jmgoyder

wings and things

Springtime: Imagined conversation 70

Me: Thank God August is over.

Anthony: Okay, will do.

Me: Do what?

Anthony: I thought you asked me to thank God?

Me: Oh, I see….

Anthony: I felt it too, the August blues.

Me: Did you?

Anthony: Well, you know how I dislike winter.

Me: I didn’t think you got winter over there.

Anthony: No, but I felt for you.

Me: It wasn’t so much the winter; it was because it was the month you died. I thought I would get all sad on the 23rd but instead I was sad for the whole month. It was horrible.

Anthony: And now?

Me: Ever since the 1st of September – the first day of spring – it is as if a heavy fog has lifted.

Anthony: Good on you, Jules.

Me: I got a lot of comfort out of our conversations during August though.

Anthony: My pleasure.

Me: I don’t feel the need to talk with you as much now.

Anthony: You’ve said that before. Don’t worry – I will survive.

Me: Ha – ironic.

Anthony: You have a lot of living to do, Jules – at least another 20 years.

Me: If you had said that in August I would have felt daunted. Ming said my eyes went all dark.

Anthony: And now?

Me: Now I feel a sense of excitement.

Anthony: Shine on, baby!

Me: You too.

Anthony: I am so shiny now you would need your sunglasses.

Me: For some reason that conjured an image of nudity.

Anthony: You are so perceptive, Jules! I am at the naturist beach.

Me: Oh hell.

Anthony: No, this is heaven.

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Imagined conversation 41

Me: Nostalgia can be quite a pleasant sensation, can’t it, Ants.

Anthony: Yes and no.

Me: What do you mean, “yes and no”?

Anthony: Well every time I see anyone who looks a bit like you, I get a pang of it.

Me: With me it’s not people as much as things.

Anthony: Like what?

Me: That pottery we used to search Perth for.

Anthony: Arabia ware.

Me: Yes, except it’s from Finland.

Anthony: How do you know that?

Me: I just googled it.

Anthony: We don’t have any left do we?

Me: One saucer. I was going to try and get a cup to go with it but have suddenly realised I don’t particularly like it.

Anthony: Sacrilege!

Me: Anyway, how come a workaholic dairy farmer like yourself had a thing for Scandinavian tableware.

Anthony: I’ve taken that secret to my grave.

Me: C’mon, tell me, Ants. It’s one of the many things I wish I’d asked you before you died.

Anthony: Actually, I’ve forgotten.

Me: Oh well.

Anthony: And all these years I thought you liked it as much as I did.

Me: So did I! The only reason I want to find it now is because it reminds me of you, not because you are the god of good taste.

Anthony: But I am! I suppose you’re going to tell me you don’t like willow pattern now … hey, wait a minute, where are you going? Don’t avoid the question. Jules? Come back here!

Me: Haha!

 

 

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Imagined conversation 37

Me: Well, you’ll be glad to know that this third bout of anxiety is nearly over. I’m going to tell you about it here because I don’t want to forget what it’s like.

Anthony: Why would you want to remember it?

Me: So I recognise it when it begins to happen rather than being all-consumed by the time I see a doctor.

Anthony: Is it my fault?

Me: Yes and no. It’s because I miss you so much but it doesn’t feel like that at all. It feels like a sense of urgency – constant and about everything – an urgency to clean the house, to socialise, to write the script, to get the motorbike licence, to train Pip as a therapy dog, to do my volunteer visits. Everything becomes such a matter of urgency that I become incapable of doing anything,

Anthony: I thought that was depression.

Me: This is on top of that – this is extreme anxiety, the kind that makes your heart beat super fast and your hands shake and fills you with a kind of flitter-flutter of frenetic energy that beats around inside you but renders you immobile. It’s the kind of fear where adrenaline doesn’t kick in so it’s implosive.

Anthony: So did you get some pills?

Me: Yes.

Anthony: And….?

Me: And now I can function again, I can appear to be okay and I can breathe properly. The good thing is I know I won’t need the pills for long, judging from the last two experiences.

Anthony: Well, take the pills as long as you like, Jules. Just take a break from all of those things you think you should be doing and just be.

Me: Yes I think that’s the key – just being. Without the mindrush. Remember how I used to confide in you about these issues?

Anthony: Yes, I married a complicated woman.

Me: Ha! And you are so uncomplicated. Even when you were so ill and incapacitated, you were like an anchor, a safe place, a solid certainty. Now that you’re dead, I sometimes flounder.

Anthony: You’ll find your feet again, Jules. You always do.

Me: I understand other people’s grief so much better now, Ants, especially the fear thing.

Anthony: Maybe there’s something you don’t realise, Jules.

