wings and things

Imagined conversation 99

Me: I’ve just had the most amazing epiphany, Ants!

Anthony: Pray tell.

Me: Well, I can’t be bothered. It’s too hard and emotional and nostalgic and I have better things to do.

Anthony: What are you talking about, Jules?

Me: The whole book idea, Ants. I’ve been putting this ridiculous pressure on myself to get together enough chapters of our imagined conversations into book form in order to submit for publication (which is a job in itself!) I’d rather just keep doing what I’m doing, just chatting with you like this.

Anthony: But what about the book? About me?

Me: Well, I hate to break it to you, Ants, but the book was also going to about me, and Ming, and my mother, and a whole lot of other people; it wasn’t just about you!

Anthony: Point taken. You want to move on, don’t you.

Me: Yes and no.


Imagined conversation 98

Me: I’ve begun the tedious process of copying and pasting you, Ants.

Anthony: Are you taking art classes? I always wanted a portrait done of me.

Me: No, no, I am finding the imagined conversations in the word document of the blog and, one by one, plonking them into a separate document which will be the heart of the book.

Anthony: I don’t really understand, but I trust you, Jules.

Me: It’s kind of fascinating, but also poignant, re-reading our conversations, Ants.

Anthony: I really hope you are not too sad any more, Jules.

Me: Well, actually, I’m not sad at all, which is wonderful!

Anthony: Oh.

Me: Sorry, of course I am a bit sad. Sometimes, but not often, I get those gulpy sobs but only in private.

Anthony: So don’t you still miss me?

Me: I mainly miss you when I read what I wrote about you before and after you died; it takes me back to that era – those years of your time in the nursing home, and before that when you were still at home and I was struggling to cope with working and looking after you and Mingy.

Anthony: I see.

Me: Have I hurt your feelings?

Anthony: From a celestial point of view, no; as a human being, yes, but it’s all right, Jules.

Me: Do you know what I miss most, Ants?

Anthony: Sex?

Me: Argh, no! I miss your laughter, your sense of humor, your upbeat, easygoing presence; I miss the way you insisted on the sink strainer being in place after doing the dishes; I miss the way you always exclaimed ‘JULES!’ when I came home from work; I miss watching little Ming fling himself onto your lap; I miss the way you loved linen tea-towels; I miss the way you polished all of the antique furniture; I miss you winding all of the clocks; I miss everything about you and me and Ming – and the way we used to all sing a little song about the three of us.

Anthony: So when are you going to get my portrait done?

Me: I guess the book will be a kind of portrait, Ants.

Anthony: No, I mean a portrait of my rugged face, Jules.

Me: Oh!


Imagined conversation 97: My birthday

Anthony: Yes, I know, I know.

Me: What?

Anthony: It’s your birthday tomorrow, you’re afraid I won’t get you a significant present, and you miss me?

Me: Sort of. Look, Ants, you have already given me enough silver bangles over the years, and I love them, but would it be okay if you gave me something totally different this year?

Anthony: Of course, Jules! I’m sorry you don’t like my taste in silver bangles.

Me: May I remind you, Ants, that even before you got so ill, you always sent me off to choose and buy my own silver bangles?

Anthony: Yes but it was my money.

Me: Don’t you mean our money?

Anthony: You are becoming more and more argumentative as you age, Jules.

Me: Now that was below the belt! What do you mean as I age? I’m only a few years older than you were when we got married!

Anthony: I think we should refocus the discussion on your birthday present. What would you like? Your wish is my desire.

Me: Silk sheets.

Anthony: I beg your pardon?

Me: I just love the feel of silk…

Anthony: Don’t go any further or I might swoon.

Me: Do men swoon? How strange. So is that a ‘yes’?

Anthony: No, yes.

Me: Yes, no?

Anthony: I’ll let you know tomorrow when it actually is your birthday.

Me: Yeah, well I’m going to get the silk sheets anyway, so….

Anthony: God is watching you, girl, so be careful.


Imagined conversation 96: The beautiful uncanny

Usually, the psychological term “uncanny” is used to describe feelings of uneasiness, even spookiness, but this is not at all how I feel about my imagined conversations with Anthony. After he died, over four years ago, I wrote several imagined conversations with Anthony and it gave me great comfort, but it also felt really real, uncannily so! Even Ming, in reading a few of those earlier imagined conversations, admitted that it was uncanny how authentic Anthony’s words seemed; it was as if the real, alive, Anthony were actually saying those thing, even though he was dead.

