wings and things

The Anthony book

A few months ago a professor friend of mine – an historian, prolific writer and a colleague from my recent university days – suggested that I might write a book about Parkinson’s Disease framed around the blog and my experiences with Anthony. The professor said that he would be happy to read whatever I wrote and that he would give me feedback.

At the time of his visit, I was buoyant with the discovery that I now looked forward to, and enjoyed, my visits to the nursing home, and was able to spend many hours of the day there.

Since then I have begun to copy/paste various bits and pieces from posts I have written since November 2011 into a document that journals the various transitions Anthony, Ming and I have made since Anthony’s permanent admission to the nursing home in early 2012, nearly three years ago.

One of the most significant things I have discovered since perusing my blog is that I would never have remembered the sequence of events, the emotional turmoils, or the ways we coped, if not for the blog.

So now, on the brink of a brand new year, I’ve decided to write the book and report progress via the blog (as an incentive!) on a daily basis. Or something like that!


What a strange Christmas!

On Christmas Eve, I sliced the ham and put it into a sealed container in the refrigerator, ready for Ming to bring to my mother’s place in the evening, then I went to the nursing home. Ming was working at the restaurant and planned to come home, shower and change and head to my mother’s while I spent the afternoon with Anthony.

Just after I got to my mother’s at around 6pm, Ming rang and said he was sick and had been vomiting and didn’t think he could come.

“But what about the ham?” I shrilled unsympathetically.
“Mum, I am really sick!” Ming exclaimed weakly.
“Can you just bring it and then you can go to bed at Grandma’s,” I said.
He agreed begrudgingly.

Meanwhile, family members began arriving at my mother’s, champagne was poured and the presents under her Christmas tree were ogled. I kept an anxious eye out for Ming and finally he arrived. As he walked up the driveway, I wondered why he had left his car in the road and why he was wearing such a strange spotty outfit. Then I realised, oh no! that he was covered in vomit.

“I just threw up in my car!” he said weakly, but ferociously. So we got his car into the driveway, he went inside via the back door so he didn’t have to see anyone, and my mother gave him some clothes to change into and put him to bed. I took the container of ham inside then got a bucket of water and tried to clean the inside of Ming’s car but it was everywhere (I will spare you the details!)

Anyway, with Ming in a bedroom adjacent to the loo, the rest of us continued our festivities while I checked on Ming periodically, who was continuing to vomit every hour or so. I felt terrible to have made him come and had to suffer his weak remonstrances of “You care more about the ham than me.”

By the time I was ready to go home, at around 9.30pm, it had been decided that Ming would sleep the night at Grandma’s.

The next morning (Christmas day) at 6am, there was a knock on the front door that woke me up and, assuming it was a recovered Ming who had lost his key, I opened it blearily only to find it was my brother! He said, “I thought you might like some company – let’s have a drink.” So BJ and I drank champagne on the front veranda, waxing lyrical about this and that and watching the birds dive in and out of the trees, including the new wild parrots I’ve never seen before. It was a fantastic hour and it actually made my day! Then BJ had to head home for his family’s 8am Christmas present ritual.

After he left, my mother contacted me to say she would bring Ming home because he was too weak to drive and had continued vomiting until 4am. So they arrived and we opened a few presents but Ming was still feeling ghastly so I put him to bed and my mother headed in to town to my brother’s place after which she was to meet me at the nursing home.

Well, the crayfish, mango, and my mother’s pavlova, were all a great success with Anthony and so were all the presents I helped him unwrap, then we watched a bit of tenor music on TV, then my mother left, then I went to do my 3-6pm shift in the dementia wing.

After I knocked off, I went back to Ants’ room and we ate the leftover crayfish (which I’d put in the staff frig.) and I went home to my no-longer-sick-but-very-weak son who struggled through the opening of his remaining Christmas presents ha!

But yesterday my mother contacted me to say she had the same thing – the gastro. and it was absolutely horrific and I was helpless to help because of contagion. I rang the nursing home to tell them the situation but that I, myself, was not affected (there is a strict rule that you don’t come in if there is any likelihood of infection of any sort). So, despite the fact that I’m not sick, I’ve been banned from coming into the nursing home until next Thursday! This means I can’t do my allotted shifts and can’t see Ants.

Thankfully, my mother is over the worst but is obviously very weak. Today Ming and I are going to hers to pick up his vomit-ridden car but, now that he has recovered, he wants to take me out for lunch first.

What a strange Christmas!


Christmas Eve’s eve

Well, it’s the day before Christmas Eve and I am finally ready to be festive. My rather blah mood was transformed into enthusiasm after having breakfast with my mother the other day because we went shopping together and I found some things that I hope Ming will love even though he ruled that it should be a strict 3-gifts-per-person Christmas. Unfortunately I take great pleasure in breaking Ming’s rules so there are now 20 presents under the new little Christmas tree he bought. I thought that was a good number since he is still (until January) 20 years old.

Oh how I miss the pillowcase years (a habit inherited from my parents in which an empty pillowcase was placed at the end of each of our beds and on Christmas morning would be filled, rather miraculously, with presents). Up until just a few years ago, I would send Ants and Ming to bed and would spend the late hours of Christmas Eve wrapping presents and putting them into an identical pillowcase (just in case Ming woke up). Then I would go to bed but wake up at around 4am to swap the empty pillowcase with the full-of-presents pillowcase. Alas, those exciting, magical days are long gone. Last year we didn’t even ‘do’ Christmas because we were too sad about this and that and, until a few days ago, I felt the echo of that sadness and an inability to be bothered.

Then, all of a sudden, a wave of hyperactive nostalgia hit me and I was filled with the energy of what Christmas really means – the birth of something/someone miraculously new – a Jesus moment, the memory of when Ming was born, a newfound excitement about seeing Anthony every today, so ….

…. I decorated Anthony’s nursing home room and sticky-taped old and new Christmas cards on his mirrors and pictures, draped the clock with tinsel, decorated the rose tree I bought him the other week, that looks real, with baubles and wrapped Ming’s presents in his room. You see, we are having Christmas in the nursing home this year; it will be the first year that he hasn’t been home for Christmas and it wasn’t until yesterday that Anthony realised this.

Ants: I’m a bit taken aback.
Me: Why? What’s wrong?
Ants: I thought it would be at Bythorne (the name of our farm).
Me: Are you kidding? It’s too hot and the flies are terrible out there! Anyway I like it here better! Don’t argue!
Ants (smiling at my sternness): Okay, you win.

Today I will wrap Anthony’s presents in his room while I face him towards the window so he won’t see; then I’ll sticky tape more cards around his room, then we’ll have a small glass of champagne together with a bit of mango (a great combination I discovered the other day).

Tomorrow night, various members of the family who can make it, will meet at my mother’s place for the traditional Christmas dinner of turkey, ham, Harvard beets (my mother’s specialty) etc. but I won’t tell Ants about this because it would be impossible for him to join us now that he is so incapacitated physically.

Then, on Christmas morning, Ming and I will open our presents to each other, saving a few to take into the nursing home at around 10am where my mother will join us at noon for my crayfish cocktail and some champagne. At 3pm I will head off to the dementia wing for my afternoon shift, Ming and my mother will go home, and at 6pm I will go back to Ants’ room to say goodnight.

A ‘Jesus moment’ – over and over and over again.


Happy Christmas!

I have decided to take a prolonged break from blogging until after Christmas. In the meantime I wish everyone the very best for 2015!