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wings and things

Imagined conversation 78

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Me: I miss you so much, Ants – sometimes it is like this silent, piercing, explosive shriek inside me and I can hardly bear the physical palpitating pain of it.

Anthony: Pull yourself together, Jules – you can do it.

Me: All this other wonderful stuff is happening but the joy I should be feeling is clouded over a bit by grief; it has now been 455 days since you died.

Anthony: 456 days to be exact.

Me: Are you kidding? Is there a time difference in Heaven?

Anthony: We do live in Western Australia, Jules.

Me: Was that a deliberate faux pas, Ants? You don’t live here anymore.

Anthony: I am in the air around the Aga.

Me: Oh shut up! Now I know you are kidding around and I guess that is what is the most painful thing for me – you had had so many TIAs but you always woke up again. When you did die, I thought for a moment that you just might be pretending.

Anthony: I am so sorry, Jules.

Me: Yeah, you did do the death thing brutally fast. I am glad for you but even after all of these long, longing, days, I am still a bit shocked at how fast I lost you.

Anthony: I miss you too, my beautiful girl.

Me: I will tell you more about your headstone tomorrow; it is absolutely perfect!

Anthony: I love you, Jules.

 

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What Love is, and is Not

Months ago I joined a local writing group but had only attended one meeting until tonight, when an open mic. event was hosted by a café in the little city ten minutes away from this farm.

I had written a short poem for a beautiful young couple, who were recently married in Fiji, because they reminded me of how Anthony and I were. Their love for each other resonated gently with me, but also made me super nostalgic.

Anyway, for the open mic. I extended the poem to include my grief at losing the love of my life, not anticipating that I might falter in my performance of it!

Here is the poem, dedicated in original form to Tash and Mike and, in extended form, to Anthony and me:

WHAT LOVE IS/& IS NOT

Sometimes,
when I am trying to
figure out
what Love is
and isn’t,
I endeavour to squish it
into a package of
neat-and-tidy certainty,
a security blanket of
absoluteness.
Full stop.

So,
I get anxious
about
the loose threads….

And then it strikes me
that Love is anything but
neat and tidy!

Instead,
Love is an unravelling….

Full of mystery,
and gasping with hope,
Love is a chuckling
journey,
a glass of water
on a really hot day,
and as simple
as a single, tiny,
plump
moment.

It will be my second Christmas without you,
my beautiful, adoring husband.
I want you back
to see the moonflowers blooming.
I want you back
to pick the figs and
to watch the blue wrens flitter busily.
I want you back
to watch Black Books and
to supervise the Sunday roast.
I want you back
to feel the bruise of my Love unravelling into your broad chest.
I want you back
to grip my hand in yours until my fingers crack.
I want you back to help me come to terms with life without you.
I
just
want
you
to
please
come
back.

Sometimes,
when I am trying to
figure out
what Love is
and isn’t,
I endeavour to squish it
into a package of
neat-and-tidy certainty,
a security blanket of
absoluteness.
Full stop.

So,
I get anxious
about
the loose threads….

And then it strikes me
that Love is anything but
neat and tidy!

Instead,
Love is an unravelling….

As I read the poem out tonight, I was in fine form until the third I want you back when I broke into stumbling tears. I was a bit embarrassed that my own poem made me cry but the audience, of around 50 people, was compassionate.

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Imagined conversation 77: Recurring dreams

Me: You know how I have these recurring dreams about you, Ants?

Anthony: Of course you dream about me, Jules; I was amazing!

Me: Nothing dead about your ego is there.

Anthony: I am so fit now, Jules, my washboards are back.

Me: Yeah well, can we just get back to the dream conversation and save your vanity for another time?

Anthony: Okay, go on.

Me: So there are two recurring dreams. The first is the one where I take you to a party and forget your Parkinsons pills and, just as I am panicking about this, you leap out of your wheelchair and start dancing. I love this dream and I like to think this is your new now.

Anthony: It is.

Me: The second dream is more complicated and is about my long-ago unrequited love for you when our 23 year age difference precluded us from embarking on a romantic relationship.

Anthony: Jules, we have already talked about this and I have already admitted I was smitten too but I was over 40 and you were a teenager. It was unthinkable.

