wings and things

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.


There is nothing like having a peacock on your shoulder!

Over the last few days I have derived an enormous amount of joy and comfort from an unexpected gift – Gutsy9 – the little peachick who mostly lives on my shoulder.

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Parkinson’s paradoxes

When most people hear the term ‘Parkinson’s Disease’, they tend to think of Michael J Fox and the Parkinson’s that make you shake, move haphazardly or suffer debilitating tremors. Anthony’s type of PD is not like that and is often termed ‘Parkinsonism’. His symptoms have included a dramatic loss of movement. In many ways this is a kinder PD because of the lack of tremors but on the other hand the crippling immobility of brain/body has been a long, slow series of gradual shocks. First his hands couldn’t do things like open a jar of vegemite, steer a car, operate a chainsaw; then his face stopped ‘working’ in the sense that he no longer smiled and he stopped blinking, so that his eyes took on a blank look. I have already written about some of these things in previous posts so I won’t repeat myself.

One of the most noticeable things about Anthony’s PD is his stillness. Before the nursing lodge he would sit for hours on the front verandah in complete stillness. Sometimes he would be so still that the blue wrens would alight on his lap not realizing he was a human. Sometimes he would be so still I would think he’d died. Sometimes he would be so still he would drop his cup of tea.

Well, today I took Gutsy9, the baby peacock, in again to see Ants at the nursing lodge and guess who loved Anthony’s stillness?




Are you asleep yet?

Are you asleep yet, my beautiful husband?

Midnight approaches me with dark, unfamiliar claws, so I go outside to find some moonlight but it is pitch black out there and, when I can’t find the moon, I race back inside frightened.

The dogs are barking at a moonless sky but they will soon settle.

Are you asleep yet, my beautiful husband?

You said the other day that you just wanted to sleep wth me but you have forgotten that we have not slept in the same bed since the evening when you could no longer reach the height of the bed and I wasn’t strong enough to lift you into it, and we had to put you into the smaller, lower bed in what we always called the spare room.

I know.

I know you have forgotten those years of tortured, sleepless nights for both of us -, me in the big bedroom, you in the spare room but calling me, calling me, knocking on the wall with your walking stick until, finally I began to sleep in the other small, low bed in the spare room, so that I could help you during those moonful and moonless nights – to pee, to turn over, to be warmer, to be cooler, to get your knees inside the covers, to sleep….

Your dreams were terrifying and you would yell out in your sleepless sleep and I would lie in my bed next to yours hoping it would stop.

Is that what is happening now? Are you still hallucinating about the girl with the bleeding eye, the mob who are chainsawing all of your palm trees to death, the calves on top of the television, the phantoms in the dairy?

The peacocks are crying, crying, crying and their sound is a haunting lullaby.

Are you asleep yet, my beautiful husband?

Please say yes. All you have to do is whisper it and I will hear you, I will hear you.