Before Anthony died, I experienced the anticipatory grief of knowing that he was dying. He outlived his various prognoses by several years and my constant presence in his life may have kept him going beyond expectations. Who knows?

Sometimes, words, or terms, like “uncanny” need to be cartwheeled into new meanings. For me, these imagined conversations with Anthony are absolutely, uncannily, spot on when it comes to his remembered voice in my head. But I haven’t gone mad and I know the difference between reality and imagination.

There are many more imagined conversations that I have with Anthony that I choose not to share on this blog. And sometimes I wonder why I even share some of them at all!

Anthony was almost non-verbal in the weeks before his death. And yet, now, I hear his loud, laughing voice in my head often. He loved me so much and I didn’t realise how much until now!



Imagined conversation 95: Our story

Me: I’ve decided that most of our story can be told via these imagined conversations, with occasional, retrospective biographical footnotes.

Anthony: You lost me after “our story”.

Me: Well, I’ve noticed that we often talk about the past in such a way that it is as if the past is actually happening in the present.

Anthony: Would you like me to find Socrates? He’s around here somewhere.

Me: No! How embarrassing – no, please don’t bother him. Can you just listen, please?

Anthony: I’m all ears.

Me: I’ve been wrestling with how to write this book about our story for far too long. The thing is, Ants, all of the words, anecdotes and blog posts are there; I just need to figure out the structure now. I’ve also realised that this doesn’t have to be a longwinded read.

Anthony: Lose the footnote idea, Jules.

Me: Oh! Okay. Why?

Anthony: Our conversations can tell the whole story.

Me: Since when did you become such a writing expert?

Anthony: Enid Blyton and I have become friends; she’s the one who said to lose the footnote idea. Sorry.

Me: No, that’s great advice, Ants. Thanks. So are you and Enid ….

Anthony: Just friends, Jules, don’t worry. She thinks you are an amazing writer but she also thinks my own character needs to be fleshed out in more detail; the imagined conversations need to be more Anthony-esque.

Me: Mmmm. Well please thank Enid for her input. Perhaps you could also ask her if any of my possible book titles meet with her approval.

Anthony: Go for it, Jules!

Me: “Imagined conversations with my dead husband”?

Anthony: If you added my name to that title, it might be stronger.

Me: “Done and dusted”?


Imagined conversation 94: Our birthday boy

Me: Well, 28 years and one day ago, our Ming arrived and it was the very best day of my life.

Anthony: I thought the best day of your life was our wedding.

Me: Sorry, Ants, but Ming sort of eclipsed that.

Anthony: But…

Me: Only slightly. Do you remember it?

Anthony: Remember what?

Me: Ming’s birth.

Anthony: Yes, 1am. I was exhausted!

Me: Yes, and you left me alone in my bliss?

Anthony: I had to milk the cows, Jules! Are you okay? I sense an impending argument.

Me: I’m fine, Ants, but picture this: a new mother with a newborn boy who began to shriek as soon as you left.

Anthony: You’ve never told me that before; did he miss me already?

Me: That’s actually not the point, Ants.

Anthony: So this IS an argument? I’m lost.

Me: I was in labor for nearly 40 hours, and, yes, you were there for most of that hell but, once Ming emerged, like one of those champagne corks that just won’t pop out without force, you exclaimed ‘It’s a boy!’ And then you were gone!

Anthony: A girl would have been fine, Jules! Remember, we were going to call her Jean-Meg, after our mothers.

Me: Are you deliberately missing the point, Ants, or has Heaven made you stupid?

Anthony: As soon as I finished milking, I came straight back to the hospital to see him and….

Me: And me?

Anthony: The mother of my son – yes, of course!

Me: But what about me, myself?

Anthony: Ahh, I see where this is going…

Me: Do you? I don’t.

Anthony: Jules, I was in love with you from the very first moment we met, when you were a teenage hippie.

Me: I was never a hippie; I just didn’t have a sense of fashion.

Anthony: I’m sorry it took me so many years to admit it.

Me: Admit what?

Anthony: That I loved you.

Me: For years you said that but then you always also said that you weren’t in love with me.

Anthony: I was lying.

Me: Why?

Anthony: You were 18 and I was 41, Jules; it was impossible!

Me: It’s weird to me that you are using exclamation marks; anyway, I thought we were talking about Ming’s birthday.

Anthony: I hope he knows and remembers how much I adored him; how much he means to me right now; at every single ‘right now’ he encounters, I want to be by his side.

Me: In a heavenly way, you mean?

Anthony: Well, it’s better than nothing, Jules!

Me: There are parts of this conversation that I would like to continue at a later date, Ants. Is that okay?