Me: Yes, yes, I realise all of that and thanks for your gentlemanly respect back then but I knew, without any shadow of doubt, that you would be my husband one day. But, because you didn’t know back then, I had to suffer years of unrequited love and it was terrible and embarrassing. That is what the second recurring dream is about.

Anthony: Enthralling, Jules

Me: Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, Ants. Okay so I had a version of the second dream last night; I was in my 20s, in a rented flat in Perth, and I hadn’t seen you for exactly six months and I was finally feeling over you, so I decided to ring you up. As I was dialling your number on an old-fashioned phone, I gradually emerged from the dream, woke up and told myself to hang up before you answered – to play it cool.

Anthony: Sorry, Jules.

Me: So you should be, Ants – you wrecked my heart back then.

Anthony: Jules! We had over two decades of joy and produced the Ming.

Me: Yes, definitely your clone. Ants, I love you dead just as much as I loved you alive if that make sense. It sounds terrible to say that but what I mean is that I love you in the now even though you are dead.

Anthony: For so many years I couldn’t say it to you, Jules, and then I couldn’t stop saying it: I love you.

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Imagined conversation 76: the wording on your headstone

Me: The red speckled granite for your headstone has arrived and now Ming and I just have to finalise the wording and….

Anthony: Just keep it simple, Jules, don’t exaggerate.

Me: So do you want me to get rid of the header – The most beautiful man in the world ?

Anthony: No, that’s pretty accurate – keep that in.

Me: Noted. Okay, so then I want the inscription to say, succinctly, what you meant/mean to Ming and me, so I am tossing up between words like beloved, cherished, adored.

Anthony: All very apt but….

Me: Yes, I know you would really like the word worshipped in there but that doesn’t sit comfortably with me because I think it was you who worshipped me first and not the other way around.

Anthony: I beg to differ. You worshipped me first, Jules.

Me: Shut up! I thought we agreed that it was mutual years ago and anyway I don’t like the idea of worship because it implies godliness and you are the most ungodly person I have ever met.

Anthony: You keep forgetting where I am, Jules, so please refrain from the ungodly references.

Me: Okay so this is what I have so far: The Most Beautiful Man in the World/ Anthony Barr Goyder 1936 – 2017/ Admired and Respected by all who knew him/ Adored husband of Julie/Beloved father of Menzies. All of these little phrases are on separate lines on the headstone of course. What do you think?

Anthony: You do me proud, Jules.

Me: I still want to have a sort of punchline, like Unforgotten or Unforgettable but the first one has horror movie connotations and the second implies comedy. Plus I have been advised to leave room on the headstone for a few words about me for when I die.

Anthony: Oh … yes, I didn’t think of that.

Me: Ants, we never, ever had any sort of conversations about death, dementia, funerals because you always, always thought you were getting better and I let you believe that.

Anthony: You are a great liar…

Me: I loved you too much to tell you the truth. And anyway, why didn’t you tell me you were about to die? You never gave me a hint; you were in one of your slumps.

Anthony: I didn’t know I was going to die either, Jules.

Me: I thought you would overcome the slump, do another Lazarus, return to our ever-evolving new normal….

Anthony: It was a shock to me too, Jules.

Me: I am so glad that I nearly have your headstone done and dusted because it has been sort of haunting me in an unfinished business sort of way.

Anthony: It doesn’t matter, Jules….

Me: Yes it does, Ants.

Anthony: I am gone, Jules.

Me: No, you are not gone, Ants – you are here.

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Ants and Gutsy 2013?

 

 

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Lost for words….

Anthony: JULES!

Me: I lost count of our imagined conversations awhile ago – sorry, Ants.

Anthony: I know.

Me: So much private stuff blogged for the world to see, Ants. I am a bit embarrassed actually, now that my grief has calmed down.

Anthony: NEVER, EVER be embarrassed, Jules! It is beautiful.

Me: What is beautiful?

Anthony: Your love for me.

Me: What about your love for me?

Anthony: Surely that is a given?

Me: I just miss you saying it to me, Ants; it took so many years for you to be confident enough to say it….

Anthony: I adore you, Jules.

Me: Nearly.

Anthony: I worship the ground you walk on, Jules.

Me: Overkill.

Anthony: I love you, Jules.

Me: I love you too, Ants.

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You and me: Imagined conversation 69

Me: Exciting news, Ants.

Anthony: Well, it is about time, Jules. The white noise of our conversations was beginning to bore me.

