jmgoyder

wings and things

If the shoe doesn’t fit

When we first entered the nursing home world, Anthony had a pair of lovely R@M Williams boots, which he loved wearing, and some ugg boots for the winter. The former boots were almost impossible to get on and the ugg boots were impractical in the summer. So I was asked to get him some velcro slippers – the kind that can be undone at the front and back for easy fitting. So far he has now gone through three pairs of these and last week I found the final pair in a bag labelled “Unsafe”.

After talking to a couple of the occupational therapy staff, it was suggested that I get him running shoes that have more support in the heel area. This is because Anthony’s feet, especially his heels, were slipping inside the slippers and this was making it difficult for staff to get him up to transfer to the shower or to walk etc. His feet won’t do what he wants them to do and one of them in particular just keeps kind of folding in on itself.

So, after several days of looking for suitable shoes and bringing two pairs in (neither of which were suitable) I have decided that I will have to fork out the $189 for the homipeds. In the meantime he is in his ugg boots.

One of the carers and I tried to get my recent shoe purchase onto Anthony’s feet today and it was absolutely impossible, so tomorrow I will go and get those homipeds and hope for the best.

Me: Ants, I have some different shoes and they’re two sizes too big so I should be able to get them on.

ONE MINUTE LATER

Me: Just push your foot in!

TWO MINUTES LATER

ME: You’re not even trying, Ants!

Anthony: Yes I am.

Me: Argh – this is ridiculous. Here’s the shoe and here’s your foot and it’s a perfect match. OMG I am sweating! Okay, let’s try the other foot.

THREE MINUTES LATER

Anthony: You should have a bit of a rest, Jules.

Me: These shoes are definitely NOT going to work because if the nurses have to spend this long getting the stupid things on your stupid feet we’ll be blacklisted for shoe negligence.

Anthony: But my hands are okay, so don’t worry.

It is things like this that sometimes get me down.

 

 

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Age

Anthony has always had a wicked sense of humour so the other day, when I asked him if he knew how old he was, I thought he was joking at first.

Me: How old do you think you are?

Anthony: 16.

Me: Are you serious or having a laugh?

Anthony: Serious. We just came to the farm.

Me: I thought you were 23 when you came to the farm.

Anthony: No, I was 16.

Me: So how old am I?

Anthony: 52?

Me: So how can I be 52 if you are only 16?

Anthony: I’m young.

Me: Sorry to have to break this to you, Ants, but you are actually 80.

LONG PAUSE

Anthony: What rubbish!

Me: No, you really are 80, Ants!

LONGER PAUSE

Me: Have I upset you?

Anthony: A bit.

Me: Oh, Ants, I’m sorry but you really truly are 80.

Anthony: I think you mean 60?

Me: Well you only look 60. You don’t have any wrinkles.

Anthony: I’m not like those old men in the ballroom.

Me: Not at all.

Anthony: I’ve never felt so fit! Look [patting his flat tummy].

Me: That’s why I’m so proud to be your wife.

Anthony: Well so you should be.

 

 

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Bump on the head!

A few days ago, I bumped my head rather dramatically. I’d stooped to pick up some clothes from the bathroom floor and stood up suddenly, forgetting to avoid the corner of the towel cupboard which is positioned above the sink. SMASH!

The lump on my head was massive to begin with, literally the size of a goose egg, but it has now shrunk to the size of a golf ball. When I had my hair cut the other day, my hairdresser was extremely impressed. She showed me the lump in a mirror and  described the bruising around the lump in rather gruesome detail. Obviously, she had to be really careful attending to my hair.

Yesterday I must have been having one of those attention-seeking days because I kept getting the nursing staff to feel my lump. I did the same thing this morning and got the same ‘ooh-ahh!’ response from various staff which was, of course, very satisfying.

The only two people who were unfazed (and remarkably unsympathetic) were Ants and Ming.

Ming: Get over it, Mum; it’s just a bump on the head!

Anthony: You need to be careful, Jules, you’re not a spring chicken anymore.

Anyway, since bumping my head, I have been really slack with both the writing and the reading of blog posts. I have also become  quite slack with cooking, cleaning, gardening, anythinging, but have also become adept at sleeping and watching netflix. Having armed myself with a fitbit a couple of weeks ago (between the asthma and the head bumping) it has been a bit discouraging to find that I have only walked about eight kilometres in as many days.

