(I'm not a musician.) I was taught as a child that I must not 'blow my own trumpet' as in talking about myself – especially not to say anything good about myself. I was also taught that much of what I could say about myself was nonsense and I needn't expect anyone to believe it. If I myself believed it, I must be insane. If not, I was obviously a liar. Telling my story, therefore, became a very confronting task. I am now in my late seventies, as I begin this blog, and it is only a preparation – things I write on the way to writing the memoir. Nevertheless, everything posted here is copyright and must not be reproduced without written permission from the author (usually me).

Monday, 29 May 2017



Peter, the Tarot reader, wasn't the only one to foresee a new romance for me. My Reiki Master, Ann, was a seer. At one of her seminars, while we were on a lunch break, she suddenly got a flash and said, 'Oh! Nice man coming for Rosemary soon.' That was exciting, but there were no details.

The Tarot Student

Katherine and Peter broke up. Katherine, heavily pregnant with the babe who was to become my fourth god-daughter, Jasmine, kept the shop going. With even more learning and practice under my belt, I advertised Tarot classes of my own there, and conducted several, each consisting of a number of weekly sessions. 

One class attracted only one student, but I told him I was happy to run a class of one. Max was tall and rangy, a few years younger than me. He was doing outdoor work of some kind (I forget what) so he was fit-looking with nice lean muscles, not the horrible 'Mr Universe' kind. He was basically a hippy in his attitude to the natural world and living free, but he was starting to adopt a more materialistic point of view. He said he wanted a comfortable old age, and was looking to marry a rich business-woman. He meant it too, and we both knew I didn't fit the bill.

We enjoyed the lessons, and fell into an easy friendship. Knowledgable and experienced in things esoteric, he was basically a very nice bloke. We really liked each other. In the course of the lessons we opened up a lot about our personal histories, finding it easy to confide in each other.

He had an intriguing black-and-white Tarot deck I'd not seen before, the Hermetic Tarot. One day he came to class and presented me with my own copy. He said he had been driving past a little Tarot shop he knew, when suddenly was impelled to pull over and go into the shop. Like me, he was in the habit of following his intuitive guidance. He didn't know what he was looking for, so browsed the shelves until this copy of the Hermetic Tarot practically jumped out and hit him in the face. 

He thought, ‘But I’ve already got that one.’ A voice said into his mind, ‘These are for Rosemary.’

He thought, ‘Why would I buy Rosemary a Tarot deck?’ 

Perhaps he’d misunderstood? He put the cards to his forehead, his personal method of checking the accuracy of his messages, and tuned in. The voice repeated, more firmly and somewhat testily, ‘These are ROSEMARY’S cards,’ So he obeyed.

I’d been using the Thoth deck for a few years, but it was starting to feel a bit tired and stale, which can happen when you use the same deck constantly over a long period. I gave it some Reiki, told it to have a good rest, wrapped it in its silk scarf and put it away in its velveteen bag. Then I started using the Hermetic Tarot, which looked very different but interpreted the cards in a similar way. I found it great to use, and it became my professional deck for a long time.

Max and I sort of knew we were attracted to each other, but we were tentative. In particular, I was. He did start to indicate his interest, in ways that left me free to respond accordingly or not – such as finding an excuse to rip his shirt off one day and display his very desirable torso. It was just the kind of body I liked, but I was as awkward as a teenager when it came to the dating game – I’d been married 27 years – so I addressed whatever the excuse was, and he put his shirt on again. I went home to think about my options. For one thing, while I was sure this would be a very nice affair indeed, I was not what he was looking for long-term and I didn't want to risk getting my heart broken again. 

Then something else that was playing out took a turn which interrupted these developments anyway.

Master Connections

After getting settled in my new life, I found I missed the Andronicus Foundation meditation group. While Reiki was a spiritual path too, it was a different kind of practice. I had done Jenette's six-week 'Master Connections', the post-graduate course of The Master Game, and that had filled the gap for a while. It included meditation, exercises to develop our spiritual / energetic muscles, and connecting to high-level other-dimensional beings for wisdom and guidance. 

