jmgoyder

wings and things

Imagined conversation 14

Me: You won’t believe it, Ants!

Anthony: Try me.

Me: I went kayaking today!

Anthony: You what?

Me: I went kayaking! I had a lesson with this lovely guy and I only fell out once, when I was first getting into the thing.

Anthony: What lovely guy?

Me: The kayaking instructor.

Anthony [pause]: Okay….

Me: I think I might even buy a kayak, Ants! What do you think?

Anthony: You’re a bit impulsive, Jules.

Me: No, I’m not, Ants. I kayaked for three hours and I loved it!

Anthony: You’re a burster, Jules.

Me: Well, that’s a good thing isn’t it?

Anthony: Be careful.

Me: Why? I’m not scared of anything anymore. You’ve already died.

[Note to readers: It is now over six months since my husband, Anthony, died from pneumonia, after years of being in a nursing home with advanced Parkinson’s disease dementia. Since then, I have battled a couple of severe bouts of major depression (a condition I already had), with the addition of grief rendering me almost as bedridden as Anthony was in the end. But, with the help of my psychologist, and my own determination, I’ve begun to embrace new adventures, and kayaking is one of these. The imagined conversations are just that – imagined. I miss talking to Ants, so I do it here.]

 

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Imagined conversation 13

Me: I did something a bit spontaneous today, Ants.

Anthony: That’s unusual, Jules.

Me: I bought myself a silver bangle – from you to me. It’s kind of a combination of a Christmas and birthday present. It’s nothing to do with Valentine’s day, I promise.

Anthony: Thanks for letting me know.

Me: Oh thank you so, so, so, much for it, Ants. I love it!

Anthony: My pleasure, Jules, you deserve it.

Me: Well, yes, I think I do too because you know the last few years when you always asked me to go and get myself a silver bangle for my birthday….

Anthony: I’m glad I could be of service.

Me: No, you don’t get it Ants, I only pretended to buy myself those bangles because I didn’t want to spend the money.

Anthony: What a good disciple you are.

Me: Yeah, so I would wear an old bangle that you’d bought me years ago, and you bought me heaps, remember? You even chose them.

Anthony: I have impeccable taste. You tend to like chunky, showy jewellery.

Me: That’s a horrible thing to say and not true at all!

Anthony: I prefer the subtle nuances of the bracelet myself.

Me: Anyway so I was having a coffee in town at a new place (I’m trying to get out and about more because that’s what people keep telling me to do) and I just happened to look up and there was the shop – Baroque Design Jewellery Studio – and, whammo, I felt this sudden, nostalgic urge that you wanted me to go there.

Anthony: I had nothing to do with it, Jules. You have an overactive imagination.

Me: Are you sure? I mean the urge was so strong and I walked in and reminded Tim that I was the girl (yeah I know I should have said ‘woman’ not ‘girl’, how embarrassing) who used to come once a year to buy a silver bangle, or bracelet, as a gift to myself from my adoring husband who wasn’t well enough to accompany me.

Anthony: A likely story.

Me: Are you even listening to me!

Anthony: Sorry – wondering when you’re going to get to the point. Is it afternoon tea time yet? I’d love a coffee.

Me: As soon as I saw the silver cuff I knew it was the one.

Anthony: The one what?

Me: The bangle that you would have wanted to give me….

Anthony: I’m sure it was, Jules….

Me: So I explained to Tim that the reason I hadn’t been into his shop for a few years was because you weren’t well and you were in a nursing home.

Anthony: I remember him – great bloke.

Me: I didn’t tell him I’d been wearing bangles you’d bought me years ago, pretending they were brand new.

Anthony: You didn’t tell me either.

Me: Well, I’m telling you now! So that’s why I figure I am kind of owed around four years worth of bangles maybe.

Anthony: Interesting logic.

Me: And then I told Tim you’d died and could he give me a discount for being a bereaved widow. I didn’t really mean to say that, it just popped out so I explained that you’d taught me the art of bargaining, or is it bartering, and he said you’d be proud of me and he knocked off a third of the price!

Anthony: Amazing.

Me: It’s not amazing; it’s amazing! Are there any exclamation mark classes where you are because you really need to lift your game.

