jmgoyder

wings and things

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 57

Anthony: I know.

Me: I really hoped that August might not affect me, but it has.

Anthony: Nearly a year since I last saw you.

Me: Those last 24 hours of your life haunt me now because I worry, all over again, about whether you were suffering. Eight hours in the hospital on a trolley, waiting for I am not sure what now! You were barely conscious and I was probably nearly fracturing your hand by holding it for so long.

Anthony: I remember.

Me: My worst memory is, having asked you if you were okay over and over again, you shook your head, no. That is when I began to realise things were bad because for so many years of me asking if you were okay, you would always say. Fit as a fiddle. And it wasn’t my decision to ambulance you to hospital, Ants; it was taken out of my hands. I am so sorry!

Anthony: Jules, the hospital hours are forgotten to me. All I remember is you getting the ambulance to take me back to the nursing home so that I could die in my own bed. That was a blessing.

Me: Did you know you were going to die then, Ants?

Anthony: No, and I am so sorry it was so fast, Jules.

Me: Ming understands my troubled state and even predicted August might be hard for me.

Anthony: Ming understands a whole lot more than that, Jules!

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Photo: Courtesy of Mandy Goyder

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Imagined conversation 56

DSCN0928Me: Today, I had some rather wonderful visits with people who have dementia.

Anthony: What is the point, Jules? They have all lost their marbles.

Me: So did you!

Anthony: Rubbish!

Me: Okay, whatever you say.

Anthony: Why are you crying?

Me: Because I miss your sarcasm so much, Ants.

Anthony: Do you have to hug and kiss them so much, Jules?

Me: Please say you are not jealous, Ants, because that would be ridiculous. Anyway, I only do the hugging/kissing thing casually and tend to just put my arm around a shoulder here and there.

Anthony: That sounds reasonable.

Me: I wish you were still here to advise me like you always did before, about my toomuchness.

Anthony: You have the Ming for that, Jules.

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Imagined conversation 52

Anthony: Stop censoring yourself, Jules. You can say anything you want!

Me: That’s kind of Ming’s philosophy too. I’ll be agonising about a simple decision and he always says, “MUM! DO WHAT YOU WANT!”

Anthony: He’s right, that boy of mine.

Me: He’s pragmatic, assertive, hilarious and LOUD, just like you. Oh, and I almost forgot to tell you – he’s wearing your Omega watch now. He was never interested before but now that you are dead, it appeals to him more.

Anthony: Ah yes, 1970. That was a good year.

Me: On the back of the watch it says, “Anthony Barr Goyder 1970.” I know I was 11 at the time and living in Canada so you would have been 34. Why did you buy yourself the watch? I know, when I met you, you wore it often, and with some pride, but I never asked you about it. Why didn’t I?

Anthony: Because you weren’t interested.

Me: Sorry.

Anthony: Does it fit Ming’s wrist?

Me: It’s a tiny bit loose but wearable and I am trying not to show too much excitement about him wearing your watch in case my sentimentality puts him off.

Anthony: He adores you, Jules.

Me: He brings me back into focus always. He always knows when something is off with me and tells me that my eyes have gone dark – weird.

Anthony: You are a bit weird lately, Jules.

Me: It’s just that August is approaching, which will make it a year since you died and my sense of grief is so unpredictable. I just want it to go away; I want the grief to go away because it’s in the way. No offence, Ants.

Anthony: None taken. The thing is, Jules, the grief won’t go away.

Me: But why?

Anthony: It’s part of who you are now, apparently. Your dad gave me a cheat sheet at a recent grief counselling session so that’s how I know this.

Me: So, you guys, the dead, grieve for us, the living? No way – that is impossible!

Anthony: I kid you not, kid.

Me: Oh Ants, these imagined conversations with you have become so much fun for me, as well as poignant etc. Often, I can hear memories of your sarcastic, funny voice and your straight-up response to my dramatics. Thank you for all of these amazing memories of our real conversations; thank you for being so devoted to me when you were alive; and thank you for these incredible imagined responses from you.