The Reiki Master training and Jenette's courses between them further enhanced my psychic abilities, such as clairvoyance. I remember one Master Connections session when Jenette channelled a magnificent extra-terrestrial. I know he was magnificent, because I saw him with my physical eyes, as if superimposed on her. I used to send Jenette a zap of Reiki across the room, invisibly, to support her when she was channelling, as she had requested from me when I signed up. This time, just as I did so, this being appeared, looked me straight in the eyes and intentionally flashed a zap straight back to me, in a way that I could recognise. It was a private exchange; what he spoke through her included no reference to it.

When I told Jenette later, she said, 'That proves it wasn't me. I wouldn't have a clue how to send Reiki across a room.' She hadn't even learned Reiki at that point, though she did seek out a teacher several years later.

So, missing the meditation group, I asked her if I could perhaps attend further Master Connections sessions. She said, 'You never had to leave! I ask people to commit to six weeks as a minimum.' 


When I resumed attending, there were various people I already knew among both participants and assistants; and it was the night of a new intake of people from the latest Master Game, which had recently finished. We sat around the walls of a big carpeted room, on cushions. We would share around the circle what had been going on in our lives the past week, before moving on to our other activities. 

One of the new people was a little white-haired bloke called Andrew. (I feel I should give a trumpet-blast here, but neither he nor I heard any at that point.)

Andrew's recollection afterwards was that I sat in the corner and said nothing – which surprised me as I thought I was quite vocal. As for him, I was thoroughly put off one night when he shared that an ex-girlfriend had phoned and invited him to dinner. Half lying back on his cushion, with one open shirt button revealing his fat little tummy and hairy navel, he punched the air and crowed, 'I got laid!'

'Ewww!' I thought. 'How gross!'

Jenette explained to those of us who hadn't been through The Master Game with him that a little while ago he had broken up with this lady, whom he was very keen on. So I guessed I could understand his jubilation. But two weeks later he reported that she'd called it off again. 

One evening at supper he came up to me and said abruptly, 'I hear you're a poet. I'm doing a course. Could give me some - er - tips or something?' 

I went straight into ego, and thought (but didn't say), 'Don't you know I get PAID for that?' Out loud I muttered something dismissive and he turned away. Jenette caught this exchange. When she hugged me goodbye a little later, she whispered in my ear, 

'He needs a counter-balance to the dry, factual journalism he's been writing. He needs to get more into his heart.' 

Then I felt remorseful, so the following week I took some books and magazines to lend him, and invited him to phone me if anything needed clarifying. He seemed pleasantly surprised. 

One night a few people couldn't come, so the seating was re-arranged to make a smaller circle. I was across from Andrew. I had some good news to share that night and was quite animated. He told me much later that he thought, ‘Oh, she's quite pretty. I should ask her out. At least we've got writing in common.' But when Jennie told me that an Andrew Wade had called while I was out, I assumed he wanted to ask me something about poetry. I was very surprised when I phoned back, to hear, 'I was wondering if you'd like to go out to dinner tomorrow night?'

By this time I had decided that it would be ages before I'd be ready to go out on a date, even in the unlikely event that anyone should ask me. And I resolved that if another relationship ever did happen, I would not move in with the man but keep my independence. As for marriage, forget it. I'd done it twice and it hadn't worked out. Never  again! So, at Andrew's surprising request, I opened my mouth to say politely, 'Thank you for the compliment, but I'm not ready to start dating yet after my recent separation.' Instead, what fell out of my mouth was, 'Thanks, I'd love to.'  (It was the same when he asked me those other leading questions later on.)

He told me afterwards that he used to take women to nightclubs and fancy restaurants to try and impress them, but decided he wasn't going to do that with me. He would just be himself and not try to impress. He’d take me to a pub. So I found myself being ushered into the Argo pub at Toorak, which I knew by reputation as the coolest place in town. I was incredibly impressed! ‘Boy,’ I thought. ‘This bloke’s really got it.’ (He of course knew nothing of its reputation, and had no idea how impressed I was.)

We hardly stopped talking all night, discovering  we had so much in common that when the waitress asked if we wanted Tabasco sauce and I said yes please and he said no thanks, I exclaimed, ‘Thank goodness there’s something we haven’t got in common. It was getting ridiculous.’  

