Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Small Kindnesses (Blogsplash)

Before and since Andrew died, I have received many kindnesses which might seem small and fleeting but have helped a lot. Only today, for instance, someone I've known a long time encountered me in town and gave my shoulder a quick squeeze as she asked, 'How are you?' Her eyes were full of compassion, gazing into mine. 'Take care,' she said as we went our ways. A brief exchange. It was obvious she felt inadequate, yet still offered what she could. I won't forget her loving look and touch in a hurry.

That is just one example.

There is the woman fairly new to our writers' group, who invited me to Christmas lunch with her and her husband. 'That would be lovely,' I said, 'But I want to get away for a few days over Christmas and just be quiet. I'm trying to decide whether to ask my niece or my son to have me.'

'You're welcome to come to us for a few days,' she said. 'You can sit on the veranda and look at the trees.' They have a property out of town. She added that her husband is not very talkative and their neighbours on both sides will be away. How perfect! I accepted of course. My next door neighbour, who loves cats, has agreed to look after mine for those few days, as she too prefers a quiet Christmas.

And yesterday another friend from the writers' group took me out to a poetry reading in the nearby town of Lismore, as a late birthday present. It was noble of him, as he doesn't actually care much for poetry himself. (But there was music too.) The reading was disappointing — such polite poetry! — but it was lovely to have an outing on a perfect Spring day, to be driven through beautiful country, and to talk about books and writing and our lives.


I remembered how, some years ago before Andrew became so ill, we used to go to Lismore for dinner and live theatre, or to participate in pub poetry readings — exciting readings, the poetry far from polite. I told my friend I should take him to a 'real' poetry reading, and mentioned that there used to be some at Byron Bay. That triggered his own recall. When he first came to this part of the world some years ago, he actually used to go to to poetry readings like that, in Byron Bay, and even enjoyed them. He looked at me with an air of discovery. 'You're a Bohemian!' he said.

'Of course!' I said. 'Did you not notice?'

We went home through Nimbin, and that brought back other memories, of the market stall Andrew and I had there for a number of years, on the third Sunday of every month. He did Reiki and Indian Head Massage; I did psychic readings using my Tarot cards and crystal ball. It was our favourite market, and very good to us.


Reminiscing about these things put me back in touch with who I am, and reminded me of the life Andrew and I had together before it got to be all about taking care of his health and wellbeing.

'There was life before all that nursing.' I said to my friend.

And why am I writing on this theme?  It's good to visit the past and remember. It's good to to rediscover who I am. But also I'm participating in a blogsplash to help celebrate the release of Fiona Robyn's new book, Small Kindnesses. It's called a blogsplash because lots of others around the world are doing it too. We're 'making a splash,' you might say.

In honour of the occasion, Kindle is making the ebook version available free just for today on both Kindle UK and Kindle US.  Race on over there, quick! Fiona is a lovely writer.

P.S. And if you like kindness, click here for more tales in the blogsplash!

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Today at S's house there was a dragonfly, my messenger from Andrew.  As we were preparing to drive down to her creek, it rested by me on the car roof several minutes. Nice to have Andrew share that sweet morning with me! I wonder if he was curious, as neither of us ever went to her house before. 

How do I know if a dragonfly is a signal of his presence or just some random dragonfly? Well first of all we agreed on that signal before he died. And just now I pendulumed and got a 'yes' to it signalling his presence today. I think he is synchronised to my thoughts and/or energy, and will be conscious of anything he needs or wants to take note of. I also think that, because of our agreement, I can assume all dragonflies from now on are signals. After all we picked that because they are seldom seen hereabouts, although they do occur. Since he died, I have seen rather more than I might normally expect. 

He also shows up without benefit of dragonflies. The night before last I had been reflecting sadly on the fact that I can get through the days but the nights are difficult, especially going to bed. When I went to bed after that, I felt peaceful, and got the idea that he had come to be with me. These days I don't even have his pillow on his side any more, but that didn't seem to matter — as why should it when he no longer has a body? But I had the sense that he was there. Then my own hand started spontaneously stroking my hair back from my forehead in just the way he sometimes used to, and I thought that he was using my own body to do that. It felt nice — not premeditated, not controlled, just comforting. 

Then Freya came to lie beside me, and at last, for the first time since he died, she fully relaxed and purred wholeheartedly as she always used to when he was there. I was so pleased! Pleased for her above all, because it has concerned me. 

Of course, one could say all this is just my own mind giving me some comfort, and it could be so. But I have had too many indications of other-dimensional realities, over decades, to even be bothered explaining this away. 