Anthony: Show me the bangle and I’ll give you my opinion.

Me: See? Here it is, Ants. It’s a cuff; I’ve never had one before. Thank you!

Anthony: Why are you so excited?

Me: Because you gave me a gift and it marks the first year of me surviving without you.

Anthony: I actually haven’t been dead for a year yet but, what the hell, you’re right, Jules, it’s a lovely piece of work. Get it engraved.

Me: Really? Are you sure? So, something like ‘To my darling Julie, with all my love, from her eternally-besotted husband, Anthony’?

Anthony (laughing): No.

Me (laughing): What then?

Anthony: Just our initials will do.

[Note: Tim Cunningham is the jeweller at Baroque. He was so kind to me today. Perhaps he sensed that just underneath my excitement at buying the silver cuff was the devastation of having lost the physical presence of Anthony. Anyway, I asked Tim if it would be okay to share his website here and he said yes so here it is: baroquedesign.com.au]

 

 

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Imagined conversation 11

Anthony: By the way, why do you need my death certificate?

Me: Actually I think it’s about time we addressed the elephant-in-the-room situation.

Anthony: You’ve always wanted to go to Africa.

Me: Anthony, you know what I’m talking about so stop kidding around!

Anthony: All right then – what’s up?

Me: I’m a tiny bit worried about these conversations. Sometimes I’m in town doing errands and I can’t wait to get home to talk to you like this; it’s ridiculous because, even though I know I am making all of this up and it’s my imagination remembering your voice, it feels so real! It’s good though because I had actually begun to forget your quippy, sarcastic, loud sense of humour and our robust conversations – even our arguments – because you got so quiet in the nursing home. Out of all of the things we lost with the Parkinson’s I think it’s your booming voice I miss the most. Sometimes I look at photos of you laughing with your face all crinkled up with mirth and it bothers me that I can’t actually remember the sound of your laugh and … well, I need your death certificate to prove to the bank that you’re dead so that I can withdraw money and ….

Anthony: (SILENT PAUSE)

Me: OMG have I upset you? Ants?

Anthony: Sorry Jules, just ducked out for a word with the new guy. You were saying?

Me: OH GOD!

Anthony: Great bloke. Do you want me to get you an appointment?

Me: Is this really happening? Argh….

Anthony: Keep writing, Jules, keep writing.

 

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Imagined conversation 10

Me: You know Saint Anthony?

Anthony: At your service.

Me: No, not you; I mean THE Saint Anthony!

Anthony: I suppose he’s a Catholic is he?

Me: Well duuuuh – yes.

Anthony: I’m not Catholic and I don’t….

Me: He’s the saint who is supposed to find lost things.

Anthony: That’s good, Jules.

Me: I can’t find your death certificate and I’ve looked everywhere.

Anthony: That’s no good, Jules.

Me: Anyway, if you happen to bump into a guy called Saint Anthony….

Anthony: At your service.

Me: Oh, forget it.

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Imagined conversation on Anthony’s 82nd birthday

Me: Happy birthday, Ants.

Anthony: It’s not my birthday.

Me: I knew you’d say that but I am one step ahead of you. It actually IS your birthday, because this is the date you were born; it’s just that you’re not here to celebrate it.

Anthony: I don’t think I would have been up for much of a party anyway. I looked like sh**  in that bed, and dribbling from both ends! How could you stand it?

Me: Have you stopped swearing – what’s with the sh**?

Anthony: Time and place, Jules.

Me: Anyway, I’ve been thinking about how this is but isn’t your birthday, so do you want to hear the good news or the good news?

Anthony: Don’t you mean….

Me: C’mon, left hand or right hand?

Anthony: Left – no, right.

Me [under breath]: Well you always got those wrong anyway.

Anthony: I heard that. So, hurry up with the good news. The excitement is killing me.

Me: Okay well the first bit of good news is that you will never be 82 because you haven’t lived that long. Isn’t that wonderful?

Anthony: If you say so, Jules….

Me: And the second bit of news is … oh bloody hell – heck … I know I’ve written it down somewhere.

