Today Ming and I met with his lawyer for the second time and his barrister for the first time. The barrister was just as honest and down-to-earth as the lawyer, but she did warn us that jail is a possibility because five children were injured. I suppose there is no point in panicking about this yet as the court date still hasn’t been set (but of course I am panicking). Apparently the police report will be sent to the lawyer and he will send it on to us but I am not sure how it all works. The seriousness of the children’s injuries has been our main concern over the last two months so I guess I hadn’t (until now) realized how serious the repercussions might be for Ming in terms of his charges and sentencing. Thanks for all the thoughts, prayers and comments for our extended family and I’m sorry I haven’t answered all of them. I am also extremely grateful for the testimonials send to us on Ming’s behalf because apparently these will possibly have an impact on the judge’s decision. I am not going to write about any of this for awhile because it’s too difficult but, again, thanks so much for the support!
I haven’t written about the car accident for awhile because I have been too anxious and shaken, and have not wanted to publicize details that might seem like an invasion of privacy. So I haven’t posted photos or named the children for this reason and will not do so now.
For those who don’t know, eight weeks ago today, Ming took his little cousins and a friend for a ride on the back of his ute (truck), then lost control on gravel about 2 kms from home. I do not want to replay the horror of that night or talk about the details. Instead, I want to say how grateful I am that everybody is recovering well despite multiple fractures including spinal and that yesterday we got the good news that two of my nieces got their neck braces off and the one nephew will hopefully soon be able to walk again (but I don’t know how soon). The friend is recovering well from her badly broken arm but her best friend, my niece, will still be in a neck-to-waist brace for many weeks (she is the one who told me to stop inboxing her, beautiful brat!)
My whole family continues to support each other, with humour, empathy, a couple of arguments, reconcilations, renewed love for each other and enormous mutual support. So I am very proud to belong to such a family – my mother, brothers, sister-in-laws, and the kids – where forgiveness and generosity are so natural.
Ming has now been charged with five counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm and tomorrow we see the lawyer and barrister who are taking his case. My family and friends have provided many character references for him that will hopefully help but we still don’t know the court date.
In Australia there are three levels of driving offences – careless driving, dangerous driving, and reckless driving, so Ming is in the middle. Of course I am terribly worried but I didn’t realize how worried I was until the wash of relief that all of the children will be okay – even my niece who is still in the brace and oh how I wish I could wear that bloody thing for her.
On the cusp of what if? it is difficult NOT to imagine how much worse this could have been. Yesterday, at another family get together, the children all said how haunted they were still and my heart breaks that they have this memory. I guess it will stop any of them from driving dangerously.
Ming, despite being very open about everything else in his life to me, is strangely silent about the accident and seems to just want it to go away. I understand that and I also understand how reading the character witness statements upsets him. Despite his shock and remorse and anxiety about the kids, he has that attitude of moving forward. I don’t understand his resilence any more than he understand my lack of it.
Dangerous driving is dangerous driving so please warn your younger loved ones that a joyride of this type is not worth it.
A lot of people are afraid of dementia, whether it be Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease Dementia (my husband Anthony’s type), or other variations. It isn’t just the fear of developing the disease one day, it is also the fear of anyone who has the disease.
As someone who worked in nursing homes for many years, dementia doesn’t scare me at all but I guess, if you haven’t had that kind of experience it could be scary visiting a loved one who used to be the life of the party, or extremely energetic, or with a dry, sarcastic wit (Anthony) only to find them either silent or saying what sounds like nonsense.
But it’s not that scary once you get used to it – it’s not! You learn how to listen differently, you learn how to be comfortable with silence, you learn how to love the person again for what he or she is now, instead of pining for an impossible past. You learn to be unafraid, you learn how to give, you learn how to go with the flow, you learn how to treasure each and every moment no matter how bizarre or strange.
“I just want to remember him/her the way s/he was” is a common sentiment expressed by friends and family of people with dementia and this is understandable, yes, but it is also cruel and selfish and horrible because people with dementia are not dead. People with dementia might be confused, cognitively, but there is nothing confusing about the emotional need to be hugged or acknowledged or visited. Why is this so scary for so many of us?
Before this happened to Anthony, and despite my nursing experience, I, too, found it incredibly difficult to visit people I knew who had developed dementia on top of everything else they were already suffering. Can you imagine how terrible it would be to be so sick, so confused, and then abandoned?
There are not too many visitors at the nursing home where Anthony resides and, when I was a nurse, there were very few in the three nursing homes in which I worked. Loneliness is universal and has nothing to do with age or dementia. People with dementia are lonely; people with dementia are human; people with dementia are often aware of the dementia and need comfort and reassurance, or just a hug. A 5-minute visit is enough to make a bad day good.
This is not about Anthony exactly because he gets a lot of regular visits from family and friends but, because I am in there nearly every day, I see the blank, lonely expressions on many of the other residents’ faces and have now made friends with several people there who never seem to have a visitor. I have also made friends with the relatives who do visit but we are a tiny group.
And the point of this little rant? If you have a friend or relative with dementia, please don’t abandon them. They need you. If they don’t recognize you, so what? Just give that person a hug or a pat on the shoulder and then you can go back to your life knowing that you will probably have made that person’s day shine!
BTW dementia is NOT contagious! (Anthony said that to me today).
When Anthony was home yesterday he kept talking to the television. I would come in and out of the kitchen where he was sitting (his favourite spot) and enter an already-there conversation. I was busy with washing and other chores (something I continue to do even if Ants is home, just to keep things normal-ish), but every time I came back into the kitchen he would be talking to one of his deceased brothers, or to the now-dead stove, or to the dogs on the table (hallucinations).
