wings and things

Happy New Year!


Last night I was feeling really low with my flu, the hot weather and a smidgen of rage against a couple of people who have hurt Anthony over the years but especially recently. I had planned to write about this today until I read these two wonderful posts by fellow bloggers:

In reading both of these posts, I realized that to write about such negative stuff is absolutely pointless and probably extremely boring.

So instead, on this broiling New Year’s Eve, I will show you Gutsy9, the baby peacock who spends most of the day on my shoulder. He is now 3 weeks old and getting too big to hide inside my shirt. His tail feathers are growing and his crown has begun to sprout. He can fly across the room or the back yard with ease. I love him.


Hellishly hot

This is our sixth day of 40C degree heat and incredibly high humidity and I have somehow contracted the flu. Ming (on L plates) took me in to the doctor who has put me on antibiotics and cortisone so I am ecstatic to have something to fight the kind of flu that usually leads to asthma and hospital. Then we went to see Ants but I stayed at a slight distance because I don’t want him to get it. I sat on his bed and held his hand in an outstretched way, trying to breathe my germs in the other direction and we only stayed a short time. Ants kept telling me to go home and get well, and that I was beautiful; he said both of these things a few times!

Oh it’s too hot to write any more! The photo is of Ants with some of my family at our Christmas dinner the other evening.


From the sublime to the ridiculous!

Yesterday I blogged about two rather serious things – one happy and one sad. Today, I feel like a bit of humour so I will tell you about something that happened just before Christmas.

The phone rang and I told Ming to take a message and, after a strangely long conversation with someone who was obviously unknown to Ming, he made a few notes, said goodbye and then came to tell me who it was.

“Mum, that was an old friend of Dad’s and she wants to come down from Perth with another old friend of Dad’s. They’ve heard he is in the nursing lodge and they want to see him.”

“Oh, that’s fantastic”, I said. “What are their names?”

When Ming told me I got the giggles. “Those are two of his ex-girlfriends, Ming!”

Ming was suitably shocked and wondered why I was giggling.

“It’s okay, they were well before my time. I’ve heard other people talk about them over the years but these two women would be around Dad’s age.”

“So you don’t mind?” Ming asked. “Aren’t you jealous?”

“No! How can I be jealous of girlfriends Anthony had when I was in kindergarten?”

So we will soon be visited by the exes – how interesting!


Anthony wept on the phone

There was a particular person who didn’t ring Anthony on Christmas Day – a decades-long ritual broken.

Ants was here for the whole day.

After he’d been taxied back to the nursing lodge I rang several times and each time Ants was sad about this and, during the last phonecall, he wept.



A thank you to my family

Yesterday afternoon Ming and I arrived at my mother’s place for our annual family Christmas get-together, having been picked up by my sister-in-law and her twins who wanted to see Gutsy9. The house was buzzing with kids, adults, food preparation, champagne and my mother’s incredible efforts to make it a perfect event. We were missing a few people: my other sister-in-law who is in the Solomon’s, my eldest niece and her fiance, in Scotland, and a nephew who was needed elsewhere, but we were still a crowd. One nephew is married so his beautiful wife was there, and another nephew brought his girlfriend who nobody had met before. Then Anthony arrived in the wheelchair taxi so we numbered 17 in a relatively small house. And it was very, very hot.

The meal was magnificent – turkey, cranberry, ham, salads, beets, chicken, roast potatoes, broccoli etc. Some ate inside in the airconditioning and some of us ate outside on the patio. As Ants was in a wheelchair it was easier to stay outside. He’d arrived at 5.30pm and I’d ordered the taxi to pick him up at 7.30pm but by 6.30pm he was beginning to falter so I got Ming to ring the taxi to come at 7pm. But when it arrived Anthony had picked up a little so my emotions mangled up and I could feel the tears coming as I began to wheel him towards the driveway down to the road. One of my brothers instantly took over and wheeled Ants down while my other brother hugged me as I sobbed. Thankfully most of the family were inside eating and didn’t witness this little drama but my three little nieces ran out to say goodbye to Ants as he was hoisted into the taxi. They put their arms around me and held my hands as I tried to stop crying.

I did stop of course, with a rather impatient taxi driver reminding us that we needed to pay the fare so the search for my wallet and money shocked my tears away for a bit. Once that was done, I kissed Ants goodbye and waved him off, my eyes filling with tears again. The nieces went back into the house and my brother got me a beer and I sat outside on the patio with him, trying to normalize myself. A little later my mother came out by which time I was okay again and feeling a bit silly for my heartsleeve behaviour.

But I did it! I got Ants there and he saw the throng of family that love him so much and he had a good time surrounded by the buzz. I don’t think I have ever felt so grateful for my family as I did last night. My mother and my brothers are legends, the partners and children are magic, and, when I rang Anthony this morning, he was happy and remembered the evening.



It is hard to describe the dread that I try not to feel when getting Anthony home for the day. Despite the regularity of medications, advanced Parkinson’s disease (with a bit of dementia thrown in for good measure) can rear up in all sorts of unpredictable ways, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. For example, I never know if Anthony will be able to walk or not, talk or not, eat or not, go to the loo or not, understand or not – and the list goes on.

