jmgoyder

wings and things

Aha!

Thanks to those who sent me links to possible ways to turn a long series of WordPress blog posts into an equally long Word document to edit but, alas I still didn’t find an easy way. The fact that I have written blog posts, for a little over ten years, straight into the blog format without drafting them first was, in retrospect, a mistake.

On the other hand, in WordPress, you can easily ‘return’ a blog post back into draft form to edit and I did this recently. The draft form is much easier to copy and paste from and that is the aha!

So I still need to do the job of going back to November 7th, 2011, when I first began blogging, and copy/pasting the posts that most pertain to this book about Anthony. Apart from the rather tedious nature of this task, it will also bring back happy and sad nostalgia so I need to be ready to meet those moments with strength.

Another aha! is remembering another bunch of anecdotes so I am going to tell those as I delve into the past – what fun!

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Blog-to-book advice sought

To any WordPress/or other bloggers, does anyone know an easy way to convert blog format into a Word document for easier editing?

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Chapter 60: Piecing it all together [2021]

I’ve been going around in circles over the last few days trying to figure out how to put all the bits of this story into a cohesive whole that isn’t chronological. At this point I have three separate sections: (1) the experience of Anthony’s Parkinsonism both at home and, eventually, in the nursing home, and this will include blog entries from way back that describe how this experience unfolded as it happened; (2) the ‘Imagined conversations’ that I blogged after Anthony died; and (3) the recent nearly 60 anecdotes/chapters that give context to the overall love story.

I have a few more anecdotal chapters up my sleeve and I still want to include more of Ming’s point of view, but I feel like I really need to concentrate on the structure of the book now.

Some of the things that I’ve written about over the years that I’ve been blogging have been really painful; remembering and writing about these things has also entailed a re-living of some aspects of the past. One of the strangest things I’ve noticed about myself is that some of the past traumas Anthony and I faced, as he became more and more ill, didn’t feel as traumatic then as they sometimes do now, in retrospect. From time to time over the years, I’ve experienced the dreadful overwhelm of PTSD symptoms and have sought professional help but thankfully this hasn’t happened often because the bulk of our story – Anthony’s and mine – has been so buoyantly happy, against all sorts of odds.

Another thing I’ve discovered is that on the days when I miss Anthony the most, it isn’t the long-ago healthy Anthony I feel the stab of nostalgia for; it’s the more recent, unwell Anthony. Sometimes I just want to be back in that nursing home in the chair next his armchair, or next to his bed, with my arm draped around his shoulder and my feet resting on his knees, watching comedies on the television. Sometimes it is these memories of contentment and acceptance that gallop themselves into feelings of trauma – weird!

Anyway, I won’t be posting much for awhile because the book is more or less written and now I just have to piece it all together.

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Chapter 59: The serenade [1978?]

Before I left home (again) to pursue a nursing career in Perth, my mother invited Gar and Anthony for a goodbye dinner. They had already met my dad, the tall distinguished man with a BBC voice who also happened to be a chiropractor, but they didn’t really know my mother.

It had been nearly six months since my dad had died but, because he had given his consent for my relationship with Anthony – a relationship that hadn’t even developed yet – my mother, who had an instinct for romance, was supportive (reluctantly I am sure!) of me singing a song I had written for Anthony that night. Even though I still cringe with embarrassment at this memory, it may well be one of the most courageous things I have ever done. I had been playing the guitar and writing little songs for years but Anthony didn’t know that.

So, after the meal was nearly over, and Gar and my mother were happily chatting over dessert, I beckoned Anthony to my parents’ front veranda where my guitar was already placed. Of course he was a bit mystified but as we sat down and I reached for my guitar, he became almost as nervous as I was.

As my shaking fingers plucked the chords, I sang the following lyrics:

We’ve known each other for awhile, my old friend; we always make each other smile, my old friend. But I can’t go only saying I’ll miss you, when I know now I love you.

I can still hear the tune in my head! Anthony’s nonplussed reaction was “Oh, Jules, you are so sweet!”

We returned into the house, Anthony awkward and me blushing, and Gar immediately said what she often said when I took too long to fetch a billy of milk: “You’ve been having a cuddle, haven’t you.”

No!

