jmgoyder

wings and things

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.

8 Comments »

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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Imagined conversation 18

Me: Hi, Ants.

Anthony: JULES! WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?

Me: Here and there – lots to tell you but I can’t be bothered.

Anthony: Why?

Me: This whole grief thing is absolutely exhausting, Ants – it just goes on and on and on and on and, as soon as I think I am over you, and able to move forward, it all begins again.

Anthony: What begins again?

Me: I just said! Oh, what’s the point?

Anthony: Sorry, Jules – you now have my undivided attention.

Me: Let me guess; you were playing poker with your mum, right? Or are you just frolicking naked in your own puffed up cloud?

Anthony: Ahh – you know me well, Jules.

Me: But do you know me, Ants? Did you ever know me? I had a horrible nightmare last night where I discovered you had been unfaithful to me multiple times with multiple previous girlfriends and you somehow did all of this from your nursing home room even though you were bedridden.

Anthony: Yes, I saw that dream too and – sorry, Jules –  but I did find it quite invigorating.

Me: So did you get to the bit in the dream where I decided to divorce you?

Anthony: No, but I did see your anxious face, Jules.

Me: I keep waking up to the question of what will happen in the end and it always takes me several seconds to realise that we are already at the end. You died.

Anthony: I didn’t intend to die, Jules.

Me: A bit of warning would have been good, Ants.

Anthony: Jules, please! I didn’t know any more than you did.

Me: Hi, Ants….

 

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Imagined conversation on Anthony’s 82nd birthday

Me: Happy birthday, Ants.

Anthony: It’s not my birthday.

Me: I knew you’d say that but I am one step ahead of you. It actually IS your birthday, because this is the date you were born; it’s just that you’re not here to celebrate it.

Anthony: I don’t think I would have been up for much of a party anyway. I looked like sh**  in that bed, and dribbling from both ends! How could you stand it?

Me: Have you stopped swearing – what’s with the sh**?

Anthony: Time and place, Jules.

Me: Anyway, I’ve been thinking about how this is but isn’t your birthday, so do you want to hear the good news or the good news?

Anthony: Don’t you mean….

Me: C’mon, left hand or right hand?

Anthony: Left – no, right.

Me [under breath]: Well you always got those wrong anyway.

Anthony: I heard that. So, hurry up with the good news. The excitement is killing me.

Me: Okay well the first bit of good news is that you will never be 82 because you haven’t lived that long. Isn’t that wonderful?

Anthony: If you say so, Jules….

Me: And the second bit of news is … oh bloody hell – heck … I know I’ve written it down somewhere.

Anthony [in deep baritone sing-song voice]: Memory begins to fade in the twilight years, awakening all our fearsome fears….

Me: Oh shut up … here it is. Okay, you listening?

Anthony: Voraciously.

Me: The second bit of good news is that – oh, actually this is a bit lame but….

Anthony: Go on.

Me: Well, it’s that I won’t have to watch you suffer and die a long, slow, cruel death.

Anthony: Good point, good point. I actually have some good news for you too, Jules.

Me: Am I going to win lotto?

Anthony: I don’t know.

Me: Well, what’s the point of being dead and omniscient?

Anthony: My good news is this countdown thing they have here. It’s a bit complicated but ….

Me: Let me guess, you go backwards in time, right?

Anthony: Sort of.

Me: What a lot of rubbish!

Anthony: Wow, you sound like me!

Me: Well, you sound like me!

Anthony: It’s probably just that you’re getting our voices mixed up with each other in your head.

Me [Sighing]: Probably. This has evolved into quite a complex creative writing exercise. I mean writing to you, talking to you, makes sense, psychologically, but re-capturing your voice is surreal because it’s as if it really is you speaking.

 

Anthony: Don’t overthink it Jules – just go with the flow. But I’d rather be referred to as a voice, not a bloody creative writing exercise.

Me: Aha! You swore. Well thank God for that. You sound like you again, birthday boy. I miss you.

Anthony: I know. But you are going to flourish.

