wings and things

Imagined conversation 88

ME: Ants?

ME: Ants!


ANTHONY: Yes? Jules? Sorry, I was napping. You sound just like my mother!

ME: Napping? Do you nap often? I had this picture of you frolicking joyously with the lambs and the lions.

ANTHONY: Okay, I’m awake now. Is something wrong?

ME: Not really. I was just thinking about how much I wish you could be here for the various Christmas festivities. I’m hosting Christmas eve brunch again at my place – 15 now, including three of your little great-nephews. They never got to meet you!

ANTHONY: Rubbish! I met the first one and he was magnificent.

ME: Oh yes!

ANTHONY: Let me get this right: I now have nine, going on eleven, great-nephews and great-nieces.

ME: When did you get so good at math, Ants?

ANTHONY: It’s a counting days exercise we do here, with lots of attention to detail.

ME: I found this photo of you with your second great-niece and it melted my heart!

ANTHONY: You are far too sentimental, Jules, but yes that was a special day for me too.

ME: I so wish you could come and see Ming’s house and meet his partner!

ANTHONY: I already know her, Jules, and she is almost as beautiful as you, a perfect match for our unique Ming.

ME: Heaven seems to have made you more eloquent, Ants.

ANTHONY: May I go back to my nap, Jules? Is there anything else?

ME: Not at the moment. Thanks, Ants….

ANTHONY: For future reference, Jules, lambs and lions don’t ordinarily frolic together.

ME: Oh, okay.

ANTHONY: I think you may have misinterpreted a Bible verse

ME: Since when do you read the Bible?

ANTHONY: Since I died and went to Heaven, Jules. Keep up, for God’s sake!


Imagined conversation 87 [December 15, 2021]

ME: So X came this morning and made it possible for me to finally get to work on editing this rather long blog manuscript. I feel so grateful to him!


ME: My friend’s husband. It’s a long story. OMG, are you jealous?

ANTHONY: You are far too friendly and you say “I love you” to too many people, Jules.

ME: What are you talking about? I never told X I loved him; I was just grateful! Anyway, what the hell are you worried about, Ants? I am just trying to write a book about you; you should be flattered!

ANTHONY: “Hell” is not a word we use here but I do see your point, Jules. Apologies.

ME: Okay, so about the book.


ME: I’m still not quite sure what the point of it is.


ME: Yes, you, I suppose.


ME: Now that is a really good idea, Ants!

ANTHONY: We can do it together, Jules, so can this be exclusive?

ME: We might need X in the future – is that okay?



Imagined conversation 86

ME: Ants – exciting news! The guy who has been working tirelessly to help me get the blog into an editable format is coming over Wednesday morning to figure out a few final glitches. After that I will be able to go mad changing 1st person to 3rd person, if need be; delete any images (but save them for later): and go full steam ahead with what will probably now be a novel.

ANTHONY: It’s good to hear from you after your long silence, Jules, but I have no idea what you’re referring to. Also, who is this guy you are raving about?

ME: I’m not raving and he’s my friend’s husband, Ants! And I’m talking about the manuscript that you said you approved of yesterday. Is dementia common in Heaven?

ANTHONY: Oh that, yes, I see. By the way, Jules, sarcasm doesn’t suit you.

ME: What? And what do you mean, “oh that”? I’m writing about you and have been for over ten years. You could at least be grateful, Ants.

ANTHONY: Deeply, Jules.

ME: Sarcasm doesn’t suit you, Ants.

ANTHONY: Are we having an argument, Jules?

ME: No, yes, no, well, maybe?

ANTHONY: Where I am now there are no arguments, so having an argument with you would be bliss.

ME: In that case, I actually do have a few old bones to pick, Ants.

ANTHONY: Bring it on, Jules.

ME: I miss our banter, Ants.

ANTHONY: Thanks for remembering not to forget me, Jules.


Imagined conversation 85

Me: Hi Ants


Me: Yeah, very funny, Ants – not.

Anthony: So, what’s up? I approve of your manuscript so far.