We found we had so many mutual friends and acquaintances, we couldn't believe our paths had never crossed before. Much later we realised they had. There was the Andronicus Foundation weekend in the country, which I’ve mentioned. And we uncovered another event, connected with one of our other interests, which Bill and I had attended and so had Andrew. Bill and I had each had some interaction with him on that occasion, but we’d all promptly forgotten it, having no particular interest in each other then.

More significant, perhaps, was the fact that he had attended a session of The Master Game at Three Bridges one Sunday. He’d gone by the time I got home from assisting Ann that day, but it was the same day I walked into my house and thought, ‘I can’t be here any more’ and promptly moved out. I thought afterwards that it was as if, once Andrew’s energy had come into that space, I couldn’t maintain even a semblance of the marriage to Bill. But these things we worked out later. 

After our very successful dinner, he delivered me to my doorstep. I said something stilted that I’m embarrassed to remember, about how I was newly separated and not ready for goodnight kisses yet. He took it in good part and Jennie’s teenage baby-sitter opened the door just then, so no pash session was going to happen anyway. 

‘Do you like movies?’ he asked.’Would you like to see a movie next Saturday afternoon?’ I said I loved movies, and we arranged to see the new hit, ‘The Power of One’.

As soon as he’d gone, Jennie’s baby-sitter said to me, ‘He’s VERY pretty!’ (This didn’t imply effeminate; it was just the lingo at the time.) I was surprised. I hadn’t thought of him like that. He wasn’t my physical type. I didn't really see things going anywhere deep and meaningful for us.

He held my hand in the movie, which we enjoyed companionably. As we strolled around town afterwards to find a cafĂ©, he took my hand again. It felt easy and comfortable to be walking hand-in-hand with him – except that I was obsessed with the thought, ‘What if we bump into one of my sons?’ Luckily this embarrassing prospect didn’t come to pass.

Over coffee we wondered what we were going to say at Master Connections. Group discussions were strictly confidential, but within the group participants were expected to disclose anything relevant that was going on with them. Andrew usually arrived later than me, so he asked me not to say anything until he got there.

When he did, he started by telling the story of how he’d had a ‘win’ at work and felt like celebrating, so he’d phoned a ‘young lady’ he knew and invited her to dinner, they’d had a really nice time, then they’d been to a movie on Saturday and that went well too…. He paused, then said, ‘And it was Rosemary!’ 

Everyone burst into cries of delight. Jenette’s husband, who was of course an old friend of mine, said, ‘That’s why she’s looking so radiant.’

I didn't know why I looked and felt radiant. It was nice to be going out on dates – lovely and carefree – but I wasn't sure how I felt about Andrew beyond enjoying his company. 

I told him I couldn’t go out with him the following weekend as Jennie and I were having a garage sale. He asked what time it would be. I explained that it was starting in the morning but could go on most of the day. I was pleased that he seemed quite accepting.

I expected he'd phone me some time later for another date, but he turned up on the morning of the garage sale, wearing a Blues Brothers T-shirt which announced that he was on a mission from God, and quietly pitched in to help with the setting up and the selling.

So we continued going out, and he became a visitor to our house sometimes. He was presentable, he knew how to behave in company, he was good with Jennie’s kids, and of course he was a very pleasant companion. But I was in no way committed to a relationship with him. I was amazed one day, after a tiff, when he told me: 

'I want you to know I'm absolutely committed to this relationship!' 

'What relationship?' I thought. 'We hardly know each other.' But I mumbled something which I hoped sounded appreciative.

I started feeling a bit crowded by him. He seemed to want to be involved in everything I was doing. I had a bit of a whinge to Jennie about this. She rounded on me and said, 

‘Rosemary Nissen, you are disgusting! He’s trying to SUPPORT you!’

That was a revelation to me. I digested it a while and realised: yes, it was like that; and he was simply offering, he wasn't trying to take over my life.

Then a friend who was visiting asked me, ‘What’s this Andrew like?’ Before I could answer, Jennie said emphatically, 

‘He’s a VERY nice man!’ I did a double-take and thought, ‘Oh yes, so he is.’

(I still thank both Jenette and Jennie for providing some of the impetus for my happiest marriage.)

How did we take it to the next level? He thought it would be nice to go for a lovely, romantic weekend away. I told him I didn't want to rush things, so he suggested I choose the timing. By then I’d received my Master initiation from Anne but was still very busy assisting on her Reiki seminars most weekends. When I looked at my schedule, I realised I was booked up for months ahead.