Once the lump from the bump subsides, I hope to become a more active blogger again but, in the meantime, I have a bit of a headache.

 

 

 

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Common sense!

A few weeks ago Ming and I were having one of our on-the-front-veranda- philosophical discussions. I think it was nearly dusk but the sunset was around the corner of the house so I could only see it at an angle. This kind of experience reminds me of when my mother used to take us outside at dusk to look at the stars when my brothers and I were little.

I don’t look up enough into the sky’s various renditions; instead, I watch the loop of my internet feed, the news, blogs, my own constantly-halting story about Anthony’s Parkinson’s disease. Sometimes I feel inept, indolent; sometimes I feel an almost volcanic eruption joy after just sitting with Anthony for hours, holding his hand, stroking his head – just being with him.

Anyway, during the philosophical discussion mentioned above, I cry-laughed the story of how hurt I was by various situations and people over the last few months. “But do any of these things/people matter to you anymore, Mum?” Ming asked.

And all of a sudden, I realised that I was unnecessarily worrying about stuff/people/situations that, despite being an intractable part of the past, simply didn’t matter to me anymore. It was a revelation!

As Ming’s wisdom permeated my rather dusty psyche, I felt an enormous sense of relief and gratitude for the things/people and situations that DO matter to me.

Okay this is my last sentimental post about Ming for the time being, but he really is the most amazing person. Today this was our conversation:

Me: You are the best person I have ever met, Ming.

Ming: You didn’t meet me, Mum, you created me!

It’s nearing dusk and I am going outside to look at the sky.

 

 

 

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Bright eyes!

I feel compelled to record these updates on Anthony’s health, so that I will remember in the future. The unpredictability of his daily condition is just that – unpredictable. After days of silence and sleepiness, today his eyes were wide open (one of the many symptoms of PD is not blinking, so this makes his eyes very wide!)

Me: You look like an owl!
Anthony: I …
Me: Clear your throat – c’mon, cough!
Anthony: Coughing.
Me: So what did you want to say?
Anthony: Where is your mother?

Okay, so a little background information for those who don’t know. My mother is 81 and fighting fit despite numerous health challenges (cancer, broken hip, pelvis, wrist). She lives independently in a town not far from here and she is the epitome of maternal/grand-maternal etc.

The fact that she visits Ants so often – around twice each week and more if I need a break – is testament to her amazing love for me, her only daughter.

Today, she and I joked with Ants, and his eyes lit up several times, with mirth and affection and, of course, confusion.

Thanks, Mama!

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Once upon a time 4

The young woman was employed as a ‘nanny’ to two angelic-looking monsters, aged 2 and 3. She had thought her London job would be somehow exotic but, instead, she found herself dealing with a young, professional couple of parents who, despite having produced two children, didn’t have a clue what to do with them. The mother’s passionate advice to the nanny was “Don’t ever use the word ‘no’. I don’t want them to know about ‘no'”. The father, on coming home from work to find his two boys climbing the ceilings with an abundance of no ‘no’ energy, would weep freely into the reluctant shoulder of the nanny.

You would think, wouldn’t you, that this situation would distract the young woman from her love for the dairy farmer. Instead, it had the opposite affect and she became intensely homesick for Australia, for her mother and brothers, for the dairy farmer (of course!) and for the dairy farmer’s brother’s family.

That Christmas, the dairy farmer’s tall, shy sister-in-law decided to leave a cassette tape recorder on so that the young woman/nanny could share, in retrospect, the buzz of that day. When the young woman/nanny received this tape recording she was in the midst of preventing and/or throwing the angelic looking monsters out of her attic window. But when she pressed ‘play’ it all changed, as she and her two charges listened intently to the voices of gleeful children opening presents, messages from each of the white-haired children, the kindness in the tall, shy woman’s voice, the gruff affection in her husband’s. And then there was his voice – just four words: “Hi Jules, happy Christmas!”

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Auto/biographical risks

I was very fortunate to have once been a student of Elizabeth Jolley. She wrote fiction that was heavily laced with fact; she changed names to protect the guilty; she took risks.

