wings and things

Chapter 31: The death of Gar [3rd April, 1979]

on September 13, 2021

By the end of the year that my father died, despite the fact that I had become ensconced in Gar’s and Anthony’s household, I decided, reluctantly, to leave in order to pursue a career in nursing. I stayed until they found a replacement “Do-for” woman and I went to Perth.

The hardest thing about this particular decision was not leaving the proximity of Anthony who now had the age-appropriate girlfriend; the hardest thing was leaving Gar with whom I had developed a deep attachment which was mutual. I felt terrible guilt which was compounded by my guilt at moving 200 kilometres north of my recently widowed mother.

So, in early 1979, I began my nursing training at St John of God’s Hospital in Subiaco, and also got a job at a nearby nursing home. I lived in a shared house with other students.

It was extremely difficult to concentrate on both my studies and my job as I was in a constant state of anxiety about both my own mother, and Anthony’s mother. I rang them all weekly, sometimes more and, during one phone call, Anthony said Gar was in hospital with pneumonia.

The following day, I went to work but got very light-headed during handover and was sent home. That near-fainting attack eventually subsided and I somehow got the next week off. So I took the train down to Bunbury and every day, for ten days, my mother drove me to the hospital in the morning, on her way to work, and picked me up on her way home in the afternoon.

It was pretty evident, during the ten days I sat with Gar, that on top of the pneumonia, she had also suffered either a stroke or a series of strokes because her ability to vocalize rapidly diminished. To begin with, she was lucid enough to actually ask me to light her cigarette (allowed back then!) But gradually, over the days, she became too ill to express anything but a moaning frustration. I held her hand and sat for hours and hours holding one hand or the other. Her brothers, sisters, and adult children all visited at which times I would withdraw into the waiting room to give them privacy.

I think it was around three days before she died that she managed to get that last sentence out to me and I was lucky enough to catch it. It was a question really: “Will you look after Anthony?”

I said yes.

6 responses to “Chapter 31: The death of Gar [3rd April, 1979]

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m reading all these chapters Julie. And loving it.

  2. I feel this one. Just before she died, my then boyfriend’s (now husband) mama sent me an email that simply said: “Take care of Mike”. Be still, our hearts.

  3. Mother’s often know what isn’t spoken

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