jmgoyder

wings and things

What Love is, and is Not

Months ago I joined a local writing group but had only attended one meeting until tonight, when an open mic. event was hosted by a café in the little city ten minutes away from this farm.

I had written a short poem for a beautiful young couple, who were recently married in Fiji, because they reminded me of how Anthony and I were. Their love for each other resonated gently with me, but also made me super nostalgic.

Anyway, for the open mic. I extended the poem to include my grief at losing the love of my life, not anticipating that I might falter in my performance of it!

Here is the poem, dedicated in original form to Tash and Mike and, in extended form, to Anthony and me:

WHAT LOVE IS/& IS NOT

Sometimes,
when I am trying to
figure out
what Love is
and isn’t,
I endeavour to squish it
into a package of
neat-and-tidy certainty,
a security blanket of
absoluteness.
Full stop.

So,
I get anxious
about
the loose threads….

And then it strikes me
that Love is anything but
neat and tidy!

Instead,
Love is an unravelling….

Full of mystery,
and gasping with hope,
Love is a chuckling
journey,
a glass of water
on a really hot day,
and as simple
as a single, tiny,
plump
moment.

It will be my second Christmas without you,
my beautiful, adoring husband.
I want you back
to see the moonflowers blooming.
I want you back
to pick the figs and
to watch the blue wrens flitter busily.
I want you back
to watch Black Books and
to supervise the Sunday roast.
I want you back
to feel the bruise of my Love unravelling into your broad chest.
I want you back
to grip my hand in yours until my fingers crack.
I want you back to help me come to terms with life without you.
I
just
want
you
to
please
come
back.

Sometimes,
when I am trying to
figure out
what Love is
and isn’t,
I endeavour to squish it
into a package of
neat-and-tidy certainty,
a security blanket of
absoluteness.
Full stop.

So,
I get anxious
about
the loose threads….

And then it strikes me
that Love is anything but
neat and tidy!

Instead,
Love is an unravelling….

As I read the poem out tonight, I was in fine form until the third I want you back when I broke into stumbling tears. I was a bit embarrassed that my own poem made me cry but the audience, of around 50 people, was compassionate.

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Imagined conversation 76: the wording on your headstone

Me: The red speckled granite for your headstone has arrived and now Ming and I just have to finalise the wording and….

Anthony: Just keep it simple, Jules, don’t exaggerate.

Me: So do you want me to get rid of the header – The most beautiful man in the world ?

Anthony: No, that’s pretty accurate – keep that in.

Me: Noted. Okay, so then I want the inscription to say, succinctly, what you meant/mean to Ming and me, so I am tossing up between words like beloved, cherished, adored.

Anthony: All very apt but….

Me: Yes, I know you would really like the word worshipped in there but that doesn’t sit comfortably with me because I think it was you who worshipped me first and not the other way around.

Anthony: I beg to differ. You worshipped me first, Jules.

Me: Shut up! I thought we agreed that it was mutual years ago and anyway I don’t like the idea of worship because it implies godliness and you are the most ungodly person I have ever met.

Anthony: You keep forgetting where I am, Jules, so please refrain from the ungodly references.

Me: Okay so this is what I have so far: The Most Beautiful Man in the World/ Anthony Barr Goyder 1936 – 2017/ Admired and Respected by all who knew him/ Adored husband of Julie/Beloved father of Menzies. All of these little phrases are on separate lines on the headstone of course. What do you think?

Anthony: You do me proud, Jules.

Me: I still want to have a sort of punchline, like Unforgotten or Unforgettable but the first one has horror movie connotations and the second implies comedy. Plus I have been advised to leave room on the headstone for a few words about me for when I die.

Anthony: Oh … yes, I didn’t think of that.

Me: Ants, we never, ever had any sort of conversations about death, dementia, funerals because you always, always thought you were getting better and I let you believe that.

Anthony: You are a great liar…

Me: I loved you too much to tell you the truth. And anyway, why didn’t you tell me you were about to die? You never gave me a hint; you were in one of your slumps.

Anthony: I didn’t know I was going to die either, Jules.

Me: I thought you would overcome the slump, do another Lazarus, return to our ever-evolving new normal….

Anthony: It was a shock to me too, Jules.

Me: I am so glad that I nearly have your headstone done and dusted because it has been sort of haunting me in an unfinished business sort of way.

Anthony: It doesn’t matter, Jules….

Me: Yes it does, Ants.

Anthony: I am gone, Jules.

Me: No, you are not gone, Ants – you are here.

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Ants and Gutsy 2013?

 

 

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Imagined conversation 74

Me: I am losing track of the conversations a lot, Ants, now that they are diminishing in frequency.

Anthony: Oh how my soul is wounded, Jules – please don’t leave me!

Me: Very funny, Ants, but just a reminder –  you are the one who left. Anyway, the weirdest thing has happened; sometimes I go several days without thinking of you at all.

Anthony: Good grief!

Me: Well actually it probably is, literally, a good kind of grief because I am smiling and laughing more easily again and sometimes I feel a little bit high!

Anthony: You are doing much better than I expected, Jules – good on you!

