Ming (18-year-old son): We need to talk.
Ming: I’ve had enough!
Ming: Your life is consumed by Anthony.
Me: Yes, sorry – I’m just trying to….
Ming: Mum, what do you want in life – what do you want in life now?
Me: Good question.
Ming: I know what I want right now, Mum and it’s got nothing to do with my ambitions.
Me: What do you mean?
Ming: I just want you to be happy again.
Me: Oh, that is a wonderful suggestion and how exactly do you plan to do it?
Ming: If you just listen ….
Me: What? Listen to you tell me off for every time I put too much water into the chook pen? Listen to you tell me off for ringing you on your mobile when you’re late? Listen to you tell me off because I’ve run out of weetbix? Listen to you tell me how to do every bloody thing as if I were born yesterday?
Ming: Please, Mum!
Me: Yes, what is it, oh fount of all wisdom? Have you found a magic potion for Dad?
Ming: That’s what I mean – it’s all Anthony, Anthony, Anthony.
Me: So you are saying I neglect you?
Ming: No! You are the best mother, I had the best childhood with you guys but now is sort of hell and sometimes I want to go away.
Me: So do I.
Ming: Why can’t we be a team – do the farm jobs together?
Me: I’m not very good at teamwork.
Ming: Why won’t you talk to me like we used to?
Me: I don’t want you to share the misery.
Ming: I already do, Mum! You have to let go of Dad emotionally – you have to trust the nursing home to look after him. He is fine!
Me: So how did you let go?
Ming: I just did – ages ago – so I could survive.
Me: Are you saying that my own misery is leaking into your life now?
Ming: Yes. Can you please stop it?
Me: What – the grief?
Ming: Yes, because I’m still here and you’re still here and the farm is beautiful and we are going to make it better.
Me: And why would that happen?
Ming: Because I love you.
I don’t know why but I am, once again, receiving all of the comments made on the blogs I subscribe to, so I have contacted the WordPress help people to stop this because the inundation of email notifications has been overwhelming and in the end I had to keep deleting so please forgive me if I accidentally deleted you blog post.
But, in the interests of not wanting to waste a post on blogging glitches, I do have a couple of questions for more seasoned bloggers:
1. I would like to ‘reblog’ three of my previous posts to give a bit of historical context to what is happening now. Is that an okay thing to do?
2. My spam often contains ‘trackbacks’ – are these the same as ‘pingbacks’ and should I accept both? Also, can anyone tell me what both of these things mean? This would also be useful for novice bloggers.
3. Sorry, I can’t remember what my last question was!
This morning the peafowl are doing something I haven’t seen before. They are playing some sort of chasing game around and around the house – almost like ‘tag’ in its old-fashioned sense. Mostly they are sprinting but, whenever one gets close to another, the one ‘tagged’ will fly up onto the roof, scramble across and jump down on the other side, and the chase begins again. To begin with I thought it was some sort of flirting game with the peacocks chasing the peahens but I have been watching, enthralled, for some time now and both males and females are chasing each other. They are doing this anti-clockwise around the house, over and over, and I cannot stop laughing.
My argument with Anthony in the nursing lodge yesterday has made me realize that I need to rethink a few things when it comes to explaining to him that coming home for good is out of the question. Of course this has been said before, but always a little evasively, with averted eyes and falsely hopeful half-phrases like, maybe tomorrow, let’s see if you’re up to it on the weekend, the restaurant on the beach possibly, not sure but I could get someone to help me lift you etc. Yesterday, I reminded Anthony that he had willingly signed into the nursing lodge as a permanent resident months ago, that it had become increasingly difficult to bring him home due to his deterioration with Parkinson’s Disease and this is how the conversation went. It was just after lunch, my mother had left and I closed the door to Anthony’s room so we could argue in relative privacy.
Anthony: So I’m here forever until I die am I?
Me: Don’t you remember? You were here for respite because we had to find somewhere for you to stay when Ming had his operation, then this room became available for you permanently and we had to make a decision or miss out and be put on a waiting list and we both decided, together, that this was a good idea.
Anthony: I just want to be home with you and Ming.
