wings and things


Anthony: I’m in constant pain.

Me: What? Since when? Where is the pain? Oh my God, I’m so sorry, Ants – you never told me this before!

Anthony: Oh, these things (stretching his arms out), and these other instruments (stretching his legs out in a rather swaggery way).

Me: What kind of pain is it?

Anthony: Agony.

Me: Well why the hell didn’t you tell me this before? I’ll ring the doctor! For God’s sake, Ants, I’ve been telling everyone for ages now that the best thing about your situation is that you are not in physical pain, and now you tell me this!

Anthony: Um… (beginning to do his half-smile)….

Me: So you are kidding? Joking?

Anthony: Just stirring you up, Jules

Me: You want pain? I’ll give you pain! (We have an arm wrestle on the side of his armchair and I win.)

He is so tired that his eyes weep; my laughter is raucous and I apologize but he says he loves my cackle; I leave to come home and he says, unsadly, see you tomorrow.

If Anthony were in physical pain, we would not be able to cope the way we are coping now.

And if Anthony didn’t have his mischievous sense of humor, everything would be horrible. Okay, so everything isn’t wonderful but it is definitely not horrible with Ants in the picture.

(I have learned how to make chili hot chocolate, which Anthony loves, so I might put an extra chili into the mix tomorrow – ha!)


Early to bed, early to rise!

Obviously it is much easier to get up early in the spring than it is in the winter so today I was able to get a lot more jobs done (just the usual domestic duties of washing and folding and tidying and cleaning that overwhelmed me a bit a couple of months ago) before going into the nursing home.

Today I arrived at 11am and found Anthony sitting outside in the sun. I managed to get him into a wheelchair and we went for a walk down to the beach. I tried this the other day but it was too windy and he feels the cold terribly, so we turned back prematurely. Today we went a bit further so, halfway back (which is uphill), I had to stop and take a rest.

Ants: Do you want me to take over?
Me: And how, exactly, will that work?
Ants: I can help you push me.

Yeah, right – grrr!

Sometimes Anthony sort of disembodies himself and will kiss his own hand, thinking it’s mine, or else turn to the left to speak to me, when I am sitting on the right. His room has a view of a lovely lawn and garden and he will often point out, proudly, that Ming is doing a great job with the calves.

I find it fascinating, and admirable of course, that Anthony keeps wanting to climb out of his illness, and incapacity, in order to help. Once we’d returned to his room from our walk today – him shivering with cold and me drenched in perspiration – one of the nurses came in to give Anthony a pill and had a bit of a rant about the staff she was working with.

Nurse: They’re so useless!
Anthony: We can help you (trying to get up).

Now that I am a volunteer, I have a bit more insight into ‘how it is’ for both residents and staff. Anthony is in the ‘high care’ section for people with mobility problems. In the ‘dementia’ section, where I help out with various activities on the weekends, most of the ten female residents are extremely mobile (we go for walks around the grounds!) but terribly confused. I have taken a liking to all of the women but especially Beatrice who is, at nearly 90, physically fit, beautifully groomed and who carries her handbag with her always. Before I volunteered, I would exchange greetings with these women and the carers and Beatrice seemed the happiest. But now that I know her better, I realize that her bright smile is due to the fact that soon her husband will be picking her up and she is always ready and, unfortunately, always extremely anxious. Her husband must have died years ago.

I am, of course, drawn, emotionally, to this nursing home where Anthony is, but I have also become involved in other residents’ lives, so much so that we have become friends. Even with dementia, where you have to introduce yourself over and over again, the friendship-feeling is solid and ongoing.

I’m extremely grateful to be able to do this volunteering at Anthony’s nursing home because it allows me to come and go from his room as if I were just going to hang out the washing, or cook tea, or make coffee – again, a simulation of sorts.

It is now six weeks since I began volunteering and a further six weeks (I think – will have to check) since bring Ants home. If, indeed, it has been this long since I brought Anthony home, then hopefully he will no longer pine for home and beg to come home – a situation that forces me to become stern and admit to him that I can no longer lift/manage him at home. His response is usually dignified but occasionally he accuses me of being unfair.

For the last couple of days I have been feeling a bit exhausted (not because of Anthony!) and I hate this feeling so maybe getting up earlier is the answer to that – yes! I have to tomorrow anyway so I can meet Dr Nathalie Collins (see previous post) for breakfast!

