wings and things

A very special afternoon

Yesterday, Anthony’s best friend of over 50 years, Baz, and his beautiful wife, Julie, visited us at the nursing home. It had been awhile since the ‘boys’ had seen each other because I can no longer physically manage outings with Anthony due to his decreased mobility. But Ants has been mentioning Baz lately so I thought I’d just invite this lovely couple as a surprise for Ants.

I got to the nursing home at noon and helped Ants with his lunch. He was a bit blah and not very responsive but, bingo, when Baz and Julie entered the room, his face lit up!

Julie was the one who took yesterday’s photo of Ants and me. She also took this one which I am going to show Anthony today.


Isn’t it a beauty! And here is the beautiful photographer herself.


She and I caught up as Ants and Baz reminisced. At one point, completely out of context in terms of what Baz was saying, Ants looked at him and said, “I love you and you love me.”

Thank you, Baz and Julie!



I’ll write more about today tomorrow but, in the meantime, I am savouring today.

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Sigh of relief

I have mentioned Dina before (my decluttering friend) and, more recently, Dan (my vegetable garden artist). Well, yesterday they both happened to be here at the same time. Dina was here in the house with me, helping me with a huge pile of filing, and Dan was outside, replenishing the crop of vegetables that had been eaten by rabbits.

The other people who were here were the guys (Eric and Aaron) who I’d employed to rabbit-proof the fence around the vegetable garden and they are doing a marvellous job! I think you have to be Australian to realise what a curse to crops rabbits are. Anyway these guys have dug trenches deep enough to put steel mesh underneath the ground to stop the scoundrels from getting in and eating my carrots etc.

The ‘sigh of relief’ title of this post is just to do with knowing that these are people I can call on, professionally and, sometimes, personally.

And Chris, my computer guru, has helped me solve my cursor acrobatics since getting the new modem – sigh. I have, once again, found it impossible (except via phone) to access the internet.

Dina visited Anthony the other day and helped him with his lunch. He asked for me but she explained that she was there instead of me (this is what my mother does. Then he said to her, as if he were in a restaurant,

“This is only the second time I have been here.”

When Dina told me this I had such a sad chuckle because Anthony has now been in the nursing home for nearly four years.


“The Gift of Alzheimer’s”

This is the title of a book I am reading, written by Maggie La Tourelle. Maggie tells the story of the journey she and her mother share in which her mother’s Alzheimer’s actually enhances their relationship.

What I really like about this book is the way it de-tragifies dementia; gives fantastic examples of dialogues between kin; and even explores the spiritual possibilities beyond death.

Maggie’s conversations with her mother remind me so much of my conversations with Anthony that it has made me quite emotional (especially at 3am!) Their story is unlike ours in many ways but there are some fascinating parallels.



Sometimes I get up in the early hours, usually around 3am, and I watch some television, or reminisce myself back into sleep mode.

It is impossible to express how much I miss Anthony being here, in this house, on this/his farm; ‘longing’ is the best way I can describe it.

Often, my heart is tugged awake by this longing and sometimes I feel absolutely desperate to see him.

But sometimes I just don’t bother; I press my face into the pillows and try to avoid the day; I swallow the guilt with a glass of milk; I tell myself that he is in good hands; I sob.

Longing is a weird emotion; its nostalgia cuts into the throat of love, slicing page after page into new, fresh coherent sentences.

It is 3am. I am 15 kms away and wide awake.

I love you, Anthony.


It’s time for an inspection!

Yikes! Dina is coming out to the farm tomorrow to pick me up for lunch at a brewery not far from here. This means she will spot any residues of chaos in the house and Ming’s shed.

Okay, just to refresh your memory, Dina is the wonderful woman who helped us to declutter and reorganise the house and sheds. Her business is

So I have around 25 hours to hide do my pile of paperwork, and Ming (who isn’t home yet from gallivanting down south) has even less time to make his shed presentable.

A few weeks ago, Dina, a mutual friend and I went out for lunch, and they picked me up. I wasn’t sure if they’d come into the house or not so, in the hour before they arrived, I went into a neat-and-tidy frenzy. Well they didn’t come in so that was a bit of an anti-climax and, during lunch, I told them and Dina laughed.

But tomorrow is different. Tomorrow, as part of her service, Dina will be conducting a follow-up inspection at my request.