Me: I know, I know, but it’s impossible. You are high maintenance – you need nursing care. I did it for four years, Ants, and took leave from work for two years. I got exhausted from the night shifts with you and ended up in hospital myself – twice!
Anthony: But why can’t we just give it another try?
Me: Give what a try?
Anthony: Me coming home for the night.
Me: We’ve tried that – a few weeks after Ming’s surgery, I brought you home for the night and it was a disaster, and then we tried it again a few times and you were too heavy for me and then we decided to just do the day thing.
Anthony: But I can improve.
Me: How? You have Parkinson’s Disease and it’s getting worse. It’s not your fault and you can’t make yourself any better.
Anthony: So I’m going to die here.
Me: But I see you most days, talk to you several times a day on the phone, and bring you home once a week – why can’t that be enough?
Anthony: I just want to be home, Jules.
Me: Okay, listen to me. You want to be home. I want you to be home. We don’t always get what we want do we. I didn’t want a sick husband, I didn’t want to be alone – you think you are the only one alone? You are surrounded day and night by people who care for you – I’m the one alone.
Anthony: You have Ming.
Me: Ming is 18 – he’s out most of the time and good on him.
Anthony: Well make him stay home.
Me: No! I’m not going to trap him too!
Anthony: But you said you were lonely.
Me: I’m not lonely in general, you idiot – I’m lonely for you.
Anthony: That’s why I want to come home.
Me: Okay, this is what happens when I bring you home. You hardly speak on the way home; it takes me at least half an hour to get you from the car into the house and comfortable; you eat whatever I have prepared for lunch but leave most of it; it takes another half an hour to get you to the loo and out and back into an armchair; you fall asleep for a couple of hours; it takes half an hour to get you back into the car to go back to the lodge; it takes help from staff to get you out of the car and into the lodge and your room; and when I say goodbye you ask why I am always in a hurry and you make me feel guilty.
Anthony: Yes, but I love being at home anyway and I didn’t know I was going to be here forever.
Me: You did know! This is permanent Ants, you have to accept it – please. I am beginning to dread visiting you because you do this every single time and I can’t stand it. You can’t see beyond you, you, you, can you! What about me – why don’t you care about me? I am going to wreck my back, if you keep making me take you home.
Anthony: Jules, please don’t cry. I’m sorry.
Me: You are so selfish! I’m going to use your bathroom and then I am going home to a freezing cold house with no husband in it.
Anthony: Please, Jules, I’m sorry – I love you.
Me: I’ve got my sunglasses on now, in case I bump into any staff.
Anthony: Let me walk you out to the car. Just help me go to the loo first.
Me: I want to go home now – not in an hour.
Anthony: Okay, just give me a kiss, Jules – I’m so sorry.
Me: Here is your kiss. I have to go, Ants – sorry – I love you so much but you have to stop doing this to me, please …. I’ll ring you later. Oh, and another thing: sometimes when I ring you don’t know where the hell you are anyway.
And that was yesterday: give me today anytime because watching peafowl running in circles beats the hell out of yesterday.
Yeah, I know I keep calling the place where Anthony now lives a ‘nursing lodge’ but that’s only because it sounds a bit nicer than ‘nursing home’. Also it is called a lodge by its owners and I like that because it is so different to what I imagined a nursing home might entail. Anthony is in the ‘high care’ section, but he has his own room, his own bathroom, a view to the garden and it is all quite spacious, a bit like a motel room for one person. If he makes the slightest murmur, someone comes to help, the meals are delicious and the staff are beautiful – not just the nursing/caring staff but also the domestic and kitchen staff. Everyone seems very fond of Anthony, who they call Tony, which is what most people have always called him anyway, and everyone knows my name too which I find remarkable and lovely.
Today I went in at noon and so did my fantastic mother, and the three of us had lunch together in Anthony’s room. His meal was good, the sun was shining through the window, and I hesitantly brought in two more pictures from home to hang on Anthony’s wall. I had already brought in a jarrah/cast iron mirror one of my brothers made us a few years back, a huge clock I bought the other day, and a poem written by one of his best mates for his 75th that we had framed when Ants was still home on the farm.