Me: A couple of people have even told me that I look better, and that I seem to have turned a corner since August when I just could not stop talking to you…. and crying.

Anthony: Those were brilliant conversations though, Jules.

Me: Yeah, but I went a bit blank during that ghastly anniversary-of-your-death month. Ming said my eyes went all dull or something like that.

Anthony: And then?

Me: The advent of Spring! The end of August! A sense of irrational relief!

Anthony: Relief about what?

Me: Not relief that you are gone, but relief that I am getting over the fact that you are gone.

Anthony: But I am not gone!

Me: Of course, Ants, but can we please not have a semantics argument? Ming has that kind of thing down pat.

Anthony: How is my boy?

Me: He is a man, Ants and he is so much like you it is uncanny.

Anthony: How so?

Me: Well he cleans his teeth as if he is doing some sort of contortionist display of how to get whiplash, and he stands outside the front door to urinate most mornings much to my chagrin.

Anthony: Is there anything else?

Me: Wow, Ants – how come you are still fishing for compliments when you are dead?

Anthony: Posterity, Jules, posterity! Also, the Heavenly performance assessment tool questionnaire is doing my head in.

Me: Oh! Okay, just add that you have always had a sense of fun and irony? Self confidence, healthy ego, gregarious – that sort of thing.

Anthony: Sex appeal?

Me: Is there a box to tick for that?

Anthony: No.

Me: Is there a space for description of your attributes?

Anthony: Yes.

Me: Okay you can probably wax lyrical about your sex appeal here but try to describe this more soulfully.

Anthony: What?

Me: Forget it. I am absolutely sure you will pass. Anthony?

Anthony: Yes, Jules?

Me: Every time I write these imagined conversations, I want to leap through the skin of this world and hug you.

Anthony: Your wish is my command, Jules.

Me: Okay, Ants – thank you. I forgot to say how kind Ming is and that reminds me of you too; he is your/our legacy.

Anthony: May I have the last word?

Me: Of course!

Anthony: That was it.

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You and me: Imagined conversation 69

Me: Exciting news, Ants.

Anthony: Well, it is about time, Jules. The white noise of our conversations was beginning to bore me.

Me: Yeah, same, so anyway one of my blog friends and I are going to collaborate in a project that synchronises her illustrations with our conversations.

Anthony: Which conversations?

Me: Not sure yet but probably some of the funnier dementia dialogues and maybe a few of the imagined conversations … what do you think? Here is the link to her blog:

https://bikecolleenbrown.wordpress.com/2018/08/26/figuring-it-out/

Anthony: I approve.

Me: You know, sometimes I cannot quite figure you out, in the NOW, I mean.

Anthony: C has it down pat – I am your angel now.

Screenshot (195)Me: No way am I going to think of you as my angel, Ants!

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Imagined conversation 68

Me: I hope you realise that these conversations are not about me feeling sorry for myself.

Anthony: Of course I do, Jules.

Me: Mostly I feel really lucky. I don’t think I understood what a rare relationship we had until after you died.

Anthony: An against the odds love story.

Me: There is no need to steal my phrases!

Anthony: You are only two years older than I was when we got married.

Me: Now that is quite weird. Your point?

Anthony: I began a brand new life at 57. You can do that too, at 59.

Me: I hope you aren’t suggesting me getting a boyfriend! Two people have already suggested that. Bleah!

Anthony: JESUS, MARY AND JOSEPH, NO!

Me: Why are you speaking in an Irish accent?

Anthony: There are a lot of Irish nuns here.

Me: Oh, okay.

Anthony: You know your idea of working on a book about grief with C as illustrator?

Me: Yes.

Anthony: Genius.

Me: Thanks for the go-ahead. That means a hell of a lot.

Anthony: No need to mention hell; it is a bit of a dirty word here.

Me: Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I am not feeling sorry for myself, just sad, missing you, and kind of wanting go back in time and re-do some of our situations differently.

Anthony: Like you boiling the marmalade all over the Aga?

Me: No, more like you telling me off for being unavailable to look after your mother just after my dad died, when I wanted to comfort my own mother.

Anthony: It wasn’t a particularly good start was it.

Me: No, and it was so embarrassing (in retrospect) for me to be so transparently in love with a man twice my age. 60 Minutes recently did a story about this, so the shock/horror of a 23-year age difference is still newsworthy.

Anthony: I know that these conversations are imagined, Jules, but there is something real about them too.

Me: I feel compelled to keep talking to you like this, at least until August is over. Ming has been amazing, and keeps telling me to tell him if I am particularly depressed, always offering me hugs.

Anthony: My son.

Me: Yes. The dogs are comforting too!

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Anthony: Good night, Jules.

Me: Good night, Ants.

 

 

 

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I want you back: Imagined conversation 65

Me: I want to keep on talking with you during this week that I have dreaded since August began. Blogging our conversations is, I realise, a weird way of being publicly private and/or privately public and I am well aware of the paradox here but….

Anthony: You really do like to complicate things, Jules.

Me: No way! I would love to be able to simplify/compartmentalise/figure out the wild animal of this grief but I just cannot seem to get a handle on it.

