wings and things

Imagined conversation 23

Me: I woke up this morning from the most terrible nightmare about you, Ants.

Anthony: Not very flattering, Jules, but good morning to you too.

Me: No, I don’t mean you were a monster or anything; on the other hand….

Anthony: Go on, I’m interested.

Me: Well, there are a few scenarios where I am asking you if you are seeing an ex-girlfriend – not a real one, that you really went out with – a new one who I’ve never heard of before. Anyway you say no the first time I ask you. Then, the second time I ask, you say yes, but just for dinner and you assure me that nothing untoward is going on. But, the third time, you admit that you’ve fallen in love with her.

Anthony: Ah the plot thickens….

Me: It’s not funny, Ants; I’m still trying to shake the nightmare off!

Anthony: Okay, sorry. So what happens next?

Me: During the rest of the nightmare, we are at a party. All of our friends and family are there and so is SHE. You are avoiding me and I’m upset but trying not to show it. I’m worried that you are overdoing it and amazed at how well you look considering how ill you are.

Anthony: So it’s another one of those dreams where I suddenly jump out of my wheelchair and start dancing?

Me: No. I like that dream; in this one there is no wheelchair in the first place. I keep wanting to ask you if the nursing home staff know you’re out and about and do you have your pills but it’s impossible to even get close to you.

Anthony: Am I the life of the party?

Me: Stop fishing! Yes.

Anthony: Good….

Me: Then a rumour starts circulating that you are going to announce your engagement to this other woman. Apart from the shock of hearing this, I am bewildered because you and I are already engaged. Anyway, as you are too gutless to tell me yourself, you send a friend over to tell me that you were never in love with me and that you are sorry.  I am devastated but try to act cool because people are starting to look at me sympathetically already.

Anthony: Well it’s not true, Jules.

Me: So I say to this friend that I’ve been with you for over twenty years but still waiting for you to choose a wedding date. Feeling desperate, I do a bit of a whispered rant to the friend about all of the years I’ve cared for you with your kidney cancer, prostate cancer and Parkinson’s disease, and the friend quietly commiserates,

Anthony: Who’s the friend?

Me: B.

Anthony: Oh, B. Great bloke.

Me: So then the most horrible scenario unfolds. You and this other woman announce your engagement to a shocked but delighted crowd.

Anthony: What do you do?

Me: I leave with as much dignity as I can muster. I find my car and drive away, sobbing.

Anthony: Maybe that other woman is your alter-ego?

Me: No, she has long, thick curly hair and a horsey face, and she’s ten years older than me!

Anthony: Oh.

Me: Is that all you can say – ‘Oh’?

Anthony: I’m sorry, Jules.

Me: What for? The nightmare, or what happened in the nightmare?

Anthony: Both.

Me: Well I guess it’s no more real than these conversations.

Anthony: Ouch.

Me: I felt so absolutely abandoned and alone and angry but I didn’t want everyone at the party to know how I felt.

Anthony: Maybe that’s what the nightmare was all about.

Me: When did you get your degree in rocket science?

Anthony: Superlative sarcasm, Jules – bravo!

Me: Anyway, I just wanted to tell you about it. It’s so good talking to you.

Anthony: Remember how we used to debate the difference between loving someone and being in love with someone?

Me: And how you used to say you loved me but you weren’t in love with me? Yes, difficult to forget that.

Anthony: But remember the day it all changed?

Me: Oh yes! I’d forgotten about that!

Anthony: Let’s save that for our next conversation, Jules. I’m exhausted!

Me: But I’m the one who had the nightmare! I hope I don’t have it again. Are there any nightmare tweakers where you are?

Anthony: I’ll see what I can do. And Jules?

Me: Yes?

Anthony: I’ve only ever been in love with one person.

Me: Who?

Anthony: Now you’re fishing.

Me: Well, who?

Anthony: YOU.






The beautiful dream

I have different versions of the same dream about once a week (I mean a sleeping dream, not a goal-ridden dream).

Okay, so, in the dream, Anthony and I, and sometimes Ming, have travelled a few hours from home to reach a destination that is either a wedding, or a party, or something like that.

We arrive and check into a beautiful room and while Anthony checks if the TV is working, I go to check out the bathroom and am suddenly jolted with hot/cold shock.

I have forgotten to bring his pills! These Parkinson’s disease pills need to be taken every few hours and at exact times and, if not, he will be paralysed, unable to walk, function normally, speak properly etc.