Me: And what’s that, oh wise one?

Anthony: I miss you too.

 

 

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Imagined conversation 30

Anthony: It’s understandable, Jules.

Me: I’ve been putting it off for two reasons: one is I didn’t want to do this last final thing because I wanted something to look forward to. I know that sounds bizarre but there is something quite lovely about picking out a headstone and figuring out the inscription. I didn’t want that to be over with.

Anthony: What’s the other reason?

Me: Just talking with the monument people via email was okay to begin with, then I started feeling a bit sick, you know, bargaining about the price.

Anthony: You’re right to bargain!

Me: Do you like the colour Ming and I chose?

Anthony: It’s quite striking – yes.

Me: Okay so ruby red granite it is. I’m going to the monument place on Monday. I’m a bit worried that I might get really emotional or else that I might just feel numb.

Anthony: You’ll take it all in your stride, Jules. Hold your head up and smile and pretend I’m with you.

Me: That’s a good idea.

Anthony: Once it’s done, you can bring the cross with my name on it home.

Me: Yeah, I thought the same. It’s still stuck in the mound on your grave. I had no idea it took so long for the dirt to settle.

Anthony: I didn’t know that either.

Me: I thought I’d be visiting your grave all the time but I haven’t. I mean I don’t get any sensation of you being there anyway – not really.

Anthony: I’m not there, Jules – it’s just my old bones now.

Me: I hate thinking about that!

Anthony: Well it’s true.

Me: I’ve had a few bad days of missing you, Ants. I wish I could have a hug.

Anthony: Maybe you could use that imagination of yours to be hugged by me whenever anyone else hugs you.

Me: Okay, I’ll try that. Ming’s a pretty good hugger.

Anthony: That’s my boy.

Me: I want part of the inscription to read “The most beautiful man in the world”. What do you think?

Anthony: I think you are prone to exaggeration.

Me: Ming loves the idea.

Anthony: Does he?

Me: He feels the same way.

Anthony: Now you’ve made my day!

Me: That settles that, then. I think I can face Monday now.

Anthony: You’ll be fine, Jules.

Me: Okay, I’ll take your word for it.IMG_4201

 

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Imagined conversation 28

Me: You know that guy I was telling you about – the one in the nursing home who reminds me of you?

Anthony: You mean my nursing home?

Me: No, I can’t bring myself to go back there – yet. I’m talking about the nursing home where I volunteer.

Anthony: So who’s the guy?

Me: His name is K. and I thought he was around your age but one of the nurses told me he was 97!

Anthony: And he reminds you of me?

Me: Yes. It’s uncanny!

Anthony: Thanks a lot. Such a wonderful compliment – not.

Me: Well he doesn’t look a day over 81, Ants. Sorry. He’s got the same starey eyes and the same slow smile; he even seems to have a wittiness like yours. When I asked him how he was the other day, he said he was 150 years old. It was just like the kind of thing you used to say – so funny.

Anthony: Is he sexy like me?

Me: No, for God’s sake, Anthony. Don’t be so ridiculous!

Anthony: Well, I was just wondering.

Me: He’s crazy about Pip.

Anthony: That’s all right – as long as he isn’t crazy about you.

Me: I told him about you dying and he said his wife had died too and we had a bit of a sad moment.

Anthony: You do realise that I’m not 81 anymore, don’t you.

Me: How does that work?

Anthony: Not sure but I feel extraordinary well.

Me: That makes my heart get all warm and toasty. Remember how you used to say that?

Anthony: Plagiarism!

Me: The other day, P. said I should find another beau.

Anthony: What?

Me: Don’t worry, I told him that I’d had the best and there was no topping that.

Anthony: You can tell P. from me to bugger off.

Me: I’ll be more polite.

Anthony: You can quote me on that, Jules, with my blessing.

Me: Oh, so I say, “By the way, P., Anthony told me to tell you to bugger off with his blessing.”

Anthony: That sounds about right.

Me: He won’t believe that I was talking with you.

Anthony: That’s his problem. Anyway back to the old chap, K., if he’s 97 he must be pretty close to the end.

Me: Yeah, he doesn’t look so wonderful.

Anthony: Shake his hand for me.

Me: Why?

Anthony: It seems like a reasonable thing to do.

Me: Okay, I’ll do that. I think he’ll understand.

Anthony: He will. Tell him I’ll keep an eye out for him when the time comes.

Me: Wow, that’s nice of you.

Anthony: You seem to have forgotten what a splendidly marvellous person I am.

Me: I haven’t forgotten.

Anthony: That’s good then.

Me: G’night, Ants.

Anthony: G’night, Jules.