Now don’t get me wrong; Dina is the kindest, most uncritical decluttering expert I know (well I don’t know any others) and I am not a slob (mostly). But she is also very frank and I am a bit disorganised. This makes for a beautiful friendship but OMG I only have 24 hours left!





Whenever Anthony says something during our afternoons together, I either hit ‘mute’ on the television, or ‘pause’ if it’s a dvd.

This is so that I can listen and respond to whatever he is saying, or trying to say. His voice has become very whispery and sometimes croaky lately and, even when he does get the words out, they sometimes

The following dialogue is an example of how weird and wonderful our conversations can be. I am learning how to be unafraid of nonsense, to enter its world in an Alice-in-Wonderland kind of way, to talk, listen, laugh and pause.

Anthony: How did you know where to find me?

Me: Instinct.

Anthony: You have good instincts.

Me: I know.


Anthony: Can you get this calf to get out of underneath the….

Me: What?

Anthony: This bbbb mmmm toothpaste.

Me: What? Try again.

Anthony: The cat toothpaste.

Me: The toothpaste is free, Ants, and there’s no cat here. Anyway I thought you hated cats.

Anthony: There are five.

Me: You’re hallucinating but I’ll shoo them away, anyway; is that better?

Anthony: Not much.


Me: So, do you think I look different today?

Anthony: No.

Me: Ants, I am wearing a dress for God’s sake. I never wear dresses!

Anthony: Oh.

Me: So what is different about me?

Anthony: Your legs are shorter.

Me: Oh.

Anthony: Is Mum okay?

Me: My mum or your mum?

Anthony: Ours.

Me: She’s fine.

Anthony: Where’s Ming?

Me: He’s at work but he’s coming to visit soon.

Anthony: Does he know I’m at the Rose Hotel?

Me: I’ll tell him.

Anthony: Where is your mother?

Me: Why do you always want to know where my mother is?

Anthony: Well she should be here and I’m worried about her eyes.

Me: Can we just watch the show, Ants?

Anthony: Haven’t we seen this, Jules?

Me: Well it’s a series, so yes and no. We are now up to the third season.

Anthony: Can you bumblebee the cardboard over there?

Me: What?

Anthony: Can you mmmbrrr oh my words don’t. What’s the thing wrong again, Jules?

Me: Ants, you have Parkinson’s, plus you are really quite old. And you have very strange ears.

Anthony: I have perfect ears!


Anthony: You have a sexy stomach.

Me: WHAT? Stop looking at my stomach – I ate too much lunch!

Anthony: Look at mine – I’m thin.

Me: Well there’s no need to rub it in.


Anthony: There’s that baby again.

Me: It’s not a baby; it’s my handbag! See!

Anthony: I think we should go to Golden Valley [his childhood home].

Me: Not today. It’s too cold.


Anthony: Jules?

Me: Yes?

Anthony: Bbbb mmmm – oh I can’t speak.

Me: Do you want the rug on your knees?

Anthony: That’s the elbow, good.


Me: You’re adorable and I love you.

Anthony: Mmm.

Me: You’re supposed to say it back.

Anthony: What?

Me: ‘I love you’.

Anthony: I know you do.

Me: No, I mean you’re supposed to say ‘I love you’ back to me!

Anthony: You already do.


Me: I’ll show you a picture of Ming dressed up as a nurse for Halloween, okay? You are going to be shocked.

Anthony: Nothing shocks me.

Me: Okay, check this out!


Anthony: He is magnificent!

I rest my case: nonsense is a good thing!


Special K

‘Special K’ is the nickname I have chosen to give my 13-year-old, 6’2″ nephew, not just for the sake of his privacy, but also because he is especially special.

This is a difficult post to write but here goes: Special K was one of the five children injured in a car accident in which Ming was the driver … a bit over two years ago.

Special K was the only one thrown out of Ming’s ute, his leg was broken badly, and he was subsequently emergency-helicoptered to Perth with his father (my youngest brother). And yet this brave and beautiful boy, instead of screaming, helped everyone to calm down. I don’t know how he did this because I wasn’t there; I was at the other end of a suddenly-silent telephone call in which Ming said, “Mum, I’ve had an accident.”

Fast forward to now and all of the children have recovered physically except for Special K who needs an operation to remove the plate from his leg. He might even need another smaller plate inserted; I don’t know.

