jmgoyder

wings and things

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 5

Me: I just cancelled yet another social thing – lunch with some of my favourite people. I was so looking forward to it!

Anthony: Everyone loves you, Jules. They keep asking about you.

Me: Who?

Anthony: You know, the teachers and the bosses. They keep asking me where you are.

Me: I’m not doing so well this morning.

Anthony: Why are you crying? Please don’t cry, Jules – please.

Me: Well Ming told me to keep crying this morning; he said, “Mum, don’t stop crying – keep crying as much as you can.”

Anthony: About me?

Me: Well who the hell else would I be crying about?

Anthony: I like it when you’re feisty.

Me: Argh!

Anthony: I so desire you.

Me: Oh not that again!

Anthony: The imagination is immaculate.

Me: You sound just like Ming! He calls everything immaculate.

Anthony: Good boy.

Me: You are both so illiterate!

Anthony: Yes but I helped you do that PhD – remember?

Me: I forgot about that actually – yeah, the Foucault bit?

Anthony: He seemed like a great guy to me.

Me: Yeah, he had some amazing ideas but he died.

Anthony: Then he’s probably here somewhere. Do you want me to shout him a beer?

Me: Can you find my dad too?

Anthony: I can try but this place is not what you think it is.

Me: You mean Heaven?

Anthony: To hell with heaven, Jules!

Me: What do you mean?

Anthony: I’m still milking cows!

Me: Oh! That’s fantastic….

 

 

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Imagined conversation 4

Me: Hi Ants.

Anthony: Hi Jules.

Me: I’m so much better. I can’t believe it – it’s such a relief!

Anthony: That’s good, Jules.

Me: Is there any way you can put a bit more animation into your voice? I’m beginning to forget your voice, you know, the one you used to have before Parkinson’s disease.

Anthony: IS THIS BETTER?

Me: I think so but you sound really fake.

Anthony: I’ll try harder, okay?

Me: That would be great because I didn’t realise until today that I had forgotten how you used to speak. I know it was always loud and booming with enthusiasm but I can’t remember what you actually said before you got sick.

Anthony: Probably a lot of bullshit.

Me: No way! You could sometimes be quite profound actually, even after you got sick.

Anthony: That’s good, Jules.

Me: You’ve already said that.

[Anthony sighs]

Me: Sorry.

Anthony: You have absolutely nothing to be sorry about. How is the …?

Me: The son? Ming?

Anthony: That’s the one. Yes.

Me: He is amazing – a rock! He has this extraordinary ability to do empathy without getting down in the dumps himself. We are so lucky to have this incredible son, aren’t we!

[Anthony nods]

Me: Sometimes I hear his loud laugh on the phone with someone and it sounds exactly like you – exactly! It’s a bit disconcerting.

Anthony: That’s good, Jules.

Me: Oh, okay, you sound tired.

Anthony: That’s you, not me.

Me: I couldn’t wait to get home so I could talk to you like this, Ants! My psychologist will either be relieved or have me committed.

Anthony: You’ll be right, Jules.

Me: Okay, good night, Ants. I love you.

Anthony: ‘Night, Jules. Give me a kiss on my heavenly brow.

Me: OMG, it IS you!

Note to readers: I am not going mad – this is great fun, sort of.

 

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Volunteering

You know how something just clicks into place? That sensation of the absolute ‘rightness’ of a situation? A snap of clarity? Noticing something really tiny and recognising it as huge?

Well, having clambered up and out my pit of absolute despair (with the help of a new medication and a compassionate doctor), I have gone back to volunteering with a newfound energy. For a couple of years now I have volunteered for various organisations but, even as I was facilitating – or helping to facilitate – meetings to support families of people with Dementia, visiting nursing home residents with and without Dementia, and doing some public speaking, there was something that didn’t quite click.

My usually buoyant personality was being slowly squashed by my anxiety about Anthony, the fear of him maybe dying slowly and painfully and then, of course, the still-resonating shock of his sudden death.

As a volunteer, I was so positive to begin with; I had so much wonderful, funny, innovative stuff to say about how to relate, enjoyably, with a person who has Dementia. But, as Anthony’s health declined and he became more and more incapacitated, my energy flew away, terrified, I guess, that I was going to lose him.

One of the strangest things about bereavement is knowing how your own grief is a tiny thing compared to others – people who have lost children especially. I only know a few of these people but I do know that their grief is on a different planet from mine; mine is miniscule and I think it’s important to emphasise this. I feel guilty to be so grief-stricken when there are others who have much greater grief.

After all, Anthony was old and infirm and, as Ming so unintentionally and callously put it not long ago, “a dribbling wreck.” Obviously he and I had a heated exchange until he explained that he had suddenly been struck by memories of being a child with a dad who was well.

