jmgoyder

wings and things

Imagined conversation 8

Me: I’ve decided to go on a health kick – exercise every day, only eat natural foods – I’m even sprouting mung beans again.

Anthony (yawning): The deja vu is killing me.

Me: I’ve even started using those weights of yours – you know the red ones that were in your nursing home room.

Anthony: You mean the ones I used to pretend I thought I was good at?

Me: Yes, I mean no. Wait a sec. I thought I was the one who was pretending you were good at it.

Anthony: Jules?

Me: Yes?

Anthony: I may have had a spot of dementia, but I wasn’t a complete fool.

Me: I wasn’t saying that and you know it!

Anthony: About your health kick….

Me: What about it?

Anthony: Long may it last.

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Imagined conversation 7

Me: It’s 2am and I can’t sleep.

Anthony: 2.09am to be precise.

Me: You’re quick!

Anthony: Don’t eat too many of those cherries or you’ll get the runs.

Me: I see my psychologist later on this morning.

Anthony: Why the hell do you think you need to see a psychologist?

Me: I think that’s pretty obvious, don’t you?

Anthony: What a lot of rubbish. It can’t be that bad, Jules.

Me: It isn’t as bad as it was but, oh, you wouldn’t understand. You’re lucky you’re the resilent type. Anyway, I’m going to try to go back to sleep. You would love these cherries!

Anthony: What are they a kilo now?

Me: A small fortune!

Anthony: Hmm, they’re free here. Actually everything’s free.

Me: Ha – I bet you like that!

Anthony: Too right.

 

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Imagined conversation 6

Me: Why did you un-grip my hand from yours just before you died?

Anthony: You were hurting my hand.

Me: I was worried!

Anthony: I know.

Me: Actually I was terrified.

Anthony: Well I wasn’t, so don’t worry about that.

Me: That’s when I left your room to talk to Ming about what to do if you died in the night. Like, whether to ring him straight away, or what.

Anthony: Oh I didn’t know that.

Me: The doctor said it could be hours or days – did you know that?

Anthony: No, because you were all whispering, whispering, whispering….

Me: Oh, sorry, Ants. I just didn’t want you to hear that you might be dying and get scared.

Anthony: I wasn’t scared, just bloody uncomfortable. And Jules?

Me: What?

Anthony: It was easier to die with you out of the room.

Me: I thought that was one of those myths.

Anthony: I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.

Me: No, it wasn’t that – it was just the shock. I was all ready to spend another night in the nursing home with you so I could get my head around you dying. I even had a DVD to watch. I felt – feel – so cheated somehow.

Anthony: Aha – gotcha!

Me: So you tricked me?

Anthony: Yep.

Me: But why?

Anthony: I didn’t want you to see me take my last gurgling breath; it was a bit embarrassing. And I didn’t want you crying all over me.

Me: But I did cry all over you!

Anthony: Oh. Sorry. I was long gone by then.

Me: What do you mean ‘long gone’? We were only out of your room for a few minutes!

Anthony: Time just seems different now.

Me: I just want my hand back in yours.

Anthony: Well you could have arranged to have it cut off and mummified, I suppose.

Me: Argh!

Anthony: You worry too much, Jules.

Me: I’m so tired from grieving.

Anthony: Well, I was a magnificent specimen of a man so it’s no wonder.

Me: Thanks for the laugh, Ants.

Anthony: You gotta laugh, Jules. Anyway, how’s your mother? Is she still making those blanketty things?

Me: Yes, but probably not as enthusiastically as she was when she was sitting with you.

Anthony: Good on her. She’s a good soul.

Me: ‘Soul’? Since when do you use words like ‘soul’?

Anthony: Since I died.

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Imagined conversation 5

Me: I just cancelled yet another social thing – lunch with some of my favourite people. I was so looking forward to it!

Anthony: Everyone loves you, Jules. They keep asking about you.

Me: Who?

Anthony: You know, the teachers and the bosses. They keep asking me where you are.

Me: I’m not doing so well this morning.

Anthony: Why are you crying? Please don’t cry, Jules – please.

Me: Well Ming told me to keep crying this morning; he said, “Mum, don’t stop crying – keep crying as much as you can.”

Anthony: About me?

Me: Well who the hell else would I be crying about?

Anthony: I like it when you’re feisty.

Me: Argh!

Anthony: I so desire you.

Me: Oh not that again!

Anthony: The imagination is immaculate.

Me: You sound just like Ming! He calls everything immaculate.

Anthony: Good boy.

Me: You are both so illiterate!

Anthony: Yes but I helped you do that PhD – remember?

Me: I forgot about that actually – yeah, the Foucault bit?

Anthony: He seemed like a great guy to me.

Me: Yeah, he had some amazing ideas but he died.

Anthony: Then he’s probably here somewhere. Do you want me to shout him a beer?

Me: Can you find my dad too?

Anthony: I can try but this place is not what you think it is.

Me: You mean Heaven?