Anthony: You forgot to mention my beautiful body.

Me: I cannot believe I let you say that, Ants; shut up!

Anthony: As you wish.

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Imagined conversation 50

Anthony: How’s Ming?

Me: Yes, Ming, it’s always Ming. What about me? When you were still alive the first thing you would always say to me is “How’s Ming?” instead of what you should have said….

Anthony: Hello, your royal highness; is that better?

Me: Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.

Anthony: So is repetitiveness.

Me: Ming is fine and now recovering well from a dreadful bout of lovesickness, the details of which I will not divulge here but you know anyway.

Anthony: I only ever understood that when I thought I might lose you, Jules.

Me: Understood what?

Anthony: Lovesickness.

Me: Oh yes, that phase. I remember you crying down the phone and I thought you must have been pretending because it was so unlike your usual macho-ness. And the flowers you sent! Cheap, poignant and astonishing, almost as astonishing as your utterance of the words ‘love’ and ‘marry’ and I was just about to get on a plane to the other side of Australia to see a man who adored me.

Anthony: Those flowers weren’t cheap, Jules.

Me: It was too late, Ants.

Anthony: I was going to lose you, Jules.

Me: I lied to you and said I was just visiting a friend up north.

Anthony: I suspected and rang the travel agent and he broke protocol by telling me you were going to Sydney.

Me: Yeah, to meet a man who adored me instantly. I had finally given up on you. It wasn’t a game, or a dare, or an ultimatum; I really had decided that this confirmed bachelor, best friend, workaholic dairy farmer wasn’t suitable.

Anthony: I’m so sorry, Jules.

Me: Yeah, that’s what you kept saying on the phone to me the night before my flight; you used every lovesick cliché I’d ever heard. I took notes because I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and I wrote them on a big pad during my plane flight because I knew, if I didn’t write your words down, I would never believe you had said them.

Anthony: I suddenly realised I might lose you.

Me: Better late than never I suppose but you have no idea how ghastly it was to be chased around a penthouse for days on end by a man who had paid for my trip and expected some sort of recompense. Even when I read him bits from my notes of what you had said to me in that phone-call, through the locked bathroom door, he persisted.

Anthony: Why did you go?

Me: It was all booked and paid for and I felt obligated. How was I supposed to know you would have this almost-too-late epiphany about me?

Anthony: I feel like such an idiot now.

Me: Good.

Anthony: I thought forgiveness was important to you.

Me: It is, but a little bit of guilt doesn’t do anyone any harm.

Anthony: Jules?

Me: What?

Anthony: How’s Ming?

Me: Much better.

Anthony: That’s all I wanted to know.

Me: What about me?

Anthony: You are ferociously fine, Jules.

Me: And the best thing about this post?

Anthony: You are laughing?

Me: Yes!

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Imagined conversation 49

Anthony: “How’s my boy?”

Me: He likes to talk things through.

Anthony: Sounds like someone else I know.

Me: I told him once that I wished he were more like you than me.

Anthony: How so?

Me: Less intense, more lackadaisical.

Anthony: But he’s a larrikin after my own heart.

Me: More like a larrikin with a complicated heart. Anyway guess what he said?

Anthony: Was it as profound as my many utterances?

Me: Definitely. He said, “Mum, I adore everything about me that is like you.”

Anthony: Not bad, but what about my genes?

Me: I have encouraged him to cultivate those but he obviously likes being intensely, philosophically, introspectively himself.

Anthony: But what about…?

Me: Don’t worry, he is also extremely loud, boisterous, fun-loving, easy-going and straight-from-the-shoulder honest.

Anthony: I keep thinking he is still a little boy.

Me: You used to see hallucinations of him as a little boy in your nursing home room all the time so, when this great big hulk of a man visited, you couldn’t quite compute that it was Ming.