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Chapter 58: Confusion [from 2001]

Anthony seemed to me to become very confused about the difference between a coffee cup and a jar of vegemite and I began to notice some strange behaviours during this time. He, all of a sudden, it seemed to me, became incredibly inept at almost everything but he kept trying to work like he had always worked; trying to (irrationally) attach hoses to water tanks, trying to get the Aga working, trying constantly to be useful,

The Parkinsonism had a grip on him well before the diagnosis was confirmed but Anthony’s Parkinson’s wasn’t the usual, recognisable type, with the tremors etc. Anthony had the kind of Parkinson’s that slowed every single organ to become inept, stagnant, dysfunctional, so constipation was a major form of torture for him.

As Anthony’s health deteriorated, our confusion about why and what was happening to him increased, I despaired. We had little Mingy by then and this added to our anxiety about why Anthony had succumbed to so many illnesses, and why he couldn’t be a more functional father. Was it something genetic? Was it emotional hurt? Who knows. It was almost a relief when we got the diagnosis.

Parkinsonism.

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Chapter 57: The accusations [1992]

One of the ways I quite like to deal with difficult memories, situations, and even people, is to view them through the lens of how interesting and/or how funny they are. The following situation is both of those, as well as being utterly bizarre.

In the months before Anthony and I were married, I would often come down from Perth via the train. Anthony would pick me up from the train station in the evening and whisk me back to the farm for the best roast chicken I have ever tasted. On one of these occasions, just days after we became engaged, he said he had a crazy story to tell me. “You’ll need a drink, Jules.”

Apparently, the previous day, his younger brother had come over and, again, begged Anthony not to marry me.

“Is it still the gold-digger thing?” I sighed, sipping happily on my gin and tonic.

“No, apparently he knows for a fact that you and Dr X conspired to euthanize Mum.”

My sip turned into a choke: “What?”

“Yep.”

Oh! I was so gob-smacked that I just sat there in disbelief. “So what did you say?” I asked eventually. I couldn’t wrap my mind around how me sitting with Gar in the hospital for those last few days before she died, all those years ago, had been twisted into a murder mystery.

“I just told him to stop being ridiculous,” Anthony said

I was shocked and disturbed by this extraordinary accusation but I also found it fascinating and, yes, well, almost funny. Anthony read my mind and grinned. “Well, did you?”

“Did I what?”

“Conspire with Dr X to euthanize Mum.”

“I think I might have told you, Ants!”

As we ate our roast chicken, one or another of us kept exploding into fits of nervous laughter but eventually we calmed down. “Mum would be rolling in her grave,” Anthony said.

“It’s all pretty sad though, isn’t it,” I said, remembering how profoundly the experience of holding Gar’s hand when she died had affected me.

And yes, of course these sorts of accusations were very sad but they were also very interesting and, strangely, very funny.

I’m pretty sure Gar, too, would be laughing….

Sadly.

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Chapter 55: Gar’s death [1979]

Several months after my dad died, so did Gar, my future mother-in-law, Anthony’s beloved mother.

By that time, I had begun my nursing training at St John of God’s hospital in Subiaco, Perth, and was also working part-time in a nearby nursing home; I was 200 kms away but I somehow got the week off when Gar died. I had kept in touch with this mother and son because I loved them – simple.

I didn’t have a car so my mother, on her way to work as a teacher, would drop me off at the hospital where Gar was, then pick me up on her way home. I sat and talked to Gar every day, for around a week while her pneumonia turned deadly. When family members visited, I would remove myself from the situation in order to give them privacy. Once the family members left, I would return to hold her hand until my mother picked me up.

On top of her pneumonia, Gar had also suffered a stroke, so she was mostly unable to speak coherently. She was incredibly restless and frustrated so the staff would restrain her in her bed until I arrived. Extraordinarily (in today’s context), I was allowed to provide and light her cigarettes.

Needless to say, it was a difficult week but I listened to her attempts to speak and sometimes pure sentences emerged in amongst her frustrated garble and “Look after Anthony” was one of these and I promised her a yes.

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Chapter 54: Mingy! [January 5, 1994]

It was a terribly difficult birth but finally, after about 48 hours of Ming trying to stay put, he emerged, looking a bit like a giant frog. He was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen!

As soon as Anthony saw that this giant frog was his son, he held him in his arms and then abruptly left, pleading exhaustion and cow-milking obligations. It was 2am.

OMG he wasn’t a giant frog at all; he was our little boy! Ming!