Me: I think I should turn our whole story into fiction because the auto/biographical stuff might upset some people.

Anthony: Great idea, Jules!

Me: My mother suggested it.

Anthony: Wise woman.

Me: Okay so I’ll do that – what pseudonym would you like?

Anthony: Alistair?

Me: Really? Okay, and I’ll be Ruby.

Anthony: I miss you, Jules.

Me: It’s nearly Christmas again and I miss you too, Ants; I can hardly bear it.

Anthony: Rubbish, Jules! Just keep on going the way you are!

Me: Okay, Alistair

Anthony: Good night, Ruby.

[After Anthony died, I began writing a series of imagined conversations on my blog so this is simply a continuation of that for the time being, until after Christmas.]


Chapter 67: Loved

One of the things I most loved about Anthony was how much he was loved (and still is) by the extended family of all of his sisters’ and brothers’ families. He was so close to his multitude of nephews and nieces, and friends; he was the life of the party, a confidante to some, even a travel companion to others. Before the dementia set it, Anthony knew every family story possible. He told me many memorable and shocking stories about the past – so interesting, so fascinating for a naive girl like me, and. later, fascinating to a new wife like me.

Anthony was, it seemed to me, the fountain of knowledge in terms of his family history and, when we married, he knew everything about everybody. I made it my job to learn about all of the many siblings’ offsprings’ offspring until we had Ming and then it just became too hard to follow the trail exactly because we were too entranced with Ming!

I married a man who was so loved, respected and admired by so many people that I felt an enormous sense of pride on our wedding day because I knew without any doubt that I was marrying a good man.

Anthony’s death has left a gaping whale-song of a lilt in my heart, of course! But his death also always reminds me of how he was, and still is….



Chapter 66: My best male friend is an Anglican priest.

Tony is one of my oldest and dearest friends. We first met when I was a child-like teenager and he was heavily involved in the church choir. I never actually had a crush on him but I adored him immediately because he was a bit older, a bit wiser, and, in retrospect, I realise now that he took me under his wing.

Tony was the reason I passed French in my leaving exams as he tutored me. He and I kept in touch, then kind of lost touch, only to pick up where we left off, numerous times over the decades since we have known each other. He studied theology and became an Anglican priest; I studied nursing and the arts and became an aspiring writer.

Tony originated from England so still has a rather posh accent. The way he says “appalling”, for example, is the kind of Tony-word that resonates endlessly ….

And yes, Tony thought that many aspects of my relationship with Anthony were just that – appalling. It wasn’t just the age difference, the peculiar family dynamic (see previous post), or that I was obsessively in unrequited love; it was also that I had become so unhappy.

Tony cared about me – he really cared. Tony was the one who reluctantly took me to the airport to fly to Sydney to meet Bill, the man who briefly became Anthony’s all-of-a-sudden rival. And Tony was the one who picked me up from the airport, on my return, and listened to all of my amazed gut-spill about Anthony proposing. Tony was my confidante and, to some extent, I was his too; we meshed.

It was Tony who married us in the tiny Anglican church in Picton, Bunbury.

It was Tony who came down from Perth to bless Anthony in a last-rites sort of way when I thought Ants was about to die and, when Ants didn’t die for another year, I thought Tony had done some sort of beautiful magic.

It was Tony who conducted the funeral and I will forever be grateful to him for this. Even though the funeral is a bit of a blurry memory for me I do remember Tony’s comforting presence.

The other beautiful thing about my best male friend is that he was the first to see Ming after he was born. Tony didn’t hesitate to come straight from Perth to the Bunbury hospital to see us – incredible!

Tony has always been honest and, sometimes, ruthlessly forthright with me. I am having lunch with him tomorrow and I can’t wait!

I just hope he doesn’t tell me that this post is appalling because Anthony, Ming and I regard him as a hero in our lives.

Yes, indeed, my best male friend is an Anglican priest.