Me: I adore you.

Anthony: Perfectly understandable.

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Making friends with grief

I have learned so much about grief through my imagined conversations with “Anthony deceased” (as he is described in some legal documents I had to sign the other day) that I thought I’d share them here.

One of the things I’ve discovered is that if I wake up to what I know is going to be a day of acute grief, there is no point trying to evade it (one of the things I was trying to do). Now what I do is sort of greet it kindly, not exactly in a “Hi Grief” kind of way, more in an accepting way, almost as if it is a friend. After all, my grief about Anthony’s death, personified, has more empathy for me than anybody else possibly can.

In a way, the imagined conversations are a way of addressing Grief directly if that makes sense (if you are not sure what I mean then rest assured that I’m not really sure either!) Every time I write one of these conversations, even the ones that were a bit contrived and didn’t really flow) it helped somehow. I fought against doing it for awhile because I didn’t want people to think I was going nuts. I also didn’t want to become dependent on these conversations on a daily basis, to the preclusion of other more ‘normal’ daily activities. But I don’t care about either of those things now. Writing these conversations has often been fun and is sometimes quite enlightening.

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During a grief workshop I attended recently, Pat Kelly, a grief counsellor https://www.facebook.com/pat.kelly.18488169, pointed out that there is no one way of grieving. I found that very comforting in light of the imagined conversations I was/am writing because these have helped me more with my grief than any amount of kayaking, motor-scootering, cycling, swimming, socialising and volunteering (yes, I have been busy) have. All of these activities have helped enormously of course, but writing down conversations I imagine having with a now-well Anthony has been magical.

In re-conjuring Anthony’s voice as a younger, fitter man I have remembered all sorts of wonderful things that I’d forgotten – our holidays down south when Ming was young, our debates about whether animals went to heaven, our private jokes, our delight in the moonflowers blooming, his passion for motorbikes and classic cars, the parties, and so on. I’ve remembered poignant moments and sad times as well but mostly ‘talking’ with him has been a joy. I used to tell him everything even when he became less able to converse so, during the nursing home years, I sort of forgot about the way we used to talk and talk and talk. Remembering these conversations has been like a gift.

Making friends with Grief in this manner reminds me of how I ended up making friends with Dementia. In doing so, a lot of the associated fear diminished and a feeling of wellbeing returned.

I suppose since it’s my grief, after all, I am kind of making friends with myself again too. I’ve been working on that anyway with my wonderful psychologist, Daniella Princi https://www.facebook.com/yourintrinsiclife/ whose program has provided me with all sorts of interesting tools for living my life the way I want to live it.

One thing I know for sure is that Anthony would be proud of the way I am coping with his death and he would be chuffed to think I am pretending to converse him still. He was always very accepting of my idiosyncrasies, as I was of his.

Me: I’ve sort of made friends with the grief now, Ants.

Anthony: Good on you, Jules.

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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.

 

 

 

 

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Imagined conversation 20

Anthony: Who are all of these men you keep thinking about?

Me: Will you please STOP reading my mind like that; it’s so disconcerting!

Anthony: Well, who are they?

Me: If you can read my mind, surely you know who they are.

Anthony: But I want to hear it from you, Jules.

Me: Okay, they are just a bunch of CEOs, film executives, producers and….

Anthony: I don’t like it.

Me: What? I thought you’d be proud of me!

Anthony: [potent silence]

Me: Oh. My. God. Are you actually jealous? I can’t believe it. Yes, you are jealous, aren’t you!

Anthony: Well I am a bit, actually. I don’t want you to want them to like you; it doesn’t feel right.

Me: Ants, there is absolutely nothing romantic going on, I can assure you. It’s you I want them to like, not me!

Anthony: That’s good then.

Me: So are we clear now?

Anthony: Sorry, Jules. I just don’t want to lose you.

Me: You couldn’t lose me even if you wanted to, Ants.

Anthony: So what do all of those guys think of me?

Me: They think you are wonderful, Ants – absolutely wonderful! Star material!

Anthony: You are so full of BS Jules.

Me: I’m meeting one of them tonight for cocktails because….

Anthony: For God’s sake, Jules – don’t do anything stupid.

Me: Gotcha!

 

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Imagined conversation 14

Me: You won’t believe it, Ants!

Anthony: Try me.

Me: I went kayaking today!

Anthony: You what?

Me: I went kayaking! I had a lesson with this lovely guy and I only fell out once, when I was first getting into the thing.

Anthony: What lovely guy?

Me: The kayaking instructor.

Anthony [pause]: Okay….

Me: I think I might even buy a kayak, Ants! What do you think?

Anthony: You’re a bit impulsive, Jules.