Anthony [in deep baritone sing-song voice]: Memory begins to fade in the twilight years, awakening all our fearsome fears….

Me: Oh shut up … here it is. Okay, you listening?

Anthony: Voraciously.

Me: The second bit of good news is that – oh, actually this is a bit lame but….

Anthony: Go on.

Me: Well, it’s that I won’t have to watch you suffer and die a long, slow, cruel death.

Anthony: Good point, good point. I actually have some good news for you too, Jules.

Me: Am I going to win lotto?

Anthony: I don’t know.

Me: Well, what’s the point of being dead and omniscient?

Anthony: My good news is this countdown thing they have here. It’s a bit complicated but ….

Me: Let me guess, you go backwards in time, right?

Anthony: Sort of.

Me: What a lot of rubbish!

Anthony: Wow, you sound like me!

Me: Well, you sound like me!

Anthony: It’s probably just that you’re getting our voices mixed up with each other in your head.

Me [Sighing]: Probably. This has evolved into quite a complex creative writing exercise. I mean writing to you, talking to you, makes sense, psychologically, but re-capturing your voice is surreal because it’s as if it really is you speaking.

 

Anthony: Don’t overthink it Jules – just go with the flow. But I’d rather be referred to as a voice, not a bloody creative writing exercise.

Me: Aha! You swore. Well thank God for that. You sound like you again, birthday boy. I miss you.

Anthony: I know. But you are going to flourish.

Me: See this is what is so disconcerting; I have never heard you use a word like “flourish”!

Anthony: It’s mentioned in Ming’s psychology diploma manual, on page 27. Actually the term “flourish” is repeated repeatedly throughout the course….

Me: Yes, I know, and it’s not a bad concept – much better than just surviving. Oh, I love talking about this kind of stuff with you, Ants.

Anthony: You are so sweet, Jules.

Me: So do I keep on chatting with you like this until the grief subsides or what?

Anthony: Do whatever you want, Jules. Play it by ear.

Me: I am so relieved I didn’t have another meltdown today.

Anthony: Why would you have a meltdown?

Me: Because it’s your birthday, and you’re dead, and I’m grief-stricken, you beautiful idiot!

Anthony: Steady on … that’s right, but we’ve already realised that there are at least three things that are good about me not being there for the occasion. I’ll talk to the countdown people and get back to you but in the meantime you could think of this as my 82nd unbirthday ….

Me: …. for want of a better ….

Anthony: Yes, and Jules?

Me: Yes, Ants?

Anthony: You mentioned lotto earlier ….

Me [excitedly]: YES?

Anthony: Money isn’t everything.

Me: [groaning with chagrin] OMG I can’t believe I’ve ended up married to some sort of weird angel/ghost/imaginary friend hybrid!

Anthony: And one with such exquisite musculature.

 

 

 

 

 

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Imagined conversation 8

Me: I’ve decided to go on a health kick – exercise every day, only eat natural foods – I’m even sprouting mung beans again.

Anthony (yawning): The deja vu is killing me.

Me: I’ve even started using those weights of yours – you know the red ones that were in your nursing home room.

Anthony: You mean the ones I used to pretend I thought I was good at?

Me: Yes, I mean no. Wait a sec. I thought I was the one who was pretending you were good at it.

Anthony: Jules?

Me: Yes?

Anthony: I may have had a spot of dementia, but I wasn’t a complete fool.

Me: I wasn’t saying that and you know it!

Anthony: About your health kick….

Me: What about it?

Anthony: Long may it last.

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Imagined conversation 7

Me: It’s 2am and I can’t sleep.

Anthony: 2.09am to be precise.

Me: You’re quick!

Anthony: Don’t eat too many of those cherries or you’ll get the runs.

Me: I see my psychologist later on this morning.

Anthony: Why the hell do you think you need to see a psychologist?

Me: I think that’s pretty obvious, don’t you?

Anthony: What a lot of rubbish. It can’t be that bad, Jules.

Me: It isn’t as bad as it was but, oh, you wouldn’t understand. You’re lucky you’re the resilent type. Anyway, I’m going to try to go back to sleep. You would love these cherries!

Anthony: What are they a kilo now?

