jmgoyder

wings and things

Imagined conversation 35

Anthony: I thought you were upset, but you keep laughing.

Me: Oh it was so terribly awful but, when I was asked to ride the bike up the road at 50kph towards the guy testing me and stop immediately when he signalled, I accelerated madly.

Anthony: Poor bloke.

Me: I shouldn’t be laughing because, OMG, it could have been dangerous but, every time I think of what he must have been thinking as I approached him at almost double the speed required, I crack up.

Anthony: You’re not going to give up after all are you, Jules.

Me: I’ll keep you posted, Ants.

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Imagined conversation 32

Me: Ants, guess what? I found out about this film writing competition yesterday that had a deadline of midnight last night so I worked all day on my submission – it only had to be a few pages of script, with a synopsis and….

Anthony: Steady on, Jules….

Me: I only had five pages to write the script of your life and death, our love story, and to convey what dementia is like.

Anthony: Let me guess. Am I your dementia figurine?

Me: Stop it! This is important. If I am successful I’ll get to work with professional scriptwriters and get flown to Sydney. It could be such a great opportunity to get my message out there.

Anthony: Your message?

Me: About how dementia doesn’t have to be this terrifying, tragic thing – that it is possible to have fun with dementia. Oh, I don’t know, Ants – I’m still figuring it out.

Anthony: Are you going to admit that you lied to me about me having it – dementia?

Me: I did NOT lie to you, Ants – I just didn’t tell you.

Anthony: Well I think that’s pertinent.

Me: Oh, okay, thanks!

Anthony [talking to someone else]: Yes, she gets like this sometimes.

Me: I heard that!

Anthony: Sorry, Jules, just having a chat with Saint Somebody about your script. She thinks it’s a very good start.

Me: You do realise that if I write a movie about you, I will actually be the main star as the patient, long-suffering, dedicated wife?

Anthony: As you wish.

Me: What? Don’t you mind not being the main star?

Anthony: Marion said he’d play my part.

Me: Marion? Who’s Marion?

Anthony: John Wayne. We’ve become friends. His mother wanted a girl; it’s complicated.

Me: And I thought it was me going crazy – it’s you!

Anthony: Jules?

Me: Ants?

Anthony: Write the script – write the movie. You are on the right track.

 

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Imagined conversation 22

These imagined conversations are my way of ploughing through the grief of losing my wonderful husband to pneumonia last year. I am not going mad and I am not delusional; I just miss talking to Anthony, so I decided to imagine the conversations we might have….

Me: It was our 25th wedding anniversary last month.

Anthony: I know, Jules, I know.

Me: I went to a grief workshop that night and told the others that it was our 25th wedding anniversary and J (remember J?) congratulated me/us.

Anthony: J? The fair-haired woman?

Me: Oh, sorry, Ants, I forgot that she only met you after you were dead. J is/was so kind and I am amazed that your funeral parlour hosts such wonderful workshops for people like me, who are struggling with their grief.

Anthony: Nothing like this was in my mind, Jules, when we got married. My only hesitation was due to the age gap; I didn’t know I was going to get sick and old at the same time.

Me: I didn’t know either, Ants. I was prepared for you getting old before me but I wasn’t prepared for all of your illnesses.

Anthony: Sorry, Jules.

Me: Not your fault, Ants. Somebody said to me the other day that it must be a relief that you died and I felt as if I had been punched. It was a well-meaning comment but it made me think about how much the fact that you had Dementia precluded people from visiting because they were scared.

Anthony: You think too much, Jules. Don’t worry about any of that because I’m fine now.

Me: I’m not.

Anthony: I miss you too, Jules.

Me: I want you back, Ants. I miss you so much that my brain is all foggy and unfocussed and I have never, ever felt so alone. I just want to talk to you!

Anthony: You are talking to me.

Me: So is that okay, if I keep talking to you?

Anthony: Of course!

Me: Yeah, but this is just me pretending to talk to you, Ants. I have to eventually get used to the reality that you are dead. I’m just as crazy about you now as I was when I was 18, but you’re gone!

Anthony: I’m not gone or we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Me: So where are you?

Anthony: I don’t honestly know….

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Imagined conversation 21

Anthony: Didn’t you already write this … twice?

Me: Yeah, I know, but Ming doesn’t want to be part of these conversations, Ants, so that was a bit unwise on my part.

Anthony: Why?

Me: Well, it’s difficult enough recapturing your pre-dementia voice without also trying to invent Ming’s might-be voice when he isn’t the slightest bit interested.

Anthony: That’s my boy.

Me: Exactly. You see what I mean, then. These imagined conversations become really contrived if I include him and he….

Anthony: So, Ming has moved on?

Me: Well, I think you know the answer to that, Ants; Ming moved on a few years ago, before you even went into the nursing home. He did try.

Anthony: Why would you think that I would want my teenage son to hug me when I couldn’t hug him back?

Me: I just wanted you to know how much he loved you, Ants.

Anthony: By forcing him?