Chapter 65: The engagement ring fiasco [1992]

I thought I had finished writing these vignettes but I keep remembering more and more. The delay in piecing all of the fragments of the longer story together is due to me discovering a wonderful person who is now helping me with format. So this is a rather useful delay in that it gives me more time to re-remember and write more of these little stories.

In writing the horrible in-law stories (I think there were three posts), I unwittingly put myself through a weird, retrospective trauma and experienced feelings of absolute rejection that, as a new wife, I was too busy to acknowledge at the time.

It was useful to gain insight from the daughter of my brother and sister-in-law, but it has also meant yet another falling out with her and, when I suggested to her that I email her parents with a view to reconcile, she was adamant that “Mum will not respond.” She was right.

After that, I realised that I had to stop being so afraid to tell the truth of my experience. I don’t enjoy writing about these situations, but I do think it’s important to relate how cruelly we were treated from day one of our engagement.

The engagement ring fiasco is a good example:

Anthony had picked out an engagement ring at Marjorie Young’s antique jewelers in Perth and I loved it! We had so much fun that day and, when we stopped at a restaurant for lunch, he put the diamonds onto my finger and laughed at my shy, embarrassed joy.

But, halfway through our smoked salmon salads, he said he had something to ask me. I was a bemused as we had already gone beyond a marriage proposal.

ANTHONY: Would you be willing to sign a pre-nuptial agreement, Jules?

I only vaguely knew what this was as I did occasionally read magazines. I think I thought he was joking at the time but I did get a bit of a shiver of alarm.

ME: Is this a joke, Ants?

ANTHONY: It’s not my idea, Jules.

ME: Oh, I see.

So I took the engagement ring off my finger and calmly put it on the table in front of his bread roll, got up and walked away and down the street. In those moments, Anthony’s brother nearly won, as I was in tears of despair that my future husband would have so little trust for me.

It took many weeks for the trust to return – not his trust for me, but mine for him!

After we were married, Anthony and I tried so many times to reconcile, or at least be able to make small talk, with his brother and wife, but it was mostly impossible. Now that Anthony is gone, it is even more impossible because I inherited his farm, a legacy they wanted and I actually understand their disappointment but not their behavior.

The engagement ring fiasco is the last bad memory I want to talk about in this blog-book. I am certain that this kind of experience is not mine alone.


Chapter 64: “The Clocks” [1990]

I was doing a Graduate Diploma in Creative Writing at Curtin University and one of my lecturers was, in my opinion, one of Australia’s most interesting and famous authors, Elizabeth Jolley. I was in awe of her writing and even more in awe of her person as she was stern, eccentric, and my absolute hero as a writer.

She could be both gentle and terrifying at the same time, so we students were always kept on our toes. During workshop sessions, we would have to read our short stories out to the whole class after which Elizabeth would either sigh, make a short comment, or (rarely) appear to be interested.

Sometimes, her constructive criticism was ruthless and I well remember her asking me to share a story I had written that she had already failed (I received a 4/10 grade). She made me read it out to a class of around 30 students in order to point out to them why my story was so poorly written. I was so humiliated and yet strangely grateful for the group feedback, which of course echoed Elizabeth’s.

Later, privately, she took me aside and said, “I know you can do better, Julie. You may rewrite it for a pass grade.” I almost felt like bowing!

A few months later, my writing had improved, so I entered a short story into a Curtin University competition. By this time, I had a different lecturer but my muse was still Elizabeth Jolley.

I know I have the clipping somewhere but, like many memorable bits of paper, I can’t find it. Anyway, not only did my short story “The Clocks” win second place, it was also published in the university magazine: my first ever published story! I was elated and also astonished to find that Elizabeth Jolley was one of the judges. Luckily, our submissions were anonymous so there was no bias to give me another 4/10.

Of course the first person I wanted to tell this good news to was Anthony and he was so proud of me despite the fact that “The Clocks” was a story about a young woman in love with a man whose clocks meant more to him than she did. In fact, the last paragraph was about how the ticking of all those clocks began to sound to the young woman like the ticking of a bomb.