Me: A small fortune!

Anthony: Hmm, they’re free here. Actually everything’s free.

Me: Ha – I bet you like that!

Anthony: Too right.

 

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Imagined conversation 6

Me: Why did you un-grip my hand from yours just before you died?

Anthony: You were hurting my hand.

Me: I was worried!

Anthony: I know.

Me: Actually I was terrified.

Anthony: Well I wasn’t, so don’t worry about that.

Me: That’s when I left your room to talk to Ming about what to do if you died in the night. Like, whether to ring him straight away, or what.

Anthony: Oh I didn’t know that.

Me: The doctor said it could be hours or days – did you know that?

Anthony: No, because you were all whispering, whispering, whispering….

Me: Oh, sorry, Ants. I just didn’t want you to hear that you might be dying and get scared.

Anthony: I wasn’t scared, just bloody uncomfortable. And Jules?

Me: What?

Anthony: It was easier to die with you out of the room.

Me: I thought that was one of those myths.

Anthony: I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.

Me: No, it wasn’t that – it was just the shock. I was all ready to spend another night in the nursing home with you so I could get my head around you dying. I even had a DVD to watch. I felt – feel – so cheated somehow.

Anthony: Aha – gotcha!

Me: So you tricked me?

Anthony: Yep.

Me: But why?

Anthony: I didn’t want you to see me take my last gurgling breath; it was a bit embarrassing. And I didn’t want you crying all over me.

Me: But I did cry all over you!

Anthony: Oh. Sorry. I was long gone by then.

Me: What do you mean ‘long gone’? We were only out of your room for a few minutes!

Anthony: Time just seems different now.

Me: I just want my hand back in yours.

Anthony: Well you could have arranged to have it cut off and mummified, I suppose.

Me: Argh!

Anthony: You worry too much, Jules.

Me: I’m so tired from grieving.

Anthony: Well, I was a magnificent specimen of a man so it’s no wonder.

Me: Thanks for the laugh, Ants.

Anthony: You gotta laugh, Jules. Anyway, how’s your mother? Is she still making those blanketty things?

Me: Yes, but probably not as enthusiastically as she was when she was sitting with you.

Anthony: Good on her. She’s a good soul.

Me: ‘Soul’? Since when do you use words like ‘soul’?

Anthony: Since I died.

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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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Facing forever

In amongst what I thought was old paperwork, I found a recently purchased ‘Reflections Journal’ in which I had written the following:

Monday 21st August, 2017: The gift of breath is a beautiful thing.

I don’t know why I wrote that now. I was probably deciding to go on a new diet, planning an exercise program for myself, or else thinking about thinking about the benefits of meditation.

People like me (with elderly loved ones in nursing homes with diseases like Parkinson’s and Dementia) should be more prepared for Death.

I wasn’t.

Wednesday, 23rd August, 2017: Anthony died. I didn’t write this in the Reflections Journal; I just wrote it in my day-to-day diary because I couldn’t find anywhere else to write/think/say it. I listed ‘Anthony died’ with a shopping list of milk, bread, apples and bananas.

After so many years of nearly dying, my beautiful husband did actually die and, even after nearly six months, I can’t quite fathom this.

I am not in denial and I know Anthony is dead. I miss him to the point of debilitating depression but, at the same time, I can feel some sort of weird, encouraging, wave; he was so resilient, and lackadaisical, and a master of calmness, easy-goingness, acceptance. Ming and I are so lucky to have this legendary husband and father to teach us about fortitude.

Ming and I have this new tradition of having breakfast together and, this morning, we talked about Anthony. It’s my birthday and for years Ants bought me a silver bangle (which I would choose!) It didn’t seem necessary this year; there didn’t seem any point.

So I didn’t buy myself a pretend gift from Anthony; it just didn’t sit well with me because he was so ill for so many years (even before the many years in the nursing home) that I just thought enough was enough. I did, however, buy myself an on-sale Oroton handbag that Anthony would have approved of.

The idea of forever (without Ants) is bleak, yes, but it is also an inevitable challenge that I am willing to meet. As a small child, I wanted wisdom so I guess this is it!

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