What kind of person doesn’t let themselves adore the person they have adored more than anyone else?
What kind of person doesn’t allow themselves to love the person they have loved for over a decade?
What kind of person cries tears for the years lost?
What kind of person attempts to make up for the years lost with an avalanche of passion?
What kind of person banishes a lifelong fear of love in a single moment of clarity?
What kind of person reveals a hidden heart so huge with generosity that it shocks him?
What kind of person is honest enough to express the guilt and remorse of not having expressed these things before?
What kind of person can wipe all of the tears, fears and years away with the single sentence: “I am in love with you”?
An Anthony kind of person.
I have come to a point in this love story where I feel I should go back and fill in the details in previous chapters.
I have come to a point in this love story where the joy of ‘happily ever after’ was tainted by some unexpected contingencies.
I have come to a point in this love story where the past and present are about to have a head-on collision.
Last night, when I rang Anthony in the nursing lodge, he wasn’t sure where he was and he asked me to pick him up soon because there was a storm. But he thought he was in the past and so, instead of the usual, “I love you, Ants”, I decided to say, “I am in love with you, Ants.”
“Me too,” he said, his new, quiet voice louder than usual.
I have come to a point in this love story….
Our engagement announcement was met with a mixture of reactions with 99.9% of our friends and family ecstatically happy for us.
Of course there was surprise all around because, by now, Anthony was 56 and I was 33. We had told a few people but we hadn’t yet told Anthony’s brother (the one who lived across the road with the beautiful blonde-haired children who were now young adults, and his wife, who I regarded as an older sister figure).
I didn’t understand why Anthony felt it necessary to take a carton of champagne over to their house to tell them the good news. After all, they were my very good friends and their youngest son was my godson. They had always adored me for the way I had cared for Inna, so we had a very strong relationship and I didn’t understand why Anthony was so nervous. He later revealed that his anxiety about various potential repercussions had prevented him from contemplating marriage years before but at the time I didn’t understand this at all.
Well, our good news was greeted with great mirth and congratulations and we all drank a lot of champagne and everyone was smiling, especially the beautiful blond teenagers and their mother. It didn’t register with me at the time that the brother had gone pale and withdrawn from the room, and we went back to the farm very merry – relieved that it was now out in the open. We had even set a wedding date for the following year.
I didn’t realize then that the next decade would be so fraught with heartache, because I didn’t understand the politics of Anthony’s partnership with his brother and that our marriage, for this brother, was devastating. It had always been assumed, I guess, that Anthony would never get married and that his side of the farm would be their legacy. I was so naive.
The brother and his wife didn’t speak to me for years, not even at our wedding, and, even though the brother demanded a dissolution of his partnership with Anthony the day after our engagement announcement, he wouldn’t sign off on this for eight years. This broke Anthony’s heart and hardened my own and, soon after, Anthony developed the first of his diseases – kidney cancer. He had to undergo two operations before the bad kidney was removed and then he was told he could never ride a motorbike again (and he loved riding).
In retrospect, this was the beginning of the end of Anthony’s good health. From then on, despite the birth and joy of Son, Anthony just got sicker and sicker with what I now know was the onset of Parkinson’s disease and prostate cancer.
These first years of our marriage were laced with what I will, from now on, call ‘the troubles’. Son’s entrance into the world made everything okay and I discovered, within myself, a feistiness I didn’t know I possessed. So I tried to become a kind of shield to protect my boys -’mother bear’ is probably a more apt metaphor.
When Anthony and I got married and had Son (exactly 9 months later – how embarrassing!) we had no idea that our heaven would soon be pierced by sharp little arrows from hell. The troubles entered our world.
After we were engaged, I would get the train down from Perth some weekends and Anthony would pick me up from the station and we’d go back to the farm. Every time we saw each other it was as if we’d just discovered something brand new and the joy was neon, blinking surprise, like a double moon.
He always cooked me a roast chicken and I was always ravenous because I was still a rather poor student. So we ate, drank and were merry, sometimes with visitors and sometime without. These were the best days of my life so far – the very best.
Everyone adored Anthony – all of his many nephews and nieces, the local butcher, postmistress and shop keeper, the neighbouring farmers, his young buddies with their Toranas, his old boarding school friends, the cows, the dogs – everyone!
When Son was born (the worst 48 hours of pain I have ever experienced – yes, isn’t childbirth wonderful!) I watched Anthony’s face as he held our little midget in his arms and I felt a little blanket of comfort settle on the three of us.
Now we were 3.