However, though it is some comfort at the time, it doesn't take away the grief and the aloneness. My single friends tell me they get lonely. That's a general kind of loneliness. I don't have that, don't know if I ever will. I like my own company, and am liking it well enough even now. No, I am lonely FOR someone, that one specific person. It is not always in the forefront of my mind, but it is always there. Sometimes it hardly bothers me; sometimes it hurts like hell.

S today expressed the opinion that towards the end of Andrew's life I must have felt more of a physical than emotional bond, because he slept a lot and because he had mild Alzheimer's. I said, 'No, the emotional bond was always the strongest.' And of course it still is.

Monday, November 19, 2012


The last couple of days, I've had a sort of shift. As I go about my days, doing the sorts of things I'd be doing if he was still here, the things I'd do anyway, it feels as if he is here. I know he's not, but because my routine isn't that much different, the feeling is also not that much different.

It's not the routine of the recent past, with all that nursing; more like the things I've done for the years of our being together, and things I've done in this house before his illnesses became so extreme. I feel at home here, and at home in my life and my ways of doing things.

And I'm getting the place more how I like it — how I always wanted it to be for his enjoyment, too. I walked into the bedroom tonight to go to bed, looked around and said out loud, 'This is a nice bedroom' — just as he himself might have done. It's even nicer now than it was when he was here, and I know he'd have enjoyed it.

Then, suddenly, reality comes crashing back, and my head says, 'My husband is dead', and tears start. My heart does, in fact, feel that heaviness that people speak of.  Because he is not here, and we can't go to bed together.

'Why don't you come and sleep with me in the nights?' He asked me when he was in the hospital that last time. I tried to explain that it was a hospital and I wouldn't be allowed. I looked at his narrow bed and the ward full of other men, and wondered how he could ask it, even in his confusion. But I understand very well now. One can get through the days, but oh the nights!

I suppose there's progress. It used to be at dinner times that his absence hit home. I am working out new routines for that, for me and the cats. Now it's bedtimes that hurt the most.

When he wasn't physically present, but was alive and I thought he'd be returning — from hospital or nursing home — it was like these days, but I was able to enjoy my solitude and its pleasures.

There are pleasures to enjoy now, too, and I do. It's wonderful to get immersed in a piece of writing, or answer an important phone call, without being conscious that I could be needed and interrupted at any moment. There are many such small and large freedoms. I do enjoy them, but at times feel a little like, 'Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.'

At the same time, I realise more and more how stressful and traumatic the last two years were.  I see that indeed I couldn't have gone on much longer — as so many people tried to tell me. I was told I was in danger of getting very ill myself, and I can see now how close I was. Now, alongside grief and readjustment, is the bit-by-bit recovery. I can take the time, now, to look after myself.

Oh, bitter irony that I now have time to moisturise the ancient bod after my morning shower, that I've discovered how much bright red lipstick suits me, that I've lit on the perfect colour for my hair. And Andrew is not around to see me looking good.

Never mind, when he was alive he thought I was beautiful.

'Will you recognise me when we meet again?' I demanded today, talking to him (at him) in my head as I so often do — while knowing that what he will recognise will be the energy of my soul.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I've Started Watching 'Brideshead Revisited' Again

... the 1981 British TV series.  I bought the boxed set months ago, after Andrew and I saw the 2008 movie on TV. We enjoyed that very much, thought it well done, and it made us want to watch the TV show again. We each saw that before we knew each other and remembered that it was wonderful, and that it had time to develop the story with more leisure than the movie could do.

But we never did watch it together. When I began the other day, I cut and removed the cellophane wrapping. We hadn't even got that far.

He got very tired towards the end of his life, and the pain he was in and the medications he had to take made him more so. I also suspected at times that he was somewhat depressed. Why wouldn't he be? There was the pain, and there was the increasing inability to do the things he wanted to, from simply walking a short distance unaided to operating his computer. He knew he had Alzheimer's, though I am not sure he realised how confused he sometimes was. But it was obvious to everyone that sometimes he was concentrating hard to keep up with a conversation. He must have known he didn't have much longer to live, and there were projects he had not completed, which weighed on him. The wonder is that he did not appear more depressed more often.

For whatever reasons, he slept a lot and we didn't watch Brideshead or many other DVDs I bought with the idea that he'd enjoy them. It became too difficult for him to cope with cinema-going, so I borrowed the latest movies from the DVD shop, and bought a number of old favourites when I saw them going cheap. We caught up with very few of those, but did manage On Golden Pond, Out of Africa, and Lawrence of Arabia. He knew he''d seen them before but didn't remember the stories. 