Anyway, back to the topic of volunteering, the one thing that has given me the most pleasure, sense of purpose, and fortitude, is visiting people with Dementia in one of the local nursing homes.

Imagined conversation 3

Me: I met this guy yesterday who reminded me of you so much, Ants! He had the same look in his eyes. You know, that staring, bug-eyed look because of the Parkinson’s.

Anthony: What’s his name? I’ll punch him.

Me: No – it’s not like that. He is really old and is in a nursing home.

Anthony: Poor bastard.

I’m not quite sure where this scripting thing is going but what I would really love to do is to write a screenplay of sorts, maybe even a movie script. It’s great to have the blog as a place where I can write whatever.

In the meantime, visiting people with Dementia is just the click I needed to restart myself!

 

 

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Imagined conversation 2

Anthony has always been extremely fond of our doctor who, for the sake of privacy, I will call ‘Sandy’.

Anthony: So did you see Sandy?

Me: I can’t believe you remembered!

Anthony: Why wouldn’t I?

Me: Well, usually you forget when I tell you something.

Anthony: You need to give me more credit.

Me: Sandy was amazing and has prescribed me with something to help me sleep because every now and then I get insomnia and go a couple of days without sleep.

Anthony: You never told me that.

Me: It’s only since you died.

Anthony: Well I don’t feel particularly dead.

Me: That’s good – as long as you’re okay.

Anthony: I’m as fit as a fiddle.

Me: That’s what you always say. How do you do it?

Anthony: Do what?

Me: How do you always remain so cheerful?

Anthony: Because I’m perfect.

Me: I don’t know what I’d do without you, Ants.

Anthony: You’d do what you are doing, Jules. Anyway, I’m still around somewhere.

Me: But where?

Anthony: Here?

Me: Okay, that’s enough for today – this is too weird.

Anthony: Wait, Jules!

Me: What?

Anthony: Tell Sandy to drop in for a beer some time.

Me: Are you kidding?

Anthony: Come on, Jules, have a laugh!

I think I’m starting to get the hang of these imagined conversations!

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Imagined conversation 1

At the health retreat I went to not long after Anthony died, I was encouraged to write to him and I did that. But I didn’t do it again until today. I just couldn’t. Tomorrow it will be six months since he died – my husband and best friend, Anthony.

Me: I decided to go back on Facebook and write on my blog again. Do you think that’s a good idea?

Anthony: Everything you do is a good idea, Jules.

Me: Yeah, but I wrote about the whole depression thing and I’m worried I will embarrass myself, or my family ….

Anthony: You worry too much, Jules!

Me: How do you manage to be so positive, so happy, so hopeful, when you have this rotten Parkinson’s disease?

Anthony: Because I have you, and we have Ming … and the dogs.

Me: I love you more than life; I love you more than I’ve ever loved you before.

Anthony: Don’t cry, Jules, please….

Me: I didn’t know you were going to die so fast!

Anthony: Neither did I. Oh well.

Me: What do you mean, ‘oh well’? How can you be so nonchalant about your own death? I want you back, Ants! I want you back! I have to see the doctor tomorrow about the depression!

Anthony: Good idea, Jules.

Isn’t imagination the most wonderful thing!

 

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Major depression

Since New Year’s Day, I have been hit with two major depressive episodes. The first one lasted about two weeks, and I am now in the midst of a second one but this time I think I know how to deal with it better.

The only reason that I know what a major depressive episode is, is because I already have a diagnosis of major depression and have been on a brilliant medication ever since. It was only when I overheard my doctor uttering the words “major depression” on the phone, in order to get permission to write me the prescription, that I realised what had been wonky about me for so many years.

The relief of the medication was almost immediate. There was no high, or anything like that but, over the ensuing days, I began to feel more normal, capable, less panicky – more Julie-ish again.

I have been writing on this blog about Dementia for years but I haven’t really focussed on Depression, as an equally dire health condition, until now. Both diseases are diseases of the brain; both diseases are often disparaged or else dismissed as unimportant by onlookers.

On New Year’s day I was overwhelmed by the desire to claw myself back to 2017 when Ants was still alive. I didn’t decide to be sad, newly grief-stricken, helplessly teary, unbearably nostalgic, angrily in love with my dead husband; it just swamped me, unbidden, organic, unavoidable.

I have absolutely no self-pity, I recognise and am grateful for having had such a fantastic marriage, and our son, Ming, is a source of such hilarious comfort. And I continue to be grateful to the friends and family who’ve supported us, especially my mother and brothers.

Depression is a disease. I have it. That’s embarrassing, but it shouldn’t be. A major depressive episode, on top of already having major depression, is almost unbearable. And there is no Anthony to talk about this stuff with anymore.

