jmgoyder

wings and things

“Thoughts on hearing loss”

Awhile ago my mother had an epiphany about being deaf. She was at a social occasion and, as usual, finding it very difficult to keep up with the conversations around her. Meg never complains about this despite the fact that, at times, she must get extremely frustrated and even depressed about not being able to hear. Her hearing loss wasn’t gradual; it happened all of a sudden in 2003, just like that! Since then, it has become worse, even with the use of various hearing aides.

I love the following poem that she wrote because it shows the kind of resilience she has, and is a great example of acceptance. With three children, eleven grandchildren, with spouses and partners, four great grandchildren, and one on the way, family occasions are often loud, boisterous and Meg often misses out on any or all of the conversations around her dinner table, even if only a few of us are there. But the poem shows her ability to derive joy anyway:

The Owl
I perch nearby
Look down and see
A nest filled up with hatchlings.
Their beaks are open wide
A thousand feathers flying.
The patient mother drops a worm.
They squawk and flap.
Cacophony of joy.
She drops the next
And bedlam fills the air.
I watch.
I smile.
I share.
I am alone
But
I am there.

 

 

 

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Our TEDx talk

Here is the link to the talk Ming and I gave the other day at Bunbury’s TEDx event.

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Doing it

I bumped into some relatives today at our local, rural, shop and they said they had intended to go and see Anthony today, but it was too late in the day. It was raining relentlessly so I admitted that I, too, hadn’t gone into town to see Anthony but that Ming was doing it.

Doing it?

Why did I describe my visits to Anthony as a job that needed to be done? Why didn’t I say, “Ming is visiting Ants today”? instead of “Ming is doing it today.”

I am so embarrassed that I expressed myself this way because for all of these years I have felt and believed that the romantic love I share with Anthony would somehow sustain us. In fact, as Ming often points out, Anthony is now mostly lost in his world of Parkinson’s Disease Dementia. Yesterday, for example, Anthony was mostly asleep during my 2-hour visit and this is often the case.

Perhaps love is not simply a feeling but also a decision. For me, this realisation has made all the difference recently because in deciding to love someone, that ‘do it’ decision, is an absolute in the face of multiple contingencies.

Do it.

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8. Carrot juice

Several years ago Anthony and I embarked on a carrot juice diet and we went through two juicers (warranteed and replaced) in our quest for better health. We did this for around two months until our skin took on a rather strange, yellowish hue and Anthony developed arthritic pain. At the time, I did a bit of research and discovered that an overabundance of carrots can actually be harmful so we gladly quit the carrot juice and laughed ourselves silly about what idiots we’d been.

Looking back to that time, I now think that perhaps Anthony was showing signs of the Parkinson’s Disease Dementia that has now pretty much paralysed him, physically and cognitively. I guess I was trying desperately to find a solution?

I am a great fan of cold-pressed juice but I also know that it takes a hell of a lot of carrots to make a single glass of this elixir and nobody in their right mind would ever eat that many carrots in a single day. Nowadays I make juice with the outer lettuce leaves most people throw away, a single carrot, an apple, and orange, and a bit of ginger. This quest for health has consumed me lately due to my recent battle with mycoplasma pneumonia; I need to be well again and it has taken so long to get better. The hospital doctor did actually include (in his written report) my suggestion that my illness might have something to do with grief but, in the end, that was dismissed, the evidence of the mycoplasma bacteria was found, and I was given mycoplasma-specific antibiotics.

Anyway, back to carrot juice; once I was out of hospital I decided to go on a health kick. I’d lost five kilos so fast that my arms were (and still are) wasted and (hilariously for Ming) still stick-like. The other day, I reminded Anthony of our carrot juice adventure and he smiled. He remembered!

Anthony: But it’s good now isn’t it?

Me: Yes.

Anthony: I prefer chocolate.

 

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Values

Ming and have both sought psychological help over the last few years and one of the most difficult questions to answer is “what are your values?” I think this is a very tricky question, but an important one. It is also a question that I have found extremely challenging to answer.

Stereotypical answers might be: health, family, financially okay, great relationships, good job, political stability, beautiful kids, long life etc. but these are too vague and I don’t like my own vagueness.

Perhaps the question should be rephrased to “what do I value?” This turns the noun ‘value’ into the verb ‘value’ and, in my opinion, makes the question easier to answer. For example, I know what I value most, whereas I can’t quite pinpoint what my values are.

What do I value most?

  • Kindness (the giving and receiving of);
  • My son’s growing wisdom;
  • Anthony’s smile;
  • Authentic relationships with family and friends;
  • Humour;
  • My ability to write about dementia;
  • The new puppy, Pip;
  • Honesty; and
  • Salad.

I haven’t been very good lately at looking after my physical, psychological and emotional health but, like many, I baulk at self-helpy stuff. But there is nothing wrong with self-help! After all, the best way of helping others, which is something I feel passionate about, is to get yourself on track first, surely.

