wings and things

Saying ‘yes’ to surreality

Ever since I was fooled by the plum tree into thinking its blossoms belonged to the avocado tree I am much more aware of how trees that are next to each other seem to have a habit of hugging each other. Here are the photos I took of ‘the avocado blossoms’ several weeks ago. The first one shows why I was confused but the second one shows quite clearly (except to an idiot – me!) that these are two separate trees.



Anyway, the following photo shows just how tricky these trees can be; here we have a camellia tree masquerading as a fig tree (or is it the other way around?) I showed it to one of the residents in the dementia wing the other day and she said, “What a strange tree!”

photo (3)

Up close, of course, it is quite obvious that the fig tree is a fig tree and that the camellia tree doesn’t have a sense of personal space.


Last summer I stopped watering the plants in order to save electricity on the pump; hence most of the ancient rose trees have died (despite a gardeningy person telling me it was impossible to kill roses) but everything else (palms, multiple camellias, un-fruiting orange and plum trees, silver birches, the two fig trees, the two avocado trees, the two pear trees, the lemon tree, the poplars up the driveway, the flame trees, and many other wild bushy looking shrubby things, have survived. This is probably because Anthony planted many of these at around the time I was born – over 50 years ago – so their roots are deep (you see, I have now done a bit of gardening-for-dummies research).

I guess what’s surreal is that, when I took ‘the avocado blossoms’ into the nursing home and put them in a vase, Anthony didn’t correct me and say, “Those aren’t avocado blossoms, silly!” (Actually nobody corrected me until I wrote a post correcting myself and then a friend said to me, “Yeah, I thought you’d definitely lost the plot!”)

Every single person with every single kind of dementia has, I think, has an ability to accept the surreal as real. Yesterday, during a children’s concert at the nursing home, one of the residents kept asking if the woman on my right (another resident) and the man on my left in the wheelchair (Anthony) were my parents, so I explained that one was my new friend and the other was my husband. She looked at me with interest and said, with absolute certainty, “My parents will be here soon”, and I said, “Yes.” By end of the concert she had forgotten about her parents and was fine, delighted as we all were, by the children’s voices.

I’m not sure here, but it seems to me that if someone’s reality is fractured by dementia, and their reality becomes a dreamscape of surreal thoughts, memories and emotions, maybe the best way to respond is in the affirmative, and to say ‘Yes!’

And that is why I still have an avocado tree with pink blossoms!



I saw Anthony this afternoon at the nursing home, and I showed him my blistered, peeling, bleeding hands and feet and told him that I had seen a doctor who had prescribed cortisone cream.

The doctor was more fascinated than concerned, when I told him I thought I had ‘pompholyx’. So, while I scratched away at my itchy hands and feet, he looked it up and confirmed my self-diagnosis. I just wish he hadn’t insisted on looking at my always-dirty-from-the-chook-yard feet – oh well.

Anyway, as I was telling Anthony all of this in my usual dramatic way, he pointed to his own hands and said he had the same thing. Well of course he didn’t have the same thing – it was just skin cancers on his old hands but I appreciated his empathy.

But then he whispered to me that it might be Parkinson’s disease and this is how our conversation unfolded:

Anthony: There is a doctor here who knows about it.
Me: About what?
Anthony: Your hands, this – he has black hair, young guy.
Me: Is he the doctor replacing the one on holidays?
Anthony: I don’t know, but don’t trust him, Jules.
Me: Why?
Anthony: He wants all of the Parkinson’s people in an experiment.
Me: Oh Ants it’s probably just a student doing a survey – is he asking you questions?
Anthony: Yes, personal. Don’t tell him anything, Jules.
Me: Ants, do you think you might be imagining or hallucinating some of this?
Anthony: I don’t know, maybe – oh and the family came this morning to take this place over.
Me: The Goyders?
Anthony: Yes – there’s a lot of money – be careful.
Me: I’ll check it out if you check out that whole doctor thing.
Anthony: One of them has red hair.
Me: That’s the priest isn’t it?
Anthony: No, the doctor – another one….
Me: I have to go now, Ants but I’ll be back tomorrow.
Anthony: Why do you have to go?
Me: It’s getting late, I have to get groceries, go to the chemist and look after Mingy.
Anthony: But where do you live now?
Me: I live at Bythorne, silly, on the farm!
Anthony: Do I still have a corner room there?
Me: Yes, but I can’t look after you overnight now because you are too heavy.
Anthony: But it’s still my farm.
Me: Your beautiful, beautiful farm, Ants, and Ming and I are taking care of it.

After this conversation, we hugged and kissed and I came home to Anthony’s resounding absence.