One of his in-home respite carers showed him Gifted Hands starring Cuba Gooding. He loved it so much, he insisted I buy a copy; he wanted to share it with all our friends. She also brought him The King's  Speech, and I had to buy that too. Not that I minded. I was only too glad to do whatever might make him happy. And it did. He had no recollection of ever having seen it previously — which he did, with me, when it first came out. He fell in love with it and watched it repeatedly. He wanted me to organise to show it in all the local schools! I got out of that by saying it would be against copyright regulations. Anyway, he wasn't much interested in watching anything else. There are others too with the cellophane still intact.

So it's time to do what gives ME pleasure. For the most part we liked the same things, so seeing them with him would have given me pleasure too, but now that option is past and it's only myself I need to consider. I'm sorry he missed out on revisiting Brideshead, but I dare say that's not important to him now. Myself, I'm loving it.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I'm Going Away for Christmas

I decided I couldn't bear to do, without Andrew, the things I used to do with him.

Traditions had grown up. For a number of years we were invited to be part of friends' celebrations, people who claimed us as adopted family. We feasted with different ones on Xmas Eve or Xmas Day (sometimes both) and always on Boxing Day. Lovely times we had — but this year I think everyone would be too conscious of Andrew's absence along with my presence. Not that I am thinking of their feelings, I admit, but my own. I came to the conclusion I would like to be quiet and still, get away from home and even away from the Internet; maybe read some books, spend some time in nature, meditate.

I was tossing up, dithering. Perhaps this was the time to take up my dear niece's offer to go and visit her at her farm in Victoria. But would she have plans for xmas? Most people do. She might feel obliged to say yes despite inconvenience; or she might be happy to have me but want to play xmas. She's a bit traditional like that; or perhaps it's truer to say that family stuff is important to her. Anyway, one year when Andrew and I stayed with her over xmas, we had the tree and pressies and so on. It was fun then and we entered into it wholeheartedly, but it's not what I'm after just now.

So maybe I could put the hard word on the Firstborn and stay with him in Melbourne a few days? He would understand my wish for solitude and no fuss. Chances are he'd be celebrating with his new girlfriend at her place, leaving me free to chill out, or go out, as the fancy took me. But there are so many old friends in Melbourne, not to mention two-thirds of my step-family. I don't want more than a few days away because of the cats. No time to see everyone — or even anyone, if I want to be quiet and solitary. Melbourne's probably not a good idea right now. (Once before I tried to sneak back unannounced for work-related reasons, and immediately bumped into an old friend. My embarrassment and her hurt rather spoiled the reunion.)

I toyed with the idea of announcing I'd be away and then staying quietly at home, doing my own thing. But it would be apparent to the neighbours that I was here. They are kind and would want to make sure I was OK, perhaps try to include me in their own celebrations. I would feel obliged to accept graciously rather than hurt their feelings. No, that wouldn't work either.

Then, just the other day, out of the blue, a new friend invited me to have xmas lunch with her and her husband at their rural property out of town. I thanked her but explained that I was looking to get away somewhere quiet and peaceful for a few days. She said, 'You're welcome to spend a few days with us.'

What an ideal solution! Her husband is a quiet person, not very talkative — perfect. She understands what I'm seeking, and said, 'You could sit on the back veranda and look at the trees.' Perfect again. For a minute I had this wild notion that, being relatively close, I could duck home each day to feed the cats. But it's not so very close, and anyway that would rather defeat the purpose.

'I could go and feed your cats,' said my friend. How's that for a good offer? But common sense had re-asserted itself by then, and I told her I'd get a neighbour to do it. My next door neighbour, who is going to do the honours in January, when I'm off to Tassie to stay with an old friend there, will most probably be away herself at xmas, but I have other good neighbours I can ask.

I find myself looking forward to it very much. This new friend is someone I have been wanting to get to know better. And the idea of that back veranda is very enticing indeed!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sometimes I Think He's Still There

Sometimes I think he's still there. Or, more precisely, still here.

I know, of course, that he's not — but when I am engrossed in something that I'm reading or watching on TV, I notice that part of my mind just naturally thinks of talking to him about it, like the next thing I'll do.

I still think of all sorts of items as his.

