jmgoyder

wings and things

Imagined conversation 40

Anthony: We must stop meeting like this.

Me: Oh, very funny.

Anthony: What’s up?

Me: Well, you know how I used to always remember the anniversary of my dad’s death?

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Anthony: I remember your tears, I remember you always rang your mother, and I remember you being in a filthy mood and I didn’t know what was wrong….

Me: ….and then I’d tell you and you would be so compassionate and beautiful and nonplussed.

Anthony: Why have you always remembered June 9, your father’s deathday, and not his birthday?

Me: Maybe I’m morbid. Anyway, why are you cross-examining me?

Anthony: Morbid curiosity? By the way, his birthday is in April and I know this for a fact.

Me: Okay, so what date exactly? I’m ahead of you because I just messaged my Meg.

Anthony: Just a moment, Jules. I need to talk to the man himself.

Me: This is ridiculous, Ants! How am I expected to believe that you, John Wayne, and now my dad, Brinsley Lane, are all in cahoots?

Anthony: We all like chess?

Me: Well, I know my dad liked chess but you never even touched that extremely expensive marble chess set I gave you on your birthday in….

Anthony: Jules?

Me: What now?

Anthony: Dairy farmers don’t play chess.

Me: Oh.

Anthony: Brin’s  birthday was the 10th of April. Four days ago marks the 40th anniversary of his sudden death of a heart attack at the age of 57 when he reluctantly left your mother a young widow, and you teenage kids without a dad.

Me: How is he, Ants?

Anthony: Put it this way, Jules; I thought I loved you but this guy, Brin, your dad, loves you more.

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Imagined conversation 39

Anthony: Howdy!

Me: ‘Howdy’?

Anthony: Too much time with John Wayne, I guess.

Me: Always joking, never serious, my husband, the life of the party.

Anthony: You sound angry, Jules.

Me: I am angry, Ants!

Anthony: Not my problem.

Me: What do you mean, not your problem? You died! OMG you are just as impossible as you were when you were alive!

Anthony: Is this about Ming?

Me: No! Well, yes! Okay, maybe. He doesn’t remember you being a conventional dad. Actually, he doesn’t remember you being a dad at all and I have to show him photos to prove to him that you were a wonderful dad before you got sick.

Anthony: Is that all?

Me: What do you mean, ‘is that all?’ Ming is affected, Ants!

Anthony: You worry too much, Jules. Ming is a fine, strapping, slightly taller version of me.

Me: Actually, he is quite a lot taller than you, Ants.

Anthony: All-right, I’ll concede that.

Me: I was just telling him about how much you loved him and how you use to say “My Boy” and I made myself cry. Ridiculous!

Anthony: Not ridiculous at all, Jules. I am a force to be reckoned with.

Me: I guess I am in the reckoning-with phase of grief then?

Anthony: No, Jules! You aren’t in any phase – you are just you and everything about you- being-you is absolutely perfect.

Me: I miss you so much; it’s a physical pain in my stomach.

Anthony: How’s my boy? How is Ming?

Me: Don’t you care about my stomach?

Anthony: Yes, but how is Ming?

Me: I think he might be in love.

Anthony: Just a sec. – talking to Wayney.

Me: Wayney?

Anthony: John Wayne.

Me (sigh): Okay, so what does he suggest?

Anthony: Eat more greens.IMG_0008

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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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Imagined conversation 36

Me: Your headstone has become a real headache.

Anthony: How so?

Me: Well, for me, it has been this final thing to do – sort of looming but at the same time something that might, strangely, be enjoyable, like choosing what colour of what stone, what words and….

Anthony: So what’s the problem?

Me: On the surface of things, it’s that I can’t choose the right monument. I mean I know that you wouldn’t have wanted anything ostentatious or expensive but at the same time I can’t just leave that cross the funeral parlour gave us.

Anthony: Why not?

Me: Well because it looked all shiny and lovely at the burial. Now it’s all faded and has probably fallen over in the last storm. Plus the dirt on your grave still hasn’t gone down so I’m not sure how placing the headstone works. Every time I start the conversation with the various headstone people, I stop again. I choose the colour of the granite, I choose the words with Ming, I get various quotes, and then I baulk, and that horrible of sensation of fear comes back

Anthony: But, Jules, it doesn’t matter – none of that matters. You matter, and Ming matters. I’m gone.