Anthony: To hell with heaven, Jules!

Me: What do you mean?

Anthony: I’m still milking cows!

Me: Oh! That’s fantastic….

 

 

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Imagined conversation 4

Me: Hi Ants.

Anthony: Hi Jules.

Me: I’m so much better. I can’t believe it – it’s such a relief!

Anthony: That’s good, Jules.

Me: Is there any way you can put a bit more animation into your voice? I’m beginning to forget your voice, you know, the one you used to have before Parkinson’s disease.

Anthony: IS THIS BETTER?

Me: I think so but you sound really fake.

Anthony: I’ll try harder, okay?

Me: That would be great because I didn’t realise until today that I had forgotten how you used to speak. I know it was always loud and booming with enthusiasm but I can’t remember what you actually said before you got sick.

Anthony: Probably a lot of bullshit.

Me: No way! You could sometimes be quite profound actually, even after you got sick.

Anthony: That’s good, Jules.

Me: You’ve already said that.

[Anthony sighs]

Me: Sorry.

Anthony: You have absolutely nothing to be sorry about. How is the …?

Me: The son? Ming?

Anthony: That’s the one. Yes.

Me: He is amazing – a rock! He has this extraordinary ability to do empathy without getting down in the dumps himself. We are so lucky to have this incredible son, aren’t we!

[Anthony nods]

Me: Sometimes I hear his loud laugh on the phone with someone and it sounds exactly like you – exactly! It’s a bit disconcerting.

Anthony: That’s good, Jules.

Me: Oh, okay, you sound tired.

Anthony: That’s you, not me.

Me: I couldn’t wait to get home so I could talk to you like this, Ants! My psychologist will either be relieved or have me committed.

Anthony: You’ll be right, Jules.

Me: Okay, good night, Ants. I love you.

Anthony: ‘Night, Jules. Give me a kiss on my heavenly brow.

Me: OMG, it IS you!

Note to readers: I am not going mad – this is great fun, sort of.

 

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Volunteering

You know how something just clicks into place? That sensation of the absolute ‘rightness’ of a situation? A snap of clarity? Noticing something really tiny and recognising it as huge?

Well, having clambered up and out my pit of absolute despair (with the help of a new medication and a compassionate doctor), I have gone back to volunteering with a newfound energy. For a couple of years now I have volunteered for various organisations but, even as I was facilitating – or helping to facilitate – meetings to support families of people with Dementia, visiting nursing home residents with and without Dementia, and doing some public speaking, there was something that didn’t quite click.

My usually buoyant personality was being slowly squashed by my anxiety about Anthony, the fear of him maybe dying slowly and painfully and then, of course, the still-resonating shock of his sudden death.

As a volunteer, I was so positive to begin with; I had so much wonderful, funny, innovative stuff to say about how to relate, enjoyably, with a person who has Dementia. But, as Anthony’s health declined and he became more and more incapacitated, my energy flew away, terrified, I guess, that I was going to lose him.

One of the strangest things about bereavement is knowing how your own grief is a tiny thing compared to others – people who have lost children especially. I only know a few of these people but I do know that their grief is on a different planet from mine; mine is miniscule and I think it’s important to emphasise this. I feel guilty to be so grief-stricken when there are others who have much greater grief.

After all, Anthony was old and infirm and, as Ming so unintentionally and callously put it not long ago, “a dribbling wreck.” Obviously he and I had a heated exchange until he explained that he had suddenly been struck by memories of being a child with a dad who was well.

Anyway, back to the topic of volunteering, the one thing that has given me the most pleasure, sense of purpose, and fortitude, is visiting people with Dementia in one of the local nursing homes.

Imagined conversation 3

Me: I met this guy yesterday who reminded me of you so much, Ants! He had the same look in his eyes. You know, that staring, bug-eyed look because of the Parkinson’s.

Anthony: What’s his name? I’ll punch him.

Me: No – it’s not like that. He is really old and is in a nursing home.

Anthony: Poor bastard.

I’m not quite sure where this scripting thing is going but what I would really love to do is to write a screenplay of sorts, maybe even a movie script. It’s great to have the blog as a place where I can write whatever.

In the meantime, visiting people with Dementia is just the click I needed to restart myself!

 

 

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Imagined conversation 2

Anthony has always been extremely fond of our doctor who, for the sake of privacy, I will call ‘Sandy’.

Anthony: So did you see Sandy?

Me: I can’t believe you remembered!

Anthony: Why wouldn’t I?

Me: Well, usually you forget when I tell you something.

Anthony: You need to give me more credit.

Me: Sandy was amazing and has prescribed me with something to help me sleep because every now and then I get insomnia and go a couple of days without sleep.

Anthony: You never told me that.

Me: It’s only since you died.

Anthony: Well I don’t feel particularly dead.

Me: That’s good – as long as you’re okay.

Anthony: I’m as fit as a fiddle.

Me: That’s what you always say. How do you do it?

Anthony: Do what?

Me: How do you always remain so cheerful?

