wings and things

The truth

Recently, I wrote a post outlining some factual information about events following my marriage to Anthony. Almost immediately, I received a flurry of support from other family members, but this one stands out:

Dear Julie and Ming
I have been extremely interested by your comments about the past. You are on the right track, I believe. It is very important to remember incidences that have had a profound effect on you and your family. It is more important to recall the actual facts that have not been changed by glossing over the truth or to suit particular individuals. What you have recalled regarding J’s behaviour is fact. I can remember Anthony telling us.
I have discovered many interesting things about the Goyders and the Stewarts thanks to your box. Much of the information is quite contrary to what J. believed.
I am hoping to have it all together (within the next year) so that Ming, being the youngest of the generation will know some more about his family. It will all be factual too.
You continue to do what is best for Anthony and your patience with others who think they know better is amazing.

But then I received this:

What are you hoping to gain from ranting about … ??? You’ve only alienated yourself even more from our Family!!! I feel sorry for you Julie it obviously consumes you and makes you behave badly !!!

Of course this niece of Anthony’s is upset; and of course she doesn’t want to acknowledge that her father may have bullied Anthony into such a state of stress that he was gobbled up by one disease after another.

What should have been an idyllic first few years of marriage, with the ever-cute Ming, was tainted terribly by the extraordinary and (for me) unexpected malevolence of these relatives.

I had the most beautiful afternoon with Ants today. As I arrived, my wonderful mother left (she and I are his almost daily visitors). He was wide awake, bright-eyed, defying all odds, my hero. I told him about everything that had happened lately and I cried into his wonderful shoulder.

Me: Do you remember the ‘party’ the other day, Ants?
Ants: My birthday?
Me: No, it had a kind of death theme actually, but I didn’t realise it at the time.
Ants: Who is dying?
Me: You, apparently.
Ants: What rubbish. Look at this!

With that, he pointed proudly (as he often does) to his very flat stomach. Years ago he was a bit more rotund!

This is the thing, you see: Ants is on the other ‘side,’ so to speak, of the dementia of PDD. He has totally forgotten the ‘party’ of course; he often forgets his age, or where he is, or what is wrong with him. But he remembers the familiar very well and the constancy of my almost-daily presence, Ming’s, his nephews’ visits, my mother’s frequent knitting visits; the letters from his god-daughter (also niece); visits from my friends who love me almost as much as they love him; the carers and other staff at the nursing home.

This is the truth.



Anthony has lived, breathed and survived so many diseases now that it is gobsmacking that he is still alive and (almost) pain-free. He is like some sort of super-hero in the ‘high care’ section of the nursing home, and very popular with the staff because, after nearly four years there, he still has a twinkle in his eye.

Of course, sometimes he seems semi-comatose; other times, he is alert. It’s the same with verbal cognition: sometimes he is unable even to say a single word; other times he is vociferous. I haven’t seen him walk for awhile, but maybe he does that in the morning and I usually get there at lunch-time or in the afternoon.

Most of Anthony’s regular visitors – me, my fantastic mother, Ming, friends, family, and volunteers – actually speak to him, reminisce with him and this is wonderful. And the staff are fantastically interactive with him to the point of flirtatiousness. Be careful, girls – he is mine!

The rumour, spread by a family member, that Ants was near death, was disturbing to say the least, but, once I rang him, he admitted his mistake. It didn’t seem to occur to him that his rumour might have upset Ming and me.

This morning, I received a phone-call from a neighbour who hadn’t seen Ants for awhile and he was shocked at Anthony’s confusion and appearance. I reassured him that Ants was always a bit dishevelled in the morning. Later on today, my mother rang me to say she was with Ants and she gave me her phone so I could speak to him.

Anthony: Where are you?
Me: Ming and I are fixing a fence.
Anthony: At Bythorne?
Me: Yes.

Please don’t die, Ants. Not yet.