And in that moment of recognition, I understood all of the mysteries of the world.

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Chapter 53: First date [1978]

It wasn’t a date per se but it was memorable nevertheless. Anthony had decided to take me out for dinner as a way of saying goodbye before I left for the strange Bible college in Sydney.

I had never been taken out for dinner before so I was very nervous and shy. When Anthony picked me up from my parents’ house, I was a bit nonplussed to see him looking rather dapper in his dressed-to-go-out clothes as I was so accustomed to seeing him in his dairy farmer attire – black football shorts and t-shirt.

I tried, and succeeded, not to swoon as he opened the passenger door of his beautifully polished car (I think it was the Torana A9X but it might have been the Holden GT- another story). We talked all the way to the restaurant in an adjacent town, Bunbury, but I have no recollection of what we talked about because, as well as the age gap, we had absolutely nothing in common.

At the time, Bunbury didn’t have that many restaurants but Eagle Towers had a reputation for their cuisine, so that’s where Anthony took me. The restaurant was a very old house and its conversion to an eating venue had included keeping the rather heavy decor – thick, red carpet and rather dramatic wallpaper in a black and white swirly pattern; it was almost brothel-like but of course I didn’t know what a brothel looked like then, and still don’t.

I remember how delicious the food was but I have no recollection of what we ate. It was probably dhufish which was very popular at the time. Anthony ordered a half bottle of champagne which I thought was terribly exciting. And, to finish off, we had Irish coffee which was also very exciting.

It would be so good if I could remember more details about this wonderful evening and I may, in fact, have misremembered some of the details about the decor, the food, our conversation, because none of those things really mattered. What mattered is/was how Anthony and I consolidated our connection as friends. The romance was just there, tentatively peeking through, but waiting in the wings. I already knew that I loved him with all my heart, but he didn’t. Or maybe he did but wouldn’t acknowledge it because I was so young.

I didn’t want to leave Eagle Towers; I wanted to stay there forever with Anthony but eventually it came time to pay the bill. As I stood beside my handsome best friend, I felt an extraordinary sense of well-being until the waitress gave him the bill and he was $5 short. That kind of discrepancy wouldn’t matter these days but, as the meal only came to $45, it was significant. Anthony was very embarrassed and I didn’t have any cash so we found ourselves in a bit of an awkward situation.

Somehow Anthony resolved things and we laughed all the way home to my parents’ house.

This is one of my favourite memories!

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Chapter 52: Part of the furniture [2021]

Two years ago I sold the house and land to the dairy farmers whose farm adjoined ours and bought the little cottage I now live in. They are wonderful people and, like Anthony did, they love dairy farming. Packing up the house and farm was a nightmare of a job but they gave me a couple of months after the sale to do so and finally, on the 1st of January, 2020, I moved into my cottage with the two dogs, Jack and Pip.

The cottage was built as a kit home in 1994 and, despite being so tiny, most of Anthony’s favourite pieces of antique furniture fit snugly in. The grandfather clock, the sideboard in which I found wads of money hidden, a china cabinet, the dining room table and chairs and the old armchairs seem now to have always been here.

Every single day I am filled with an almost effervescent joy at having found this cottage. It sits on a battle-axe block so isn’t visible from the road and it faces a little pocket of forest beyond which is a park. There are beautiful wild birds of every type constantly at my bird feeders at the front and the back yard is big enough for the dogs to play in although I am sure they miss their rabbit hunting days.

One of the very best things about living here is that Ming has bought his own, much bigger, house and it is just around the corner. We found his house online so didn’t realise how close it was to mine until the day we first had a look at it. If I go through the little forest and up a short path via the park I am on his road. On that day, the real estate agent laughed and asked Ming did he really want to live so close to his mother. But he and I are delighted!

Other than the occasional pang of nostalgia, I don’t miss the farm at all. Without Anthony there it had long ceased to feel like home anyway, whereas this little cottage absolutely does. There is something about the way I have placed our beautiful furniture that is reminiscent of the farm house and this gives me such a sense of comfort, and a sense of Anthony’s presence.

I thought it was only me who felt the Anthonyness of my little cottage but one friend, on visiting me here for the first time, walked in, looked around in a kind of disbelief, then said, “Anthony is here!”

Yes he is. Part of the furniture. No wonder I am so happy.

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