ME: “Do you not see the parallels, Ants?”

ANTS: “Of course, Jules; you are a brilliant writer!”

ME: “So I didn’t hurt your feelings?”

ANTS: “Of course not! She’s a burster, isn’t she – Elizabeth Jolley.”

ME: “I am beginning to think you don’t get the point of the story, Ants.”

ANTS: “You sound annoyed – what’s wrong, Jules?”


ANTHONY: “I’ll turn all the clocks off for the weekend – how’s that?”

The thing about Anthony was I often didn’t know if he were kidding or not. My clocks story was, by implication, extremely critical of him and yet the fact that the story was published overrode everything and, by then, he too was an Elizabeth Jolley fan.

My little cottage is now home to the most precious of Anthony’s clocks. I think it’s about time I wound them.


Chapter 63: Fun!

One of the things I loved most about Anthony was his sense of fun, of mischief; even his scatalogical references were fun rather than crude, which, in retrospect, is rather ironic in terms of his chronic constipation in the latter years of his life, and the enematic solutions! You don’t want to know.

More than anything in the world, I wish Ming had known this funny, fun-loving, guffawing Anthony. He loved so much to stir things up and once convinced a nephew’s girlfriend that he usually tied me to the clothesline until I was needed for cooking duties. He rather liked to shock people so he probably rather liked the situations in which I would be mistaken for his daughter.

I remember once waiting in the car while he was in a business meeting. I was a not particularly mature 24. I had the car radio up really loud and my bare feet on the dashboard when the man he was meeting looked out of his office window and said to Anthony, “Your daughter can join us if she wants to.” Anthony got a kick out of replying, “That’s not my daughter; she’s my girlfriend.”

When Anthony reiterated this to me on the drive home, after telling me sternly to get my feet off the dashboard, he laughed and laughed about my mistaken identity.

I, on the other hand, was quietly delighted to finally be identified as Anthony’s girlfriend, by him.

When we stopped for petrol, I asked him for a banana paddle-pop and this became an ongoing joke between us, especially when I threatened to yell out, “Hey, Daddy, paddle-pop pleaaaase?”

We had fun with people’s disapproval, judgements, assumptions because of how inviolable our relationship was. I had always been a happy, grinning child/teen/adult but I don’t think I had ever guffawed myself until I met Anthony.

My ongoing grief is permeated by such wonderfully funny moments, even during those years when Anthony was in the nursing home, that I often find myself laughing into my tears.

That beautiful, witty, resilient husband of mine is still the great big funny smile in my heart.



Chapter 62: Unexpected memories

When I wrote Chapters 50, 51 and 57, I didn’t realise that I might suffer again in re-living the past by writing about it. In fact, I was quite light-hearted and pragmatic in writing about all of the ways Anthony and I somehow beat the odds against us, with our age difference being the least of our newlywed problems.

In writing about these experiences, however, I unexpectedly remembered how betrayed I felt when Anthony didn’t/wouldn’t/couldn’t defend and protect our marriage against what seemed a never-ending onslaught of criticism against me, us, and baby Ming.

Adult Ming and I had an enlightening conversation about Anthony the other day in which he said “Dad would have been so conflicted!” Lost in my unexpected memories, I just said, “I’m so glad you understand because I didn’t at the time, Ming.”

Ming: You can cry if you want to, Mum. I wanted Dad to come to all of my football games.

Me: He was too sick already.

Ming: He could have tried harder.

It seems a dreadful betrayal to now admit that I, too, thought that Anthony could have tried harder to just dash out of all of his illnesses and be the husband and dad Ming and I wanted and missed. But on one memorable sports day at Ming’s primary school it took Anthony around 40 minutes to get from one side of the oval to the other, with my help, and he was terribly embarrassed.

I so wish Ming had seen the way Anthony used to run through the paddocks, chasing cattle, but also just running for the fun of running! It is now my responsibility to tell Ming all of the Anthony stories before Anthony became so ill with Parkinson’s, including the warts-and-all unexpected memories.