I took in an original painting of cattle that I had commissioned for Anthony’s birthday years ago and a photo of Ming as a baby. Anthony didn’t like the fact that I had brought yet more home things into the nursing lodge and became glum and, yes, we had an argument and I had to close his door so that the staff wouldn’t hear my desperate pleadings to him to please, please, stop ruining all of my visits to him. At the end of that, as I was leaving, he still asked:
Anthony: So when am I coming home?
I cried all the way home, not with grief but with a kind of new rage.
Way back in the Inna days, Anthony’s mates used to come over and they’d crank up the stereo and listen to Bony M. Even though I would be in the house with Inna, we could both hear the music – loud and clear. She would grimace and I would grin. The following is a youtube of one favourite. It looks so funny now!
I’m not sure if my facts are right here but I think it was the BeeGees who made falsetto an okayish thing for male singers to do. This clip is, for me, hilarious, poignant and nostalgic and reminds me of when Anthony took me to the drive-in to see Saturday Night Fever. At the time, I was still a naive teenager so, while he sat behind the steering wheel drinking a beer or two, I sat primly next to him, alarmed by all of the f-words in the movie, for which (can you believe it?) Anthony kept apologizing for.
[Note: For anyone reading these love story posts for the second time, since I had them in a separate blog, this is the last of those and, from now on, they will be new and hopefully fresh. Hope you get another laugh out of these two!]
Uluru: You seem worried, Okami.
Okami: I am.
Cattle: Those furry things were okay but not sure about the weirdos.
Okami: It’s okay, moos, I am looking into the problem.
Emery 1: Keep eating, girls. I just heard those moo things refer to us as weirdos.
Uluru: Thanks for the leftovers – they’re great! So what are you going to do, Okami?
Okami: I am going to have a quiet word with Julie.
After Anthony and I became engaged, I was still living in Perth so he would ring me constantly. Okay, that doesn’t seem like much but during the years before our engagement he would hardly ever ring me, so these thrice-daily phone-calls were a bit of a shock.
I felt like a princess!
During the uncertain years before Anthony and I were engaged, I had a very strange certainty that twirled around in my mind, and whirled around in my stomach. So, one day, I sat down in my little bedsit and wrote about our son-to-be. I sent the poem to Anthony.
[Note: it was a poem called “The Dreamchild” which I have posted before so am not going to repeat it here again; in short, it was about a kid waiting to be born].
And a few years late, the dreamchild turned into Ming!
As as the wedding date drew closer, Anthony and I decided that we better get some suitable clothes so we went shopping. He immediately bought himself a $1,000 suit which, at the time, was very expensive and, as I knew how careful he was with money, this rather thrilled me! For me it was a little more difficult as I didn’t want to be a bridey bride, so a friend gave us the name of a seamstress and she fashioned a blue silk suit for me – jacket and skirt. Anthony paid for this too because I wasn’t able to at the time. The funniest thing though, is that my suit cost only $450.
I wonder if any bride has ever worn a less expensive outfit than her groom! Perhaps I should contact the Guinness Book of Records – ha!
It took Anthony awhile to fork out the money for this appendage but he we did finally go to a wonderful antique jeweller’s in Perth and he chose and bought me an old-fashioned ring for a tidy sum of money. I have never taken this ring off.
It is very difficult to describe the kind of joy Anthony and I felt in each others’ presence, as our wedding day drew closer. The various glitches we’d experienced since his metamorphosis now just seemed like the tiny midgies I’d wipe off the kitchen table. A few weeks before getting married, I moved out of my flat in Perth and fluctuated between staying on the farm or with my mother who lived in the adjacent town from which I’d once ridden my bicycle to look after Inna.
The only thing that bothered me a bit was money. I didn’t have any. Well, I had a bit because I’d been working at the nursing home where Joe lived for all of the three years since I’d begun post-graduate studies at the Perth university. It was my PhD supervisor’s suggestion to apply for a scholarship, so I did so and I was very hopeful as it was worth around $15,000 per year over three years. I wrote the scholarship application very carefully, outlining that I wanted to investigate how listening to the stories told by people with Alzheimer’s disease, no matter how fragmented these stories might be, could be a much better way of caring than … well, you get the gist.