All of those years that Anthony got up before 5am to milk the cows, like so many dairy farmers still do – my hat is off to them – heroes in so many ways!

As for me, 6am is okay – zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!



My fantastic friend, Dr Nathalie Collins, at her graduation the other day!


Ever since I met Nathalie, she has been either a breath of fresh air, or a ferocious wind. She talks a lot but she also listens. She can transform anything to anything with her wit and wisdom.

Dr Nathalie Collins is an incredibly skilled philosopher, so watch this space!

Congratulations, Nat!!!


Our white-haired boy’s new role

As many of you know, Ming had his second spinal surgery just before Christmas last year at which time he was advised by the surgeon not to resume his job as a dairy hand for our neighbours, or to do any manual job, ever. That was a hard pill to swallow but he swallowed it and, since recovering from the surgery, he has spent the last few months throwing himself into acting auditions (most of which have required him to travel the 200 kms to Perth by train or bus, and vice versa).

He scored many bit-parts: a music video, a ‘student’ in a university advertisement, a couple of paid roles; he has also created a portfolio and is now listed on a website for aspiring actors. In fact, Ming has done so much acting-related stuff in the last few months that I have had trouble keeping up. With no vehicle, and no driving licence, he learned how to use public transport, stay in youth hostels, but he also relied on friends and family for accommodation and transport. It has all been enormous fun and a huge learning curve in so many ways and Ming has become a better net-worker than I have ever been and Anthony’s gregariousness shines out of him.

None of this, however, has proved to be lucrative yet, so Ming started to apply for jobs at restaurants and yesterday he was told that the restaurant, where he has only done a few casual shifts, want him full-time now. I am so elated for him and proud! But he and I are also grateful for the fact that a relative of a friend of one of the owners of this restaurant put in a good word for him. (I haven’t included names here, in order protect the innocent, just in case Ming drops a tray or something haha!)

Today, Ming was working there, so a friend and I went for lunch and it was so weird to watch him in action. The place was very busy and apparently, once he goes full-time, he will be jack-of-all-trades. It was great to watch the way he interacted with customers – he is a natural!

Tonight, he’s gone up to Perth (for the last time for awhile, due to getting full-time work) to play the part of a character in his friend’s university film assignment. He auditioned and got the part last week and here is the irony: he was picked as the character of a son who struggles with his father’s dementia, despite nobody in the film crew knowing his background. I am still a bit gobsmacked.

Anyway, of course I am rejoicing at all of this good news for the white-haired boy (despite no longer being a natural blonde); he will no longer go slightly insane in the nursing home and resort to playing on Anthony’s walker!
photo (3)
photo (1)

So happy and proud of Ming!


Simulating home

photo (1)

As you can see we are still experiencing a wintry spring after its false start last week. The weather alerts for Western Australia are a bit alarming with winds of up to 100 kph so I came home a bit early from the nursing home yesterday.

I have begun to arrive at the nursing home by 11am most days now because, with the volunteering, I need plenty of time to wear both ‘hats’. It is working out so well but more about that in another post.

Over the two and a half years since Anthony entered the nursing home, his room has become as close as I can get it to our real home: freshly picked flowers (although I never did this when Anthony lived at home – he did!); daily food treats on plates and a cutting board I keep there; familiar shows on television via the DVD; a well-stocked bar and our own glassware and so on.

photo (4)

photo (6)

And (my latest idea!) Ming’s 2.5 kg weights. I didn’t expect Anthony to be quite so enthusiastic about this but I was wrong – he did around 20 for each arm with me cheering him on and cracking up laughing at the same time!


weights 2

Despite my intention to take Jack, our Irish terrier, in to see Ants, I couldn’t find either his leash or collar that day so I will probably take Blaze instead for the time being.

photo (2)

Even I am beginning to feel more at home at the nursing home than I am at home, which is really weird! Well, at the moment, it is a lot warmer there.


Blogging update

I’m gradually (and unguiltily!) getting back to reading, and commenting on, other people’s blogs, and re-subscribing to those I have lost touch with. Like many other bloggers, I feel such gratitude for the community of friends I’ve connected with over the last three years. The fact that I can’t consistently keep up with everyone’s posts no longer bothers me and it is quite a relief to dip in and read when I can, comment if I want to, and not read any blogs if the day is too busy. Having said that, I am very appreciative of those friends who continue to give me their support and friendship. It has been an extremely difficult year for my family, but things are finally returning to normal, whatever that is.