Me: So who am I talking to then?

Anthony: You are talking to an imagined me – you already know that.

Me: So what do I do about your headstone? People are starting to wonder.

Anthony: So let them wonder!

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Me: I have it in my mind and heart that placing the headstone should be on August 23, the anniversary of your death. That way I don’t have to panic about doing it right now and that way I can choose more sensibly, without all of this emotion.

Anthony: Wise decision, Jules.

Me: I wish you were here to help me with all of this, Ants.

Anthony: So do I.

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Imagined conversation 31

Me: I haven’t wanted to talk to you lately.

Anthony: I noticed.

Me: Ever since talking to the headstone people I just kind of wanted to run away from the situation.

Anthony: What situation?

Me: Your death.

Anthony: Oh, that – yes.

Me: I’ve gone past the nursing home a few times now, on my motorbike lessons, and it always gives me a bit of a jolt. I saw a photo of you and C. at the nursing home and it shocked me to know that was only months before you died. I keep wanting to see you; it’s horrible, like a yawn of yearning. I’m not trying to be poetic either – it feels like the middle of me is doing this yawwwwwwn thing all the time.

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Anthony: Am I boring you?

Me: Very funny, not. Not that kind of yawn – the kind where you need more oxygen. Isn’t that what a yawn is?

Anthony: [Silence]

Me: And then a gaspy thing happens and I can breathe again and then, finally, I can cry.

Anthony: Why do you want to cry?

Me: I don’t want to cry really but sometimes when I nearly cry and the tears don’t come I feel like forcing it.

Anthony: I’m listening.

Me: Other times one of your favourite songs comes on the car radio and crying just happens. It happened earlier today.

Anthony: I’m sorry I left you in the lurch, Jules.

Me: Sometimes I wish I hadn’t loved you so much. I let you mean too much, Ants – you had become my whole world. Maybe that wasn’t healthy, maybe that’s why I feel so lost now without you.

Anthony: Jules, do you realise what rubbish you are talking? Look at all of the things you are accomplishing now – the motorbike licence, the kayak lessons, the film script idea, helping Ming with his psychology diploma, the volunteering. You are not lost without me.

Me: I feel physically sick, like I am going to vomit, a lot of the time.

Anthony: But you’re free now, Jules. You should make the most of it.

Me: How? Anyway, I never wanted to be free of you!

Anthony: Never?

Me: Not once and I’m pretty sure I’m being honest here.

Anthony: I ended up needing you too much didn’t I.

Me: Sort of. Yeah, okay, I didn’t like that feeling of being so needed I guess.

Anthony: You just need to get your strength back, Jules. Do some aerobic exercise. It does wonders for the body and soul.

Me: WHAAT?

Anthony: Swimming, cycling – keep it up, Jules. Don’t give up – oh and the meditation is also useful.

Me: [Silence]

Anthony: I’ve shocked you, haven’t I.

Me: Yes! Are you being tongue-in-cheek or genuine? Meditation? I can’t believe that word actually came out of your cynical mouth.

Anthony: OM

Me: OM?

Anthony: Feeling better yet?

Me: Actually, yes.

Anthony: All right, so, whenever you don’t feel like talking to me, just OM me and I’ll OM you back.

Me: OM?

Anthony: OMMMMMMMMMM

Me: [Laughing]

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Imagined conversation 30

Anthony: It’s understandable, Jules.

Me: I’ve been putting it off for two reasons: one is I didn’t want to do this last final thing because I wanted something to look forward to. I know that sounds bizarre but there is something quite lovely about picking out a headstone and figuring out the inscription. I didn’t want that to be over with.

Anthony: What’s the other reason?

Me: Just talking with the monument people via email was okay to begin with, then I started feeling a bit sick, you know, bargaining about the price.

Anthony: You’re right to bargain!

Me: Do you like the colour Ming and I chose?

Anthony: It’s quite striking – yes.