Anthony: Please tell Ming happy birthday and that I wish I were there.

Me: He already knows; our birthday boy/man already knows.


Imagined conversation 93: Missing

Me: I miss you, Ants

Anthony: I miss you more, Jules

Me: You’re not in any of the family photos now, Ants.

Anthony: That’s okay, Jules.

Me: Your family, and even my family, are beginning to forget about you, Ants!

Anthony: We have Ming.

Me: Yes, I have Ming.

Anthony: I’m not missing, Jules!

Me: Only because I keep reconjuring you; I have a very good imagination, Ants.

Anthony: I miss you too, Jules.

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Imagined conversation 92: “Uncle Anthony” and Tully [December 27, 2021]

Anthony: Happy Christmas, Jules.

Me: Yes, sorry, Ants, but it has been too hot for me to remember to miss you. It’s 40 degrees!

Anthony: I hovered briefly over your Christmas Eve festivities and I was deeply impressed.

Me: Are you annoyed, Ants? Your sarcasm is horrible! “Deeply impressed”? Okay, so I forgot to toast you; I forgot to do the ‘absent friends’ toast. I’m sorry!

Anthony: That’s all right, Jules.

Me: Your benevolence is breathtaking, Ants, and I don’t like it. You aren’t the only dead person I know!

Anthony: I just want to be remembered.

Me: Well guess what – Tully is reading a book about the brain and there is a section about Parkinson’s Disease and Tully mentioned you.

Anthony: Tully is a fine young woman and a superior niece amongst a throng of nieces I already have. So, if she wants to use me as a retrospective guinea pig in her studies, so be it.

Me: If you could possibly get over your dead self for just a second, I wanted to tell you that Tully always refers to you as “Uncle Anthony” and, every time she does that, I am reminded that you ARE remembered, Ants.


Me: So are you off to the ‘humble pie’ dining room, Ants?

Anthony: Tell Tully I appreciate it, please, Jules?

Me: Tell her yourself, Uncle Anthony

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Imagined conversation 91 [Christmas nostalgia]

ME: Do you remember that first Christmas with baby Ming?

ANTHONY: The ride-on truck?

ME: Yes! We had other presents too but that ride-on truck trumped everything. His little, round face was so expressionless and quite bewildered until we encouraged him to tear open the wrapping paper.

ANTHONY: Yes, I remember.

ME: That memory is a tiny sliver of absolute joy between the three of us.

ANTHONY: I also remember you going slightly mad with filling Ming’s Christmas pillow-case with so many presents – too many!

ME: But that is what my parents did for us – me, and my two younger brothers. The absolute magic of an empty pillowcase, placed at the end of our beds, being filled with presents the next morning; I wanted to do that for Ming too! I still want to!

ANTHONY: Ming is 28 now, Jules. He would not appreciate the pillow-case ritual.

ME: Understood, yes, but I can’t wait to tell you what I got him for Christmas!

ANTHONY: Calm down, Jules!

ME: I am not sure if I am allowed to tell you about Ming’s partner yet but she is awesome!

ANTHONY: I know.

ME: I just wish I could remember what the other two presents were for Ming’s first Christmas.

ANTHONY: A John Deere miniature tractor and some sort of bouncy ball thing.

ME: Oh yes! Do you remember Ming opening his presents with us on top of the tartan bedspread?

ANTHONY: Yes and, as I watch him grow up from boy to man, I wish I could be there in a more tangible way, Jules.

ME: He knows you are there for him, Ants, like a sort of angel.

ANTHONY: I would rather be dead than an angel, Jules!

ME: Whoops!


Imagined conversation 90: My Christmas present from Anthony [2021]

ANTHONY: No, please, Jules. No.

ME: Oh Ants, I absolutely love them – thank you!

ANTHONY: I think you should take them back to whatever shop you bought them from and exchange them for something more sophisticated and more your age.

ME: My age? MY AGE! You’re the one who’s old, Anthony! You’re so old that you’re dead.

ANTHONY: That was a bit close to the bone, Jules.

ME: Well, yes. Literally, I guess, you are just bones now.

ANTHONY: These cheap shots are not becoming, Jules.

ME: But I am crazy about these shoes, Ants, and I was just trying to thank you for this pretend present from you to me, for Christmas.

ANTHONY: So what did you get me for a pretend Christmas present?

ME: I was thinking I might write a prayer?

ANTHONY: That’s not a bad idea but please do me a favour, Jules?

ME: What now?

ANTHONY: Don’t wear those shoes when you are praying.