jmgoyder

wings and things

The twists and turns of grief

Today would have been Anthony’s 87th birthday. Since he died, over six years ago, I have missed him to the point of sobbing (yesterday).

I have forgotten all about him. And then I remember and feel a sickening guilt.

I have created an imaginary dialogue with him on this blog.

I have tried to create a new life-without-Anthony for myself.

And I have been able to see how Ming is, in so many ways, his father’s son, especially in terms of kindness.

Grief is the weirdest thing: it hits you when you least expect it (automatically buying Anthony’s favourite cheese in the supermarket); bumping into an old friend who didn’t know he had died; the latest photo of our first grandchild who Anthony will never see ….

…. but there is also a joyful component to grief I guess, in that the person you miss so much was the most wonderful person ever.

Happy birthday, Ants

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My version of the Lord’s Prayer 2022 (a paraphrase)

“Father of the universe,

of our world, of us …

God, you are mind-blowingly obvious in everything – a grain of sand, the wings of a bird, and the human heart.

Earth is a beautiful but also an ugly place, so I guess it is our job, as your children, to foster the beauty until each of us reaches the mysterious realm of heaven. On the other hand, are we supposed to try to create heaven on earth in the here and now – with kindness, with gratitude, with joy?

Please nourish us, physically, emotionally and psychologically so that we can be strong enough to be spiritual.

Forgive us for all our stupid, petty, selfish mistakes and please enhance in us the willingness and ability to forgive.

I will plant my bare feet in the soil of the backyard this evening, look up into the starry, cloudy, dusky sky.

Then I will raise my arms for your giant, light-filled hug.”

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Grandma: Setting a precedent

My mother, Meg, mother to three of us, grandmother to 11 of us, great-grandmother to 12 of us, is amazing in more ways than one!

My mother, Meg, has given each of us a carefully crafted scrapbooks, with photos and quotes and anecdotes, as soon as each of us turned 50. Not only that, my mother has also done the same thing for each of her grandchildren once they turn 21. The final recipients (twins) will receive their scrapbooks very soon.

I did try to help the other day, but my mother’s house was awash with a mess of photos, stickers, glue, oh, even double-sided sticky tape which I didn’t even understand until my mother, Meg, showed me how. Ghastly experience in every way except for the fact that I helped my mother, Meg, ensure that all of the millions of offspring etc. were included in the twins’ scrapbooks.

Okay so back to setting a precedent: As a new grandma, I will never be as good as Meg is, but I’ll try. And what is the point of this post?

MEG

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Geography

I recently found an old notebook in amongst a conglomeration of stuff I packed into various boxes when I moved from the farm nearly three years ago.

The old notebook contains Anthony’s geography assignments from 1951, eight years before I was born. Initially, I was using the notebook the wrong way around, scoring myself on the blank sides of pages for my jigsaw prowess.

But, halfway into this old notebook, I realised there was something on the other side of every page, about 30 pages in, AND I discovered Anthony’s 15-year-old school self AND he was very good at geography! His eloquence, and lovely handwriting, got to me a bit – a weird nostalgia for someone I didn’t know back then.

I am still using the notebook to score my jigsaw wins against myself, i.e, if I get five pieces in, I give myself a score of 5 on the other side of the pages where Anthony was a teenager who loved geography.

There are now only a few pages left of the notebook because, even though I don’t want to, I force myself to throw each page away once it is full of my jigsaw scoring.

I wish now that I had talked about geography with Ants!

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Today

Me: Today is the last day of the month you died five years ago and, once again, I am pretending to talk to you when I am actually just talking to myself. I know that, Ants. I am not delusional.

Anthony: Jules! I wish I could help you, but I can’t! You have to get your strength back so you can be the grandmama you want to be. Get help, get therapy, but, above all, love who you are because you are already so bloody amazing. Stop beating yourself up for not being the best mother, wife, mother-in-law, daughter, sister.

Me: These are the sorts of conversations I miss most, Ants, because you always came up with profundities that defied your dementia diagnosis.

Anthony: I love you, Jules.

Me: I love you. Ants.

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Yesterday

Me: Yesterday marks the fifth anniversary of your death, Ants.

Anthony: I’m not oblivious to that fact, Jules.

Me: I didn’t have a good day, actually. I visited a friend, took my mother to an appointment and then came home. I had been invited by one of my best friends, who just lives up the road, to come to hers if I needed a shoulder, but I decided to just stay home and be miserable.

Anthony: Silly girl!

Me: That night you died, so suddenly, she let me stay at hers and I’ll never forget it.

Anthony: Jules?

Me: Yes?

Anthony: It’s five years, we have our first, brand new, perfect grandchild, and you are sad? Pull yourself together!

Me: Well, logically speaking, you are right of course! In the same month you died, our grandchild is born so this gives August a totally new meaning for me.

Anthony: So, get on with it, Jules! You are now ‘Grandmama’!

Me: I just wish so much you could see her, Ants!

Anthony: I am looking at her right now, Jules. She’s the spitting image of Ming but she seems to have her beautiful mother’s dark hair.

Me: So are you sort of like an angel now, Ants?

Anthony: I just checked under my arms and, unfortunately, I don’t have my white wings yet.

Me: Why do you turn everything into a joke?

Anthony: You are far too serious, Jules.

Me: Oh! Okay.

Anthony: Let me go.

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You are a grandpapa, Ants!

Anthony: Yes, Jules, I know!