On Christmas morning, at dawn, my brother, BJ, surprised me by arriving here with a bottle of champagne. He reminisced about Anthony’s penchant for a very cheap brand called ‘Great Western’. I suddenly had a flashback of when Ants would put the bottles of champagne in the freezer until there would be little icicles. He would pour the champagne for the friends we were entertaining and everyone thought he had had something special imported from France. At the time I think ‘Great Western’ sold for $3 a bottle.

As my brother and I sat out on the front veranda, drinking champagne in the early hours, I remembered all of those Christmas mornings with Ants. We would have icy champagne – Ants would carve some ham for our eggy breakfast and I would wait, with bated breath, for little Ming to wake up and discover his full-of-presents pillowcase!

BJ left, Ming emerged from his shed and he and I went into the living room to exchange our presents with each other. As I had been allowed to do the pillowcase thing one last time, Ming opened those first. Then, underneath the Christmas tree, were six presents – three from Ming to me, and three from me to Ming (this is a Ming tradition now). That hour was magical! Then Ming left to join my mother, sister-in-law and niece at church. I quickly prepared the crayfish and cocktail sauce and arrived at the nursing home at 10am.

At around 10.30, my younger brother, M, arrived at the nursing home, with his wife and their three children. M took the chair next to Anthony’s and immediately struck up a conversation about cars – especially Anthony’s past cars, the Torana A9X and the GT. Until M mentioned it, I’d forgotten about the GT! They stayed with us for a wonderful hour, then went to BJ’s for lunch. After they left, Ants used the words “deciduous” and “my children” to describe this fantastic family.

Then my mother arrived, so I opened the bottle of Moet that was in the nursing home freezer, and we had a sip. Ming and his girlfriend arrived and made Anthony’s day by also having a sip. Ming had brought a gift of chocolates and a birthday card which probably means that he and his dad are equally confused!

Just as Ants, Meg and I were eating the crayfish, BJ arrived, with his wife and their two youngest children. By this time, Anthony was both animated and nonplussed. At one point, Ants looked at me ambiguously and I said “WHAT?” He replied, “I was just noticing how beautiful you are.”

Big thanks to my family for surrounding Ants with your love. Beautiful.



I am interrupting my blog break with a post because of an incident that has shaken me.

Two days ago, Anthony’s brother, J, a couple of lovely nephews, and Ants’ oldest friend, all convened at the nursing home. I didn’t realise at first that this had been arranged by J.- a fantastic gesture except that he forgot to invite Ming and me.

Nevertheless, I was delighted, despite the fact that J’s instructions were to have Anthony outside. The carers couldn’t lift Ants out of his armchair and they were about to get the hoist when the two nephews managed to get him into the wheelchair. I decided then that I would have to go with the flow so I wheeled Ants outside.

He was cold, uncomfortable, un-talked to (but talked about rather wonderfully by the nephews and friend); I sat right next to him and shared some champagne with him until it became obvious that he needed to get back to his room.

I came home, still delighted. It hadn’t been a perfect afternoon but it was better than nothing and I was very grateful for the presence of P. the nephew who visits Ants every weekend. He is so loyal and kind; he is a gift to Ants, Ming and me because of his sincerity and his love for Anthony.

The next day, another nephew (one who regularly visits Ants despite living 200 kms away), rang me to ask what was going on. I didn’t understand the question so he said that J. had rung various family members to come for drinks at the nursing home to say goodbye. I told him that J. and a couple of people had turned up but I hadn’t known why.

Apparently J. had decided to tell all of the family (except Ming and me) that Anthony was at death’s door. When I rang and confronted him, he explained that he just wanted to say goodbye.

“Try saying hello,” I said.


Last Christmas

Last Christmas was the first Christmas that Ming and I didn’t bring Anthony home and, instead, exchanged gifts and food in the nursing home, where my mother joined us after church. She reminded me the other day that I had promised crayfish cocktail last year but failed to deliver; I think I was probably disheartened and just brought cheese and crackers. I don’t remember a lot about last Christmas except that Anthony was nonplussed by gifts given to him by Ming and me, and generally confused about how to open them; I do remember Ming being hurt and annoyed, and my own hot tears much later at home. It was horrible.