The other dread is of Ming’s plummeting mood when Anthony comes home. A relationship between an 18-year-old son and a 76-year-old father is not necessarily easy even without the addition of PDD so, when Ming tries to communicate and Anthony either doesn’t understand or doesn’t respond, Ming gets terribly hurt and wants to withdraw. I understand this and rarely try to manipulate the situation in order to make everything okay. Instead I let Ming go to his room and do his own thing because, to be honest, I too, want to withdraw from an Anthony who is mostly silent and unresponsive and often asleep.

Of course there are beautiful moments of mirth and joy and love, but they are few and far between now because Anthony has become very hard work. Walking him across a room can take forever if his feet aren’t working, conversation is staccato with miscommunication rife because Anthony often doesn’t ‘get it’. Ablutionary situations are very difficult, both physically (me lifting) and emotionally (Ants having to be helped).

The other thing I dread is Anthony’s inevitable question: “Can’t I stay here for the night?” where I have to say, “I can’t – you are too heavy and you need two nurses to help you in the night.” I have tried to deal with this question via humour, honesty and sometimes anger, sometimes tears, but he keeps asking me, over and over again, during every visit here or at the nursing lodge, during every phonecall. Sometimes I yell at him to stop torturing me but mostly I handle it calmly because I know he doesn’t understand/accept how ill he is, whereas I do.

This afternoon, we are doing something different. Most of my family – my mother, brothers, multiple nephews, nieces and various partners are gathering at my mother’s house for our traditional (but belated due to geographical distances) Christmas Eve dinner. I wasn’t going to get Anthony because it’s late in the day and I wasn’t sure if he’d be up to it and am still not sure. Then I thought I have to try. So the wheelchair taxi is picking him up from the nursing lodge at 5pm with an arrangement to pick him up and take him back at 7.30pm (at which time he is usually in bed).

Anthony is very close to my mother, brothers, sisters-in-law and their children so I hope it works out but, yeah, I do have a bit of that awful dread about the logistics.I am also excited! Of course it won’t all go perfectly – nothing ever does – but, on the other hand, you never know!


What do baby peacocks have for Christmas dinner?

Mealworms - YUM!

Mealworms – YUM!

Gutsy9 was in heaven!


A hot Christmas Day


The first picture is of my nephew and niece over here with my brother from the Solomon Islands for Christmas. As you can see Gutsy9 was a hit! The second is of my mother and brother talking to Anthony (who is unfortunately out of the shot), with an ecstatic harpist in the background.

It is Boxing Day here and warming up to be another stinking hot day. Christmas Day was, as predicted, 40C so I am very glad we had cold crayfish for lunch. I always make Anthony’s mother’s cocktail sauce which consists of cream, tomato sauce, worcestershire sauce and lemon juice – yum. I had purchased four enormous cooked crays and my hands are now covered in little cuts from peeling them but it was worth it.

There were only four of us – Anthony, Ming, my mother and me. We usually do a bigger family thing at my mothers on Christmas Eve, but Christmas Day has always been fairly quiet which is the way we like it. We sat in our only air-conditioned room and ate the crayfish cocktail on our laps. Then Ming served pavolova with cream and bananas and we watched an animated film called Brave that Ming had chosen for the day. Anthony wasn’t coping well with either the heat or the air conditioning and he was extremely immobile but I sat in my usual spot on the floor between his legs and he stroked my hair and kept kissing me on the head, his hands on my shoulders. He loved having Gutsy9 on his lap.

It was indescribably hard to see him off when the taxi came to pick him up and take him back to the nursing lodge but, all in all, it was a brilliant day.

Later in the evening I rang Ants a few times because he was very low and I caught myself thinking about how heartbreaking Christmas Day is for so many and I got a big lump in my throat.


Harp happiness!



Ming’s Christmas presents

I am beside myself with excitement about Ming’s main Christmas present. It is being delivered today at 3pm while he is milking the cows. He has no idea and yesterday afternoon we sat outside and played a guessing game and he didn’t even come close – yay!

This is the first Christmas where we haven’t done the pillow case thing. Every year since he was born, we have put a big pillowcase at the end of his bed on Christmas Eve and I’ve secretly filled a matching pillowcase with presents. Then, in the very early hours of Christmas morning, I secretly swap the empty pillowcase for the full one and try (unsuccessfully) to go back to sleep. The Santa magicalness of this faded somewhat last year, not only because Ming was 17 and a little old for this but also because Anthony was so ill and, no matter how hard I tried, those gifts were bought in a state of stress rather than my usual euphoria.The brat was disappointed, I was despondent and Ants wasn’t even well enough to eat the huge meal of turkey, ham and all the trimmings. It was a complete fizzog.

So Ming decided that this Christmas there would be no pillowcase and that, instead, we would all get three presents each. So present 1 for Ming is a book about how to play the harp; and present 2 is a voucher for five harp lessons. Can you guess what present 3 is?