jmgoyder

wings and things

Flights of fancy

A few weeks ago, Anthony told me he had been running all morning.

Me: How far did you run?
Anthony: Eighteen miles.
Me: Well, it’s no wonder you’re so exhausted! You must have overdone it. You’re not a spring chicken any more, you know, Ants!
Anthony: Shut up (smiling)
Me: Well bravo anyway. Have a nap if you want. You deserve it. I could never run that far!
Anthony: No, you couldn’t.

I love these flights of fancy, these ‘fabulations’ and, even though I know they are a product of Anthony’s Parkinson’s disease dementia, they don’t differ so much from what we all experience sometimes. Often I will wake up in the morning with what I call ‘adventure dreams’ still hanging around in my psyche, waiting for the next chapter, or a conclusion.

For someone who can barely walk now, it’s beautiful to know that Anthony thinks he can still run.

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Contentment

I think that contentment is underrated. Anthony has always had it, and Ming has it too, whereas I have always struggled.

Lately, Anthony makes me feel the most wonderful calm; he is so accepting of what is (a huge lesson to me). Ming drops in between restaurant shifts and we all have a bit of a laugh at whatever show is on TV.

Today, after Ming left, this was my conversation with Anthony:

Me: We are all so lucky in our relationship with each other, Ants!

Anthony: Yes, we don’t seem to be losing any hours.

When I think about his words, I feel content.

 

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Love and laughter

I think if I had to choose between love and laughter in a relationship, I would choose laughter. Obviously, having both is ideal but love can be so heavy sometimes, whereas laughter is light.

Today, Anthony was in great form and when I arrived he was participating in a game of coits during “gentle gym”. I joined the game by his side and Kaye (pseudonym), one of the OTs, was running things and she is such a fun-loving compassionate person, she made Anthony feel good about himself despite his bad score! Many of the residents were, like Ants, wheelchair-bound, and couldn’t really throw the coits but it was still fun and there were a lot of laughs. I think I will make a point of going to these sessions regularly because it was obvious that Ants was thrilled I was there.

Later, in his room, once he was settled back into his armchair, we had the following conversation (he has been extremely vocal lately – just when I was getting used to his silence).

Ants: I haven’t seen you for awhile.
Me: What a lot of rubbish! I saw you the day before yesterday!
Ants: No, it was the day before the day before yesterday [accurate!]
Me: So are we heading for an argument?
Ants: No, but sometimes I think you have run off with another man.
Me: How ridiculous! Why would I do that when I adore you so much?
Ants: I’m not sure you do anymore.
Me: Okay now listen to me, you idiot. It’s not all about you. Sometimes I need a break and sometimes I need to do other stuff.
Ants: Like what?
Me: Laundry, housework, cooking, Ming.
Ants: So where will you be tonight?
Me: At home of course.
Ants: Where is that?
Me: Bythorne [the name of our farm]
Ants: Bythorne? [looking very surprised]
Me: Yes, silly!

The conversation meandered over the few hours I was there, but here is another excerpt in response to a cooking show on television:

Me: Look at that roast duck!
Ants: Beautiful.
Me: That guy has cooked it slowly for over three hours.
Ants: Too long.
Me: Yeah, but it looks perfect, Ants!
Ants: You have a point. When are you going to cook it?
Me: Actually, that’s a great idea but I need to get the Aga going first.
Ants: I lit it the other day but we need more kerosene.
Me: I am ordering some next week.
Ants: Isn’t the grass green [looking at the wall]
Me: Yes, it’s wonderful.
Ants: Do you want me to light the fireplace? [trying to get up – impossible]
Me: No, Ming’s already done it.
Ants: He’s a good son isn’t he.
Me: He’s a great son.

And, as I was leaving:

Me: I have to go now to get some groceries.
Ants: But every time I let you go, you don’t come back until the next day.
Me: But I do come back! I love you so much, Ants.
Ants: I don’t love you as much now.
Me: What? Why? How dare you! [tickling him]
Ants: Because you keep leaving me and I don’t know where Mum is.
Me: Argh! Ants, we are in a nursing home and you are in good hands. You have Parkinson’s disease and I have to go and get some groceries! Get with it! I’ll see you tomorrow.

Okay, so all of the above was love-driven but it was the hilarious laughter and smiles we both shared that made these poignant and bittersweet conversations absolutely wonderful. It was one of the best days Ants and I have had for ages.

The love hurts, but the laughter heals.

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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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Once upon a time 6

During the many years in which the dairy farmer kept the young girl at arm’s length with brotherly bear-hugs, she somehow managed to finish her nursing studies and then an arts degree.

She had lots of adventures, jobs, friends – even boyfriends – all of which she would tell the dairy farmer about, much to his amusement. She would turn up at the dairy farm unexpectedly and be greeted by his yell of welcome … “JULES!”

The dairy farmer had been swept into a convenient relationship with a woman more his age, a situation that frequently broke the young girl’s platonic stance into slivers of absolute misery. Twice she bumped into the dairy farmer’s ‘girlfriend’ as the ‘girlfriend’ was leaving to go back to the city. These awkward situations were tempered by the guffaws the young girl and the dairy farmer shared in the wake of the departure of the ‘girlfriend’.

It was at about the time the young girl embarked on her postgraduate studies that the dairy farmer finally realised that she was now a young woman; that the age difference was now diminished by time. He let the ‘girlfriend’ go and rang the young woman, asking for a date.

 

 

 

 

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Anthony’s hilarious sarcasm!

Yesterday, when my mother visited us at the nursing home, she asked me how one of her friends was; her friend is in the dementia cottage where I worked for awhile last year. So I said, “Let’s go and visit her!” So we did. I love going there to see the wonderful women (residents and staff).

I told Ants we’d be back soon as the dementia cottage is just around the corner from where he is – in the high care section.

ME: Ants, we’re just going to visit some of the neighbours.
ANTHONY: What about me?
ME: I’ll be back really soon, okay. You stay here.
ANTHONY: I suppose I’ll see you in two or three weeks then.

He has a gift for sarcasm – always has!

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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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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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Editing out the anger

I went back to yesterday’s post and edited out the anger by admitting to it. It doesn’t even feel like anger anymore; it feels more like terror. The power of suggestion I guess, phone-calls from various family members worried that Ants was near death; the idea insinuating itself into my psyche, drippling in – rusty tears from a leaking tap.

“He is fine!” said over and over and over again until my own voice has become the echo of Anthony’s whisper.

As I was leaving the nursing home the other afternoon, I had a brief conversation with a nurse:

Me: He’s really out of it today!
Nurse: Yes, he’s been sleeping a lot.
Me: Do you think … is he going to die soon?
Nurse: No, he’s just getting older.
Me: I get a bit scared sometimes.

Editing out the anger, facing the terror of losing him, then getting back to the normality of sitting next to him, my hand on his shoulder, watching television, waiting for him to wake up and smile at me.

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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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