wings and things

Last Christmas

Last Christmas was the first Christmas that Ming and I didn’t bring Anthony home and, instead, exchanged gifts and food in the nursing home, where my mother joined us after church. She reminded me the other day that I had promised crayfish cocktail last year but failed to deliver; I think I was probably disheartened and just brought cheese and crackers. I don’t remember a lot about last Christmas except that Anthony was nonplussed by gifts given to him by Ming and me, and generally confused about how to open them; I do remember Ming being hurt and annoyed, and my own hot tears much later at home. It was horrible.

I am determined not to let this kind of scenario play out again this Christmas; if we can’t bring Ants home for Christmas, we will bring it to him, and this time I will do it properly. I will buy six crayfish a couple of days before Christmas and clean/de-shell them on Christmas Eve. Then I will make Anthony’s mother’s cocktail sauce (a secret-ish recipe!).

The real buzz for me is that Ming has agreed to allow me to do the pillow-case/sack thing for the last time. This means I can fill his special Christmas pillow-case with gifts just like Ants and I used to do when he was a bit younger (like a couple of years ago ha!) So Ming and I will wake up on Christmas morning and he will get some surprises and, hopefully, so will I. Then we will meet my mother at the nursing home for crayfish lunch after which Meg and Ming will probably go their separate ways and I will stay with Ants.

Anthony’s prostate cancer + Parkinson’s disease prognoses (both of which were determined several years ago), indicated that he would be probably be dead by now. So my wonderful husband – who never complains, who is never depressed, who never forgets me, who mentions Ming every hour I am with him – has exceeded his ‘use-by’ date.

Maybe this will be our last Christmas with Anthony; maybe not. In the meantime I’ve decided to take a bit of a break from blogging until after Christmas. I am messaging blog friends individually but this will take some time. If anything profound occurs to me I will put it on FB ha.

One of the most exciting things about Christmas is the Christmas Eve dinner at Meg’s (my mother’s) and this year we amount to around 20! My mother does the whole turkey roast thing and I usually bring the ham. Ashtyn Paterson (my niece) does the organisation of Secret Santa stuff. She is a legend!


From L to R: me, Meg, and my nieces, Ash and Sage.

Sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t be happy whilst Anthony is in this predicament; then I come to my senses and yesterday I even lingered at my brother’s place instead of rushing back to the nursing home. And the other week, I lingered in Perth to see my youngest brother, his wife and Special K and, despite the dramatic circumstances, I looked at this family and wanted them to adopt me.

In February next year, Anthony will turn 80. He is not in good health but he is in quietly good spirits. Will this be our last Christmas together?


Leaps and bounds!

Gardening: I have planted vegetables in one of the beds that Jake (my lawn and gardener friend) has created for me. I have no idea whether these lettuce, cucumber, corn, parsley and tomato seedlings will grow up but here’s hoping. I’m a bit too nervous to ring Jake and ask if I have planted these things in the right places – i.e. should they be in the grave-like mounds or in the gullies? Just in case, I did both.


Chooks: Six quite different chickens are gradually getting used to each other with minimal violence. They have a lovely yard so hopefully peace will soon reign.


Lunch: I seem to be going out to lunch a lot lately which is something I only ever did very occasionally before Anthony went into the nursing home. This feeling of freedom is relatively new to me. It was always there of course and Anthony was never one of those dominating, bossy husbands who insisted on the adding cream and more butter and salt to the mashed potatoes. Wait a sec. – yes he did!




Christmas Eve’s eve

Well, it’s the day before Christmas Eve and I am finally ready to be festive. My rather blah mood was transformed into enthusiasm after having breakfast with my mother the other day because we went shopping together and I found some things that I hope Ming will love even though he ruled that it should be a strict 3-gifts-per-person Christmas. Unfortunately I take great pleasure in breaking Ming’s rules so there are now 20 presents under the new little Christmas tree he bought. I thought that was a good number since he is still (until January) 20 years old.

Oh how I miss the pillowcase years (a habit inherited from my parents in which an empty pillowcase was placed at the end of each of our beds and on Christmas morning would be filled, rather miraculously, with presents). Up until just a few years ago, I would send Ants and Ming to bed and would spend the late hours of Christmas Eve wrapping presents and putting them into an identical pillowcase (just in case Ming woke up). Then I would go to bed but wake up at around 4am to swap the empty pillowcase with the full-of-presents pillowcase. Alas, those exciting, magical days are long gone. Last year we didn’t even ‘do’ Christmas because we were too sad about this and that and, until a few days ago, I felt the echo of that sadness and an inability to be bothered.

Then, all of a sudden, a wave of hyperactive nostalgia hit me and I was filled with the energy of what Christmas really means – the birth of something/someone miraculously new – a Jesus moment, the memory of when Ming was born, a newfound excitement about seeing Anthony every today, so ….