The primary reason that I have hesitated over the years (decades actually!) to write what I think is a rather spectacular love story, is due to the yucky bits of the story – the betrayals, conflicts, mysteries and agonies in and amongst its success.

By writing increments of this “Once upon a time” story, I face the challenge of writing about how Anthony and I dealt with the disapproval of our relationship from both sides – from both families – and from well-meaning friends.

Over the last few weeks I have blogged outside the “Once upon a time” story, with tidbits of information about a recent event that traumatised me, and reminded me of some of the yucky stuff from the past. These posts, some now deleted, or edited, are, privately, an avenue into the complicated past of my relationship with Anthony.

When I say rather dramatic things like ‘spectacular love story’ I only mean that it was against all odds – a 41-year-old and an 18-year-old (the beginning), and now (the ending?), a nearly 57-year-old girl/woman sitting in a nursing home with her hands hugged by his nearly 80-year-old fingers.

My recent truthful tidbits have earned me the angst of one family member and, conversely, the support of many others.

I remember, years ago, Elizabeth Jolly speaking to me about one of my short stories:

EJ: This is far too painful, dear. Rewrite it.

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Vacuuming

On the eve of Ming’s 22nd birthday I asked him to vacuum the house.

I had already given him a pre-birthday present of some money, but told him that he would only get the rest if he vacuumed the house.

He grinned, pointed out that the vacuum cleaner needed a new bag, asked me if I remembered how to change the bag, then tested my memory of how to change the bag. I have no idea why I have a reluctance to change the bag; Ants always did that, then Ming. But, in my defence, I am the one who does most of the vacuuming.

Well, having passed the ‘change-the-vacuum-bag’ examination, Ming dismissed me to my newly air-conditioned writing room/office, still grinning (him, not me) and I waited with bated breath for the sound of the vacuum.

I didn’t expect the sound to be so loud. Anthony was always a quiet, careful, gentle vacuumer; he didn’t want to upset the skirting boards. Ming, on the other hand, is a rather violent vacuumer. The BANG AND CRASH sounds were a little alarming so I decided to stay put in the hope that he would forget about this room where I was hiding under my desk.

Finally the sounds of mad vacuuming ceased. The silence was so abrupt that I wondered if the vacuum cleaner was all right. After a little bit more silence I realised that I should have been wondering about Ming.

I emerged from underneath my desk just as Ming entered my writing room. A great big grinning presence.

Ming: Well, I’ve cleaned your house!
Me: OMG that is exactly what Ants said after vacuuming! Every time he did anything domestic, he would make it known that he had done if for me, and I would argue that it was also his house.

I can’t wait to tell this story to Ants tomorrow. I know he will remember his obsession with vacuuming and Electrolux. And I know he will smile at Ming’s vacuuming efforts.

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Hello!

I am interrupting my blog break with a post because of an incident that has shaken me.

Two days ago, Anthony’s brother, J, a couple of lovely nephews, and Ants’ oldest friend, all convened at the nursing home. I didn’t realise at first that this had been arranged by J.- a fantastic gesture except that he forgot to invite Ming and me.

Nevertheless, I was delighted, despite the fact that J’s instructions were to have Anthony outside. The carers couldn’t lift Ants out of his armchair and they were about to get the hoist when the two nephews managed to get him into the wheelchair. I decided then that I would have to go with the flow so I wheeled Ants outside.

He was cold, uncomfortable, un-talked to (but talked about rather wonderfully by the nephews and friend); I sat right next to him and shared some champagne with him until it became obvious that he needed to get back to his room.

I came home, still delighted. It hadn’t been a perfect afternoon but it was better than nothing and I was very grateful for the presence of P. the nephew who visits Ants every weekend. He is so loyal and kind; he is a gift to Ants, Ming and me because of his sincerity and his love for Anthony.

The next day, another nephew (one who regularly visits Ants despite living 200 kms away), rang me to ask what was going on. I didn’t understand the question so he said that J. had rung various family members to come for drinks at the nursing home to say goodbye. I told him that J. and a couple of people had turned up but I hadn’t known why.

Apparently J. had decided to tell all of the family (except Ming and me) that Anthony was at death’s door. When I rang and confronted him, he explained that he just wanted to say goodbye.

“Try saying hello,” I said.

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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!

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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?

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