wings and things

Anthony’s 79th birthday

Today is Anthony’s 79th birthday and yesterday I promised him I would take him for a drive down south to Golden Valley, his childhood home in Balingup. He asks to go to Golden Valley much more than he asks to come home here and, as it’s been months since I have taken him for a drive anywhere, except around town, I decided to do it.

I was nervous about our little expedition because it is very hot here at the moment and Ants is really hard to manoeuvre when immobile (which is most of the time now). But at 11am he was able to walk, with his walker, the short distance up the hallway and to the outside front driveway where I bottom-shoved him into the car. This bottom-shoving method is very effective; I just get his right leg into the car while he is standing up clinging to the open car door, then I sort of swing my right hip against his left hip to plonk him into the seat. This is not a method I recommend to care staff, who are not allowed to assist once outside the building anyway, but I don’t have to adhere to the care staff rules when it comes to Anthony because I am not his carer, I am his wife. And he seems to get a bit of a kick out of my rough handling – ha!

An hour and a half later we arrived at his childhood home.


We parked there for awhile and admired the scenery and I asked him questions that he had already answered years ago, like about the hedge that he planted and trimmed obsessively for years. “Looks like someone is doing the same thing,” I remarked but, by this time, Ants was finding it hard to articulate anything and his words were skewed.


Then we drove the short distance to the tree park and he suddenly got a bit excited and mentioned the name of a woman he told me about years ago. She and her brother owned the farm adjacent to Anthony’s parents’ and, as a boy, he used to walk up to visit her. I am going to call her Eleanor for the sake of privacy despite the fact that she probably died years ago. So little-boy Anthony used to walk up the hill to visit in-her-30s Eleanor and she would feed him with home-made cake and sometimes play the piano.

At the tree park, I stopped the car and we admired the view and I said, “She was obviously a wonderful person, Ants” – then, right out of left field, he said “There was no sex.”

Right, okay ….


After that, I asked Ants if he wanted to go to the old pub which has been refurbished and he nodded yes but I could see he was getting very tired. This pub is a place we’ve been to from time to time over the years, but this time I knew I would be unable to get Ants out of the car, let alone into the pub, so I parked the car in a shady spot and ran inside to check it out.

I ordered two light beers and asked if it would be okay for us to drink these in the car because my husband was too disabled to come in. Yes that was fine. Then I asked to see the menu and they had oysters – joy, bliss! So I hurried back to the car with the beers and told Ants about the oysters and went back to order half a dozen.


I had to feed these to him because his hands don’t work very well anymore but he vacuumed them down as you can see! So then I raced back into the pub and ordered another half dozen and the chef delivered them right to the car – amazing!

By this time I could see that Anthony was utterly exhausted and there was still 100 kms to travel back to the nursing home. So I drove with the radio on (Ants loves music) and, periodically, put my non-driving hand into his or around his shoulders. We got back nearly four hours after we’d left and the very thing I’d dreaded happened. Ants couldn’t get out of the car or stand up or speak, so I went inside and got a wheelchair but that was still very difficult. Nevertheless I eventually got him back to his room and asked the care staff if they could attend to him soon. Then I kissed him again and asked if his birthday had been okay.

“Not too bad,” he said.

This photo shows what happens when I ask Ants to smile for the camera – mmmm.

Happy birthday to my beautiful, incorrigible, resilient, fantastic, sarcastic, wonderful husband!


Golden Valley

Okay, I took the suitcase full of photos in today and Anthony identified that eight of them were of the place where he grew up. We haven’t been able to finish examining the hundreds of old photos yet, and it will probably take a few days. The funny thing is that we have looked at these photos previously, but never organized them. A few family members have been through the ‘magic’ box and taken anything that means something to them but there’s still a lot there and Ants is very protective of this treasure chest.

I love having the responsibility of organizing, perhaps even cataloguing, and sharing these photos while Anthony is still able to tell me who is whom and where is where. He has always had an amazing memory for details and dates when it comes to his family history. It’s great to have now been prompted to enter into this treasure hunt.

Anyway, this place where Ants spent most of his childhood was, and is, called Golden Valley, in the picturesque town of Balingup. Over recent years it has become a tourist attraction and the house has been renovated, although I’m not sure about the ballroom because Anthony has always said that at one end of the house there used to be a huge, high-ceilinged room. Before Anthony got so ill, we used to go for drives down there to look at the renovations.

The people who are organizing an event to celebrate Golden Valley are delighted to be coming up next week to visit Anthony in the nursing lodge, and see the photos which of course we have said they can borrow. I am hoping, hoping, hoping it will be possible to get Ants down to Golden Valley on the day of the event. Here is their website fyi.