jmgoyder

wings and things

Imagined conversation 68

Me: I hope you realise that these conversations are not about me feeling sorry for myself.

Anthony: Of course I do, Jules.

Me: Mostly I feel really lucky. I don’t think I understood what a rare relationship we had until after you died.

Anthony: An against the odds love story.

Me: There is no need to steal my phrases!

Anthony: You are only two years older than I was when we got married.

Me: Now that is quite weird. Your point?

Anthony: I began a brand new life at 57. You can do that too, at 59.

Me: I hope you aren’t suggesting me getting a boyfriend! Two people have already suggested that. Bleah!

Anthony: JESUS, MARY AND JOSEPH, NO!

Me: Why are you speaking in an Irish accent?

Anthony: There are a lot of Irish nuns here.

Me: Oh, okay.

Anthony: You know your idea of working on a book about grief with C as illustrator?

Me: Yes.

Anthony: Genius.

Me: Thanks for the go-ahead. That means a hell of a lot.

Anthony: No need to mention hell; it is a bit of a dirty word here.

Me: Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I am not feeling sorry for myself, just sad, missing you, and kind of wanting go back in time and re-do some of our situations differently.

Anthony: Like you boiling the marmalade all over the Aga?

Me: No, more like you telling me off for being unavailable to look after your mother just after my dad died, when I wanted to comfort my own mother.

Anthony: It wasn’t a particularly good start was it.

Me: No, and it was so embarrassing (in retrospect) for me to be so transparently in love with a man twice my age. 60 Minutes recently did a story about this, so the shock/horror of a 23-year age difference is still newsworthy.

Anthony: I know that these conversations are imagined, Jules, but there is something real about them too.

Me: I feel compelled to keep talking to you like this, at least until August is over. Ming has been amazing, and keeps telling me to tell him if I am particularly depressed, always offering me hugs.

Anthony: My son.

Me: Yes. The dogs are comforting too!

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Anthony: Good night, Jules.

Me: Good night, Ants.

 

 

 

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Your death day, August 23rd: Imagined conversation 67

Anthony: Hi, Jules.

Me: Hi, Ants.

Anthony: Happy anniversary.

Me: Not funny.

Anthony: So how did my first deathday go?

Me: Unexpectedly undramatic actually. I mean the sky didn’t fall in and it was a sunny day. Ming and I went to your grave and placed camellia branches just in front of the cross with your name on it that the funeral people provided. Then I used a red ribbon to tie a little wooden sign, with your name on it, onto the wrought iron bench I had provided months ago but that other bereaved people keep moving.

Anthony: And Ming?

Me: It was his idea to come with me to the cemetery with camellias. That was our plan, then we were going to come home and watch a comedy.

Anthony: I saw what you did next, Jules.

Me: Well Ming suddenly suggested going out for lunch at the Boyanup pub so we did and it was lovely! And he paid, of course, as he always does; he is such a gentleman, like you.

Anthony: But you always called me a tight-arse!

Me: Sorry, I got you mixed up with my dad. He was generous and you were stingy. Anyway, none of that matters now, Ants. Over lunch, Ming and I were reminiscing about funny incidents and we both still crack up about watching an episode of Midsummer Murders with you in which you said something like What an extraordinarily short woman!

The woman/character you were referring to was actually sitting down (which is why she seemed short to you). This was one of many first signs that we had Dementia in our midst.

Anthony: I didn’t know.

Me: I never told you. I didn’t want to embarrass you, Ants. You knew you had Parkinsons disease but you didn’t know about the dementia aspect.

Anthony: I know what I would have done.

Me: Oh great, heavenly hindsight – how kind of you!

Anthony: I would have done exactly what you did.

Me: Okay, okay, and sorry for being a tad argumentative on your deathday, but couldn’t you have given me a bit more of a warning?

Anthony: I did! Over and over again.

Me: I know! You had these TIAs and I kept thinking your death was going to happen any minute but you kept surviving, year after year, and that is why I was not at all ready for the actuality of your death; it wasn’t on my radar, Ants.

Anthony: I pushed your hand away on purpose, Jules.

Me: Why?

Anthony: I didn’t want you and Ming to see me die.IMG_0010

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Imagined conversation 22

These imagined conversations are my way of ploughing through the grief of losing my wonderful husband to pneumonia last year. I am not going mad and I am not delusional; I just miss talking to Anthony, so I decided to imagine the conversations we might have….

Me: It was our 25th wedding anniversary last month.

Anthony: I know, Jules, I know.

Me: I went to a grief workshop that night and told the others that it was our 25th wedding anniversary and J (remember J?) congratulated me/us.

Anthony: J? The fair-haired woman?

