferred to just eat bread and fruit, but now she can’t eat fruit because the whole thing changed her taste buds and she lost her taste for sweet things.  She still wants bread, as a true bread fiend, and I must admit that I loved her bread.  She used to make fresh bread frequently, but in the long run, flour products aren’t healthy products.  We still let her have a little bread on the plate, but she doesn’t actually eat it.  It’s just there to keep the peace, whether she touches it or not, and for the most part it just sits there.  Which is good, because she shouldn’t be having bread anyway, since we’re pretty sure that her daily nonstop consumption of bread was an active contributor to the worsening of her condition.  I’m not saying that ALS is exactly like MS, but as someone who’s been thriving with MS for 9 years, I must say that it was mainly my food paradigm shift that allows me to thrive, even though I enjoy fun foods from time to time, myself.  But I digress.

After my wife left for Japan in mid October, I was alone in Los Angeles.  She’d gone a couple times to visit Japan on short trips, but three months was going to be a lot for the both of us to handle, as it was been the longest we were apart in the 15 years that we’ve been together.  In the beginning, I must admit that my separation anxiety just made everything worse for my wife than it actually was for me.  I wanted to Skype every day, but it just wasn’t feasible and it put far too much stress on my wonderful Mrs S., that could have had a permanent negative effect.  So after a completely ruined 47th birthday, I came up with the proposal that instead of Skyping everyday, we would just Line each other daily here and there and Skype only once in awhile, and you know what?  Not only did that do the trick, but it saved our marriage, in fact, and our bond grew so much stronger.

But it was in mid November when my wife Skyped me, tearfully asking me to come to Japan for anywhere from one to two years whilst we helped her mother through her end of days.  Now, before you go saying, “hey, Stephen Hawking kinda held on a long time.”  Sure, this is true, but that’s because there was a breather installed that did his breathing for him.  The mind remains in tact, usually, for the most part with most people.  But my mother-in-law isn’t like most people, in fact she has a bit of a death-wish, as a widow of 20 years.  The late, great, お父さん, passed away from throat cancer in 1998, and my mother-in-law had been alone ever since.  She refused the breather, so this truly is an end-of-days situation.  Now, mind you, I’d been working as a ride-share driver full-time for the past 4 years for numerous reasons that I won’t be getting into just yet, but something wholly unexpected happened on December 3rd that kind of changed everything.  I got into a car accident, that really put a dent into our plan.

MORE TO COME…

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