Anthony: You know, when we first met and you were wearing a pink t-shirt, a long Indian skirt, sandals, and your amazing smile, something clicked but I didn’t know what it was.

Me: For me it was a textbook case of love at first sight. It didn’t matter that I thought you were the cowhand and didn’t realise for a few days that you were the actual patriarch so to speak. I was absolutely smitten and it was probably obvious – how embarrassing!

Anthony: I felt it too, Jules, but you were just a kid!

Me: You know that year before we got married where you got all lovey-dovey and admitted that you fell in love with me too way back when?

Anthony: Yes?

Me: Thanks for finally telling me that, because the unrequited thing was horrible. I guess you had already established a reputation for being the long-standing bachelor of our town and I think you rather liked this?

Anthony: Oh yeah, baby!

Me: We really do have a rather beautiful love story, don’t we.

Anthony: I haven’t even found anything comparable in Heaven.

Me: I yearn for you, Ants – it is like this long piece of string that I have to pull out of my throat every day. I know that sounds gross but that is exactly what it feels like to have lost you.

Anthony: Oh, Jules.

Me: I want you back, Ants.

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Thank you, Mother, for this wonderful poem

THE GIFT OF GRIEF.
She scoops it up
Cupped in her hands
And lifted high
Like incense.
It spirals gently up and up.
Her nostrils flare
The smell of driftwood.
Held heavy in her palms
But light as air.
His face appears
And disappears
Like fire flame images
To warm her heart.
He’s here
And There
Forever.
This is Gift.

With love from Mother in August 2018.

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Imagined conversation 43

Me: I think my favourite camellia is dead, dead, dead! I’m devastated! I keep hoping it will come back to life but, even with all this rain, there are no flowers flowering!

Anthony: Yes and I hate to break this to you, Jules, but it is definitely dead.

Me: Are you sure?

Anthony: You really don’t have a clue about gardening do you. Now that I have a more objective view of things, I can see this quite clearly.

Me: But all of the other camellia trees are fine! It’s just that special one – my camellia, the one I bought from that lady, Bonnie, from The Vision Splendid Gardens in 1998 at an exorbitant price because it had to be dug out of the ground.

Anthony: The thing is, Jules, plants need water, especially in the summer, especially in Australia.

Me: Yes, I know that, Ants. I’m not a moron! Anyway, it’s winter now.

Anthony: Preceded by summer?

Me: Well, duhh.

Anthony: What you do is you get the hose, position it against the trunk of the tree, turn the tap on and hey presto. On very hot days, leave the hose on for longer.

Me: Patronising bastard.

Anthony: It’s not rocket science.

Me: What? Since when do you use expressions like that?

Anthony: Somebody I knew used to say that a lot.

Me: Yeah, but I don’t water anything anymore because when I turn the tap on, the pump pumps and it uses electricity and I’m trying to be conservative which, by the way, was something you, yourself, encouraged.

Anthony: There are always exceptions, Jules. I watered your camellia religiously every summer, while you were at work, before I went into the nursing home.

Me: So how come it survived without you watering it for six years.

Anthony: Ming did it.

Me: Oh! Actually, you’re right – I remember him doing it. It was during one of his following-in-your-footsteps phases.

Anthony: Don’t be sad about it, Jules.

Me: But I am, Ants. I loved that camellia so much – its incredible, ballerina-like flower, the story about how we convinced Bonnie to sell it to us and the way her workmen secretly gave us three trees because they thought Bonnie had ripped me off.

Anthony: It’s not dead, Jules.

Me: And I used to bring you the best of its flowers when you were in the nursing home and, after you died, I took them to your grave.

Anthony: Are you listening?

Me: Yes?

Anthony: I nicked it.

Me: What?

Anthony: The camellia died so Bonnie and I figured out how to get it here without you noticing, then we planted it, and now it’s flourishing.

Me: What?

Anthony: Your camellia is here, Jules.

Me: What?

Anthony: Stop saying “what?”

Me: I beg your pardon?

Anthony: That’s better.

Me: If you were here, I would punch you gently on the nose but oh, Ants, I am so relieved that it’s okay – the tree, I mean. Thank you so much. I am going to miss it but it’s good to know it’s in good hands. I’m sorry I don’t have green thumbs like you.

Anthony: My thumbs are now a heavenly shade of emerald and….

Me: Okay, I get the picture.

Anthony: Good.

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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 19

Me: Ants, you won’t believe it!

Anthony: Try me.

Me: It’s a bit of a long story and I don’t know where to start and I am so excited!

Anthony: Jules?

Me: What?

Anthony: I have all the time in the world.

Me: Well I got short-listed for a group that got to talk to film industry professionals and tomorrow I get to pitch my idea about how I coped with the dementia stuff.

Anthony: What dementia stuff?

Me: Whoops! Okay, well your dementia stuff. Okay so now that you’re in heaven or wherever the hell you are, do you remember having dementia?

Anthony: What a lot of rubbish, Jules. Of course I didn’t have dementia.

Me: Yes, you did actually.

Anthony: No, I didn’t.

Me: You just didn’t know you had it and I never told you.

Anthony: You really are a whimsical creature aren’t you, Jules.

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