Me: So where is the enthusiasm?

Anthony: How many exclamation marks do you want? I was there and I watched it all and it was awful but also magnificent; she is amazing.

Me: Who? The baby or Benita?

Anthony: Well, I was actually referring to Benita.

Me: I wish you were here to see your first grandchild, Ants – it’s almost like a feeling of yearning!

Anthony: Yes, well, you are very good at yearning, Jules.

Me: Oh! Sorry about that.

Anthony: Your mother and I share certain characteristics except that I am dead and she is alive.

Me: What do you mean?

Anthony: Meg and I actually contributed to the production of this child. In our different ways, of course, from a distance – genetically, I mean….

Me: Ahhh, yes, of course but why are you being so clinical?

Anthony: Because I wish I could be there to hug Ming.

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I found the missing post!

Me: Tomorrow will be the first day of the fifth August that I have lived without you, Anthony. During each of the previous Augusts I have succumbed to uncontrollable, mostly private (but sometimes public) bouts of grief, anxiety and despair. This time, I have decided to approach August differently.

Anthony: I’m so sorry, Jules, for everything: for getting sick, for being such a burden, for dying.

Me: No need to apologize, silly! You couldn’t help it, you didn’t deserve it, and you were absolutely heroic during your last few years of coping with being so ill. You never complained – you were amazing!

Anthony: Loving you was the best experience of my life, Jules.

Me: Remember that phase when you said you loved me but you weren’t ‘in love’ with me?

Anthony: I was an absolute fool. I was always in love with you, from the moment I saw your freckled faced grin; I just didn’t/couldn’t ….

Me: Yeah, I get it and it’s fine – I was just a naive 18-year-old and I didn’t understand that swooshing feeling either. Anyway, as usual, it is so good talking with you that I have lost my point!

Anthony: August.

Me: Oh yes. Well, the whole idea of August has totally changed for me/for us because in around a week, you and I will be grandparents.

Anthony: I’m omniscient now, Jules, so I already know that.

Me: But don’t you see how this changes everything about August?

Anthony: Yes, of course I do, but do tell. You are much more eloquent.

Me: You died in August and yet your grandchild will be born in August – your first and only grandchild (so far), so this has totally somersaulted August for me.

Anthony: I remember one of your favourite words was ‘transmogrify’: is that what you mean?

Me: Yes! The transmogrification of August!

Anthony: So what are you doing about the despair/anxiety/grief etc.?

Me: Replacing all of that with anticipation, joy, hope, love etc.

Anthony: Have you been watching Dr Phil?

Me: Well, yes, sometimes – why?

Anthony: Well, we watch that show sometimes up here in heaven.

Me: OMG your sarcasm is NOT funny! I love you so much, Ants.

Anthony: You’re not bad yourself, Jules. Maybe the youngies should call the kid “August”.

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You weren’t there

Me: Yesterday, Ming and Benita celebrated their second anniversary of meeting each other with a “beangagement” party.

Anthony: I thought you didn’t want to do these conversations anymore, Jules.

Me: I don’t really, but, Ants, it was magic! I just wanted to tell you and then I’ll leave you alone.

Anthony: It was your idea to leave me alone, not mine.

Me: So, their play on words – bean (the baby) + engaged – was pretty clever don’t you think?

Anthony: I might be dead, Jules, but I’m not thick. But, yes, it was clever.

Me: Lots of people couldn’t come due to covid, including Grandma and Benita’s only sister, but there was still a crowd of well-wishers.

Anthony: And an abundance of pizza?

Me: Was that your idea for your 75th, or mine?

Anthony: Ours.

Me: Good point. But, Ants, in amongst the joy, frivolity, Ming and Benita’s commitment to each other, and their soon-to-be baby, I felt/feel a bit lost inside my own heart.

Anthony: Why is that, Jules?

Me: It was such a great party, last night – you would have loved it!

Anthony: And?

Me: You weren’t there.

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There is history in these remnants

Today, Ming, his fiancé, Benita, and I met with Elva and Craig, a brother and sister team who have a business called “Upholstery Transformations”. These two wonderful people have reupholstered numerous old armchairs for us for over 20 years, probably longer, and I remember, vividly, the time Anthony and I were choosing fabrics and Elva had to come outside to meet him as he was unable to get out of the car due to his Parkinson’s.

More recently, but still over five years ago, Craig reupholstered an armchair and a love-seat, both of which have been wonderful additions to my new home – my little cottage in Bunbury, Western Australia.

The two armchairs that Craig is now tackling are, in my mind, almost ‘farmchairs’ as they were used and used! I was even about to throw one of them out because it was so stained and dirty and worn and Jack, one of our dogs, had adopted it as his bed. I was tempted to simply throw it out until Ming exclaimed, “That was Dad’s chair!” Whoops.

Until recently, I had had both armchairs squished into my small cottage so it was quite a relief to relinquish one of them to Ming – his dad’s, Anthony’s. The other armchair is mine – a big, fat-armed, comfy chair with old-fashioned floral fabric. I have chosen a deep greeny-blue velvetty material to bring this chair back to life and I am so excited!

So, today Ming and Benita chose the fabric to recreate Anthony’s armchair and wow, it is perfect! Before and after pics coming in due course.

I was going to post this as a conversation with Anthony but I think it is time to dis-engage with the past and embrace the future and these two armchairs are part of that.

Thank you, Elva

Thank you, Craig

And we all chose our amazing fabrics from remnants!

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