Ming comes home tomorrow from a 6-day intensive beginning to a diploma in psychology which he will complete in around 15 months. He seems to have found his niche and I can’t wait to hear about all of it; we have already had some fascinating phone conversations.

Even pre-dementia, Anthony would never have understood Ming’s passion for helping people; nevertheless he would be so proud if he understood. Often Ants still thinks Ming is a toddler so when this great big man steps into the nursing home room it can be a bit confusing.

Ah yes – other things I value:

  • Laughter;
  • Still being in love; and
  • Ming.
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Green juice adventures

I am a lover of green juice – a devotee, a fan, an advocate! The idea of green juice is what wakes me up in the morning, what keeps me going during the day and what EXHAUSTS me in the afternoon/early evening. Why the latter? Because I make it myself.

Let me explain the process in detail. I’ll even include a timeline.

3pm: Go out to your luscious vegetable garden and try to ignore the 35 degree heat.

3.05pm: Go back to the house to get a hat, a sweat band, and a container into which you can place your freshly harvested greens, and try to ignore the flies in your nostrils, the ants between your toes, and the possibility of a snake in your vegetable forest.

3.10pm: Once you have found your garden scissors (this may take awhile, so try to remember to remind yourself to always put them in the same place so that you don’t have to dig the entire garden up looking for them), begin to harvest your amazing produce.

3.30pm: Try not be too alarmed by the fact that all of your spinach and all of your celery plants have somehow become trees. This is because you haven’t been out to the garden for some time, but don’t feel guilty; after all, it’s hot, dirty and insecty out there. Just cut a few branches off the spinach and celery trees.

4.15pm: Take your container of beautiful green vegetables to the wash house and plunge them into a sink of cold water. If they won’t all fit, take some of the smaller greens into the kitchen and do the same. Have a little rest.

4.30pm: Cut up some apples and carrots and a bit of ginger. Put these into a big bowl with the washed greens from the kitchen sink. Make sure your wonderful cold press juicer is responding to electricity and BEGIN juicing!

5pm: Don’t be upset if you forgot to change out of your white shirt; green is a lovely colour!

5.05pm: Pour the results of this exciting process into the bottles you have waiting-and-ready for the wonderfulness of this green juice and put them straight into the refrigerator. Try not to think about the recent theory that if you don’t drink freshly pressed juice immediately, it won’t ‘work’. Allow yourself a few sips of the elixir and feel the surge of energy this provides you with. You will need this energy because now you have to clean the juicer.

6pm: Now that you have washed and rinsed the many parts of the amazing juicer you bought online, have a little rest again. You may indulge in a little green juice (delicious!)

6.30pm: If you are struggling to reassemble the juicer for tomorrow, you may open a bottle of wine. A single glass of this kind of juice can help immensely as you perform this semi-final task. Try not to panic if the top bit doesn’t quite screw into the middle bit of the bottom bit of the juicer. Instead, use this experience as a kind of meditation. If moments become minutes and minutes become, well, hours, you can either call on someone to help you, or just do that whole breathing thing until the juicer is ready for use again. Do NOT swear at the various parts of the juicer that won’t cooperate immediately; do NOT send an angry email to the manufacturers (because they did their very best and, after all, this is a very superior juicer); and, above all, do not give up on loving the green juice!

7pm: The last stage of this green juice adventure is the most challenging; force your son and husband to drink it. If your son says that there is a bit of grit in it, just smile calmly; if your husband spits it out, try not to be offended. You did your best.

And all of that leftover green juice is yours!

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Health kick!

Over the last few weeks I have been making a determined effort to get healthier (you know, the usual things: fitbit, green juice, no wheat, organic wine, aromatherapy) and …

… exercise. Not happening, despite the fitbit!

So yesterday I went to one of the many gyms in Bunbury and tomorrow I will begin one of those 3-day free trials. I met one of the managers (D) and she was lovely. The gym isn’t big and flashy and has an easy-going atmosphere. D asked what I most wanted out of the gym and I said, “No tummy and stronger arms; I don’t want to walk or cycle in here because I would rather do that outside.”

Anyway, I’m quite excited about tomorrow. I’ve had gym memberships before but not for years so I will have to re-learn how to use the equipment.

When I told Ants he said, “Well, you’ll be battling to compete with my fitness” patting his flat tummy. He then proceeded to tell me that he did 25 push-ups per day and that I should try it.

Me: I can’t even do one push-up!

Anthony: That’s why you have your problem.

Me: What problem?

Anthony: The tummy (pointing to mine before I put one of his pillows onto it).

Me: Are you calling me fat? How DARE you!

Anthony: Jules, you know I’m kidding; you are perfect.

