wings and things

A new idea

Okay so my new idea is to visit Ants later in the day, like I did this afternoon. That way, I can get other stuff done (writing, picking tomatoes from my garden, having heart-to-heart conversations with Ming, researching PDD, feeding the peacocks, vacuuming the house, finding the iron etc.)

My mother visited and fed Ants his lunch today but, by the time I got there, he was in bed, propped up ready for tea and he thought my mother’s visit was yesterday. I threw myself onto the bed and hugged him, much to his amusement, and lay there beside him for a bit, kissing him ferociously on the lips quickly, until he grinned.

Maybe I should visit later in the day so that he has a good memory of seeing me before he goes to sleep. That might be a better way for me to venture forward – dunno! That way, I could deal with daily life stuff, go into town to feed Anthony his tea, then come home and chill.

Over the years, lots of people have advised me to look after me, but I don’t buy into that whole ‘me’ thing because it’s so weird; after all, a ‘me’ can’t be isolated from a ‘we’.

I think I have now resolved various issues to do with family politics and, having spoken to Anthony’s only remaining brother yesterday, we have a tenuous agreement that he will ring me before visiting. I stated the reasons, he rejected the reasons, but at least we had a dialogue. My feistiness sought refuge in a compassionate sinkhole. Futile, of course. Silly me.

But none of this matters any more – none of it. Anthony is the best person I have ever met in my life. He was my friend for over a decade before he became my husband; he was a middle-aged, bachelor dairy farmer, a workaholic, a person who liked to run in the paddocks just for the fun of running. He was loud and, like his mother, liked to party; he was crude and respectful at the same time; he was snobby and/or ‘common’ simultaneously; he was my absolute hero.

So, perhaps, when I feed him his tea tomorrow, I will remind him of these halcyon days!


Dementia dialogues

I started writing these on Facebook but am now wondering if I should retrieve these little conversations for the blog. Anthony is beginning to lose his ability to speak, but the other day he whispered:

Anthony: You are so big and strong, Jules.

Me: Are you calling me fat?

Anthony: Meaty.

Me: How DARE you!

Anthony: I am small and weak now, Jules.

Me: No, Ants, NO! Do you want some of my mother’s Christmas cake?

I wish now that I had written down every single word Anthony spoke in the prelude to this impending silence. He keeps trying to speak, but he seems to have lost the ability to speak. Ming saw his father today and came home to tell me he was out-of-it.

Tomorrow, I will go in and try to comfort him. I think Ants will live for a long time so I have to figure out how to cope.







Lately Anthony has been more asleep than awake and yesterday was one of those days. I arrived in the afternoon to find him slumbering peacefully in his armchair, so I shook him awake and growled, “Wake up, Ants!” His eyes snapped open – wide and glazed, then closed again as if to say, oh it’s only you.

One of the carers dropped in to tell me he had been too sleepy to eat lunch so she heated it up and brought it in. I proceeded to feed Ants; he seemed incapable of keeping his eyes open, but his mouth opened automatically at the touch of the spoon. “Open your eyes, Ants!” I admonished from time to time and, eventually, having eaten an entire meal with his eyes closed, he did.

Anthony: Jules.

Me: Yes, it’s me. Don’t get too excited!

Anthony: Sweet.

Two hours, two words – but when I gave him my hand, he clutched it, then stroked it as if it were a cat – two hands.

When I left to come home, Ants was falling asleep again.







At nearly 80, Anthony’s Parkinson’s symptoms have reached a new dimension. He is uneasy with certain people/animals/things: sometimes it is a new carer; sometimes it is with the unruliness of a rogue calf that he remembers naming ‘Reject’; mostly it is to do with his slightly younger brother.

Advanced Parkinson’s disease – accompanied by dementia, and the medications -often leads to delusions, paranoia, hallucinations, nightmares. I can still remember Ants yelling in his sleep in the night-years prior to his admittance to the nursing home four year ago.

I have tried, tactfully, personally, and publicly, to stop all visits to Anthony from the younger brother. These visit aren’t often anyway but, apart from being awkward, they always leave Ants with anxiety.