Me: Oh, sorry, Ants, I forgot that she only met you after you were dead. J is/was so kind and I am amazed that your funeral parlour hosts such wonderful workshops for people like me, who are struggling with their grief.

Anthony: Nothing like this was in my mind, Jules, when we got married. My only hesitation was due to the age gap; I didn’t know I was going to get sick and old at the same time.

Me: I didn’t know either, Ants. I was prepared for you getting old before me but I wasn’t prepared for all of your illnesses.

Anthony: Sorry, Jules.

Me: Not your fault, Ants. Somebody said to me the other day that it must be a relief that you died and I felt as if I had been punched. It was a well-meaning comment but it made me think about how much the fact that you had Dementia precluded people from visiting because they were scared.

Anthony: You think too much, Jules. Don’t worry about any of that because I’m fine now.

Me: I’m not.

Anthony: I miss you too, Jules.

Me: I want you back, Ants. I miss you so much that my brain is all foggy and unfocussed and I have never, ever felt so alone. I just want to talk to you!

Anthony: You are talking to me.

Me: So is that okay, if I keep talking to you?

Anthony: Of course!

Me: Yeah, but this is just me pretending to talk to you, Ants. I have to eventually get used to the reality that you are dead. I’m just as crazy about you now as I was when I was 18, but you’re gone!

Anthony: I’m not gone or we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Me: So where are you?

Anthony: I don’t honestly know….

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Imagined conversation 20

Anthony: Who are all of these men you keep thinking about?

Me: Will you please STOP reading my mind like that; it’s so disconcerting!

Anthony: Well, who are they?

Me: If you can read my mind, surely you know who they are.

Anthony: But I want to hear it from you, Jules.

Me: Okay, they are just a bunch of CEOs, film executives, producers and….

Anthony: I don’t like it.

Me: What? I thought you’d be proud of me!

Anthony: [potent silence]

Me: Oh. My. God. Are you actually jealous? I can’t believe it. Yes, you are jealous, aren’t you!

Anthony: Well I am a bit, actually. I don’t want you to want them to like you; it doesn’t feel right.

Me: Ants, there is absolutely nothing romantic going on, I can assure you. It’s you I want them to like, not me!

Anthony: That’s good then.

Me: So are we clear now?

Anthony: Sorry, Jules. I just don’t want to lose you.

Me: You couldn’t lose me even if you wanted to, Ants.

Anthony: So what do all of those guys think of me?

Me: They think you are wonderful, Ants – absolutely wonderful! Star material!

Anthony: You are so full of BS Jules.

Me: I’m meeting one of them tonight for cocktails because….

Anthony: For God’s sake, Jules – don’t do anything stupid.

Me: Gotcha!

 

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Imagined conversation 15

Anthony: JULES! HI!

Me: Wow, you beat me to it – I was just figuring out how to say hi after so long.

Anthony: What kept you so long?

Me: Well, Mother and I went to Sydney for L’s wedding and on the way up to the airport my car starting playing up.

Anthony: Your car?

Me: Okay, our car. Anyway so we got to the airport to find that our midnight flight had been cancelled. Can you believe it?

Anthony: Well you do live on Earth, Jules….

Me: So I ended up queuing for over an hour to find out what was what and I left Mother on a seat with the luggage and … long story short we end up paying a fortune in a taxi ride to a motel at around 2am and then….

Anthony: I actually know all about it, Jules.

Me: What? That Mother was so sick you mean, and that she pretended not to be sick so we could still go to the wedding?

Anthony: Yep – I saw it all from on high.

Me: So you were hovering unhelpfully over Katoomba Hospital when we finally got her admitted? Thanks for the help NOT!

Anthony: You know me, I don’t like to interfere in these mother/daughter escapades.

Me: So where were you when we finally got back and she ended up in hospital again?

Anthony: Sorry, Jules, I was playing poker.

Me: Anyway she’s finally coming good and has been discharged with a pile of meds.

Anthony: I know.

Me: So if you already know all of this, what’s the point of telling you?

Anthony: I like the sound of your voice.

Me: I actually thought she might die, Ants!

Anthony: Death hasn’t done any harm to me. Tell her I’m as fit as a fiddle.

Me: I love you, Ants.

Anthony: I love you too, Jules. Keep up the good fight.

Me: What?

Anthony: It’s from a hymn I’m learning.

Me: Why are you learning a hymn?

Anthony: My deep baritone seems to have caught the attention of the choir woman. Jules?

Me: Yes, Ants.

Anthony: Tell your mother I said hello and to take it easy.

Me: Okay … thanks, Ants. Oh and about our car….

Anthony: Yes, good idea to book it in for a check-up.