Just before I vacated my flat in Perth, I received a letter from the scholarship people to say I had been unsuccessful and, even though I wasn’t devastated, I was very disappointed because I didn’t want to enter into a marriage with zilch as I knew I was already being perceived in some quarters as a ‘gold-digger’. At the end of the letter, their was a tiny shred of hope in that I had been placed at the top of the list if any of the recipients rejected the scholarship. I wrote a polite letter back informing them that if that happened my new address would be down in the country and I gave Anthony’s phone number.
After a weekend with my mother, I headed over to the farm and just as I was cooking fish mornay for lunch (yes, yes, I know – been there, done that!) the phone rang and a woman asked to speak to me, so I said I was me and she said she was from the Scholarships Office and said my application was successful. After a shocked pause, I said, “I don’t think that is possible because ….” But she immediately interrupted me, laughing over the phone: “The initial recipient received a better offer from another university, so you were the next on the list.”
I was so beside myself with glee that I could hardly speak. “Are you sure?” I kept saying, and she kept laughing and finally calmed me down to get my bank details so she could “pop the first little bit in, Julie.” After I shakily gave her my details, I couldn’t stop saying thank you, thank you, thank you, and she was so delighted by my response that she kept laughing in happy empathy (I don’t think empathy is the right word here by why not have happy empathy?)
Once I got off the phone, I went back to the Aga to try and salvage the now crispy mornay which, thank goodness, wasn’t burned. In a daze, I added a bit more milk, stirred it in, then put it on the side of the hotplate and sat down on one of the kitchen chairs. I tried to breathe normally but I was too excited so I jumped up and raced outside to find Anthony. He was with Arthur, his main dairy hand, yelling at him to clean his little hut up.
“I’m rich!” I shouted to both of them, twirling around and around in the middle of the lawn. When I managed to explain, Anthony twirled me around again, grinning.
The fish mornay was accompanied by a hefty glass or two of champagne after which I suddenly pretended to become serious and said to Anthony, “You realize, don’t you, that we will now need a prenuptual agreement!” With that, he danced me around the kitchen much to Arthur’s bemusement.
We already had the joy of each other but the scholarship money was like an extra scoop of passionfruit icecream and seemed like a present from heaven.
1. You do cut newspapers up into little squares just in case
2. You do quickly search the internet for innovative ideas with historical credence so that you can add a bit of knowledgable weight to just in case
2. You do not ring a friend who hasn’t been invited and ask to borrow toilet paper which of course you can’t possibly return anyway
3. You do not panic and berate yourself for being so disorganized and hopeless and disorganized and hopeless
4. You do decide not to give your visitors any sustenance whatsoever
4. You do not entertain the idea of suggesting to your visitors that they ‘go’ outside since they are all women and would find this distasteful
5. You do not contemplate the possibility that one of your visitors might be suffering from a gastric disturbance
6. You do meekly ask one of your visitors (when she rings to say she is on her way and can she bring anything) to please bring some toilet paper
7. You do restrain yourself from being too effusively grateful to the visitor who is bringing the toilet paper
8. You do begin to now wish there were a bit more sustenance in the house
9. You do hope that the car you can hear pulling up in the driveway belongs to the visitor who is bringing the toilet paper because you have to go
10. You do not panic when it is one of the other visitors
11. You do not, during the lovely visit with three of your best friends, continually punctuate the conversation with offers to use the toilet
12. You do wonder why the only person who needed to use the toilet, during the visit, was you.
Now that the Emerys (emus) are big enough, we have been able to transfer them into a larger area to join Okami and Uluru, the alpacas. This is the first time I have ever seen the alpacas a little feisty. Today, whenever the Emerys ventured near to the alpacas, Okami, the biggest, would hiss and Uluru would copy him. This caused the timid Emerys to zigzag-sprint all over the place – hilarious!
Uluru: I don’t like this situation, Okami.
Okami: Just ignore them and they might go away.
Uluru: Yeah, but they’re too big to get through the fences now.
Okami: Good point. Okay, let’s just hope this is temporary.
Uluru: I’ve never heard you hiss before – it was amazing!
Okami: I’ve never heard me hiss before either, Uluru, but I never cease to amaze myself. Now keep eating; we don’t want them getting our food too.
Uluru: Would you like me to chase them again?
Okami: That’s a good idea; you chase and I’ll eat. Off you go.