Me: No, I’m not, Ants. I kayaked for three hours and I loved it!

Anthony: You’re a burster, Jules.

Me: Well, that’s a good thing isn’t it?

Anthony: Be careful.

Me: Why? I’m not scared of anything anymore. You’ve already died.

[Note to readers: It is now over six months since my husband, Anthony, died from pneumonia, after years of being in a nursing home with advanced Parkinson’s disease dementia. Since then, I have battled a couple of severe bouts of major depression (a condition I already had), with the addition of grief rendering me almost as bedridden as Anthony was in the end. But, with the help of my psychologist, and my own determination, I’ve begun to embrace new adventures, and kayaking is one of these. The imagined conversations are just that – imagined. I miss talking to Ants, so I do it here.]

 

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Imagined conversation 13

Me: I did something a bit spontaneous today, Ants.

Anthony: That’s unusual, Jules.

Me: I bought myself a silver bangle – from you to me. It’s kind of a combination of a Christmas and birthday present. It’s nothing to do with Valentine’s day, I promise.

Anthony: Thanks for letting me know.

Me: Oh thank you so, so, so, much for it, Ants. I love it!

Anthony: My pleasure, Jules, you deserve it.

Me: Well, yes, I think I do too because you know the last few years when you always asked me to go and get myself a silver bangle for my birthday….

Anthony: I’m glad I could be of service.

Me: No, you don’t get it Ants, I only pretended to buy myself those bangles because I didn’t want to spend the money.

Anthony: What a good disciple you are.

Me: Yeah, so I would wear an old bangle that you’d bought me years ago, and you bought me heaps, remember? You even chose them.

Anthony: I have impeccable taste. You tend to like chunky, showy jewellery.

Me: That’s a horrible thing to say and not true at all!

Anthony: I prefer the subtle nuances of the bracelet myself.

Me: Anyway so I was having a coffee in town at a new place (I’m trying to get out and about more because that’s what people keep telling me to do) and I just happened to look up and there was the shop – Baroque Design Jewellery Studio – and, whammo, I felt this sudden, nostalgic urge that you wanted me to go there.

Anthony: I had nothing to do with it, Jules. You have an overactive imagination.

Me: Are you sure? I mean the urge was so strong and I walked in and reminded Tim that I was the girl (yeah I know I should have said ‘woman’ not ‘girl’, how embarrassing) who used to come once a year to buy a silver bangle, or bracelet, as a gift to myself from my adoring husband who wasn’t well enough to accompany me.

Anthony: A likely story.

Me: Are you even listening to me!

Anthony: Sorry – wondering when you’re going to get to the point. Is it afternoon tea time yet? I’d love a coffee.

Me: As soon as I saw the silver cuff I knew it was the one.

Anthony: The one what?

Me: The bangle that you would have wanted to give me….

Anthony: I’m sure it was, Jules….

Me: So I explained to Tim that the reason I hadn’t been into his shop for a few years was because you weren’t well and you were in a nursing home.

Anthony: I remember him – great bloke.

Me: I didn’t tell him I’d been wearing bangles you’d bought me years ago, pretending they were brand new.

Anthony: You didn’t tell me either.

Me: Well, I’m telling you now! So that’s why I figure I am kind of owed around four years worth of bangles maybe.

Anthony: Interesting logic.

Me: And then I told Tim you’d died and could he give me a discount for being a bereaved widow. I didn’t really mean to say that, it just popped out so I explained that you’d taught me the art of bargaining, or is it bartering, and he said you’d be proud of me and he knocked off a third of the price!

Anthony: Amazing.

Me: It’s not amazing; it’s amazing! Are there any exclamation mark classes where you are because you really need to lift your game.

Anthony: Show me the bangle and I’ll give you my opinion.

Me: See? Here it is, Ants. It’s a cuff; I’ve never had one before. Thank you!

Anthony: Why are you so excited?

Me: Because you gave me a gift and it marks the first year of me surviving without you.

Anthony: I actually haven’t been dead for a year yet but, what the hell, you’re right, Jules, it’s a lovely piece of work. Get it engraved.

Me: Really? Are you sure? So, something like ‘To my darling Julie, with all my love, from her eternally-besotted husband, Anthony’?

Anthony (laughing): No.

Me (laughing): What then?

Anthony: Just our initials will do.

[Note: Tim Cunningham is the jeweller at Baroque. He was so kind to me today. Perhaps he sensed that just underneath my excitement at buying the silver cuff was the devastation of having lost the physical presence of Anthony. Anyway, I asked Tim if it would be okay to share his website here and he said yes so here it is: baroquedesign.com.au]

 

 

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