Ming cannot stand it – he just can’t. He says, “Mum, I love Dad but I just can’t tolerate him!” I understand his point of view; after all, he is only 19 and his dad is nearly 78. On the shy side of 50, I am in the middle of this all the time so, when Ants comes home – and I do this as much as possible – I leave Ming with him while I go to the toilet to cry. No, not self-pity – just so hard to remember how good it once was and how bad it is now.
I miss all of our wonderful yesterdays just as much as Anthony does. But Ming doesn’t remember and he has no recollection of Anthony ever being well. Every day, lately, he has asked me for a hug and every day I have given him a hug, even after our ferocious arguments, about the car accident, about many things….
Sometimes it is hard to be positive but I have enormous faith in both Ants and Ming and I think that is reciprocated to me. I hope so.
King (blue) and Prince (white) have taken a liking to flirting with the peahens just outside my office door. Needless to say, and the pictures show this I hope, the two white princesses are indifferent. King and Prince have a fraught relationship, but they never fight because Prince, being younger, always capitulates and stops showing off when King comes along.
Now that Ming is living in his renovated shed (which, by the way, is much more spacious than our house!) I am mostly alone. Of course I am out most days, visiting Anthony, or bringing him home, or taking him out, or running errands, or visiting friends but most of the time I’m home alone.
Don’t get me wrong – I actually love being alone and always have. I never feel lonely, have lots of fantastic friends and family that I see regularly and Ming wanders over from his shed frequently (in search of food!) So being alone does not equate at all with being lonely – well not for me anyway.
However, my aloneness was brought into sharp focus this morning when the microwave beeped for the third time (rather impatiently I thought) to tell me that my coffee was ready. I rushed over to it, saying “Sorry, sorry!” Then, as I took my coffee out, I said, “Thanks!”
It was only as I took my first sip that I realized what I’d done, and couldn’t stop laughing.
You will be relieved to know that the microwave didn’t answer me.
Anthony has a lot of antique clocks – a magnificent grandfather clock, three carriage clocks, two mantle clocks and one cuckoo clock. All of them chime on the hour and some on the half hour.
Well they used to.
Ever since Anthony went into the nursing home, all of the clocks have stopped. Mostly this is because Ants always did the clock winding and he never really taught Ming and me. Also, once Anthony wasn’t at home any longer, there didn’t seem any point any more, and letting all of the clocks stop seemed a natural reaction to his absence. My love of their chiming diminished in equal proportion to my increasing grief (if that makes sense, which it probably doesn’t!)
I finally got my act together a few months ago and invited a clock man over to have a look. He serviced all of the clocks, got them going again and showed us how to wind them without overwinding them and pronounced one of the carriage clocks as too far gone. Well, Ming and I lasted a week, so all of the clocks have once again stopped.
Oh the guilt. And the silence! If you are used to the constant chime of clocks, the silence is like a thrum of nothingness. I miss the noise of the clocks, the complaints of people staying with us who said, ‘how can you stand it?’ I miss all of those hundreds of Sundays when Anthony wound each clock with such joy until he forgot how to.
The other day, when I brought him home for the day, he tried again with his favourite clock.
It didn’t work.
Tock tick (no, that is not a typo).
When someone posts something that is heartbreaking, pressing the ‘like’ button seems an odd thing to do but I think most of us realize that the ‘like’ button is to show we care, not that we like what they are going through. Recently I have read a few posts and comments where the issue of the ‘like’ button is discussed. For example, “I didn’t press the ‘like’ button because I like what is happening in your life, but I just wanted you to know I care.” Now even though this is probably understood by most bloggers, I have also heard of people objecting to their grief-stricken posts being ‘liked’. So I think this is something WordPress and other blogging platforms could address by adding another button that indicates that the reader feels something more than ‘like’ for a post that is sad, or anxious, or bewildered, or despairing.
But what button to add? It would have to be a single word of course and I have wracked my brains and seen others’ suggestions. ‘Hugs’ seems to be a popular idea but some people wouldn’t like that because it seems a bit intimate. ‘Love’ is another possibility but then it might seem like the reader loves the writer’s anguish. ‘Understand’ might offend the writer of a sad post because it might imply that you know what they are going through when of course you don’t. ‘Hope’ is too insipid perhaps? ‘Encourage’ might sound like you are not taking their predicament seriously enough. ‘Bravo’ might seem abrasive; ‘Prayers’ won’t work for non-religious people; ‘Wishes’ is too ambiguous; ‘Care’ isn’t a strong enough word; ‘Support’ is meaningless when you can’t actually offer any beyond words; and ‘Sorry’ is often inadequate and can sound quite trite.
Would the word ‘Heart’ work?
My brother, Brinsley Lane, is looking for a locum for his Honiara-based chiropractic practice so that he can come home to his family in Western Australia. In his own words: “Warm Pacific adventure awaits. Chance of a lifetime for someone needing that sea change they’ve been talking about. Contact email@example.com”
Honiara is the capital city of the Solomon Islands, a beautiful place just northeast of Australia. Brin established the practice two years ago and now sees an average of 100 people per day so, despite wanting to be here with his family, especially his daughter who is recovering from injuries sustained in the recent car accident, he can’t just up and leave, obviously.
So, if any of you know of any chiropractors who might be interested, please share this with them, and get them to contact Brin on the email provided above. Incidentally, Brin also has a blog at