It is slowly sinking in that, apart from the building itself, everything I see in this place is mine. Well, except for a few things still to be parcelled up and sent to his kids. He left few bequests; he trusted me, as his executor, to do the right thing by others. I have sent some of the bequests already, and also some mementoes I thought his children and grandchildren would like —and I was right; they do. There are still some items which are a bit hard to post, but I'm figuring it out. Apart from those few bequests, he left it all to me.

I'm not talking about great wealth, not in financial terms (though there are other kinds of treasures). I'm just noticing how I still think of 'Andrew's iMac', designate particular books as his, and so on. But in fact they all belong to me now and I have absolute authority to say what shall become of them. Right now this doesn't make me happy, it makes me sad.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

My Unshed Tears from His Life

Here I am again, in the bed without him. Everything now is without him. And yet my mind is so full of him, all the time.

I am crying more now than I did at first. I have realised that sometimes I am releasing sorrows I couldn't before.

I recall a time he wanted to go through his office 'into that other office' to talk to the Prime Minister, whom he'd just seen on TV. He thought she was missing a point or two and wanted to tell her so. It was urgent. How disconcerted he was to find there was no other office through his.

Remembering this today, I sobbed for his confusion and distress, as I didn't when it happened. Then, I was busy dealing with it, and with him.

I'm sure I have many tears bottled up inside, like that.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Two Dreams

(It's not clear to me in detail what these dreams signify, but both intuition and logic say they must belong in this blog. What else would I be dealing with right now, however symbolically?)

I have had two sequential dreams about involvement in an environmental group. I woke up this morning after the second, which enabled me to remember both.

They took place now, only I was still involved with the organic food co-op [long disbanded] that Andrew and I were in during our early days in the Caldera. I was doing something which didn't happen then — I was going out regularly towards Tyalgum and collecting potatoes from a grower, to take to the co-op to sell. [No-one from real life.]

In the first dream, I encountered a meeting about to begin in this grower's house, hosted by him and his wife. They'd brought a lot of chairs into the living-room, and people were getting settled, many of them people I knew. (LH comes to mind.) The host's wife was named Nettal; she was a gracious older lady. We talked a while about the issue. [What issue? I don't now know, only that it was obviously of great importance to the community. I'd like to think it was fracking but I truly don't know.] I was pleased but not surprised to see my good friends Mo and Al come in.

Someone (I think the host) gave a short talk, then we were all shown a DVD on a fairly large TV screen. We watched with rapt attention, taking it very seriously. Needless to say, I don't remember it now. I think the dream faded out after that.

In the second dream, I got a bit lost on my way to the grower's and went too far. On one of those bends on the way into Tyalgum I decided to go in the gate of a property I saw and enquire for directions. I met a delightful couple, no longer young, who grew potatoes too. With great enthusiasm, he insisted I sample some of his potatoes, raw, with the dirt just rubbed off. I did, to be polite, and it was wonderful: crisp and tasty. They introduced me to their several friendly dogs, and we had a nice visit before they sent me on my way with clear directions. In conversation it became apparent that, although some of our ideas were a bit different, they supported the environmental group's aims.

So it was no surprise to see them at the next meeting. We greeted each other like old friends. When Mo came in, she took me aside and said, 'I see you were with [unremembered names of this couple]. I prefer to hobnob with Nettal and Peter Garnet', indicating our hosts. [Names unknown to me in real life.] This was obviously a friendly warning against getting too close to the other couple, but there was no opportunity to find out more. People were taking their seats.

I sat next to Mo and Al and some of their other friends. My friend Katie arrived and sat nearby. During an interval for coffee and cakes, I got up to say hello briefly to someone else. When I came back, Katie was in my seat, deep in conversation with Mo. Someone else (LH?) observing my confusion, picked up Katie's handbag from where she'd been sitting and put it beside her, then indicated to me to grab the chair Katie had been in and bring it over next to my friends (who, still talking to each other, were oblivious of all this). I hesitated, as there were a few empty chairs, including one child-size, but all looked a lot less comfortable than the one I'd been in. This mattered very much to me.

While I was hesitating, trying to decide which chair to choose, the host came along and picked up the empty ones, several at a time.He put them off  to  one side, behind the others. As the movie was about to resume, I hastily went and sat in the nearest of these empty chairs — somewhat separate from the rest of the people. No-one seemed to notice, too engrossed in what was happening onscreen, but I felt isolated, awkward and sad: a misfit. [Something I often felt before I married Andrew. I only just realised, writing this, that being with him took that feeling away for 20 years — even at times he wasn't physically present. Even when I was away in Texas for five weeks. Evidently he gave me huge validation, beyond what either of us understood.] 

Then I awoke.