Anthony: Because I’m perfect.

Me: I don’t know what I’d do without you, Ants.

Anthony: You’d do what you are doing, Jules. Anyway, I’m still around somewhere.

Me: But where?

Anthony: Here?

Me: Okay, that’s enough for today – this is too weird.

Anthony: Wait, Jules!

Me: What?

Anthony: Tell Sandy to drop in for a beer some time.

Me: Are you kidding?

Anthony: Come on, Jules, have a laugh!

I think I’m starting to get the hang of these imagined conversations!

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Imagined conversation 1

At the health retreat I went to not long after Anthony died, I was encouraged to write to him and I did that. But I didn’t do it again until today. I just couldn’t. Tomorrow it will be six months since he died – my husband and best friend, Anthony.

Me: I decided to go back on Facebook and write on my blog again. Do you think that’s a good idea?

Anthony: Everything you do is a good idea, Jules.

Me: Yeah, but I wrote about the whole depression thing and I’m worried I will embarrass myself, or my family ….

Anthony: You worry too much, Jules!

Me: How do you manage to be so positive, so happy, so hopeful, when you have this rotten Parkinson’s disease?

Anthony: Because I have you, and we have Ming … and the dogs.

Me: I love you more than life; I love you more than I’ve ever loved you before.

Anthony: Don’t cry, Jules, please….

Me: I didn’t know you were going to die so fast!

Anthony: Neither did I. Oh well.

Me: What do you mean, ‘oh well’? How can you be so nonchalant about your own death? I want you back, Ants! I want you back! I have to see the doctor tomorrow about the depression!

Anthony: Good idea, Jules.

Isn’t imagination the most wonderful thing!

 

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Major depression

Since New Year’s Day, I have been hit with two major depressive episodes. The first one lasted about two weeks, and I am now in the midst of a second one but this time I think I know how to deal with it better.

The only reason that I know what a major depressive episode is, is because I already have a diagnosis of major depression and have been on a brilliant medication ever since. It was only when I overheard my doctor uttering the words “major depression” on the phone, in order to get permission to write me the prescription, that I realised what had been wonky about me for so many years.

The relief of the medication was almost immediate. There was no high, or anything like that but, over the ensuing days, I began to feel more normal, capable, less panicky – more Julie-ish again.

I have been writing on this blog about Dementia for years but I haven’t really focussed on Depression, as an equally dire health condition, until now. Both diseases are diseases of the brain; both diseases are often disparaged or else dismissed as unimportant by onlookers.

On New Year’s day I was overwhelmed by the desire to claw myself back to 2017 when Ants was still alive. I didn’t decide to be sad, newly grief-stricken, helplessly teary, unbearably nostalgic, angrily in love with my dead husband; it just swamped me, unbidden, organic, unavoidable.

I have absolutely no self-pity, I recognise and am grateful for having had such a fantastic marriage, and our son, Ming, is a source of such hilarious comfort. And I continue to be grateful to the friends and family who’ve supported us, especially my mother and brothers.

Depression is a disease. I have it. That’s embarrassing, but it shouldn’t be. A major depressive episode, on top of already having major depression, is almost unbearable. And there is no Anthony to talk about this stuff with anymore.

 

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Getting wise to grief

I know that this is going to sound weird but grief is actually quite interesting.

I have been trying so hard to outwise/ outwit? the effect that this terrible grief is having on me. Okay, so the grief itself is a given and it’s understandable that I would be grieving for Anthony; that’s not pleasant, but it’s okay.

It’s how this grief translates into everyday life that is the real challenge. For example it is so tiring to be so tired of grieving, to be so tired of my own tiredness, tired of myself, tired of crying, tired of not being able to cry, tired of trying so hard not to be tired.

Grief is exhausting! I can just imagine telling Anthony about this and it makes me laugh because he would have rolled his eyes and sighed at my ridiculousness in trying to figure grief out. He wouldn’t have offered clich├ęs like ‘move on’ or ‘you need to get out and about more’ and I don’t even think he would have said, ‘I wouldn’t want you to be so sad, Jules’. Instead, he would have said ‘do what you want, Jules’ and I know for sure that he would be secretly chuffed that I miss him so much. His heavenly ego will be getting a rush.

Anthony adored me. Even though it took him over a decade to realise it, he made up for lost time very quickly and I think I am one of the luckiest people in the world to have had such a fantastic marriage. I wasn’t this long-suffering carer of a sick husband (which is probably the perception – you know, the dutiful wife); I was cared for by him. Every time I saw him in the nursing home, the joy in his face was the joy I took home with me, no matter how poignant.

Grief is often seen as the loss of someone you love and of course this is true but isn’t it also true that you miss being loved? I do. It’s not that I want to be adored per se (despite being a blogger – paradox alert); I just want Anthony’s adoration.

And, like a kid outside a closed candy shop, that’s my face pressed against the reflection of the impossible.

Grief is interesting. And so is getting wise to it.

 

 

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