wings and things

Keeping a record

Yesterday, after writing about Anthony not coming home, not asking to come home, and sometimes not remembering home and/or thinking he is home in his nursing home room, guess what?

He asked to come home. Not once, not twice, but repeatedly throughout the late morning and early afternoon. I was so taken aback because this hasn’t happened for ages – maybe months – so I was a bit unprepared. He kept trying to get up from his armchair (he needs help to do so) and, every half hour or so, repeated, “Come on Jules, let’s go.”

Me: It’s too cold and wet today, Ants. Let’s wait until the weather is better.

Anthony: I can light a fire in the fireplace.

Me: We don’t have any kindling.

Anthony: I’ll chop some in no time.

Me: It’s a bit late in the day, today. What about tomorrow morning?

Anthony: You’re unreasonable (removing my hand from his).

Me: What? Are you angry with me now?

Anthony: I haven’t been home for months. You keep stopping me!

After a couple of repeats of the same conversation, more or less, I decided to end it by promising to pick him up at 10.30am today and bring him home. Once that was established, he reached for my hand again and we continued to watch the television and eat olives.IMG_4740

When I got home last night I wondered if this sudden relapse into homesickness (which was a two-year nightmare for both of us which I blogged about on and off) might have been triggered by my conversation with Anthony’s nephew the other day about the possibility of bringing Ants home for the day. In retrospect, I should have steered this conversation away from the topic of ‘home’ (especially within Anthony’s earshot), but I had no way of anticipating that the idea would somehow stick and re-emerge days later.

Okay, so today was when I was supposed to fulfil my promise to Anthony that I would pick him up at 10.30am and bring him home. This may sound callous but I had no intention of doing this, simply because I can’t physically manage him by myself; he is too heavy.

So I made myself wait until after lunch to go in and see Anthony. And I have to say that it was with a mixture of dread and curiosity that I entered his room (with my bunch of camellias).

To my great relief, it was immediately apparent that Anthony had forgotten yesterday’s ‘home’ conversation. Instead:

Anthony: I didn’t expect to see you! You are good at geography.

Me: Look at these camellias!

Anthony: You’re so early! (It was 1pm)

Me: How do you like my boots? (I was wearing colourful boots)

Anthony: A bit way out.

Me: How Dare you!

Anthony: Sit down and shut up.

Me: Don’t you tell me to shut up!

Anthony: Can you put that that that trolley up in my room? (pointing to his walker) – also that woollen coil (pointing to the blanket on his knees).

Me (putting walker into his bathroom and closing door, readjusting his knee blanket): Okay – are you warm enough?

Anthony: Yes.

Me: Right, so can you stop fussing about the stupid blanket? It’s just a blanket!

Anthony: Yes, but look at the little fella (there is always either a child or a pet on Anthony’s lap from around 4pm).

Me: Yes, it’s a beautiful sight, beautiful.

Anthony (after a bit of a slumber): Jules?

Me: Yes? I’m here, Ants.

Anthony: Can you roll me up?

Me: Do you mean put your feet down? (I had his feet up in the armchair) How’s that?

Anthony: Bloody beautiful.

I always have pen and paper handy to scribble down my conversations with Anthony. Today and yesterday have been interesting in terms of his alertness (some days he sleeps and/or drowses during my visits).

It sometimes seems a bit odd to me that I am so fascinated by what is actually a tragic situation but Anthony has always inspired me in one way or another. At nearly 80, he has the most extraordinary resilience; he is positive without meaning to be; and he never complains except to say he is “a bit tired”.

Keeping a record of these conversations seems important somehow. For me, these transcribed tidbits of conversation make me feel as if I have a handle on our situation; that I can somehow control it into a manageable story that Anthony will appreciate.


The best gift!

It is over three months since I was employed part-time in the dementia cottage of the nursing home and I really miss seeing those residents oftener than I can now.

Even though I visit from time to time during the week, it still feels a teensy bit awkward due to my status of employee having changed to that of visitor. I know many of the relatives and most of the staff so I have been trying to figure out what gifts to bring that will make my occasional visits quiet and seamless – unobtrusive.

There are strict rules now in most nursing homes about gifts. I.e. do not offer chocolates, chilli olives, or brandy, to residents (yes, that was me – sorry!) Also, do not give staff any gifts whatsoever or it may seem like a kind of bribery (this rule is only hearsay but it made sneaking in 6 pizzas one night, two years ago, very exciting!)

Anyway, one of the things that delights Anthony most (apart from chocolate cake with lashings of cream) is the singular bloom of one of his many camellia trees.


The above is one of the many I bring in daily to Anthony’s room and that’s what gave me the idea of taking lots of camellias into the dementia cottage. After all, when there is someone at the door with flowers, the door is usually opened!

My heartfelt thanks to the staff who look after those with dementia, and those in high-care like Anthony. You are legends so perhaps I should bring a camellia tree in!

I have never picked so many flowers in my life!


Banishing grey

This afternoon I ventured outside to catch a glimpse of something, anything, to free myself from the grey hopelessness of exile.

Earlier in the day, I had been to the local shop (in this little country town we have one shop, a butcher’s, a pub, a garage and a post office). For the last few weeks I have been reluctant to go to any of these places for fear that someone will ask me about Ming’s car accident, for fear that I will stumble into defensiveness, for fear that I will cry in public. So far, I have braved the shop twice. Today was my third time and I thought I would be okay, but when the shopkeeper looked at me knowingly and asked how I was, I started to say fine then, without warning, my eyes filled with tears and, when she reached over the counter to hug me, I was undone. Thankfully there were no other customers and I recovered myself quickly, making a quick escape to home – to my hiding place.

Yesterday someone asked me how Ming was coping with the fact that his ute (truck) was wrecked and the question almost felt like an assault. “He doesn’t care in the least about his ute; he only cares about the children injured. The ute doesn’t matter to any of us,” I said, my heartbeat thundering.

This afternoon I ventured outside to catch a glimpse of something, anything, that wasn’t grey. Each photo I took reminded me of how important hope is, and of how important every single member of my family is to me.



Two very wet alpacas

Apparently our phone wiring has had the bomb and that is why the home phone crackles and the internet is having so many siestas. I am tempted to let the home phone die and get one of those usb thingys for the internet. I have already replaced my ancient mobile phone with a new one.

It is still very wet so I am practically living in my wellys.


The alpacas are ambivalent when it comes to the rain. They seem to take everything in their stride, although Uluru looks slightly happier than Okami.



The camellias are responding ecstatically to the rain. Now, even though I can’t think of anything worse than gardening, I do love the dozens of camellias Anthony has planted over the years. The one with the ballerina petals is the only one I bought myself. I took the first bloom into Ants the other day.


I’ll take another one in this afternoon. On my way in, I’m hoping to collect a picture I’m having framed for Anthony’s wall. It’s a photo of Ants at around the time I first met him, 35 years ago. Funnily enough, it is not my idea to put this picture on the wall; it’s Anthony’s. I said why not one of our wedding photos, or that one of you on the motorbike with Ming?. But he said no, that he just wanted himself! His self-confidence is certainly still intact; he even got me to blow the photo up to a bigger size!