jmgoyder

wings and things

Aging ungracefully

I am just a few months away from turning 60 but I am not going to say when my birthday is because I don’t want to be inundated with sympathy messages from my younger-than-60 friends and empathy messages from my older-than-60 friends.

Anyway, jokes aside, and apart from the shock of wondering where the hell all those years decades went so hurriedly, I have actually been feeling a wonderful sense of wellbeing lately and, yes, even youthfulness! In preparation for the onset of my new decade, I recently embarked on a health kick – you know, meditation, mindfulness, eating natural foods, exercise, replacing old unhealthy habits (like too much coffee, a Netflix addiction, and the occasional bout of self-loathing, for example) with new habits like coconut water, jigsaw puzzles and saying I love you, you gorgeous creature into the mirror twenty times each morning. The results have been incredible with the unexpected bonus of looking much younger than the age I am about to become.

Or so I thought.

Yesterday, I went shopping for vitamin supplements to enhance my newfound sense of well-being. I took my little basket of goodies to the counter and, trained by Anthony to always ask for a discount, I beamed confidently at the beautiful young shop assistant and this was our brief conversation.

Me: Is there a discount for people who make big purchases like this?

Beautiful young shop assistant: No, but since you are a senior citizen we can….?

She faltered at my gobsmacked expression and finished with ….if not, I can, well – what about if I take 5% off?

I was still lost for words and felt like saying, 5% will not make up for the fact that you have thoroughly ruined my day, but I just said, Thank you, feeling the already-depleted collagen seeping from my previously rosy cheeks.

So now I cannot actually wait to turn 60 so that remarks like this will be justified.

I can definitely hear Anthony laughing.

 

 

 

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Regaining equilibrium: Imagined conversation 71

Anthony: Long time, Jules.

Me: I have been keeping our conversations more silent lately.

Anthony: I know, and even those will become less as time goes by.

Me: The strange thing about the pain of grief is that it feels a lot like excitement; it is almost exactly the same sensation, like a slight punch to the stomach that sort of fizzes up into the chest – a small explosion, short-lived.

Anthony: When does it happen?

Me: Well, yesterday I was having coffee with my mother at a chocolate shop and I had the fleeting, split-second thought that I would buy you a box of the new rose-coloured chocolates.

Anthony: Bittersweet?

Me: Yes, both the chocolate and then the inevitable moment that I remembered you were dead.

Anthony: You sound more at peace; that is what I have been praying for.

Me: Since when do you pray?

Anthony: Well it comes with the territory here, Jules.

Me: Oh. Well your prayers are working. I am much more hopeful now.

Anthony: Of what?

Me: Of nothing really – just hopeful.

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Illustration courtesy of Colleen at https://bikecolleenbrown.wordpress.com/

(Colleen is the friend who is collaborating with me on the book about grief).

 

 

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Springtime: Imagined conversation 70

Me: Thank God August is over.

Anthony: Okay, will do.

Me: Do what?

Anthony: I thought you asked me to thank God?

Me: Oh, I see….

Anthony: I felt it too, the August blues.

Me: Did you?

Anthony: Well, you know how I dislike winter.

Me: I didn’t think you got winter over there.

Anthony: No, but I felt for you.

Me: It wasn’t so much the winter; it was because it was the month you died. I thought I would get all sad on the 23rd but instead I was sad for the whole month. It was horrible.

Anthony: And now?

Me: Ever since the 1st of September – the first day of spring – it is as if a heavy fog has lifted.

Anthony: Good on you, Jules.

Me: I got a lot of comfort out of our conversations during August though.

Anthony: My pleasure.

Me: I don’t feel the need to talk with you as much now.

Anthony: You’ve said that before. Don’t worry – I will survive.

Me: Ha – ironic.

Anthony: You have a lot of living to do, Jules – at least another 20 years.

Me: If you had said that in August I would have felt daunted. Ming said my eyes went all dark.

Anthony: And now?

Me: Now I feel a sense of excitement.

Anthony: Shine on, baby!

Me: You too.

Anthony: I am so shiny now you would need your sunglasses.

Me: For some reason that conjured an image of nudity.

Anthony: You are so perceptive, Jules! I am at the naturist beach.

Me: Oh hell.

Anthony: No, this is heaven.

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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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You used to be tall: Imagined conversation 63

Me: Ming mentioned the other day that you were short and I was surprised because, when we first met, you were tall – well tall-ish.

Anthony: I was magnificent.

Me: Yes, I think you’ve already said that a few times. Anyway, I found this old photo of you from when you weren’t bent over, and I love it! I think it was before my time but I am not sure.

Anthony: It was well before your time, Jules.

Me: The side-burns are a bit off-putting.

Anthony: I have been thinking about growing them back.

Me: Nah.

Anthony at Ulupna

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Daddy Cool

I received an email this week, from the funeral directors, reminding me that it was nearly a year since Anthony died and offering links to grief counselling etc. I thought this was rather lovely as it affirmed that my August anxiety issues are perfectly normal – phew! There is nothing quite like being reassured that your abnormal behaviour is actually normal….

Anyway, in remembering the blur of my funeral arrangements, I recall being somewhat disappointed that my choice of exit music/song wasn’t played louder as the funeral ended. It was the Boney M 1979 version of the song Daddy Cool; and, at the time, I was 20 and he was 43. We were just best friends (all the romantic stuff happened much later) but we both loved Boney M.

I probably posted the link to this song last year but here it is again. Risqué, full of innuendo, hilarious, and wonderfully mischievous, this song catches a glimpse of the Anthony I fell in love with, and the daddy cool who Ming never met.

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Daddy+Daddy+Who+Cool&&view=detail&mid=EBB60415B4807E19572CEBB60415B4807E19572C&&FORM=VRDGAR

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Imagined conversation 61

Me: Thank you.

Anthony: That sounds a bit foreboding.

Me: I am so grateful, Ants.

Anthony: That sounds a bit final, Jules.

Me: You have listened, and even responded, to my grief-stricken ramblings with your back-to-the-futuristic voice with such patience.

Anthony: Your voice, actually…. and I have all the time in the world.

Me: But….

Anthony: A minor detail.

Me: You don’t even sound like you anymore. You sound fake.

Anthony: I am doing the best I can under the circumstances….

Me: Since you died, five of my friends have also lost loved ones, so I am learning about the multi-faceted nature of grief. Two sisters have lost their mother, two wives have lost their husbands and one husband has lost his wife

Anthony: Not lost, Jules. I have located all of them and they are lovely group of people.

Me: Oh I suppose you are now going to tell me they’ve joined your fictitious volleyball team or something else trite.

Anthony: Angels make very good umpires; trust me.

Me: Grief is not self-pity, trust me. It is a bit like an adventure into the unknown.

Anthony: So that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

Me: I guess so but it is such hard work; it can be absolutely debilitating. I had such a handle on the anticipatory grief but no way of knowing how it would be once you had actually died.

Anthony: I know you hate clichés but why not just go with the flow?

Me: If I did that, I would just stay in bed forever. I have to fight this rotten grief; it is just as exhausting as trying to go with the flow – so frustrating!

Anthony: What does Ming say?

Me: He emits pearls of wisdom the way you always did,; he lets me cry into his shoulder if I am in crying mode, like last night – argh; and he admires what you and I had/have in terms of love.

Anthony: I couldn’t have dreamt of a better son.

Me: I am so proud.

Anthony: So am I.

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