jmgoyder

wings and things

The Anthony story: Chapter 1.1

on January 7, 2017

ENTERING LIFE IN A NURSING HOME

I remember being absolutely terrified and, when I look back, I realise that my terror was simply a reflection of Anthony’s fear of the unknown I guess. The view from his window was, and still is, of a lawned area which I am so grateful for because now that is where he ‘sees’ people and livestock and dogs, via his hallucinations.

He had been hospitalised so many times during 2011, that it was a surprise to me that there was no television. Hospital rooms always have televisions and Anthony was used to watching the news channels. I didn’t want to leave him in such quiet emptiness so I raced down to the closest shop and bought him a television and got it working that day. I remember feeling a sense of desperate urgency that he would have something/anything to distract him from the fact that he was being left there.

January 2012: The bed looked so small, the wardrobe looked so large, the walls looked paint-chipped in places, but all in all, it was satisfactory. I can’t remember who did the admission interview and Anthony, of course, no longer remembers any of it, but at the time it seemed a terse introduction to a respite situation that, just weeks later, would become permanent.

During those interim weeks between respite and permanency, I was busy with looking after Ming in Perth, 200 kms away – his pre-operative preparations, the spinal surgery itself, and his post-operative recovery. I remember racing back and forth from the hospital in Perth to the nursing home in Bunbury and reassuring Anthony that Ming was fine. Back then, despite Anthony having very clear signs of Dementia, he understood what was going on and why he had to be in the nursing home. Nevertheless,  he argued with me that he would be fine at home on his own and I had to keep reminding him of his falls (back then I only had to turn my back for a second and I would find him toppled on the ground).

I don’t think there was any question of Anthony being permanently admitted to the nursing home at that time. Certainly there was no question that Ming’s post-operative health would be my priority. So the fact that Anthony’s nursing home room became available in a forever way was both a relief and a shock. Anthony and I had numerous discussions over the week we had to make the decision and all of those conversations are now a blur to me. But I do remember him conceding in the end; his pragmatism took over and he didn’t shed a tear as we signed the forms. I can hardly bear to think of how abandoned he must have felt, but I do remember how the hot tears burned through my body, my eyes, my skin, during that first year.

It’s so different now! The Dementia component of Anthony’s PDD has made it easier for me to convince him that all is well on the farm, to thank him for fixing the fences yesterday, to talk about the party we had last night, to ask his advice about toilet-training little Ming, to fixing pumps, how to cook his mother’s salmon mornay, or do I look better in a skirt or jeans.

Whenever you enter a virtual game, emerge from a dream, or find yourself identifying with a character in a novel, or a blog, or a movie, you are going to come face-to-face with the difference between real and unreal.

Yesterday Anthony thought he saw a close neighbour, Mick, on the lawned area outside his room. As usual I went along with this. Then, this morning, I bumped into Mick at the local shop (I hadn’t seen him for years.) Such a strange and wonderful coincidence!

Yes, Dementia has its tragic sides, of course, and every single individual’s experience of having this disease is different. I have learned how going with the flow is sometimes not enough; sometimes you just have to go with the moment-by-moment situation.

When Anthony says, “I don’t understand what’s going on, Jules” it breaks my heart. But when he says, “I’m glad we painted that wall blue” (the wall behind his television), it is the perfect opportunity for me to begin a conversation, no matter how bizarre, and we can even have a laugh.

After all, when the ‘now’ Anthony was the ‘then’ Anthony, he would never have had a wall painted blue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


7 responses to “The Anthony story: Chapter 1.1

  1. susanpoozan says:

    You write so well and with such feeling and compassion, I hope setting down the words isn’t too hard.

  2. Judy says:

    Your book is going to touch people. It will make a difference and I am very proud of you. It isn’t easy to write traumatic memories in a way that releases them. You’re such a great writer, Julie.

  3. ksbeth says:

    i agree with susan, i hope the process of remembering and writing is not too painful. you do have an amazing way of stating things exactly as they must have felt.

  4. tootlepedal says:

    Your story is surely going to be helpful to others.

  5. batgurrl says:

    great start Jules. Keep after it and you will have your book in no time. r

  6. Such mixed emotions here, and then when you went through it, you both have come so far with yet so far still to go

  7. tersiaburger says:

    Beautifully written! My heart breaks for you my friend!

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