Anthony: I was in awe.

Me: I’ll tell him that.

Anthony: Tell him I love him from beyond the grave and that I now have super powers.

Me: Ants, he’s not 10!

Anthony: Jules, I was just trying to make you laugh!

Me: Oh, sorry, yes and you’ve just reminded me of what made our unlikely union work so well – the laughter, so much of it. I wish now that I could bundle it all up – all of that laughter – and give it away, or back to us somehow, like a gift.

Anthony: You can, Jules. You can do anything you want to do with intangibles – emotions, thoughts, words, memories, hopes, dreams, even sorrows….

Me: Are you talking about quantum physics here, Ants? I hope not, because I am in Ming’s psychology course mode at the moment.

Anthony: And…?

Me: Well he has this rather new idea that kindness is better than knowledge when it relates to power.

Anthony: Would you like me to ask God? (There are a few of them here.)

Me: That would be great – thanks, Ants!

Anthony: About Ming.

Me: Yes?

Anthony: He will figure everything out himself so there is no need for us to worry about him. Ever.

 

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Imagined conversation 46

Anthony: Now what?

Me: Haha – I knew you’d say that. Don’t tell me, let me guess – you are playing chess with Elvis.

Anthony: Just a minute, it’s my move … okay, what’s up?

Me: What did you mean, yesterday, when you said there was no hurry?

Anthony: Generally speaking, Jules, you tend to be in a hurry to get nowhere.

Me: What do you mean?

Anthony: I know about google now, Jules.

Me: So?

Anthony: I noticed that you looked for “ways to fast-track grief”.

Me: Oh, how embarrassing. Sorry, Ants – it was nothing against you. I was just trying to figure out how to feel better faster. I am so sick of the sadness. I am so sick of my sad self!

Anthony: You know how you used to put that funeral photo of me in your back pocket?

Me: Yes? I haven’t done that for ages.

Anthony: That’s what you do with the grief, Jules – you put it in your back pocket, all cosy and warm against your bum – then you live.

Me: I keep seeing you everywhere – not like a ghost or anything, just people who remind me of you.

Anthony: Elvis gets that too.

Me: Yeah, I know – someone just saw him in Passadena, apparently. Are you really playing chess with him or are you just kidding? I never know with you.

Anthony: Struth!

Me: I want you back, Ants.

Anthony: I want you back too, Jules.

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Imagined conversation 45

Me: If you’d been a friend of yours, would you have visited yourself in the nursing home?

Anthony: No. I wouldn’t have bothered. I would have thought, poor old bloke doesn’t know what day it is.

Me: Okay so what if it had been me in the nursing home and our situations were somehow reversed?

Anthony: Ah, now that’s a tricky one. I probably would have visited once or twice then mostly avoided it. I know you hate this cliché, Jules, but I would have wanted to remember the way you were.

Me: Yeah that was sort of Ming’s attitude to you and certainly that of many others I guess. I think once someone is in a nursing home the generalised perception is that they are the living dead.

Anthony: Not just the nursing home, Jules – don’t forget the Dementia.

Me: I thought you thought Dementia was a taboo word in our conversations!

Anthony: Not anymore – I actually find it quite fascinating to watch all of the replays of how it affected me. You have the patience of a saint.

Me: I couldn’t have put it better myself, Ants; anyone would think I was putting the words into your mouth.

Anthony: I can think for myself, Jules. Give me a bit of credit.

Me: You seem to be twirling the subject.

Anthony: Are you talking about the subject (topic) or the subject (self)?

Me: OMG, have you actually read my PhD thesis?

Anthony: Plenty of time in Heaven, so yes.

Me: You never bothered to read it on Earth!

Anthony: Hindsight.

Me: Duh. So what! I’ve had hindsight since before I was born!

Anthony: Actually, Jules, I don’t think that’s possible but I’ll check with my new mates who, by the way, think you are wonderful. In fact, we are using some of your material for our Hindsight workbook for the more elderly dead people.

