wings and things

Chapter 62: Unexpected memories

When I wrote Chapters 50, 51 and 57, I didn’t realise that I might suffer again in re-living the past by writing about it. In fact, I was quite light-hearted and pragmatic in writing about all of the ways Anthony and I somehow beat the odds against us, with our age difference being the least of our newlywed problems.

In writing about these experiences, however, I unexpectedly remembered how betrayed I felt when Anthony didn’t/wouldn’t/couldn’t defend and protect our marriage against what seemed a never-ending onslaught of criticism against me, us, and baby Ming.

Adult Ming and I had an enlightening conversation about Anthony the other day in which he said “Dad would have been so conflicted!” Lost in my unexpected memories, I just said, “I’m so glad you understand because I didn’t at the time, Ming.”

Ming: You can cry if you want to, Mum. I wanted Dad to come to all of my football games.

Me: He was too sick already.

Ming: He could have tried harder.

It seems a dreadful betrayal to now admit that I, too, thought that Anthony could have tried harder to just dash out of all of his illnesses and be the husband and dad Ming and I wanted and missed. But on one memorable sports day at Ming’s primary school it took Anthony around 40 minutes to get from one side of the oval to the other, with my help, and he was terribly embarrassed.

I so wish Ming had seen the way Anthony used to run through the paddocks, chasing cattle, but also just running for the fun of running! It is now my responsibility to tell Ming all of the Anthony stories before Anthony became so ill with Parkinson’s, including the warts-and-all unexpected memories.


Chapter 61: Tasmania! [1993-1994]

It would be our first Christmas as a married couple, I was promptly pregnant, and I wanted to give Anthony an amazing Christmas present. So, after the wedding in March, I began to plan an adventure – a trip to Tasmania!

At the travel agency, I said I was expecting our baby in early January so it would be fine to book the trip for a little later. The look of alarm on the travel agent’s face resembled Anthony’s reaction that first Christmas when he unwrapped the thin present: plane tickets to Tasmania, accommodation at lovely resorts – I had thought of everything and it had taken me months to plan and pay for with my savings.

I was very disappointed by Anthony’s reaction to my gift and his ingratitude was particularly hurtful. “We will have a baby by then,” he said, knowingly.

“The baby will just be little, Ants, so it should be easy.”


And it was easy: apart from Ming not being particularly fond of breast or bottle-feeding, and screaming quite a bit, and apart from Anthony having panic attacks at the airports, and apart from the resorts not being as resplendent as advertised, we had a very good time.

Needless to say, once we got home (and my love for the farm escalated dramatically after Tasmania), Anthony and I had to have a short series of debriefing conversations in which he asked me to promise him to never, ever give him a present like that again. I agreed.

Not long after we returned from our Tasmania holiday, friends visited and asked us about our experience. To my surprise, Anthony related the time we had at a lovely little restaurant where the wine was freezing cold and poured generously, and the smoked salmon salad was incredible. “And Jules fed Ming out in the garden – it was a lovely place.”

He had forgotten that the idyllic setting was marred by the fact that March flies were biting me while I was trying unsuccessfully to feed Ming. I was so glad to hear him have such great memories of this little restaurant and I will never forget it either, for different reasons!




Thanks to those who sent me links to possible ways to turn a long series of WordPress blog posts into an equally long Word document to edit but, alas I still didn’t find an easy way. The fact that I have written blog posts, for a little over ten years, straight into the blog format without drafting them first was, in retrospect, a mistake.

On the other hand, in WordPress, you can easily ‘return’ a blog post back into draft form to edit and I did this recently. The draft form is much easier to copy and paste from and that is the aha!

So I still need to do the job of going back to November 7th, 2011, when I first began blogging, and copy/pasting the posts that most pertain to this book about Anthony. Apart from the rather tedious nature of this task, it will also bring back happy and sad nostalgia so I need to be ready to meet those moments with strength.