I am determined not to let this kind of scenario play out again this Christmas; if we can’t bring Ants home for Christmas, we will bring it to him, and this time I will do it properly. I will buy six crayfish a couple of days before Christmas and clean/de-shell them on Christmas Eve. Then I will make Anthony’s mother’s cocktail sauce (a secret-ish recipe!).

The real buzz for me is that Ming has agreed to allow me to do the pillow-case/sack thing for the last time. This means I can fill his special Christmas pillow-case with gifts just like Ants and I used to do when he was a bit younger (like a couple of years ago ha!) So Ming and I will wake up on Christmas morning and he will get some surprises and, hopefully, so will I. Then we will meet my mother at the nursing home for crayfish lunch after which Meg and Ming will probably go their separate ways and I will stay with Ants.

Anthony’s prostate cancer + Parkinson’s disease prognoses (both of which were determined several years ago), indicated that he would be probably be dead by now. So my wonderful husband – who never complains, who is never depressed, who never forgets me, who mentions Ming every hour I am with him – has exceeded his ‘use-by’ date.

Maybe this will be our last Christmas with Anthony; maybe not. In the meantime I’ve decided to take a bit of a break from blogging until after Christmas. I am messaging blog friends individually but this will take some time. If anything profound occurs to me I will put it on FB ha.

One of the most exciting things about Christmas is the Christmas Eve dinner at Meg’s (my mother’s) and this year we amount to around 20! My mother does the whole turkey roast thing and I usually bring the ham. Ashtyn Paterson (my niece) does the organisation of Secret Santa stuff. She is a legend!


From L to R: me, Meg, and my nieces, Ash and Sage.

Sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t be happy whilst Anthony is in this predicament; then I come to my senses and yesterday I even lingered at my brother’s place instead of rushing back to the nursing home. And the other week, I lingered in Perth to see my youngest brother, his wife and Special K and, despite the dramatic circumstances, I looked at this family and wanted them to adopt me.

In February next year, Anthony will turn 80. He is not in good health but he is in quietly good spirits. Will this be our last Christmas together?


Peacock poop

I thought it was time for a light-hearted post so here goes.

Every morning I am woken up by a bang-crash sound from the back of the house. King Ken has never done this before but he is now attacking his reflection in the back veranda windows on a regular basis. He does this so ferociously that I’m a bit nervous he will actually break a window.

Here he is pretending innocence.


Now, apart from the alarming regularity of this banging and crashing, King Ken’s obsession with his own reflection also means that there is more than the usual amount of peacock poop waiting for me every morning outside the back door. Obviously I have to wait for this to dry before I can sweep it away because my new straw broom (which I can’t find anyway) doesn’t take kindly to wet peacock poop.

I like to tell Anthony about these mini-adventures and show him photos, but his verbal responses are now becoming few and far between. Our friend, N, another resident in the high care section, is also becoming less vocal although she still possesses a wonderful ability to laugh loudly. N’s daughter and I have become friends via our mutual concern for each other and our two loved ones.

Yesterday Ants couldn’t get any words out at all, no matter how much he tried, so I began to “interpret” what he was trying to say by suggesting possible topics from recent conversations. I didn’t always get it right but, when I did, he would sigh with relief (or maybe resignation) and give me a small smile. He was very sleepy and silent but not sad; he is never sad and this amazes me! I have never known anyone to be this resilient and content and this is a gift to me now because he has always had a rather calmingly buoyant effect on me.

I love metaphors and I was thinking that King Ken’s bang/crash might represent what used to be Anthony’s very healthy ego (still intact). But maybe King’s antics represent me versus the brick wall of acceptance.

As for the peacock poop, or any poop for that matter, it is its own metaphor and I just need to find my straw broom!