 

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Thank you

The supportive comments I have received over the last several years have been wonderful and I am very grateful. Now that Anthony has died, I am a bit lost; there is no amazingly indestructible person to write about. As I flounder through this grief I’ve decided to stop blogging for the time being. Thank you to all of you who have supported me.

Ps. I will still receive notifications via email of my favourite bloggers’ posts but I am in too much of a fug to comment atm. I am off Facebook too now (phew!) Happy new year to all x

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Afterthoughts

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Every time I think I want a blog break, I suddenly want to blog again. Go figure. Yesterday’s post was so negative it left me feeling uncomfortable and I woke up this morning thinking “Pull yourself together, Julie! Stop moaning! Get on with life! Smell the roses! Enough of your whimpering! You are boring the hell out of people! You know what to do to feel better, so do it!”

The above photo is of my mother at a place called Canal Rocks which is about an hour’s drive south of here. We were away for a couple of days, celebrating her 83rd birthday and every moment was a delight. We ate out, we ate in, we walked through the magnificent gardens of the place where we were staying,  and I went for a couple of long solo walks through the bush and down to the beach. I took my blender and made us raspberry and mint ‘cocktails’. We watched movies, read our books, and I began a new writing project. It was wonderful fun and so refreshing.

But coming back home was not so wonderful despite how great it was to see Ming and the dogs. I wasn’t expecting to feel so flat so my sudden change of mood surprised me and I wanted to go straight back down south. The dull ache followed me into today and I know for sure that writing that pessimistic post yesterday has done nothing to help. I want to delete it (as I often do) but I’m leaving it there as a contrast to what I’m about to write here.

I have discovered so many strategies to help with my grief: cooking inventive recipes, watching comedies, writing in a different genre, reading about topics I’ve never read about before, making cocktails, socialising and catching up with old friends, talking things through with Ming, going for long walks, meditating, looking for an interesting new job, picking flowers from the garden, communing with the dogs, relaxing guiltlessly, and so on. The constant impulses to go and see Anthony in the nursing home, before remembering with a jolt, that he isn’t there anymore, are lessening and so are the nightmares.

I don’t want to write about my grief anymore but I probably will. Instead, I want to write about all of the good things – the wonder of my many friendships; my beautiful ever-extending family (my niece has just had her second baby); the brilliance of my marriage; my funny, wise son; the recipe book I might write; the jigsaw I might buy; the volunteer work I will soon resume; the hilarious moments of life; the dialogues with Anthony that I haven’t written about yet; the beautiful farm where I live; going out for breakfast or lunch; and even the possibility of travelling further afield than I have been able to for years because I was always afraid Anthony might die in my absence. Recently I was able to visit my brother and his family who live four hours south of here and stayed three nights.

The gratitude I have for all of these many things is huge and is actually a lot bigger than my grief and, yes, I am curious about this new life I am embarking on without Anthony’s physical presence. I carry his photo in the back pocket of my jeans everywhere I go and this is a source of strange comfort, and most of my memories are full of joy. And despite what I wrote yesterday about my regrets, I do realise that I did my best.

C.S. Lewis said that grief is a lot like fear and this is so true, and fear is a monster of a thing but somewhere in the Bible it is said that perfect love casts out fear, and this is also true. Someone else said that grief is love with nowhere to go and, even though I understand this, I’m not sure if I agree entirely because I still love Anthony and this is how I am tackling the fear monster.

Ah – I feel better already!

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The un-final scene

Several hours before Anthony died, we were all there – relatives, hospital staff, friends, nursing home staff, my mother, Ming, his partner….

…. and all of the people, including me, even including the doctor-on-call, and our own doctor, who didn’t know know Ants was dead until death.

When our doctor arrived, I threw myself into his arms in a hug of despair and grief. He accomodated this hug and proceeded into the room where he confirmed that Anthony was really dead.

I did go back into Anthony’s room several times and touched his face. I didn’t scream but I did sob because the shock was so terrible because Anthony’s death was so quick. For a year or so, I had been trying to prepare myself for this inevitability; after all, Ants had had numerous TIAs (mini-strokes) and had become bed-ridden.

The un-final scene of this kind of experience is a kind of bedlam of regret: why wasn’t I kinder, more creative, more caring, more understanding, more able to listen?

I really want to make a difference somehow but atm can’t even be bothered reading or writing blogposts – too sad. I really appreciate comments and feedback but please understand that I need a bit of time to get my heart back.

Because …. I don’t know anymore; it was an un-final scene, a mysterious legacy, the most beautiful man in the world of kindness, forgiveness, generosity. I wanted to smash the people and illnesses that attacked him but he wouldn’t let me; he just wanted peace.

Perhaps that is what bewilders me most; there was no warning that this would be our final scene, Ants, and that’s why I will continue to explore the idea of our un-final scene.

 

 

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