Another aha! is remembering another bunch of anecdotes so I am going to tell those as I delve into the past – what fun!


Blog-to-book advice sought

To any WordPress/or other bloggers, does anyone know an easy way to convert blog format into a Word document for easier editing?


Chapter 60: Piecing it all together [2021]

I’ve been going around in circles over the last few days trying to figure out how to put all the bits of this story into a cohesive whole that isn’t chronological. At this point I have three separate sections: (1) the experience of Anthony’s Parkinsonism both at home and, eventually, in the nursing home, and this will include blog entries from way back that describe how this experience unfolded as it happened; (2) the ‘Imagined conversations’ that I blogged after Anthony died; and (3) the recent nearly 60 anecdotes/chapters that give context to the overall love story.

I have a few more anecdotal chapters up my sleeve and I still want to include more of Ming’s point of view, but I feel like I really need to concentrate on the structure of the book now.

Some of the things that I’ve written about over the years that I’ve been blogging have been really painful; remembering and writing about these things has also entailed a re-living of some aspects of the past. One of the strangest things I’ve noticed about myself is that some of the past traumas Anthony and I faced, as he became more and more ill, didn’t feel as traumatic then as they sometimes do now, in retrospect. From time to time over the years, I’ve experienced the dreadful overwhelm of PTSD symptoms and have sought professional help but thankfully this hasn’t happened often because the bulk of our story – Anthony’s and mine – has been so buoyantly happy, against all sorts of odds.

Another thing I’ve discovered is that on the days when I miss Anthony the most, it isn’t the long-ago healthy Anthony I feel the stab of nostalgia for; it’s the more recent, unwell Anthony. Sometimes I just want to be back in that nursing home in the chair next his armchair, or next to his bed, with my arm draped around his shoulder and my feet resting on his knees, watching comedies on the television. Sometimes it is these memories of contentment and acceptance that gallop themselves into feelings of trauma – weird!

Anyway, I won’t be posting much for awhile because the book is more or less written and now I just have to piece it all together.


Chapter 59: The serenade [1978?]

Before I left home (again) to pursue a nursing career in Perth, my mother invited Gar and Anthony for a goodbye dinner. They had already met my dad, the tall distinguished man with a BBC voice who also happened to be a chiropractor, but they didn’t really know my mother.

It had been nearly six months since my dad had died but, because he had given his consent for my relationship with Anthony – a relationship that hadn’t even developed yet – my mother, who had an instinct for romance, was supportive (reluctantly I am sure!) of me singing a song I had written for Anthony that night. Even though I still cringe with embarrassment at this memory, it may well be one of the most courageous things I have ever done. I had been playing the guitar and writing little songs for years but Anthony didn’t know that.

So, after the meal was nearly over, and Gar and my mother were happily chatting over dessert, I beckoned Anthony to my parents’ front veranda where my guitar was already placed. Of course he was a bit mystified but as we sat down and I reached for my guitar, he became almost as nervous as I was.

As my shaking fingers plucked the chords, I sang the following lyrics:

We’ve known each other for awhile, my old friend; we always make each other smile, my old friend. But I can’t go only saying I’ll miss you, when I know now I love you.

I can still hear the tune in my head! Anthony’s nonplussed reaction was “Oh, Jules, you are so sweet!”

We returned into the house, Anthony awkward and me blushing, and Gar immediately said what she often said when I took too long to fetch a billy of milk: “You’ve been having a cuddle, haven’t you.”



Chapter 58: Confusion [from 2001]

Anthony seemed to me to become very confused about the difference between a coffee cup and a jar of vegemite and I began to notice some strange behaviours during this time. He, all of a sudden, it seemed to me, became incredibly inept at almost everything but he kept trying to work like he had always worked; trying to (irrationally) attach hoses to water tanks, trying to get the Aga working, trying constantly to be useful,

The Parkinsonism had a grip on him well before the diagnosis was confirmed but Anthony’s Parkinson’s wasn’t the usual, recognisable type, with the tremors etc. Anthony had the kind of Parkinson’s that slowed every single organ to become inept, stagnant, dysfunctional, so constipation was a major form of torture for him.