…. I decorated Anthony’s nursing home room and sticky-taped old and new Christmas cards on his mirrors and pictures, draped the clock with tinsel, decorated the rose tree I bought him the other week, that looks real, with baubles and wrapped Ming’s presents in his room. You see, we are having Christmas in the nursing home this year; it will be the first year that he hasn’t been home for Christmas and it wasn’t until yesterday that Anthony realised this.

Ants: I’m a bit taken aback.
Me: Why? What’s wrong?
Ants: I thought it would be at Bythorne (the name of our farm).
Me: Are you kidding? It’s too hot and the flies are terrible out there! Anyway I like it here better! Don’t argue!
Ants (smiling at my sternness): Okay, you win.

Today I will wrap Anthony’s presents in his room while I face him towards the window so he won’t see; then I’ll sticky tape more cards around his room, then we’ll have a small glass of champagne together with a bit of mango (a great combination I discovered the other day).

Tomorrow night, various members of the family who can make it, will meet at my mother’s place for the traditional Christmas dinner of turkey, ham, Harvard beets (my mother’s specialty) etc. but I won’t tell Ants about this because it would be impossible for him to join us now that he is so incapacitated physically.

Then, on Christmas morning, Ming and I will open our presents to each other, saving a few to take into the nursing home at around 10am where my mother will join us at noon for my crayfish cocktail and some champagne. At 3pm I will head off to the dementia wing for my afternoon shift, Ming and my mother will go home, and at 6pm I will go back to Ants’ room to say goodnight.

A ‘Jesus moment’ – over and over and over again.



If I had to choose a single word to describe my first niece, I would use the word “twinkling”. She and her husband arrived last night from Scotland just in time for Christmas. They are going to live here now – yippee!

Late last night she got to see her own first niece for the first time. Do you see what I mean by “twinkling”. Actually in this picture both of them are twinkling!

Ashtyn and Neve

My first niece is also my god-daughter as well as being Ming’s cousin and god-mother. I have always been in awe of her ability to twinkle no matter what, and her homecoming is the best gift any of us could receive this Christmas. She is a vital cog in the machine of this family and her presence enables us all to twinkle with delight; when she smiles, her whole body smiles; when she enters a room, she exudes beauty, grace and hilarity. She is fun and laughter and I love her so much and can’t wait to see her tonight at my mother’s Christmas Eve party.

I feel very lucky to have this fantastic, twinkling niece – very lucky!


Not buying into Christmas

Such a relief! Today, Ming and I had planned to go into town, get presents for each other and Anthony, get a Christmas tree, a ham, wrapping paper, sticky tape (which I can never find), send a few last-minute cards, decorate the house, find the Christmas tree lights and ornaments (oh where did I put them?) and generally have a frantic, stressful, expensive, horrible day.

But on waking up this morning to a day that was already promising relentless heat, I changed my mind and a bit later I discussed my idea with Ming:

Me: I think we should postpone Christmas.
Ming: What?
Me: Well, you will be in hospital until Christmas Eve … actually maybe we should just skip Christmas this year.
Ming: What? No presents?
Me: No presents.
Ming: No tree?
Me: No tree.
Ming: No turkey?
Me: No turkey.
Ming: No Christmas crackers?
Me: No Christmas crackers.
Ming: Mum, this is such a relief!
Me: So you agree?
Ming: I think it’s a brilliant idea!
Me: Without all the usual fuss we can celebrate Christmas for what it is.
Ming: Do you mean go to church?
Me: Yes.
Ming: Okay, let’s shake on this.

So we shook hands and grinned at each other.

The sense of relief is huge! I don’t have to fight through the throngs at the shops, spend a small fortune on ‘stuff’, don’t have to worry about how the hell I am going to cook a turkey with no oven, don’t have to search the whole of Australia for cranberry sauce, don’t have to spend hours wrapping presents, don’t have to queue up at the post office – ahhhhh!

A bit later:

Ming: But what will we eat for lunch on Christmas day?
Me: Ham sandwiches? I mean Anthony hardly has any appetite anymore anyway, it’ll be too hot for me to eat and you’re a fussy brat.
Ming: I like ham sandwiches.
Me: Good, then that’s decided.
Ming: But Grandma’s still coming on Christmas day isn’t she?
Me: No.
Ming: WHAT?!
Me: I’m joking, you idiot!

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh – now all I have to do today is frolic with the peacocks – yeeha!



Hellishly hot

This is our sixth day of 40C degree heat and incredibly high humidity and I have somehow contracted the flu. Ming (on L plates) took me in to the doctor who has put me on antibiotics and cortisone so I am ecstatic to have something to fight the kind of flu that usually leads to asthma and hospital. Then we went to see Ants but I stayed at a slight distance because I don’t want him to get it. I sat on his bed and held his hand in an outstretched way, trying to breathe my germs in the other direction and we only stayed a short time. Ants kept telling me to go home and get well, and that I was beautiful; he said both of these things a few times!

