wings and things

The retreat: 2

In the evenings, Karen’s husband, Vince would come home and serve us pre-dinner drinks – mineral water in beautiful wine glasses (the retreat was alcohol-free) and then seat us at the dining table. This table was in itself a visual gift – white linen table cloth, fresh flowers, scented candles. The other guest, J, and I were then served two courses of amazing food – mostly vegetarian/vegan/raw, beautifully interesting and creative. The four of us would chit-chat during the meal as Karen served and Vince washed up. There was a feeling of leisurely calm in the serving and partaking of food and Karen was very happy to share her recipe secrets.

I have never really thought about the idea of sustenance before but Karen (a qualified chef) provided us with such amazingly healthy food that we came away from that dining table sated, even comforted somehow. Having not eaten much of anything since Anthony died, it was a luxury to be fed in such a kind way. I kept wanting to hop up and help with the dishes etc. but soon learned that it gave Karen and Vince a lot of pleasure to serve us. I felt like a queen!

After dinner, I mostly retired to my suite and watched television and/or cried for Anthony. The resort had an extensive dvd and book library so, as a movie fan, I was in my element. It was absolutely wonderful to know that, once I’d retired, I would not be disturbed and that private space of grief, and movie distraction, and tears, and sleep helped me recover. Plus my bathroom had a big spa bath and I made the most of that as we only have a shower at home.

I realise that these posts are a bit disjointed but it is impossible to describe KalyaaNa – – in a single post. The experience was surreal and valuable at so many levels.


“I love you” variations

I say this so often to Anthony that he has developed some rather cynical responses:

Me: I love you!
Anthony: Yes, I know.
Me: I LOVE youuuuuu!
Anthony: So you keep saying.
Me: Oh but I absolutely adoringly love you to the moon!
Anthony: Jules, shut up!
Me: But Ants, I love your big nose, your wide eyes, your weird ears!
Anthony: Your hair looks better.
Me: What?
Anthony: Stop fumbling.

I love him – I love our conversations, often full of mirth, irony, nonsense, joy, mystery and a strange sort of hope. Of course it wasn’t always like this; over the years it has been a very difficult transition from home to nursing home. Sometimes Anthony thinks he has just arrived so we have to go through the same initial conversation again.

What most amazes me is Anthony’s acceptance of what is. He has always been able to do this and is much better at going-with-the-flow than I am, and, incredibly, has never suffered depression. That illness seems to be mine alone and has been for some time and Ants sustains me with his incredible sense of humour.

Anthony: So why are you so down?

Me: What? Why do you think? You’re in a nursing home, Ming is down in the dumps, and I still haven’t produced that blockbuster novel.

Anthony: Don’t worry so much. I cleared the shed out and re-painted it and it looks wonderful.

Me: When did you do that?

Anthony: Yesterday.

Me: Well no wonder you’re exhausted!

Anthony: Jules?

Me: What now?

Anthony: I love you too.









Forgetfulness is not necessarily a bad thing

After not being able to visit Ants for nearly two weeks (due to asthma), I was elated to find him unfazed.

Me: I’ve been so sick.

Anthony: I know.

Me: A bit of sympathy would be nice.

Anthony: Your mother ….

Me: Yes, she’s been visiting you on my behalf.

Anthony: She’s not you.

Me: And Ming’s seen you too so stop making me feel guilty. I mean, okay, here we go, let’s test your memory. When did you last see me?

Anthony: The day before yesterday.

Me: Yes!

Anthony: It was too long, Jules.

Me: I miss you too, Ants.

Okay so my point here is that 14 days were compressed into two days for Anthony due to the dementia factor. This helped to assuage my guilt of course because it was a great comfort to know that Ants thought he’d seen me ‘the day before yesterday’.

Ming and Meg are my greatest assets – my son and my mother. This is, for me, ground-level grief and these two people alleviate it.

One day Anthony will ask me where Julie is.


Back to the birds!

I was going to write something poignant, but I am too fascinated by why these two pigeoney-dovey-looking birds keep rejecting my offerings. For ages they have been visiting two fence posts just outside my front window. So I left crumbs (which a clever crow immediately took), then I put nuts out on the top of those two particular fence posts.

During the night it rained so I guess the nuts are now a bit soggy. The two pigeon-dovey-looking birds seem almost to be afraid of my strange offering. I will have to be more subtle and I am not gifted with subtlety ha!

It is such a great relief to let go of the poignancy, to charge my camera’s battery again, to watch the birds from my front window – the most beautiful view – or just to sit on the front veranda watching the sky’s birds at near-dusk.