His nearly 80-year-old perspective, his paranoia, his tolerance …. Bravo, Ants.




Once upon a time 6

During the many years in which the dairy farmer kept the young girl at arm’s length with brotherly bear-hugs, she somehow managed to finish her nursing studies and then an arts degree.

She had lots of adventures, jobs, friends – even boyfriends – all of which she would tell the dairy farmer about, much to his amusement. She would turn up at the dairy farm unexpectedly and be greeted by his yell of welcome … “JULES!”

The dairy farmer had been swept into a convenient relationship with a woman more his age, a situation that frequently broke the young girl’s platonic stance into slivers of absolute misery. Twice she bumped into the dairy farmer’s ‘girlfriend’ as the ‘girlfriend’ was leaving to go back to the city. These awkward situations were tempered by the guffaws the young girl and the dairy farmer shared in the wake of the departure of the ‘girlfriend’.

It was at about the time the young girl embarked on her postgraduate studies that the dairy farmer finally realised that she was now a young woman; that the age difference was now diminished by time. He let the ‘girlfriend’ go and rang the young woman, asking for a date.






A marriage proposal!

After a couple of days of intense sleepiness, Ants was wide awake and alert today due to a visit from some favourite family members. It was magic!

Later, when it was just Ants and me, he mumbled something resembling “marriageable” and this was our conversation:

Me: What do you mean by marriageable?

Anthony: Well you know….

Me: So do you want to get married?

Anthony: Yes.

Me: But we ARE married!

[At this point Ants gave me one of his half-smiles]

Anthony: Yes, I know that.

Me: So do you want get married again?

Anthony: Not sure about the hundreds.

Me: Hundreds of what?

Anthony: Cameras.

Me: What? [I show him the TV remote]

Anthony: Yes, that’s it … for the wedding … hundreds ….

Me: So let me get this right: you want another wedding?

Anthony: Well, I have thought of it from time to time.

[So anyway I cracked up laughing at this typically Anthonyesque punch-line which of course got him smiling too.]

Me: I am not going through all of that rigmarole again, Ants – I hate wearing a skirt!

Okay, so recently I have begun to get a bit lazy with my visits to the nursing home to see Ants and other residents who I have become fond of. But, even a single day’s reprieve takes its toll in terms of guilt. Yes, I can do my own thing and not go into town, and be fine with that. But, after two days, it’s a bit like a ‘cold turkey’ situation. I miss Ants too much; I ring up when I can’t come in, to make sure he is okay. Most of the carers know now to tell him I will be in later.

In the past, Ants and I never had a hand-holding, smoochie-whoochie relationship; we were always quite restrained. Now, he holds my hand tightly (and the other day when he was unwakeable, he gripped my mothers’ hand when he was asleep – yes, I am a teensy bit jealous haha!)

Of course I will marry him again but only in a let’s pretend way. Why do I visit this man of mine so often, despite his illnesses? Because I love the way he loves me and vice-versa; pretty simple really.




Once upon at time 5

During the two years that the young girl worked for the dairy farmer’s mother, she learned how to cook, and salmon mornay was a favourite dish. Melting the butter, whisking in the flour with a fork, adding the milk, getting the bones out of the tinned salmon … it was all rather magical for the young girl.

Eventually, she became quite adventurous in the kitchen and one afternoon, while the dairy farmer’s mother was having her afternoon nap, she cooked fish cakes for their dinner. It was the first time she had cooked anything without the dairy farmer’s mother’s supervision and she was very excited as she followed the instructions of a recipe book found in a secret drawer in the kitchen table.

It was a disaster! The fish cakes were thin and charcoaly instead of being plump and crispy. The dairy farmer didn’t say anything as his mother rose from her chair and declared that the meal was “DIABOLICAL!”

The young girl fled to the back veranda bathroom to cry out her humiliation, the dairy farmer put his mother to bed, and that was that … until the young girl accidentally allowed the simmering grapefruit marmalade to boil over the pot and into the precious Aga. But that’s another story.