‘The only weekend I’ve got is next weekend,’ I told him.

‘I thought you didn't want to rush things?’ he said.

A recent poem explains what happened next:

Prelude to a Romantic Weekend

Arriving on my doorstep suddenly
he thrust at me a bunch of roses, red
for passion, offered awkwardly,
suggesting now would be the time for bed.
My house-mate and her children, luckily,
were going out. I whispered what he’d said,
that he’d decided we should ‘break the ice’.
She winked and said she’d stay out longer. Nice!

We’d planned a beautiful weekend away
to change our new romance to an affair:
a seaside venue meant for holiday
where we could play, let down our hair …
but that was some time hence, he said – and hey,
we’d want to be relaxed then, free of care
about performance, revelation, trust,
and all those issues that might hinder lust.

And so we had our first time then and there
inside my double bed, too long unshared.
Now, understand, we were not young; we were
the later end of middle age. We bared
imperfect bodies to each other’s stare
and moved like adolescents newly paired –
like clumsy virgins! But we worked it out
quite soon. And yes, his bright idea was right.


In twenty years of happy marriage, till
he left me when the angels called him home,
we loved each other thoroughly and well.
Reality was sweeter than a dream.
And memories can sweeten my heart still,
as if he never left – so it can seem.
He loved to give me roses. In my head
I still hear: ‘Get yourself some roses – red!’

© Rosemary Nissen-Wade 2017

After that, I was a little more formal in my manner towards Max, so as not to encourage any vain hopes. Being the open person he was, he asked me straight out if there was something wrong. I was less frank. Nothing had ever been said between us. I felt I couldn't officially rebuff an advance that had not actually been made. So I handled it by saying, with some truth, that I was a bit preoccupied because my gentleman friend had a touch of flu and I was concerned about him.

‘Oh,’ he said, ‘Yes I suppose that would explain it.’ Lovely man, he wasn't being snide, just thinking aloud and seeing my point of view. If he was surprised to learn about the ‘gentleman friend’, he didn't say so, but he didn't flirt with me any more either. With my position clear, I relaxed and we still enjoyed the classes and conversations for their own sake.

I did have some regrets. 

‘Why did I have to order the happy, lasting one to be next?’ I chided myself. A fling with Max would have been lovely, and if Andrew was just around the corner anyway…. But after all, neither Andrew nor I was getting any younger. I decided it was still better not to have deferred getting together with him for the sake of a brief fling, however delightful.

Just for the record, Ann’s message about ‘a lovely man coming for Rosemary’ happened when Max was already my student but I hadn't yet met Andrew at Master Connections – so it must have been Andrew she was seeing, as the one still to come.

I started spending most of my nights at Andrew’s place. He would pick me up on his way home from work and drop me back in Elsternwick on his way to work next morning. I was still based there in terms of my own working life; besides, I had a commitment to share with Jennie for a year.

I thought I’d better tell Bill before someone else told him, so I invited myself to dinner. 

‘There’s something I need to tell you,’ I said.  He said,

‘No, don't tell me; I’ll tell you. There’s a new man your life. He’s a business-man. I “saw” him taking you out to dinner. He was wearing a suit.’

Andrew did in fact have his own business at that time, creating newsletters for all kinds of other businesses.

Bill, as I mentioned earlier, had developed clairvoyance quite suddenly, shortly before we moved to Three Bridges, as a result of some dramatic experiences which unexpectedly opened him up.  His gift was genuine – as this incident confirms.

He was sincerely happy for me. 

Then I felt free to let my children and my friends know. Andrew and I started meeting each other’s friends.

After dinner at his flat one night, he asked me if I’d be willing to move in with him eventually. I opened my mouth to say that I wanted to keep my own residence and maintain my independence, and heard myself agreeing instead. We had a talk about it, and decided to wait until early in the new year, when Jennie and I would both have to find new accommodation anyway.

Then, when he was driving home, as we were waiting at a red traffic light, he suddenly said, 

‘Would you marry me?’

Again I opened my mouth to say the mentally well-rehearsed line about choosing not to marry again, having done it twice already. And again I opened my mouth and ‘yes’ fell out.

Then I realised he had not said ‘Will you’ but ‘Would you’.