Life and death questions

Even though my mother and Ming have been visiting Anthony for the last week of this rotten asthma attack, I have worried so much about Ants.

The asthma is gone now but the side-effects of a steroid burst can include severe digestive issues. Not fun.

Anyway, I just rang the nursing home and my favourite nurse picked up and, as soon as I heard her voice, I started to cry. She quickly calmed me and asked me to tell her what was what and she said she would be seeing Ants in just a few minutes and would explain the reason for my absence.

I haven’t seen Ants for a week now and I don’t think we have been apart for this long ever, so it’s a difficult thing. On the other hand, perhaps we needed a rest from each other?

One friend recently suggested that Ants is only alive (having out-lived his prostate cancer + PD diagnoses) because of me. The implication of this is that my constant presence in his life is giving him the will to live?

No, he is not vegetative yet but it won’t be long. Ming and I are reluctantly ready but also absolutely terrified.

So surreal!




Common sense!

A few weeks ago Ming and I were having one of our on-the-front-veranda- philosophical discussions. I think it was nearly dusk but the sunset was around the corner of the house so I could only see it at an angle. This kind of experience reminds me of when my mother used to take us outside at dusk to look at the stars when my brothers and I were little.

I don’t look up enough into the sky’s various renditions; instead, I watch the loop of my internet feed, the news, blogs, my own constantly-halting story about Anthony’s Parkinson’s disease. Sometimes I feel inept, indolent; sometimes I feel an almost volcanic eruption joy after just sitting with Anthony for hours, holding his hand, stroking his head – just being with him.

Anyway, during the philosophical discussion mentioned above, I cry-laughed the story of how hurt I was by various situations and people over the last few months. “But do any of these things/people matter to you anymore, Mum?” Ming asked.

And all of a sudden, I realised that I was unnecessarily worrying about stuff/people/situations that, despite being an intractable part of the past, simply didn’t matter to me anymore. It was a revelation!

As Ming’s wisdom permeated my rather dusty psyche, I felt an enormous sense of relief and gratitude for the things/people and situations that DO matter to me.

Okay this is my last sentimental post about Ming for the time being, but he really is the most amazing person. Today this was our conversation:

Me: You are the best person I have ever met, Ming.

Ming: You didn’t meet me, Mum, you created me!

It’s nearing dusk and I am going outside to look at the sky.





The pink sky

I watch the sky pinking from our front veranda and, breathing easily now, again, I wonder with a deep curiosity about your strong voice to me on my mother’s phone yesterday. Your voice was louder than usual, and comforting. You remembered my few-and-far-between asthma attacks just as you remembered the drama of how we turned orange from too much carrot juice years ago. I couldn’t believe how strong your voice was; you sounded so normal and in control; your voice wasn’t whispery, you didn’t sound confused, you helped me.

I have now drawn the blinds on a pink sky gone dark and am into day two of no steroids for the asthma. Some friends/commenters have suggested that this asthma attack may well be due to emotional stuff and I am quite willing to accept that possibility. Perhaps the ongoing, relentless, anticipatory grief of losing my beautiful husband has gotten the better of my psyche. Perhaps seeing our son’s grief and bewilderment has turned everything I once saw as pink into a dull grey. I don’t know.

It is probably a terrible pressure on a single son to ask for the pink in the sky to come back, but I know, without any doubt, that he can do this. Ming.



As a child, growing up in Sydney, Australia, and then Toronto, Canada, I was a chronic asthmatic. I remember my mother holding my toe through an oxygen tent, my dad rushing me to hospital from a camping trip, and our first day in Papua New Guinnea – a terrible asthma attack.

And then it stopped, just like that, for decades! Of course I always had an inhaler on hand just in case but the asthma pretty much left me alone until a few years ago. It was about a year before Anthony went into the nursing home. I was working at the university and up and down every night attending to Ants, and trying very hard to maintain a happy household for little Ming.

The ‘whoosh’ of an asthma attack is terrifying but, when it happened a few years ago, I didn’t recognise it because it had been so long since I’d experienced it. It was only when I saw my own blue face in the mirror of the hospital bathroom that I realised something had to change. So I gave up my job.

Now – today – this week I am having an asthma attack. I found the prednisolone from 2013 and am dosing myself wisely. It is day 4 and I am not scared because by day 5 it will hopefully pass. In the meantime my amazing mother is giving Ants his lunch.

Whenever I am sick like this I feel so much empathy for my friends who suffer chronic, ongoing diseases. I don’t cope well with my own suffering; I am pathetic! But I do care.

I can breathe.