Me: Okay so ruby red granite it is. I’m going to the monument place on Monday. I’m a bit worried that I might get really emotional or else that I might just feel numb.

Anthony: You’ll take it all in your stride, Jules. Hold your head up and smile and pretend I’m with you.

Me: That’s a good idea.

Anthony: Once it’s done, you can bring the cross with my name on it home.

Me: Yeah, I thought the same. It’s still stuck in the mound on your grave. I had no idea it took so long for the dirt to settle.

Anthony: I didn’t know that either.

Me: I thought I’d be visiting your grave all the time but I haven’t. I mean I don’t get any sensation of you being there anyway – not really.

Anthony: I’m not there, Jules – it’s just my old bones now.

Me: I hate thinking about that!

Anthony: Well it’s true.

Me: I’ve had a few bad days of missing you, Ants. I wish I could have a hug.

Anthony: Maybe you could use that imagination of yours to be hugged by me whenever anyone else hugs you.

Me: Okay, I’ll try that. Ming’s a pretty good hugger.

Anthony: That’s my boy.

Me: I want part of the inscription to read “The most beautiful man in the world”. What do you think?

Anthony: I think you are prone to exaggeration.

Me: Ming loves the idea.

Anthony: Does he?

Me: He feels the same way.

Anthony: Now you’ve made my day!

Me: That settles that, then. I think I can face Monday now.

Anthony: You’ll be fine, Jules.

Me: Okay, I’ll take your word for it.IMG_4201

 

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Imagined conversation 29

Anthony: Can’t you sleep?

Me: No, it’s the third time in a week. I mean it’s still only midnight but the last couple of times, it was almost 4am before I felt tired enough to go to bed.

Anthony: That’s no good, Jules.

Me: I don’t really mind. It’s not anxiety or anything. I guess I’ll just watch Netflix.

Anthony: You like your thrillers don’t you.

Me: Yep.

Anthony: Well don’t stay up too late or you’ll look haggard when you get up.

Me: Haggard? What do you mean by haggard!

Anthony: I overheard you talking to your mother about how you were worried about looking so haggard after my demise.

Me: Yeah, but I was telling her that my phase of worrying about looking haggard was over and now that I don’t worry about it, I don’t seem to look haggard anymore – weird. See, here is me with A. today. I don’t look so bad after all. I don’t even mind the wrinkles now.

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Anthony: Well, the kid’s cute. He suits you. Maybe you should have another baby.

Me: Droll.

Anthony: Do you ever wish we’d had another one?

Me: Every now and then but Ming is enough.

Anthony: My thoughts exactly.

Me: He is pretty wonderful. The other day he said to me, “Hey, Mum, let’s have another look at you,” as I was heading out. So I turned back and he said, “You look great!”

Anthony: Sounds like the kind of thing I would say.

Me: He says that kind of thing every single day.

Anthony: Are you sure all this vanity is good for you?

Me: Well it beats the hell out of running, panic-stricken, away from the bathroom mirror.

Anthony: I notice you haven’t replace the fluorescent light in there.

Me: Mmmm.

Anthony: Don’t forget all the complimentary things I said to you, will you.

Me: Like….?

Anthony: I recall calling you a gorgeous creature more than once.

Me: Not sure about the creature bit.

Anthony: You know what I mean.

Me: I sometimes miss the way you lit up when I arrived at the nursing home.

Anthony: Now you’re really flattering yourself.

Me: But you did! Even the nurses said so.

Anthony: I put a lot of effort into that.

Me: What rot. You were overjoyed every time and you’d always think that it was magic, and that you’d somehow conjured me up.

Anthony: Poor old fool.

Me: No, you were a beautiful old fool.

Anthony: Thanks.

Me: You know what I mean.

Anthony: One thing though….

Me: Yes?

Anthony: You do need lipstick.

Me: OMG, the feminists will be onto you.

Anthony: But it’s true.

Me: I’ll have to ponder that.

Anthony: Do that. Pondering is something I’ve become quite good at and I think you’d like it.

Me: That’s quite profound actually, Ants.

Anthony: I ponder to please.