Me: See this is what is so disconcerting; I have never heard you use a word like “flourish”!

Anthony: It’s mentioned in Ming’s psychology diploma manual, on page 27. Actually the term “flourish” is repeated repeatedly throughout the course….

Me: Yes, I know, and it’s not a bad concept – much better than just surviving. Oh, I love talking about this kind of stuff with you, Ants.

Anthony: You are so sweet, Jules.

Me: So do I keep on chatting with you like this until the grief subsides or what?

Anthony: Do whatever you want, Jules. Play it by ear.

Me: I am so relieved I didn’t have another meltdown today.

Anthony: Why would you have a meltdown?

Me: Because it’s your birthday, and you’re dead, and I’m grief-stricken, you beautiful idiot!

Anthony: Steady on … that’s right, but we’ve already realised that there are at least three things that are good about me not being there for the occasion. I’ll talk to the countdown people and get back to you but in the meantime you could think of this as my 82nd unbirthday ….

Me: …. for want of a better ….

Anthony: Yes, and Jules?

Me: Yes, Ants?

Anthony: You mentioned lotto earlier ….

Me [excitedly]: YES?

Anthony: Money isn’t everything.

Me: [groaning with chagrin] OMG I can’t believe I’ve ended up married to some sort of weird angel/ghost/imaginary friend hybrid!

Anthony: And one with such exquisite musculature.

 

 

 

 

 

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Imagined conversation 6

Me: Why did you un-grip my hand from yours just before you died?

Anthony: You were hurting my hand.

Me: I was worried!

Anthony: I know.

Me: Actually I was terrified.

Anthony: Well I wasn’t, so don’t worry about that.

Me: That’s when I left your room to talk to Ming about what to do if you died in the night. Like, whether to ring him straight away, or what.

Anthony: Oh I didn’t know that.

Me: The doctor said it could be hours or days – did you know that?

Anthony: No, because you were all whispering, whispering, whispering….

Me: Oh, sorry, Ants. I just didn’t want you to hear that you might be dying and get scared.

Anthony: I wasn’t scared, just bloody uncomfortable. And Jules?

Me: What?

Anthony: It was easier to die with you out of the room.

Me: I thought that was one of those myths.

Anthony: I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.

Me: No, it wasn’t that – it was just the shock. I was all ready to spend another night in the nursing home with you so I could get my head around you dying. I even had a DVD to watch. I felt – feel – so cheated somehow.

Anthony: Aha – gotcha!

Me: So you tricked me?

Anthony: Yep.

Me: But why?

Anthony: I didn’t want you to see me take my last gurgling breath; it was a bit embarrassing. And I didn’t want you crying all over me.

Me: But I did cry all over you!

Anthony: Oh. Sorry. I was long gone by then.

Me: What do you mean ‘long gone’? We were only out of your room for a few minutes!

Anthony: Time just seems different now.

Me: I just want my hand back in yours.

Anthony: Well you could have arranged to have it cut off and mummified, I suppose.

Me: Argh!

Anthony: You worry too much, Jules.

Me: I’m so tired from grieving.

Anthony: Well, I was a magnificent specimen of a man so it’s no wonder.

Me: Thanks for the laugh, Ants.

Anthony: You gotta laugh, Jules. Anyway, how’s your mother? Is she still making those blanketty things?

Me: Yes, but probably not as enthusiastically as she was when she was sitting with you.

Anthony: Good on her. She’s a good soul.

Me: ‘Soul’? Since when do you use words like ‘soul’?

Anthony: Since I died.

17 Comments »

Getting wise to grief

I know that this is going to sound weird but grief is actually quite interesting.

I have been trying so hard to outwise/ outwit? the effect that this terrible grief is having on me. Okay, so the grief itself is a given and it’s understandable that I would be grieving for Anthony; that’s not pleasant, but it’s okay.

It’s how this grief translates into everyday life that is the real challenge. For example it is so tiring to be so tired of grieving, to be so tired of my own tiredness, tired of myself, tired of crying, tired of not being able to cry, tired of trying so hard not to be tired.