Perhaps my blog-reading will, from now on, resemble the unpredictability of Ming hanging out the washing!

photo (6)

The expression on Ming’s face here is exactly the same as when he sees his name in one of my blog posts – ha!


Always check the weather forecast before waxing lyrical about the sunrise!

This morning I was awoken at 5 by my alarm and the sound of pouring rain and ferocious wind. I peeked out the window into the misty grey but couldn’t see any sign of the sunrise. So I went back to bed!

Today is Father’s Day so Ming and I went into the nursing home before lunch with our presents. Mine was a dozen oysters (which I picked up from the markets on the way in) and the DVD cooking series, Two Fat Ladies, which Anthony, Ming and I used to love watching. Ming’s gift was the English series, Doc Martin, and a bottle of champagne.

The oysters were a great hit:

photo (3)
photo (2)

Anthony finished the whole lot in about two minutes!

My mother came in after church and helped us snack on crackers and some special cheeses I’d bought, with olives, cherry tomatoes and baby cucumber, then Ming arrived and gave Anthony the presents which were also a hit. A bit later, we played some of the DVDs and cracked the champagne but Ants only had a couple of sips before falling asleep in his chair. My mother had gone home by then and eventually Ming left.

After that, I tidied and washed up the various plates and cutlery I keep in one of Anthony’s cupboards, then sat down to watch another episode of Two Fat Ladies with him, but he continued to sleep and, all of a sudden, I felt terribly flat and just wanted to come home to Ming, so I did. But Ming has now retired to his shed for the night and I am coming to terms with the fact that I am somewhat redundant in his life – perfectly normal of course but still hard.

When Anthony wakes up will he wonder where I am after the frivolity of this morning? I told his favourite nurse, Denise, that this is the first time I have left without saying goodbye but I didn’t want to wake him as he looked so peaceful, so she said she would tell him.

All of a sudden, even though he has been on my mind all day, I am consumed by the remembered agony of losing my father suddenly to a heart attack when I was nineteen and my younger brothers were seventeen and fifteen. Those brothers have become the most amazing dads to their children (five each!) I bet they think, with my mother, of our Dad today. He was a generous, beautiful gentleman.


Anyway, back to the sunrise fiasco – I am just going to check the weather forecast for tomorrow ….



I have decided that it is way too long since I have met up with someone who I used to be closer to, but have lost touch with. This is entirely my fault, as she is always there, no matter what.

Tomorrow, my plan is to surprise her; my alarm is set for 5am so that I can catch a few moments with her before she goes on her daily journey. I hope she will remember me and the good times we used to have. I hope she will say yes to me when I ask if we can be friends again.

Her name is sunrise.


I went to a funeral today

Martin was 90 and his room was two rooms away from Anthony’s. He died a few days ago and I went, with my mother and one of the carers, to the funeral service at the Catholic cathedral today. After the service I was able to give Ruth, Martin’s wife, and three of his daughters, a series of quick hugs before withdrawing from their private grief. Ruth and I have formed a friendship borne of mutual care and grief over the endless months of our husbands’ deterioration so, even though it sounds selfish, I am not sure how to go on without Ruth’s visits to Anthony’s room. Already, there is someone else in Martin’s room and, even though I had just been to his funeral, I caught myself just about to wave goodbye to him – as I have done every afternoon/evening on my way out. Martin’s ‘gone-ness’ has been so swift.

This morning, as I psyched myself up not to cry at the funeral, I checked my emails and discovered that my blog friend, Bill, had died from COPD. The shock of it was terrible. His friendship, humor and rapport had blessed me for over a year. Here is his last, heroic post:

Then, hesitantly, I opened another email about another blog friend, Rhonda, and my heart did a somersault of dread as I read that she, too, had died. Jennifer’s post here honors Rhonda beautifully in a way that respects the horror of this tragedy. Jennifer’s post provides links to Rhonda’s blog.

My heart goes out to all of those who have been left grief-stricken by the death of their loved ones.


Taking Jack (our Irish Terrier) into the nursing home

photo (1)

photo (2)

I don’t know how this will work because Jack is just a tad unruly, so wish me luck for tomorrow!