18 May 2014

Half a year without my sweetheart

Six months ago today, Allen died. Sometimes it's as fresh as if it were yesterday. At other times, I can't remember having him near. But I do often hear him reminding me of the power of music. And this morning the ABC played a wonderful version of Beethoven's 9th Symphony. What better reminder that hope and beauty can transcend loss and sadness.


This was Allen's last book - that is, the last one he never stopped trying to read. It's a notebook he built up during his final 10 or so years, when music became his greatest consolation. In it, he had pasted translations of the lieder he listened to over and over again. Like this one (Maiden's song), from a Brahms song cycle:

On Judgment Day I will rise again,
and immediately look for my sweetheart
and if I cannot find him,
I will lie down again and sleep.

Heartache, you Eternity!
Only with another comes happiness!
And if my sweetheart comes not in,
then I don't wish to be in Paradise!

14 May 2014

Moving on (and in)

This is the sort of day it has been.


My mood all day has been much the same, influenced no doubt by the tail end of a debilitating flu or cold. But I've been at my desk anyway, preparing for the final of ten tutorials I will have presented in as many weeks for two first-year groups of teacher-trainees at the local university. I was pleased to be offered this semester of part-time work. It was one of several new pastimes that I hoped would help me learn to live alone and begin to 'move on', whatever that means!

So ten weeks ago, I moved my office out of its former temporary location in the second bedroom, into the small galley room that had been Allen's office ever since we moved here in 1996. My own larger office used to be in a separate studio building, now a second guest bedroom. But I had to give up that larger space when it became impossible for me to be that far away from Allen for any length of time. I could have returned to the studio-office, now that my caregiving duties are no more. But several things dissuaded me from doing that.

First was the attraction of not having to vacate my office whenever I have visitors. The studio has the double bed for visiting couples; the second bedroom has a single bed (which is where my grand-daughter sleeps on her frequent visits). But Allen's little end-room office - once a verandah - is too small to accommodate a bed. So it is always free, no matter how many people are sleeping in the house for the weekend or longer.

Then, too, the distance from the house to the studio meant my laptop inevitably ended up in the house, perched on the dining-cum-sewing table. That's because going out to the studio to check emails and do my banking and other routine tasks is just too much of a nuisance late at night or when it's raining. Giving up the larger studio space seems a price worth paying for the convenience of having all my office things just a few steps away from my bedroom.

What really settled me in my decision to make Allen's office my own was just that: the fact that it had been his. Until I moved in here, this room off our bedroom was a furious empty space that screamed his absence every time I looked into it. I could hardly bear to enter it. So I moved in and made it mine, which meant going through all his shelves and papers first, of course. But that was relatively easy. Allen had been doing it himself for years before he lost the ability to read and write. He was always a well-organised man - socks rolled in his drawer, suitcase nicely packed, paperwork all in order. He had long ago sorted everything he wanted to keep or pass on, and discarded just about everything else.

I moved my things in and found, to my surprise, there is plenty of space. First I discarded several wheelie-bins of old paperwork - things from my university degrees and old freelance jobs going back decades. All the books and other curriculum materials we produced during my ten years as manager of the state's educational publishing facility have gone to our regional university's library. Dozens of other books are going here and there. It's a very liberating feeling, as I remember Allen assuring me when he did the same with his theatre library and paperwork a long time ago - a move which horrified me at the time. 

My new little office has been quite pleasant during the warmer weather - even though it's the only part of the house that doesn't have access to air conditioning. But we rarely used the aircons in the rest of the house anyway, thanks to good insulation throughout and a perfect aspect in all living areas. This office has both eastern and northern-facing windows, so the winter sun streams in but there's no exposure to the hot western summer sun. I've been amazed how cosy the room stays now that our cooler winter weather has arrived. Since it's small and has good windows, the tiniest bit of sun heats it up nicely. I can't help chuckling when I remember now that even after he could barely do anything constructive in the way or reading or writing, Allen still disappeared into this enclave after breakfast every day, sliding shut the glass door connecting it to our adjacent bedroom. In his last months, I would put an opera on his computer for him to watch. I now realise that because his tiny frame could no longer regulate his body temperature very well, he was probably mainly enjoying the room's warmth. - probably just one of hundreds of things Allen could no longer express.

Right outside one window here a beautiful golden penda is growing, a tree I planted in 2009 when I painted the room for Allen and had tiles laid down. As I was closing the blinds this afternoon, I looked out to see the first of the golden penda's new season's flowers had just opened. The light was fading, but I photographed it anyway. I need reminders that life goes on.




About me

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I started this blog in 2009 when I became a full-time caregiver. My husband had been diagnosed a few years earlier with primary progressive aphasia. Over the next four years until his death in 2013, we went on a journey of discovery about this rare condition. My blog is about what I learned, how we both coped and how the journey deepened our love and appreciation of each other. Allen’s journey is over, but mine goes on.