Me: Okay, I get it and I’m sorry. I get it now.

Anthony: Jules, there is absolutely nothing to worry about. Ming knows me and I know Ming.

Me: So should I just leave you guys alone? Is that what you mean?

Anthony: Just leave him alone, Jules, and let these conversations be just between you and me. It’s easier that way.

Me: I feel a bit stupid now to have contrived those last two dialogues, with a pretend-Ming. Plus he gets so angry when I try to do that.

Anthony: So why do you do it?

Me: Because I want it all back, Ants! Can’t you understand that? I want the three of us back together ten years ago before you got so bloody sick!

Anthony: Jules?

Me: What now?

Anthony: You can’t have it back – it’s gone. Ming understands this and it’s time you did too.

Me: And now you sound like all of those people I want to smash who say “isn’t it about time you moved on?”

Anthony: But isn’t it?

Me: Sometimes I really HATE you for dying. I absolutely HATE you!

Anthony: I know, but….

Me: Yes, of course you know, don’t you, you smug, supercilious, heavenly bastard – I am so angry I can hardly function, Ants; I want to kill the world.

Anthony: You don’t mean that.

Me: That has been your pat answer for anything remotely dramatic I have ever said. Stop always trying to shut me up!

Anthony: Jules?

Me: Now what?

Anthony: These conversations are coming to an end.

Me: Why? What did I say wrong? I’m so sorry, Ants – I didn’t mean any of it and of course I don’t hate you….

Anthony: Ming has already done it.

Me: Done what? What, Ants?

Anthony: Ended it.

Me: But….

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Imagined conversation 17

Me: I know you won’t remember this because it was so long ago but….

Anthony: Try me.

Me: Okay so I had only just met you and your mother and you had employed me to help her out in the house and it was my day off (from recollection you gave me a single day off per week).

Anthony: Go on. I’m enthralled.

Me: So I spotted you on the opposite side of the street getting out of your car and I felt that whoosh of feeling I have always had for you. But then, when you saw me and yelled out, “Jules!” I began to stumble a bit. You crossed the street to talk to me and I almost fainted from exhilaration but you just said, “Why are you limping?”

At the time I was unable to answer but the following day you asked me again in the kitchen of this home I now live in without you. “Why were you limping yesterday, Jules?” you said with a kind smile.

And, without thinking, my 18 years of non-wisdom to the fore, I just said, “Because I love you, Anthony.”

Anthony: Long, floral skirt and thongs? Pink t-shirts?

Me: Yes.

Anthony: I’d forgotten all of that, Jules.

Me: Well it wasn’t exactly memorable, Ants but, by the way, your attire wasn’t much better with your short shorts and your tight t-shirts. You were so rough- looking, I thought you were the cowhand.

Anthony: I thought you were so sweet.

Me: Yeah, you said that a few times, but it didn’t work back then – us.

Anthony: I love you, Jules.

Me: I can hardly breathe sometimes, and still do that limping thing when I am nervous. I am finding it difficult to know how to direct my love for you because I love you so much NOW.

Anthony: So what’s the problem?

Me: You aren’t here anymore.

 

 

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Imagined conversation 16

Me: I had another dream about you, Ants.

Anthony: Let me guess – I came back to life?

Me: All of your brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews surprised me by bringing you to a holiday cottage owned by my cousins.

Anthony: And…?

Me: You were sitting in a wheelchair, surrounded by your relatives, even the ones who have also died. It was a bit of a shock and I didn’t know what to do.

Anthony: It was a dream, Jules … it was just a dream.

Me: So I started trying to make coffee and tea for all of the people and I couldn’t find the sugar or milk and it was all a bit of a panic because everyone said we only had an hour before you had to be helicoptered back.

Anthony: Back to where?

Me: I don’t know! The nursing home maybe? Heaven? Anyway the dream became a nightmare because I was rushing from the kitchen to sit next to you, then back to the kitchen to check that the kettles were boiling enough to make tea, then frantically back to you to hug you and…

Anthony: Why are you crying now, Jules? I’ve been dead for nearly seven months.

Me: Because they took you away before I got a chance to say a proper goodbye to you. And they didn’t believe me when I said you didn’t need the wheelchair. Plus I was wearing some sort of Velcro that attached me to where your wheelchair was and I couldn’t free myself in time to see you off. I was so worried that you wouldn’t survive the trip home.

Anthony: Jules?

Me: What?

Anthony: It was just a dream.

Me: I need to make sense of it, Ants!

Anthony: No you don’t. Just move along the way you are.

Me: How, when I have these dreams?

Anthony: Buy the kayak.

Me: Really? It’s okay with you? Well, actually, I already did (it’s okay, it didn’t break the bank account).

Anthony: I thought it was a bit of a radical move to begin with but now I think it’s a good idea.

Me: Why?

Anthony: Because you are you.

Me: What about all of those people in the dream?

Anthony: You, Jules – just you.

Me: It’s no wonder I love you so much, Ants.

Anthony: I agree wholeheartedly.

 

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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 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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