Ming and I were talking about life and death yesterday and he admitted that he thinks about the accident every single day.

Me: But you were so philosophical at the time, Ming! You kept reminding me that nobody died!

Ming: You were a mess, Mum.

I think the fact that Special K has to have an operation on his injured leg has thrown me back to that dreadful night and reminded me of how resilience works. IMG_0240

As you can see from the photo, Special K is almost as gorgeous as our brand new 007!

[This post is for you, Jo – mother of all mothers!]


Another day with Anthony

After the fright of the other day when Ants was unconscious for so many hours (much longer than usual), I now realise that my being there every day is important. (Confession: I have been taking ‘days off’ here and there recently).

The first interesting thing about this is that, according to staff, relatives, and visitors, if I am not there, Anthony asks for me and is sometimes fretful.

The second interesting thing about this is the whole time warp thing: i.e. I rush in to see Ants on my way to getting the car serviced, seeing whether we have won lotto, buying chick starter etc. so it’s a very brief visit. And he always knows that I will be back soon, even when I don’t come back that day/night. Five minutes can equate to-and-fro with five hours – or vice versa.

The third interesting thing about this is Anthony’s daily mention of Ming. He never does this in a needy way; he is just always very curious and loves seeing photos of Ming, including Ming’s latest Halloween antics/costume at the restaurant where he works. These photos (as well as the photos of Ming on the walls of Anthony’s nursing home room) are always a buzz – “There he is!” Anthony will sometimes say.

When I told Ming about the frightening day, I cried because I was scared that we might lose Anthony suddenly (which, of course, we will). In telling Ming about my day with Anthony, I realised, and saw, how alike they are: generous, sensitive, gregarious, easy-going, beautiful.

Another day with Anthony…
… enhanced by the fact of Ming.


Turning corners

Corners on King ( is the restaurant where Ming has worked for just over a year now. It is run by a couple of guys who have very good taste in terms of decor, food, AND picking staff who are willing to dress up for Halloween.


Yes, that is Ming on the left in the above photo. I was feeling a bit blah yesterday morning but, when I switched on my newly-switched-on computer, and the internet rushed into my laptop, this photo was the first I saw.

Okay so it took me a few seconds to realise that it was Ming! Other photos followed and I was so overtaken by laughter that the whole blah thing disappeared. I got showered and dressed and drove into town for lunch with this beautiful nurse.

Once I figure out how to save the photos I took of Ming in his nurse’s outfit, as he and I lunched together during his break, I will post them. It was the most glorious hour of halloween hilarity.

And then I went to the nursing home to see Anthony. I arrived at 1pm and left at about 4.30pm. For these hours I was unable to wake him up no matter how much I shook his shoulders, squeezed his hands, shouted (as quietly as I could) ‘Wake up, Ants!’ His nephew visited, a friend visited, the nurse-in-charge came in and checked his blood pressure etc. and reassured me that all was well. I visited the dementia wing a couple of times, showed several staff and residents the photos of Ming, laughed and joked, in the hope that when I returned to Anthony’s room he would be awake. He wasn’t.

The possibility that Anthony might die during – or soon after – one of these TIAs (which seem to be occurring more often), is a corner I have been hesitant to turn into. I was calm yesterday afternoon, then terrified, then resigned. When I got home, Ming was here, and listened to my tearful fears in the same way I listen to his; after all, we both love Anthony.

It is entirely possible that Anthony will live for many more years; it is equally possible that he will die soon. I am not ready for the latter, despite many attempts to BE ready, and I cannot imagine my life without Anthony in it. His room in the nursing home, the staff who have become such wonderful friends, my arm around his shoulder, our long afternoons watching television, bantering, just being together, sometimes reminiscing, sometimes eating and drinking, laughing, looking at photos, doing paperwork, engaging with staff, residents, friends, relatives, visitors … his room has become my refuge, my home.

Ah, but I do have another home – a place where I can eat, drink, write, relax. I can be one of those trendy people who drink short blacks whilst writing articles about the meaning of life and death OR the proud mother of the waiter at Corners on King.

Corners on King ( is the restaurant where Ming has worked for just over a year now. It is run by a couple of guys who have very good taste in terms of decor, food, AND picking staff who are willing to dress up for Halloween.