As Anthony’s health deteriorated, our confusion about why and what was happening to him increased, I despaired. We had little Mingy by then and this added to our anxiety about why Anthony had succumbed to so many illnesses, and why he couldn’t be a more functional father. Was it something genetic? Was it emotional hurt? Who knows. It was almost a relief when we got the diagnosis.



Chapter 57: The accusations [1992]

One of the ways I quite like to deal with difficult memories, situations, and even people, is to view them through the lens of how interesting and/or how funny they are. The following situation is both of those, as well as being utterly bizarre.

In the months before Anthony and I were married, I would often come down from Perth via the train. Anthony would pick me up from the train station in the evening and whisk me back to the farm for the best roast chicken I have ever tasted. On one of these occasions, just days after we became engaged, he said he had a crazy story to tell me. “You’ll need a drink, Jules.”

Apparently, the previous day, his younger brother had come over and, again, begged Anthony not to marry me.

“Is it still the gold-digger thing?” I sighed, sipping happily on my gin and tonic.

“No, apparently he knows for a fact that you and Dr X conspired to euthanize Mum.”

My sip turned into a choke: “What?”


Oh! I was so gob-smacked that I just sat there in disbelief. “So what did you say?” I asked eventually. I couldn’t wrap my mind around how me sitting with Gar in the hospital for those last few days before she died, all those years ago, had been twisted into a murder mystery.

“I just told him to stop being ridiculous,” Anthony said

I was shocked and disturbed by this extraordinary accusation but I also found it fascinating and, yes, well, almost funny. Anthony read my mind and grinned. “Well, did you?”

“Did I what?”

“Conspire with Dr X to euthanize Mum.”

“I think I might have told you, Ants!”

As we ate our roast chicken, one or another of us kept exploding into fits of nervous laughter but eventually we calmed down. “Mum would be rolling in her grave,” Anthony said.

“It’s all pretty sad though, isn’t it,” I said, remembering how profoundly the experience of holding Gar’s hand when she died had affected me.

And yes, of course these sorts of accusations were very sad but they were also very interesting and, strangely, very funny.

I’m pretty sure Gar, too, would be laughing….


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Chapter 55: Gar’s death [1979]

Several months after my dad died, so did Gar, my future mother-in-law, Anthony’s beloved mother.

By that time, I had begun my nursing training at St John of God’s hospital in Subiaco, Perth, and was also working part-time in a nearby nursing home; I was 200 kms away but I somehow got the week off when Gar died. I had kept in touch with this mother and son because I loved them – simple.

I didn’t have a car so my mother, on her way to work as a teacher, would drop me off at the hospital where Gar was, then pick me up on her way home. I sat and talked to Gar every day, for around a week while her pneumonia turned deadly. When family members visited, I would remove myself from the situation in order to give them privacy. Once the family members left, I would return to hold her hand until my mother picked me up.

On top of her pneumonia, Gar had also suffered a stroke, so she was mostly unable to speak coherently. She was incredibly restless and frustrated so the staff would restrain her in her bed until I arrived. Extraordinarily (in today’s context), I was allowed to provide and light her cigarettes.

Needless to say, it was a difficult week but I listened to her attempts to speak and sometimes pure sentences emerged in amongst her frustrated garble and “Look after Anthony” was one of these and I promised her a yes.


Chapter 54: Mingy! [January 5, 1994]

It was a terribly difficult birth but finally, after about 48 hours of Ming trying to stay put, he emerged, looking a bit like a giant frog. He was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen!

As soon as Anthony saw that this giant frog was his son, he held him in his arms and then abruptly left, pleading exhaustion and cow-milking obligations. It was 2am.

OMG he wasn’t a giant frog at all; he was our little boy! Ming!

And in that moment of recognition, I understood all of the mysteries of the world.

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