wings and things

Chapter 39: A poignant proposal [2015]

on October 6, 2021

It’s strange to think that some of my favourite being-married memories are from the years Anthony was in the nursing home. It’s also strange to think about how our relationship became more interesting, more solid, and even more loving during those years. Not to begin with, because the shock of separation was so great, but eventually.

My mother sometimes talks about how most of us don’t know or even notice when we do something for the last time. For example, the last time she took some of her grandchildren to the beach, or bowling, or whatnot, just didn’t happen to happen again for no particular reason until one day it occurred to her that they didn’t do that anymore; it had become a lovely memory.

During Ming’s childhood: When did Ming stop running from one side of our living room to leap gleefully onto Anthony’s lap? When did Ming and I stop doing our uproarious tickle fights? When did Ming stop battling joyously with his imaginary Pokemon and Digimon foes on the trampoline?

The fascinating thing about change for me is that although it is sometimes very sudden, or because of a decision made, usually is is quite gradual, subtle and a little bit sneaky. This almost describes the bewilderment I felt, many times over, as Anthony’s health slid into the quagmire of his Parkinson’s experience ….

When did he stop laughing loudly? When and why did he stop driving? When did he become so dopey? When did he stop being able to open the Vegemite jar? Most of these questions only occurred to me in hindsight because on a day-to-day basis, I didn’t necessarily notice. Or maybe I chose not to notice? After all, I may have married an older man but he was robust, a macho machine, fit, healthy, handsome and with extremely muscular legs!

I didn’t notice that Anthony’s health was deteriorating until it had deteriorated. We had passed GO and I didn’t see it; I just kept playing in a fug of hopefulness.

The last year at home was absolute hell because Anthony couldn’t manage the height of our four-poster bed so he now slept in a lower single bed in the spare room and I slept in the adjacent spare room bed. Almost every hour of every night, Anthony would need full-on nursing care of some sort – either turning him over, rubbing his legs for imagined cold, toileting, all sorts of care. I got teenage Ming to do one ‘night shift’ per week so I could get some proper sleep and I finally also sought help from Silver Chain so we had a respite carer and a cleaning carer twice a week. But that wasn’t enough because even when I had a day off from working at the local university, I couldn’t even go to the local shop without risking leaving Anthony alone. The one time I did, I came home to find him prone in the vegetable garden.

I had tenure at the university, I was good at my job, I was dedicated and diligent and, even though I resented having to create a core literacy unit for all students, from every discipline, to undertake, I got so tired because of my home situation. So I resigned my incredible job and my tenured position to care for Anthony and then, ironically, had to make the nursing home decision anyway a few months later.

When I kissed Anthony good night at home one night, I didn’t know that this good night kiss would never happen again at home; I didn’t know it would be the last time.

However, one day, about three years into Anthony’s time living in the nursing home, he focused his eyes on me and said, lovingly but confusedly, “We should get married, Jules.”

I had to fight off all of the hypotheticals, the what ifs, the wondering how the hell the love of my life didn’t remember that we were already married, the slow punchline of realisation that Anthony had entered a world of confusion that unremembered.

So I just said “Yes.”

8 responses to “Chapter 39: A poignant proposal [2015]

  1. susanpoozan says:

    What else could you say.

  2. Who I am says:

    i wish things would have been different for you my friend, much more time

  3. So moving and lovely

  4. Anonymous says:

    Every word of this post captivated me and kept me hungry for the next bit. What a compelling and amazing writer you are and what a story you have to tell, Julie. Your book will change people’s lives.

  5. Sad. about not knowing it would be the last time. Helps me to try to cherish the moment.

  6. beth says:

    and that was the perfect answer for the question asked at that perfect time.

  7. Julia Avery says:

    Oh, my. Sometimes the realisation is most breaking of all.

  8. judyrutrider says:

    Your subject matter is the matter of life; your skill of telling the story grows more sophisticated with every post.

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