Me: (Smiling)

 

 

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Imagined conversation 25

Anthony: That was very funny.

Me: What was very funny?

Anthony: Your kayaking lesson today, with Ming.

Me: OMG were you watching? How embarrassing.

Anthony: Quite.

Me: The capsize?

Anthony: Is that what you call it?

Me: Yes, well another fear faced and conquered.

Anthony: You made it look so easy, Jules.

Me: Sarcasm just slides off your tongue doesn’t it, Ants.

Anthony: I’ve been busy perfecting the art.

Me: Did you see Ming do it too?

Anthony: His movements were much more fluid.

Me: But did you see when he accidentally fell in for the second time?

Anthony: Yes but I was mainly concentrating on your laughter.

Me: Oh?

Anthony: That was a beautiful thing to see – spectacular.

Me: Well, thanks, I think.

Anthony: It’s a long time since I’ve heard that guffaw of yours –  so raucous.

Me: Is that a good or a bad thing?

Anthony: It’s a great thing. You should do it more often.

Me: I can’t just conjure it up.

Ants: Yes you can. Remember the time you tried to get me to do aerobics with you to that Jane Fonda video?

Me (smiling): Oh yeah, you were so awkward.

Anthony: You thought it might stop the Parkinson’s in its tracks.

Me: Stupid idea and it didn’t work. Hey, but remember that time I fell in the duck pond? That’s what it felt like today.

Anthony: How could I forget?

Me: You were so unsympathetic.

Anthony: The look of shock on your face … priceless.

Me: The good old days.

Anthony: The good-to-remember old days.

Me: I’m going for my motor-bike licence next week.

Anthony: I know and I am trembling at the thought.

Me: You’re trembling! What do you think I’m doing?

Anthony: Quaking?

Me: Not sure why I took on these two new challenges simultaneously. I must be mad!

Anthony: My thoughts exactly, and Ming’s too I’ve noticed. And both of your instructors’.

Me: Common sense isn’t my forte.

Anthony: Neither is coordination. I heard what Ming said while you were driving to the river, by the way.

Me: He didn’t mean it, Ants. And, by the way, my coordination is improving!

Anthony: Yes he did and he’s right. I wasn’t exactly father of the century. I should have talked to him more, or listened.

Me: He just wishes he knew you when you were well. Some of the stories I tell about you, from before his time, he finds almost unbelievable.

Anthony: I liked what he said about me still being around through him.

Me: Yeah, it’s pretty disconcerting – his voice, mannerisms, gait, laugh; he’s like a clone of you!

Anthony: Is that a good or a bad thing?

Me: It’s a great thing! I just wish he remembered how you were before you got so ill.

Anthony: There are worse things. Anyway you’re doing a great job of giving him amazing memories for when you die.

Me: What? Don’t be so morbid!

Anthony: Like the vision of you capsizing in your kayak today. Unforgettable.

Me: Shut up.

Anthony: Just a thought.

Me: Argh!

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Imagined conversation 24

Me: Tomorrow it’ll be exactly eight months since you died.

Anthony: I notice you haven’t been talking to me as much lately.

Me: I know. Sorry, I’ve been busy – really busy.

Anthony: That’s good, Jules and no need to apologise.

Me: I’m not over you or anything like that but the grief seems to have eased up a bit.

Anthony: Don’t forget me though.

Me: That would be absolutely impossible. I live in your house.

Anthony: Our house.

Me: Okay, our house but actually, technically, it’s still just your house because we never got around to the whole joint ownership thing. Your estate is still being sorted and then it’ll actually be my house – so weird.

Anthony: Yes.

Me: Everything here reminds me of you.

Anthony: That’s as it should be.

Me: Ha! That ghastly pink enamel teapot that doesn’t match the red Aga … little things like that remind me of you.

Anthony: You’re not going to sell up are you?

Me: No, of course not. It would break your heart wouldn’t it?

Anthony: I have a slightly different perspective on that now.

Me: I guess I do too. This place stopped meaning as much to me when you went into the nursing home.

Anthony: And now?