In the next bit of the dream, Ants and I are in a big room full of all of our wonderful friends and relatives and Anthony is lagging and very tired. I see that I need to get him up to our room and to bed and someone brings a walker or a wheelchair. I am panicked that I don’t have the pills to get Anthony mobile and I ask everyone to help me get him into the car so I can take him back to the farm where the pills are.

Then, all of a sudden, Anthony stands up, walks, laughs loudly, brushes off everybody’s worries and he and I go to our room. Then he and I go to bed, blanket ourselves in sleep until I wake up and panic because it’s 7am and he needs his PD pills!

But he is okay! In all of the different versions of this recurring dream, Anthony is always okay and we both laugh about how silly we were to panic about the pills.

And then I wake up.

It’s a beautiful dream.



1995 060 I have various versions of the same dream once or twice a week. In the dream Ants and I are on a holiday somewhere, a long way from home, and a long way from the nursing home. We are either at some sort of luxurious resort or at a wedding, and familiar family faces come and go from each dream version. Everyone is always aware that Anthony is very ill and often he is in a wheelchair. The strange thing about this dream is that its evening is suddenly punctuated by the horrifying fact that I have forgotten to bring his many pills and it’s too late, and too far, to go back and get them. But then an even stranger thing happens. He gets up from the wheelchair and walks around talking and laughing and socialising and I realise he doesn’t need the pills! IMAG0084 Another recurring dream I have is that we are on the brink of getting married but he gets cold feet and the wedding is called off and I am broken-hearted. Whenever I wake up from this dream I am filled with relief that it was just a dream but then I look over to his side of the bed and am hit with the jolt of his absence. On these days I usually go into the nursing home earlier than usual. DSCN2070 This morning Dina (my decluttering friend) and I cleared our fourth room – a little room at the back of the house that I once used as an office. It was filled with books, papers, some of Ming’s ‘stuff’ (which seems to be in EVERY room!) and I didn’t think we’d even get to the filing cabinet which was also full of bits and pieces. But we did! All legal documents are now in one place; jewellery in another; photos in another; and Ming’s bits and pieces in another, ready for him to sort out with the help of Dina. Now a little myth I need to dispel: Dina does not chuck stuff out; she simply hands it to me and I make the decision as to whether it’s worth keeping or chucking. And I am getting very good at chucking! Periodically she asks (she is so considerate!) if I am okay which is a fair enough question as some of the bits and pieces we find plunge me into a kind of nostalgia, but it’s mostly a happy nostalgia. If it isn’t, it goes in the rubbish bag – wonderful! As we declutter, categorize and cull, my mind unfurls its tightly-wrapped knots of confusion and clarity seeps back in.

Interestingly, I now have another recurring dream. In this dream, the house returns to the way it was before Anthony became so ill: spotlessly clean, tidy, organised and beautiful. But, for the first time ever, it will be my house too – less cluttered with ornaments and free of hoardings. I could never do this kind of thing when Anthony was home because he was sentimental about everything, even his father’s old dressing gown! And he wouldn’t like what is happening now but he doesn’t know so it doesn’t hurt him. I would never hurt him. And, thanks to Dina, this dream is coming true.


The Land of Blah

For several days now I have been in and out of the Land of Blah – you know, that place where, even when you stub your toe badly, you can’t be bothered saying ‘ouch’. It’s a funny sort of place, this Land of Blah, but not in a way that makes anyone smile; smiling is kind of frowned on here because it depletes energy and you need energy to get out of the Land of Blah.

I never choose to visit the Land of Blah but sometimes I accidentally wake up there (nightmares can do this), or else I am sitting with Anthony in his room in the nursing home and I am transported into the surreality of his confusion so much so that his blank expression becomes mine.

Sometimes I meet people I know in the Land of Blah and it shocks me. ‘What are you doing here?’ I feel like asking them but of course I don’t because it is a place of such silent mystery and private misery – a paradoxical place of in-between.

I don’t like it in the Land of Blah so I usually manage to clamber out and up into my normal life. And this is what I see: a beautiful peacock family.







Robyn's photo

And the Land of Blah once again recedes into its own grey nothingness.


Dreams inside dreams

For the last few weeks I have been having rather dramatic, block-buster-type dreams. Inside the dreams, I am always the hero who knows she is in a dream, but also knows that, in order to escape the dream, she has to either get away from, or else confront, the baddies.