Oh it’s too hot to write any more! The photo is of Ants with some of my family at our Christmas dinner the other evening.


Harp happiness!



Ming’s Christmas presents

I am beside myself with excitement about Ming’s main Christmas present. It is being delivered today at 3pm while he is milking the cows. He has no idea and yesterday afternoon we sat outside and played a guessing game and he didn’t even come close – yay!

This is the first Christmas where we haven’t done the pillow case thing. Every year since he was born, we have put a big pillowcase at the end of his bed on Christmas Eve and I’ve secretly filled a matching pillowcase with presents. Then, in the very early hours of Christmas morning, I secretly swap the empty pillowcase for the full one and try (unsuccessfully) to go back to sleep. The Santa magicalness of this faded somewhat last year, not only because Ming was 17 and a little old for this but also because Anthony was so ill and, no matter how hard I tried, those gifts were bought in a state of stress rather than my usual euphoria.The brat was disappointed, I was despondent and Ants wasn’t even well enough to eat the huge meal of turkey, ham and all the trimmings. It was a complete fizzog.

So Ming decided that this Christmas there would be no pillowcase and that, instead, we would all get three presents each. So present 1 for Ming is a book about how to play the harp; and present 2 is a voucher for five harp lessons. Can you guess what present 3 is?


“C’mon, Mum, have a laugh!”

One of things Ming says to me most often these days is “C’mon, Mum, have a laugh!” So today I will tell a funny story.

Gutsy9, the baby peacock, is now two weeks old and is quite happy to sleep in his box at night as long as he can spend the day on my shoulder. Well, when he was one day old, Ming and I had to go to town to do numerous things and I didn’t want to leave Gutsy9 alone for so long, so I took him tucked into my shirt. Ming had a gig to set up for, I had a lunch date with friends, then Ming had a counselling appointment and I was going to visit Ants (another reason I took Gutsy9 with me – I wanted to show him to Ants.)

Okay, so I dropped Ming off and went to the restaurant. Gutsy9 was asleep inside my shirt almost under my left arm so I kept my left hand on him through the shirt, sat down at the table with my friends and ordered. Gutsy9 was quiet to begin with but soon woke up and chirped, so I took him out and showed my friends who were rather aghast so I quickly chucked him back into my shirt and joined in the various conversations. A couple of hours later I picked Ming up to go to counselling and he’d forgotten I had Gutsy9 so said, “Oh that bloody bird – you’re the one who needs counselling.” He was quite nasty and I was hurt.

Anyway, the counsellor had asked me to come for the first bit of Ming’s session so I went in with him but said I couldn’t stay long because of the bird. I pulled Gutsy9 out of my shirt to show her and she looked, well, a bit surprised to say the least. Then we all sat down and she asked me how I was. It never ceases to amaze me how those three simple words ‘how are you?’ can reduce me to tears – which is what happened much to my horror. I said Ming and I had just had another altercation blah blah blah, and she suggested I stay for the whole session but I said no because I wanted to take Gutsy9 to show Anthony.

So I left and drove up the road to the nursing lodge and spent a very pleasant hour with Ants and Gutsy9 then went back to pick Ming up. By then, Ming was repentant but tentatively suggested that I should have some private counselling sessions of my own because he had been helped enormously. I told him I would think about it and we went home.

It was a few days later, when I was telling some other friends about the counselling experience, and they were laughing hysterically, that I realized how stark, raving mad I must have seemed to the counsellor and to my lunch companions!

Anthony, on the other hand, wasn’t the slightest bit nonplussed because he knows me, adores me and accepts me.

So, “C’mon, Ming, have a laugh!”

And guess what – we are both laughing today – yeeha!

Gutsy9 just hatched.

Gutsy9 just hatched.


Gutsy9 - 2 weeks old today!

Gutsy9 – 2 weeks old today!



Last Christmas

Last Christmas, my husband, Anthony, was still living here at home. This year, on Christmas day, he will be visiting for a few hours via a wheelchair taxi and then going back to the nursing lodge. I am having a very hard time accepting the reality of what has transpired over the year – Anthony’s deterioration with Parkinson’s disease, Ming’s spinal surgery, me having to resign from my job as a university lecturer, and a whole lot of other stuff.

Tonight, Ming (nearly 19) saw me struggling with my seemingly endless grief and told me that he was scared – scared that I was totally ‘losing it’. That made me cry even more until he said, “Mum, please just let me in, let me help, we only have each other.” Then he vacuumed the inside veranda, cleaned the microwave and refrigerator, hung out the washing and sang one of the songs he wrote this year – You and me, cup of tea – while he was doing all of this.

I have never understood the term ‘griefstricken’ until now – not just my own, but others’ of course. And now I have the flu and am feeling sorry for myself while parents are grieving beyond any grief imaginable. I can’t say any more about this because I don’t feel I have the right to intrude on the already-trampled privacy of the griefstricken.

This will probably be Anthony’s last Christmas.