Note: Not everything is funny in retrospect, but a lot is! I haven’t lit the Aga for the four years since Ants has been in the nursing home, but it is, nevertheless, a constant reminder of the various mishappinesses of the beginning of our relationship. I reminded Ants today and he gave me his slow half-smile: gold!



“Where is Mum?”

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but Anthony often asks about his mother. He either asks me where she is or how she is. It’s a difficult question to answer because Anthony’s mother died over 30 years ago. Sometimes I just say that she is fine; other times, especially when Ants wants to visit her, I have to gently tell him the truth.

Me: Ants, she died a long time ago … remember?

Anthony: Sorry, Jules, I got stuck.

Me: It’s okay, Ants – it’s just the Parkinson’s disease affecting your memory. Don’t worry about it.

Anthony: Parkinson’s disease, yes.

Me: Do you remember your mother’s salmon mornay?

Anthony: Yes – beautiful.

Me: And how I couldn’t make it as well as she did?

Anthony: Yes you could!

Me: She is definitely one of my heroes.

When a son, who is nearly 80, remembers his mother with such incredible affection and concern, it makes me pause, look up at the sky …

and wonder


Home away from home

Yesterday, Ants mentioned going home to ‘Bythorne’ (the name of our farm). He hasn’t done this for ages so I was a bit disconcerted. This happened just after the ordeal of getting him from the dining room back to his room (I got him up but then he couldn’t walk, even with the walker); some ablutionary care via two wonderful carers; and the finale – gently settling Ants into his armchair.

Five minutes later, this was our conversation:

Anthony: Come on, let’s go to Bythorne!

Me: What?

Anthony: I want to go home.

Me: This IS home now, Ants.

Anthony: But why? I’m fit.

Me: You have Parkinson’s disease and I can’t lift you anymore.

Anthony: But you just did.

Me: Yes, but I ended up needing the help of two carers! You’re heavy, you silly! What do you want to do – break my back? 

Anthony: Why do you keep running off?

Me: Well, I have boyfriends everywhere, Ants!

Anthony: Not funny, Jules.


Me: Anthony, I have now been holding your hand for nearly three hours.

Anthony: It’s a good little hand.

Me: I have to go now and do the grocery shopping. What do you feel like tonight – chicken or steak?

Anthony: Steak.

When I leave the nursing home to come back home, I know that Anthony will (hopefully) only wait a little while for me to bring the steak back, and then he will forget. In fact, by the time I get home – minus steak – he will probably be very nearly asleep.

In many ways, this home, emptied of Anthony’s presence, has become a bit, well, empty! Without the happy/zappy presence of Ming (who is Anthony’s clone in so many ways), it would be very tempting to leave this Anthonyless place and begin again. But Ming and I love this place, love this farm, love this home.







Dead or alive?

The other day, Anthony and I had the oddest conversation (in a black humour kind of way). To give it a bit of context, “Eric” died over two years ago; and the ‘house’ Ants refers to is the nursing home. Oh, and another thing: when I thought Ants didn’t remember that “Eric” had died, I presented to him that “Eric” wasn’t very well. I did this because I didn’t want Ants to experience the shock of this again….

Anthony: Is Eric in this house?

Me: No, I don’t think so.

Anthony: So where is he?

Me: Well, he hasn’t been very well lately.

Anthony: Is he okay?

Me: Not really, but he might get better, Ants.

Anthony: But he’s dead, Jules!


Me: So, if you already know he’s dead, why are you asking me if he is in this house? Are we all in heaven now? You are doing my head in!

Anthony: Settle down – I was just wondering.

These kinds of conversations, whispered now, sometimes quickly, sometimes over a whole afternoon, absolutely fascinate me. I realise that sounds awful, but I am so glad now that I have documented these years in this blog.

My recent posts about how my beautiful husband was so mistreated by his closest family; how he is now construed as near death; and the fact that some visits cause him distress … all of this makes me want to tell the perpetrators to please stay away.

But to kinder friends and family, visits are welcome. Anthony can’t speak very well any more but he is still on-the-ball. I spent the afternoon with him today and he told me (as usual) that my hair needed some attention!

Anthony is much more alive than dead.