Me: Are you always going to be one step ahead of me, Ants?

Anthony: ‘Fraid so, Jules.

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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 clichés 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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Our TEDx talk

Here is the link to the talk Ming and I gave the other day at Bunbury’s TEDx event.

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9. “You seem like a very nice bloke.”

Ming visited Anthony yesterday and once again wasn’t recognised. I am so proud of the way Ming is handling this. Instead of feeling hurt and upset, Ming just goes with the flow and has fun with Anthony anyway.

Ming: Do you know who I am?

Anthony: Well, you seem like a very nice bloke.

Ming: Yes, Dad, but do you know WHO I AM?

Anthony: Aren’t you the hairdresser?

Ming: No – I’m your son – I’M MING, DAD!

Anthony: Yes, that’s right.

Ming has the same booming voice that Anthony used to have. He also has a similar gait and the other day as he suddenly appeared in my view through the front window, I thought for a split-second that it was Anthony. The nostalgia was unsettling, but also quite pleasant. He loves the stories I tell him about how Anthony used to be before and just after Ming was born. These stories have helped Ming to cope with Anthony’s ill health over the years, especially lately. Ming has very few childhood memories of having a father who was robust, gregarious, the loud, life-of-the-party, generous host because he was a one-year-old when Anthony suffered his first cancer – kidney cancer.

One of the most wonderful things for me is to see so many of Anthony’s qualities embodied in this larger-than-life son of ours. Ming is full of humour and a kind of boisterous grace. To hear him tell me about how fantastic his visit to Anthony was yesterday is like a gift.

Two very nice blokes.

 

 

 

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3. Existence

One of the most poignant conversations I’ve ever had with Anthony was a few months ago. From time to time he comes out with the most profound observations and I scribble these into my notebook because I know that later – sometimes much later – I won’t believe that he really said that.

Me: Is it okay if I write a book about you, Ants?

Anthony: No.

Me: Why?

Anthony: Because I don’t exist.

Was this dreadful statement about not existing a wisecrack, a joke, sarcasm? Anthony always had the most incredible attitude to life, and still has! He has no idea that he has Dementia and, now that he is virtually bed-ridden, I just tell him it’s the Parkinson’s Disease that makes him so tired.

Way back when we weren’t even married, there was an enormous spider in the kitchen which I rather shriekingly killed with a can of mortein. Later on, Anthony came in from milking the cows and I told him about my adventure. He looked at me, grief-stricken. “That was my pet spider, Jules!”

I was devastated! How could this man possibly ever love me when I had killed his pet spider? How could I make amends? Could I find another spider that looked like the one I’d killed? Did pet shops sell spiders?

We had a rather subdued meal until finally, unable to contain his mirth, Anthony guffawed and admitted that he was just joking. I am yet to experience a ‘phew’ quite like that!

And what is the point of this chapter? Well, maybe – just maybe, Anthony is just fooling around with us. Maybe he doesn’t have Dementia after all. Maybe these recent years have been a strange nightmare.

Me: Is it okay with you if I write a book about that spider, Ants?

Anthony: Of course.

 

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2. “Where is Mum?”

Anthony asks this question at least once a week and, because it distresses him, I have to be really careful with my answers. If I say she is fine and at home on the farm, he worries that she is alone and I have to reassure him that Ming is there with her.

This wonderful woman, Anthony’s mother, fondly called ‘Gar’ by family and friends, died over two decades ago. I adored her, was frightened of her (she was a true matriarch), and I was with her when she died at the age of  86. Her last words to me were, Will you look after Anthony? And, buzzing with all of the feelings that come with first love, I said yes.

I was a teenager, just 18, and Anthony was 41. My adoration of him was embarrassingly obvious to both Gar and Anthony. Gar encouraged it in a rather mischievous way but Anthony spurned my clumsy adolescent love-sick self, out of respect for my youth. It would be many years before he and I graduated from platonic to romantic.

Finally, at the age of 56, this workaholic, dairy farmer, best friend, bachelor, proposed. By then, I had steeled myself to imagine life without Anthony, but I had this absolute certainty about our son-to-be. And I was right. But I didn’t know that then.

Anthony’s proposal of marriage was almost too late as I was beginning a tentative relationship with another man – a kinder, younger, more generous man.  I was in my early 30s by then and thought it best to finally move on and away from Anthony.

Then, whammo, Anthony just came to his senses. It was so sudden and such a shock to hear him crying on the phone and declaring love. I had never known him to express such emotion so I was flabbergasted and cynical. But I got over that and said yes to the marriage proposal.

Gar had always encouraged it, after all!

Anthony: Where is Mum?

Me: She’s in the kitchen, making breakfast, Ants.

 

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