Grief is exhausting! I can just imagine telling Anthony about this and it makes me laugh because he would have rolled his eyes and sighed at my ridiculousness in trying to figure grief out. He wouldn’t have offered clichés like ‘move on’ or ‘you need to get out and about more’ and I don’t even think he would have said, ‘I wouldn’t want you to be so sad, Jules’. Instead, he would have said ‘do what you want, Jules’ and I know for sure that he would be secretly chuffed that I miss him so much. His heavenly ego will be getting a rush.

Anthony adored me. Even though it took him over a decade to realise it, he made up for lost time very quickly and I think I am one of the luckiest people in the world to have had such a fantastic marriage. I wasn’t this long-suffering carer of a sick husband (which is probably the perception – you know, the dutiful wife); I was cared for by him. Every time I saw him in the nursing home, the joy in his face was the joy I took home with me, no matter how poignant.

Grief is often seen as the loss of someone you love and of course this is true but isn’t it also true that you miss being loved? I do. It’s not that I want to be adored per se (despite being a blogger – paradox alert); I just want Anthony’s adoration.

And, like a kid outside a closed candy shop, that’s my face pressed against the reflection of the impossible.

Grief is interesting. And so is getting wise to it.

 

 

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Terribly happy

About a week ago, I suddenly experienced an oxymoronic sensation of intense happiness and intense sadness in the same exact moment. At the time, I thought it was a fleeting thing but I was wrong; it has continued to be a constant sensation, ebbing and flowing in its intensity somewhat, but always there, here (in my throat, in my chest, or in my stomach).

This terrible happiness is mostly a kind of flutter – a mixture of dread and excitement that pushes, from inside, against my ribcage, like a moth caught in the dark light, wanting, but not wanting, to fly free.

At first, I thought this sensation was impossible, so I googled the question “is it possible to feel happy and sad at the same time?” I was surprised to find that many others had also wondered about this paradoxical sensation. Most people, however, expressed the opinion that it was impossible.

I felt smug, knowing by then that it was absolutely possible because I had it – this terrible happiness – and I had had it for several days. It’s there, quietly, underneath my day-to-day doings, but I can also conjure it into a louder refrain and every time I do this, Anthony appears in the rear vision mirror of my heart and he is young and vibrant and laughing his approval.

The grief component of this terrible happiness is tear-drenched, but the happy component of this terrible happiness is buoyant, curious, unafraid and very, very surprised!

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Wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas and new year, especially those who are going through difficult times. I hope to get back to reading others’ blog posts soon, and I am very grateful for all of the support Ming and I have received since Anthony died. Thank you.

 

32 Comments »

New beginnings

Every day, I smile back at my favourite photo of Anthony which was taken many years ago when he was well. This is the photo we chose for the bookmark distributed to those who came to his funeral, the one I often put into the back pocket of my jeans when I go out. Luckily I have a few spares because I accidentally washed one of them with my jeans the other day and Pip has dog-eared another one with her sharp teeth. FullSizeRender

Another new beginning: today I got to meet my newest great nephew, Archer, beautiful second son of my niece Ashtyn and her husband Gordon. He is such a winner! His big brother, Spencer, is equally adorable.

Archer with Julie

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I love them.

But something else new seems to be happening to me; I have regained that curiosity about the future that I experienced fleetingly not long after Anthony died. It’s a very simple curiosity and consists of doing deliberate but simple, rather mindless things that are somehow meditative and calming, like the jigsaw I have begun, and cooking new, interesting recipes. The curiosity comes in the form of the question: “Will I be able to do this?” And because these activities are so simple and enjoyable, the answer is, of course, “yes”.

Small steps I guess – a kind of hop-skip-and-jump into each new tomorrow of Anthonylessness, his smile of encouragement somehow more real now that I have lost the real thing. He was always so proud of me.

Standing on a slippery rock, with imagined wings preventing me from falling, on the brink of a new beginning, almost smiling again.

Beginning again

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