The most recurrent dream is of something preventing Anthony and me from getting married. This barrier is usually a series of verbal and visual ‘stills’ of what really happened (Anthony’s younger brother’s protestations, my bewilderment, and Anthony’s heartbreak). These dreams are becoming so boringly predictable that I am usually able to clamber free.

But last night’s dream was really weird. Inside the dream, I was away at a conference and Ming rang me to say that Anthony’s old girlfriend had dropped in and wanted to stay the night. Then, the next morning, when I got home from the conference, Anthony admitted that he had slept with her.

Okay, so this was all a dream within a dream, but even when I escaped the inside dream, I found myself trying to climb the escalators the wrong way, in an empty airport somewhere in the desert.

I was glad to wake up!


Are you asleep yet?

Are you asleep yet, my beautiful husband?

Midnight approaches me with dark, unfamiliar claws, so I go outside to find some moonlight but it is pitch black out there and, when I can’t find the moon, I race back inside frightened.

The dogs are barking at a moonless sky but they will soon settle.

Are you asleep yet, my beautiful husband?

You said the other day that you just wanted to sleep wth me but you have forgotten that we have not slept in the same bed since the evening when you could no longer reach the height of the bed and I wasn’t strong enough to lift you into it, and we had to put you into the smaller, lower bed in what we always called the spare room.

I know.

I know you have forgotten those years of tortured, sleepless nights for both of us -, me in the big bedroom, you in the spare room but calling me, calling me, knocking on the wall with your walking stick until, finally I began to sleep in the other small, low bed in the spare room, so that I could help you during those moonful and moonless nights – to pee, to turn over, to be warmer, to be cooler, to get your knees inside the covers, to sleep….

Your dreams were terrifying and you would yell out in your sleepless sleep and I would lie in my bed next to yours hoping it would stop.

Is that what is happening now? Are you still hallucinating about the girl with the bleeding eye, the mob who are chainsawing all of your palm trees to death, the calves on top of the television, the phantoms in the dairy?

The peacocks are crying, crying, crying and their sound is a haunting lullaby.

Are you asleep yet, my beautiful husband?

Please say yes. All you have to do is whisper it and I will hear you, I will hear you.


Dreaming hallucinations

Until last night it has been difficult for me to imagine experiencing the kind of hallucinations which are part of Anthony’s Parkinson’s disease. He will often see people in empty chairs and even talk to them. Sometimes those people are us – Ming and me – but sometimes  they are strangers, often children. Sometimes he sees animals in the house or in his room at the nursing lodge – dogs and calves mostly.

Over the last few years some of the hallucinations repeated themselves and were frightening – men chopping down his favourite tree, the girl with the bleeding eye, trespassers taking over the dairy – but most have been tolerable and sometimes even comforting. Now, for instance, Anthony often thinks Ming is in the room with us even if he isn’t.

If, on the phone, Anthony says something that indicates he is hallucinating – in the evenings, for instance, he now almost always thinks he is at some sort of party in a mansion somewhere – I either go along with it or suggest he might be hallucinating. I only do the latter if he seems distressed.

Last night I had a vivid dream that has given me an insight into what hallucinations feel like and it was very frightening. In the dream, Anthony, Ming and I were all home and we had a lot of visitors. Anthony wasn’t ill and he was out chopping wood for a fire. I was the one who was ill and all the visitors kept saying I should go back to bed, but I wanted to be up and about. I was standing in the kitchen just as Anthony came in the front door with a big bundle of wood in his arms, then I turned towards the back door and there was another Anthony, in different clothes, with a bucket of wood. I turned around, confused, to see that the first Anthony was still in the hallway, then turned around to see that the second Anthony was now entering the back door. I kept telling the visitors that there were two Anthonys and they thought I was joking around. Finally, one of the visitors believed me and was alarmed and kept reassuring me that there was only one Anthony, but I could still see two – one to my left and one to my right. Neither of the Anthonys spoke, so I didn’t know which one was real.

The dream went on to another scene where I was at the doctor’s and he was about to tell me what was wrong with me – then I woke up. I can still feel the fear I felt in the dream – that I was losing my mind. I hope Anthony doesn’t feel as frightened as I did in the dream. I’m going to tell him and see what he thinks. Knowing him, he will probably laugh his head off!