In my last post, I wrote a bit about how, instead of taking Anthony out for drives or bringing him home for the day, I have begun to make myself home in his room in the nursing home. For those who don’t know, Ants has advanced Parkinson’s disease with encroaching dementia, advanced prostate cancer and several other conditions. He is 78 and has been in the nursing home for nearly two and a half years. I have already blogged about the heartbreak of that mutual decision, and written about the ongoing ups and downs since then.
Several weeks ago, I realized that I had to stop getting Anthony up and out, and back home, and visiting friends and relatives, and going to restaurants etc. because I could no longer lift him in and out of the car, wheelchair etc. Well I could actually, but the physical strain and emotional stress of all of this maneuvering was taxing for both of us, and Ming too of course.
You see, all of the above jobs were infused with a panicky anxiety. Will the pills work today? What if I can’t get Ants to the toilet in time? Will he try to walk around the farm/restaurant and fall again? What if I have to get the ambulance out to the farm? Will he be too cold and insist that every heater is on? Will Ming cope? Will I cope? Will Anthony cope with going back to the nursing home after being out and about? Will there be more tears than we have already cried?
So, almost as an experiment I guess, I began to spend more time in the nursing home, something I couldn’t have done even a year ago – too boring, too sad, too scary, too confined, too uncertain – I hated it. But gradually, over many weeks now, this has become the norm and the fact that I am spending several hours a day with Ants in the nursing home means that he is no longer so desperate to come home and often, by late afternoon, he thinks he is home.
I keep long-lasting stuff, wine and snacks in one of Anthony’s cupboards, bring a favourite food every day (blue cheese, chocolate, olives etc.) and sometimes it’s a little bit like a party. If the heater isn’t on, I turn it on, put a blanket on Anthony’s legs and do up his jacket up (he is always cold). Then I turn the television on to whatever our program is for the day (Master Chef, Midsomer Murders, Neighours). During the commercial breaks, I mute the TV so we can talk but lately Ants is having a bit of trouble with speech so I have to help a bit. Yesterday he couldn’t get the sentence he wanted to say out so I told him I could read his mind and not to worry. And I can read his mind.
But then his words came out:
ANTS: You make me nervous, Jules.
ANTS: I’ve fallen in love with you again.
ME: Hell, Ants, we’ve already done that!