Me: Well, nothing really means as much to me now. I put on those boots you gave me today – you know the long ones with black rubber feet and brown leather up to the knees? I wanted to come straight into the nursing home to show them off to you with my new jeans and jacket and then I felt a bit sick when I remembered. That hasn’t happened for awhile.

Anthony: So what did you do?

Me: I got dressed up anyway.

Anthony: That’s my Julie.

Me: I don’t think I should sell up. Ming loves it here.

Anthony: You don’t have to decide yet do you?

Me: No.

Anthony: You sound low.

Me: Not really – just getting used to this gentle grief. I kind of miss the searing grief; it’s more solid.

Anthony: Can’t help you there, Jules.

Me: Do you miss me?

Anthony: Yes, it’s kind of boring here without you.

Me: Same here.

Anthony: I think you are absolutely marvellous, Jules.

Me: Where did that come from?

Anthony: Straight from the heart.

Me: It’s so strange to love someone so much when the person is dead.

Anthony: Who’s that then?

Me: You, you idiot!

Anthony: But I’m still here.

Me: I know that but I just wish I knew where here was.

Anthony: Here is here.

Me: Okay – so you are here, and here is here. Thanks, Ants.

Anthony: You’re welcome. Oh, and Jules?

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Me: Yes, Ants?

Anthony: You won’t get rid of that teapot will you?

Me: No way!

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Making friends with grief

I have learned so much about grief through my imagined conversations with “Anthony deceased” (as he is described in some legal documents I had to sign the other day) that I thought I’d share them here.

One of the things I’ve discovered is that if I wake up to what I know is going to be a day of acute grief, there is no point trying to evade it (one of the things I was trying to do). Now what I do is sort of greet it kindly, not exactly in a “Hi Grief” kind of way, more in an accepting way, almost as if it is a friend. After all, my grief about Anthony’s death, personified, has more empathy for me than anybody else possibly can.

In a way, the imagined conversations are a way of addressing Grief directly if that makes sense (if you are not sure what I mean then rest assured that I’m not really sure either!) Every time I write one of these conversations, even the ones that were a bit contrived and didn’t really flow) it helped somehow. I fought against doing it for awhile because I didn’t want people to think I was going nuts. I also didn’t want to become dependent on these conversations on a daily basis, to the preclusion of other more ‘normal’ daily activities. But I don’t care about either of those things now. Writing these conversations has often been fun and is sometimes quite enlightening.

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During a grief workshop I attended recently, Pat Kelly, a grief counsellor https://www.facebook.com/pat.kelly.18488169, pointed out that there is no one way of grieving. I found that very comforting in light of the imagined conversations I was/am writing because these have helped me more with my grief than any amount of kayaking, motor-scootering, cycling, swimming, socialising and volunteering (yes, I have been busy) have. All of these activities have helped enormously of course, but writing down conversations I imagine having with a now-well Anthony has been magical.

In re-conjuring Anthony’s voice as a younger, fitter man I have remembered all sorts of wonderful things that I’d forgotten – our holidays down south when Ming was young, our debates about whether animals went to heaven, our private jokes, our delight in the moonflowers blooming, his passion for motorbikes and classic cars, the parties, and so on. I’ve remembered poignant moments and sad times as well but mostly ‘talking’ with him has been a joy. I used to tell him everything even when he became less able to converse so, during the nursing home years, I sort of forgot about the way we used to talk and talk and talk. Remembering these conversations has been like a gift.

Making friends with Grief in this manner reminds me of how I ended up making friends with Dementia. In doing so, a lot of the associated fear diminished and a feeling of wellbeing returned.

I suppose since it’s my grief, after all, I am kind of making friends with myself again too. I’ve been working on that anyway with my wonderful psychologist, Daniella Princi https://www.facebook.com/yourintrinsiclife/ whose program has provided me with all sorts of interesting tools for living my life the way I want to live it.

One thing I know for sure is that Anthony would be proud of the way I am coping with his death and he would be chuffed to think I am pretending to converse him still. He was always very accepting of my idiosyncrasies, as I was of his.

Me: I’ve sort of made friends with the grief now, Ants.

Anthony: Good on you, Jules.

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