Me: Yeah, same, so anyway one of my blog friends and I are going to collaborate in a project that synchronises her illustrations with our conversations.

Anthony: Which conversations?

Me: Not sure yet but probably some of the funnier dementia dialogues and maybe a few of the imagined conversations … what do you think? Here is the link to her blog:

https://bikecolleenbrown.wordpress.com/2018/08/26/figuring-it-out/

Anthony: I approve.

Me: You know, sometimes I cannot quite figure you out, in the NOW, I mean.

Anthony: C has it down pat – I am your angel now.

Screenshot (195)Me: No way am I going to think of you as my angel, Ants!

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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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I want you back: Imagined conversation 65

Me: I want to keep on talking with you during this week that I have dreaded since August began. Blogging our conversations is, I realise, a weird way of being publicly private and/or privately public and I am well aware of the paradox here but….

Anthony: You really do like to complicate things, Jules.

Me: No way! I would love to be able to simplify/compartmentalise/figure out the wild animal of this grief but I just cannot seem to get a handle on it.

Anthony: You know, when we first met and you were wearing a pink t-shirt, a long Indian skirt, sandals, and your amazing smile, something clicked but I didn’t know what it was.

Me: For me it was a textbook case of love at first sight. It didn’t matter that I thought you were the cowhand and didn’t realise for a few days that you were the actual patriarch so to speak. I was absolutely smitten and it was probably obvious – how embarrassing!

Anthony: I felt it too, Jules, but you were just a kid!

Me: You know that year before we got married where you got all lovey-dovey and admitted that you fell in love with me too way back when?

Anthony: Yes?

Me: Thanks for finally telling me that, because the unrequited thing was horrible. I guess you had already established a reputation for being the long-standing bachelor of our town and I think you rather liked this?

Anthony: Oh yeah, baby!

Me: We really do have a rather beautiful love story, don’t we.

Anthony: I haven’t even found anything comparable in Heaven.

Me: I yearn for you, Ants – it is like this long piece of string that I have to pull out of my throat every day. I know that sounds gross but that is exactly what it feels like to have lost you.

Anthony: Oh, Jules.

Me: I want you back, Ants.

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A visit to my psychologist: Imagined conversation 64

Anthony: Two conversations in one day. I am honoured!

Me: I went to see my psychologist, Daniella, today.

Anthony: Why do you need to see a psychologist?

Me: Let me think … well it just might be that the anniversary of your death is looming and glooming me – duhhh.

Anthony: Oh, that.

Me: I even cried a bit at the start of the session. I try not to do this usually but when she asked what was wrong I just said August, and then she realised. She was just as amazed as I am that it is nearly a year since you died.

Anthony: Daniella seems a benevolent soul.

Me: Bloody hell – I have never heard you say anything like that before!

Anthony: After death comes wisdom.

Me: Really?

Anthony: You will find a reference to this in the Song of Solomon.

Me: Okay, I get it now. You are trying to make me laugh. Bravo – you have succeeded!

Anthony: So what did Daniella say?

Me: To give myself a break, to stop berating myself for this and that, to breathe. She even indicated that my vibes were making her breathless. I told her that I had this constant mantra in my head of get over it, get over it, GET OVER IT, JULIE, since August 1st.

Anthony: And?

Me: Well then I blabbed on about how grateful I was for our rather unique relationship, our against-multiple-odds love story, Boney M, and my recurrent dream in which I take you from the nursing home to a party, forget your meds and you miraculously stand up out of the wheelchair and begin dancing.

Anthony: That dream has actually come true, Jules.

Me: Yes, that is what Daniella said! Do you still do your jumping up and down on-the-spot dance moves? You do realise, I hope, that the cracks in the wall of the living room are probably due to that dancing phase of yours.

Anthony: Sorry.

Me: I so wish Ming had known you back then and I told Daniella that too. I think that makes me sadder than anything else in the wake of your death; your beautiful son, who is so much like you in so many ways, never knew the ultra-lively man I fell for.

Anthony: Why have you put such a dreadful photo of me here?

Me: Because it was just before the nursing home days and Peter visited you once a week after that – one of your many wonderful nephews. His visits were like gold – remember?

Anthony: Yes.

Me: So Daniella suggested focussing on all of the good stuff, the funny stories, the great memories; she even suggested turning some of the sad bits of our story into something comical. Ingenious!

 

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