Me: Oh, okay. You guys might need to use a different phrase to ‘dead people’ – just a suggestion.

Anthony: Noted.

Me: Ants? Sorry, but you sound like a secretary – you don’t sound like you anymore.

Anthony: Which ‘me’ do you mean? The sickly, deathly, demented but extremely witty, me, or the hunk you married?

Me: I’m not sure.

Anthony: I’ve evolved.

Me: I beg your pardon?

Anthony: If our situations were reversed and you had been in a nursing home for many years, I would visit you often.

Me: How often?

Anthony: Every few days..

Me: Why?

Anthony: Because I would want you to know how much I loved you.

Me: Sometimes I feel a physical tug of yearning to visit your nursing home, even though you aren’t there anymore. During a couple of my motorbike lessons, the instructor and I went past the nursing home and I almost lost my breath.

Anthony: Julie.

Me: What do you mean, ‘Julie’? You never call me that.

Anthony: I am trying to get your attention, Jules!

Me: That’s more like it.

Anthony: There is something that I want to say to you that you really need to hear.

Me: That sounds a bit ominous.

Anthony: THERE IS NO HURRY.

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Imagined conversation 44

Me: Life is so complicated, isn’t it.

Anthony: Spot on, Jules, you got that right.

Me: And people are so complicated, aren’t they.

Anthony: Yes, they are, Jules.

Me: I have just realised why our conversations with each other, over all of the years we have known each other, have been so easy.

Anthony: And your conclusion?

Me: Well you do this very clever [devious] thing where you affirm me even when you disagree with me.

Anthony: I can read bracketed information, Jules.

Me: Whoops, I forgot about all of your omnis.

Anthony: Having an argument with you, Jules, was like being in a hurricane.

Me: Sorry, Ants. At least we didn’t do it often.

Anthony: But you were right. Always.

Me: I know, Ants, but I didn’t know you knew that!

Anthony: I wasn’t allowed in through the Heavenly gates until I did the Hindsight test.

Me: OMG that sounds horrible.

Anthony: The facilitators were very understanding.

Me: What did they say? I’m curious.

Anthony: They told me that I had nearly left it too late to propose marriage to you.

Me: Really? What else did they say?

Anthony: That I’d been an idiot not to have proposed earlier….

Me: And?

Anthony: Everything about everything about the 40 years I have known you, Jules, is the way it was always supposed to be.

Me: No, I don’t believe in that fate stuff, Ants – I much prefer the idea of contingency. Anyway, forget all that philosophical stuff. Where are you?

Anthony: I’m in Heaven.

Me: But where is that?

Anthony: I don’t know but wherever it is, it’s great.

Me: These imagined conversations with you are so weird. I recognise that what I am doing is a sort of therapeutic writing exercise but, at the same time, it feels organic and I only chat with you like this when I feel like it.

Anthony: Jules, STOP worrying about what people might think.

Me: Okay.

Anthony: And let’s keep talking like this, as much or as little as you want. I am very happily dead now, Jules, so concentrate your fantastic love on the Ming.

Me: Okay.

Anthony: Just a second: Plato and Soc. are both telling me different things about you.

Me: Is Foucault there too?

Anthony: Sorry, Jules – they’re all in the middle of a game of chess, but Plato just mentioned something about love being a kind of madness that is heavenly. Does that make sense?

Me: I know the quote, Ants! “The madness of love is the greatest of heaven’s blessings” Plato. Did he really say this?

Anthony: He is nodding yes.

Me: This is like some sort of kindergarten ‘let’s pretend’ game, Ants, but it is so much fun! I love and miss you with all of my poor, exhausted, grief-stricken heart.

Anthony: Get a life, Jules.

Me: What?

Anthony: I’m dead. Accept it. Move on.

Me: I can’t believe that you have just said what all of those horrible, wonderful idiots say: move on.