This verbal exchange was enhanced throughout by Anthony’s fantastic smile. I’m just glad he won’t see me struggling with the weights etc. tomorrow. I will paint a much better picture when I see him, so that he will be as proud of me as I am of him.

Me: Ants, I admire you so much, so much – the way you keep on being well and fit despite the Parkinson’s! And you never get down like I do. You are amazing.

Anthony: I know.

Me: Oh. Well, anyway, I’ll start the gym thing tomorrow morning  and come and see you straight after.

Anthony: I know [yawning]

Me: Sorry if I’m boring you!

Anthony: Off you go, then.

Me: What? Where?

Anthony: To that wildlife park…

I guess the health kick challenge is on!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Love and laughter

I think if I had to choose between love and laughter in a relationship, I would choose laughter. Obviously, having both is ideal but love can be so heavy sometimes, whereas laughter is light.

Today, Anthony was in great form and when I arrived he was participating in a game of coits during “gentle gym”. I joined the game by his side and Kaye (pseudonym), one of the OTs, was running things and she is such a fun-loving compassionate person, she made Anthony feel good about himself despite his bad score! Many of the residents were, like Ants, wheelchair-bound, and couldn’t really throw the coits but it was still fun and there were a lot of laughs. I think I will make a point of going to these sessions regularly because it was obvious that Ants was thrilled I was there.

Later, in his room, once he was settled back into his armchair, we had the following conversation (he has been extremely vocal lately – just when I was getting used to his silence).

Ants: I haven’t seen you for awhile.
Me: What a lot of rubbish! I saw you the day before yesterday!
Ants: No, it was the day before the day before yesterday [accurate!]
Me: So are we heading for an argument?
Ants: No, but sometimes I think you have run off with another man.
Me: How ridiculous! Why would I do that when I adore you so much?
Ants: I’m not sure you do anymore.
Me: Okay now listen to me, you idiot. It’s not all about you. Sometimes I need a break and sometimes I need to do other stuff.
Ants: Like what?
Me: Laundry, housework, cooking, Ming.
Ants: So where will you be tonight?
Me: At home of course.
Ants: Where is that?
Me: Bythorne [the name of our farm]
Ants: Bythorne? [looking very surprised]
Me: Yes, silly!

The conversation meandered over the few hours I was there, but here is another excerpt in response to a cooking show on television:

Me: Look at that roast duck!
Ants: Beautiful.
Me: That guy has cooked it slowly for over three hours.
Ants: Too long.
Me: Yeah, but it looks perfect, Ants!
Ants: You have a point. When are you going to cook it?
Me: Actually, that’s a great idea but I need to get the Aga going first.
Ants: I lit it the other day but we need more kerosene.
Me: I am ordering some next week.
Ants: Isn’t the grass green [looking at the wall]
Me: Yes, it’s wonderful.
Ants: Do you want me to light the fireplace? [trying to get up – impossible]
Me: No, Ming’s already done it.
Ants: He’s a good son isn’t he.
Me: He’s a great son.

And, as I was leaving:

Me: I have to go now to get some groceries.
Ants: But every time I let you go, you don’t come back until the next day.
Me: But I do come back! I love you so much, Ants.
Ants: I don’t love you as much now.
Me: What? Why? How dare you! [tickling him]
Ants: Because you keep leaving me and I don’t know where Mum is.
Me: Argh! Ants, we are in a nursing home and you are in good hands. You have Parkinson’s disease and I have to go and get some groceries! Get with it! I’ll see you tomorrow.

Okay, so all of the above was love-driven but it was the hilarious laughter and smiles we both shared that made these poignant and bittersweet conversations absolutely wonderful. It was one of the best days Ants and I have had for ages.

The love hurts, but the laughter heals.

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Food, glorious food

One of the things I often say to Anthony, when I am leaving him to come home, is that I am going grocery shopping. As he was, and still is, a great lover of food, our grocery conversations often flow like this:

Me: I need to go to the butcher shop before they close. Do you want me to get some steak?

Anthony: Yes but not, not ….

Me: Not T-Bone?

Anthony: Fillet.

Me: But I love T-Bone! Why do you always insist on fillet?

Anthony: Better value.

Way back when Ants was home and still fit, his method of cooking steak on the barbecue was absolutely brilliant. He had it down to a fine art and wouldn’t let anyone help. The steak was always absolutely mouthwateringly delicious (as were my accompanying salads of course!) Apart from our many merry guests over the years, the only additional accoutrement was hot English mustard; wine and beer were a given.

Oh how I miss those days!

Anthony’s dementia means he is spared from the kind of nostalgia I feel because ‘those days’ are still here somehow and this afternoon he happily sent me off to the butcher’s for tonight’s steak.

He doesn’t know that, while one of the wonderful carers is feeding him his dinner right now, I am home, steak-less but smiling with these very happy food memories….

And eating yesterday’s popcorn!

 

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