wings and things

“Illness separated”


Yesterday I went to see the people who help people like me to access employment and/or volunteer opportunities. I thought it was about time I got out of my lady-of-leisure mode since resigning from my job at the nursing home several weeks ago.

The woman I spoke to (I will call her Sue) pulled up my records and I misheard her saying that Anthony and I were separated.

Me: No, no, we aren’t separated!
Sue: Illness separated?
Me: Oh, yes, I see. He’s in a nursing home.

Anyway, Sue was very helpful and asked me to come back today with various bits of paperwork that would help to get me back ‘into the system’.

Even though the phrase “illness separated” isn’t new to me, I hadn’t heard it for a long time so it shook me up a bit. Of course there is no other way to describe our situation in terms of the red tape but it still sounds weird, especially the “separated” bit. Oh well.

The views from Anthony’s nursing home window sometimes look uncannily like home and yesterday he ‘saw’ his nephew milking the cows outside and wanted to help. I looked out the window and tried to see what he was seeing (his hallucinations are, thankfully, happy ones mostly).


Me: It’s okay, Ants, he’s just about finished milking.
Anthony: What about the fences?
Me: Ming’s taking care of all that.
Anthony: How much money do we have in the bank?
Me: Lots, thousands!
Anthony: Okay.

I think we might fall into the category of “illness inseparable” now but that wouldn’t tick the boxes ha!


A conversation with dementia

I realize that the title of this post sounds odd but sometimes, in my conversations with Anthony, it is as if I am talking to two people: 1. Anthony-familiar (Ants); and 2. Anthony-with-dementia (AD). Here is a rendition of today’s conversation in the nursing home.

Ants: When did you get here?
Me: Right this minute.
Ants: Where did you come from?
Me: Home.

AD: Ming and I got all of those calves rounded up and into the paddock in front of the house. They are all in good condition.
Me: Oh! When did you do this?
AD: Yesterday, after you left. We also fixed the fence.
Me: That’s fantastic – thank you.
AD: You don’t need to thank me – it’s my job.
Me: Yes, but it’s a relief to know all of the calves are okay and the fence is finally fixed. I was a bit worried.
AD: Ming is a good worker.
Me: Well you and Ming are a great team. It’s wonderful that you are teaching him how to do these things because I wouldn’t have a clue.
AD: We just need to fix up the other boundary fence now [trying to get up out of his chair]
Me: Well Ming isn’t here now so can we wait until tomorrow when you come home?
AD: Okay.

Ants: Bloody rotten about Ming’s back.
Me: Well your back isn’t the best but look how well you coped.
Ants: I think his is worse. He could have done anything if he didn’t have that back.
Me: We just have to accept it now, Ants – Ming has.

AD: I’m still going to need his help though, on the farm.
Me: Of course!
Ants: Tomorrow?
Me: Yes.

Tomorrow is Sunday so I will be picking Ants up around 10.30am to come home for the day, and Ming will take him back to the nursing home in the afternoon. Ants has requested smoked salmon and avocado sandwiches so that is easily done.

I would be lying if I said I am looking forward to tomorrow because, no matter how much I want Ants home, and no matter how much he will love being home, it is going to be an extremely difficult day for Ming and me. There will be a lot of lifting, toiletting, confusion, frustration, barely restrained angst (Ming), and barely restrained sorrow (me). By 3pm Anthony will begin to falter and by 4pm he will be unable to walk at all so I will have to get Ming to take him back to the nursing home at 3pm and Anthony will get upset.

On the other hand, perhaps I should just alter my thinking a bit. We will have four hours together, the sandwiches will be delicious and we will give Anthony a million hugs. In fact, I reckon the whole hug thing is underrated because, during today’s conversation, I decided to give Ants a hug every time it got a bit too confusing for me and his big/small arms around me were much more powerful than any words.

I will just have to tell Ming to go easy on his habit of hugging Anthony rather ferociously because it scares the hell out of Ants!


Neighbours from heaven!

Anthony was in his 60s when he retired from dairy farming, due to a combination of factors including ill health. Now Ming, at 19, has been forced to retire from his job as dairy hand for our neighbours due to his back. Once he is over this second surgery you never know, he may be able to return but in the meantime he has been replaced.

Ming’s boss’s mother came over just before Christmas with a whole bag of different chocolate treats for him; she is such a gem! Below are two photos she took of Ming milking a little while ago. I was so proud of him walking in his dad’s boots and she is so glad they now have someone who can hang up the hose properly better than Ming – ha!

Despite the sadness that Ming has had to give up a job that he’d only just begun to do full-time, the fantastic thing is that we have gotten to know these amazing neighbours over the last three years and they have given us their friendship and support throughout our various ordeals. Ming said to me the other day that his boss’s mother is like his own ‘second’ mother!

I wish this extended family all the very best for 2014 and we feel indebted to them in so many ways. They are dairy farmers from way back which makes them heroes in an era when this kind of farming has become unpopular (due to the necessary 24/7 commitment).



The big red shed



Farmboy 1

It was about two years ago when our lives (Anthony’s, mine, and Ming’s) altered dramatically. Here is an abbreviated list of events, in no particular order:

1. Anthony’s Parkinson’s became so bad that he required hourly nursing care during the nights.
2. I eventually got exhausted and was hospitalized for a few days.
3. Ming’s scoliosis required surgery.
4. I had to take extended leave from my university job as a lecturer.
5. Ming completed his last year of school.
6. We found that the farming family, whose property adjoins ours, was willing to lease our 100 acres for the correct rent.
7. We withstood the continuing verbal abuse from our previous lessee who we had already kicked off for negligence etc.
8. With Anthony’s approval, I contacted our lawyer to prevent the previous lessee from coming onto the property.
8. We accepted that Ming would have to have surgery.
9. We accepted that Ants would have to go into a nursing lodge.
10. Ming began his Certificate in music and, simultaneously, began milking cows for the same people we are now leasing to.

Our farmboy’s journey began!

Ever since Anthony went into the nursing lodge, and Ming had his spinal surgery, life-as-we-knew-it has altered dramatically.


Love story 107 – Canny confusion

This afternoon, when I visited Anthony in the nursing lodge, he was confused in some ways and canny in other ways.

“You said you were coming earlier.” CANNY because I was a bit late.

“There was a wedding here this morning – awful people.” CONFUSED

“So who owns Bythorne now?” CONFUSED AND CANNY

“Is he trying to take it again?”CANNY because he remembers some of the horrible family stuff that happened when we got married.

“So where am I now?” CONFUSED

I haven’t seen Anthony this confused before. He even thought his beautiful older brothers, now deceased, were helping Ming and me out on the farm. But the thing that struck me most was his anxiety about¬†another relative who had been such a bully that we had to banish him. That was the best thing we ever did, but the fact that Anthony is still worried about this and worried about me, and that his memories are so lucid about a situation that is long gone, disturbs me and breaks my heart.

As Anthony’s PDD (Parkinson’s Disease Dementia) progresses, will his memories of the bully dominate or will his memories of our blissful little family dominate? I don’t want him to be afraid and confused like this. I don’t want him to remember horrible stuff.

In my new Godzilla mode, I want to smash those horrible memories to pieces; they are now beginning to splinter into¬†Anthony’s mind in such a disturbing way. Why else would he have asked the same questions again and again?

“So who owns Bythorne now?”

“Is he trying to take it again?”

My answers:

“You own Bythorne.”

“Not a chance in hell!”

Yes, I am a little angry.