Anthony: They’re not idiots, Jules.23602295_1267621250049965_1843189380_n

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Imagined conversation 38

Me: Do you remember that trip to Balingup?

Anthony: And the oysters?

Me: Yes.

Anthony: I’ll never forget it.

Me: I’ll never forget it either. You were mobile and you easily walked out of the nursing home, and we easily got you into the car, and I easily drove you back through time to the place of your childhood.

Anthony: And the old pub, all done up.

Me: And it was a beautiful day.

Anthony: You were in a hurry.

Me: Yeah, but only because if I didn’t get you there soon enough – at least by noon – the timing might not work, the pills might not kick in, you might get that nervous constipation thing, or worse….

Anthony: Worse?

Me: The opposite.

Anthony: Oh you mean my penchant for pooing unexpectedly?

Me: Yeah, that and the whole panic thing, for me, and Ming too. You know like that time in the restaurant where Ming had to take you to the toilet and figure it out, and that other time – OMG – after the funeral when your nephew had to figure it out….

Anthony: Sorry about that, Jules. We didn’t know about adult nappies then did we – wonderful invention.

Me: I was always amazed by your lack of embarrassment – like you just took it all in your stride!

Anthony: What else could I do? My bowels stopped belonging to me.

Me: You see, that’s one of the things I most admire about you – the way you accepted it all. I would be dying of embarrassment for you and yet you’d always be so sort of ….

Anthony: Philosophical?

Me: Yes!

Anthony: And the point of this conversation is…?

Me: Oh, sorry, our back to Balingup outing. So it was only an hour’s drive but you began to visibly falter about ten minutes before I parked the car at the pub so I was doubtful as to whether I’d be able to get you out of the car and into the restaurant.

Anthony: You were so weak.

Me: What do you mean I was so weak? You were like a dead weight! I couldn’t even move you enough to get the stupid seat-belt off, and when I finally did, I couldn’t get your legs around enough to get you even close to getting out of the car, and when I finally did, I couldn’t get you to stand up, even with the walker.

Anthony: I kept wondering why you couldn’t do it.

Me: How could you not know how bloody heavy you were?

Anthony: Because I didn’t feel heavy to me? I was skinny.

Me: Argh, that again – always so proud of your washboards? You were teensy in the end – diminished!

Anthony: You want to say “pathetic” don’t you.

Me: What?

Anthony: I was pathetic. I know that now.

Me: Okay, you were pathetic, yes, but you were also heroic, and I wanted to take you to Balingup for lunch and such a simple thing became a kind of nightmare. When I couldn’t even get you out of the car, I rushed in to see if they might bring the food out to us and they said yes! And they even had oysters – fresh oysters – and I ordered two dozen.

Anthony: An unexpected delight….

Me: And you vacuumed down the first dozen so I rushed back in to ask for another dozen and they got served to the car!

Anthony: You’re a champion, Jules.

Me: Seeing you eat those oysters, and not having a toilet issue, equalled pure joy, Ants. And then, all of a sudden, it became urgent to get you back to the nursing home and all you wanted to do was stay in Balingup.

Anthony: I’ve never seen that trip back from your perspective until now.

Me: I was freaking out because you were slumping so badly and I was worried we’d overdone it. Plus how the hell was I going to get you out of the car and back into the nursing home when you were almost comatose on the way back?

Anthony: But you did it – we did it.

Me: Yes but at the time all I wanted to do was get away from you and the nursing home and get home and just be by myself, away from the horror of your incapacity, away from the bittersweet day, away from the overwhelming love-guilt I had for you.

Anthony: My memory is different; it was a wonderful day.

Me: Yes but it was also final, Ants.

Anthony: How so?

Me: Well, I didn’t know it then but it was the last time I ever took you out and I am so so sorry for this.

Anthony: Please don’t cry, Jules. I wouldn’t have bothered to take me out in the first place.

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