‘Er, was that a hypothetical question?’ I asked. He smiled. 

‘No, it wasn't a hypothetical question.’

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Endings and Beginnings

Starting Master Training 

Ann began my Reiki Master training in the second half of 1991. I was only the second Master she trained, and was dazed at the privilege of being accepted into training. There were very high entry standards.

Bill seemed almost equally glad for me, and declared emphatically, ‘I support you one hundred per cent!’ 

The training involved, among other things, assisting at her classes, which were held not only in various suburbs of Melbourne but also at certain large country centres around the State. When we went out of Melbourne I would leave my car at Ann’s and travel with her. They were two-day weekend courses; we’d stay a couple of nights in a motel. Ann was a busy Reiki Master; I was away most weekends, though not always overnight.

There were all sorts of practical things to see to, such as setting up the room for students. I had no idea at first about taking care of the energy of the room as well as the positioning of the chairs.There was a lot to learn! For a while I went straight into ego, as if it was all about me. I had to learn that I was actually there to serve the students, which included serving Ann so that she could serve them better herself. And at first I was quite clumsy. If there was so much as a tissue on the floor, I'd trip over it; if I sat on a chair it would be the squeaky one – and always just as Ann needed peace and quiet for leading a meditation or conducting attunements. I wonder now at her patience with me. 

Over the months I gradually understood, and became more comfortable in the role. After a time she began giving me bits of the teaching to do, while she looked on. She needed to ensure that I could not only do Reiki well but also teach it well.

Then she was contacted with information that Phyllis Lei Furumoto, who was then the new head of the world-wide Reiki Alliance, was to visit Australia for the first time. For Reiki people, this was a very big deal. She would be staying in Sydney and wanted to meet as many Australian Reiki Masters as possible during a designated week. She also invited trainee Reiki Masters to do a course with her in Sydney on the previous weekend. Ann thought I should go. 

‘Deduct the fee and travel expenses from your Master training fee,’ she said, knowing we were struggling financially. She felt the course would itself be an invaluable part of my training.

Selling the Property

Meanwhile the financial problems were clearly becoming insurmountable. Ann paid us to hire the place for the Reiki classes she did there. Also Jenette needed a rural setting for one all-day session of her Master Game, and hired our place for that. But neither of these things happened often enough to be a big help in keeping us afloat, and our combined earnings weren’t really doing it either.

We realised we’d have to sell the property, and reluctantly put it on the market. It took time to sell. In the end our friends in the Andronicus Foundation tuned in to see what the hold-up was, and found that on the etheric level there were bars across the gate. It became apparent that they were formed by our reluctance to sell – we loved the place – so we had to do some serious energy work to shift them.

Then it sold quite quickly to a couple who didn’t want to move in immediately and asked us to stay on as caretakers for a while. This seemed ideal – though in practice it was hard to live in a place that had been ours after it became someone else’s. They visited for day trips fairly often, and started making changes such as planting ornamental non-native trees around the edges of the lawns. They had different ideas from ours, and we just had to accept it. But they were pleasant enough to deal with. 

Then Bill dropped his bombshell. Out of the blue, so it seemed to me, he announced, ‘I no longer support you in your desire to be a Reiki Master!’

I was flabbergasted. It turned out that he thought it was all costing too much, what with the trips away. He demanded that I stop the training forthwith or our marriage was finished. 

A Spiritual Homecoming

This was almost on the eve of my trip to Sydney to study with Phyllis.

‘I’ll have to phone Ann,’ I said.  

She said, ‘Don’t make up your mind at once. Go to Sydney and do the workshop; that'll help you get clarity to make the decision.’ So I told Bill that’s what I would do.

The clarity was immediate. As I have often told people since, I arrived at the venue and walked into a room where other trainee Masters were already gathering – and walked into an energy which told me, ‘These are your brothers and sisters. You are home.’ My decision was made in that moment. This was the truth of who I was. I was not prepared to give it up. I realised I had made many concessions over the years, all of which seemed small at the time but had the cumulative effect that I wasn't being wholly me.

It was a great weekend in all sorts of ways. In one discussion a student shared about grappling with a particular dilemma, and after listening a little while Phyllis said, ‘It’s simple. If it compromises you, don't do it.’ At which point I shared what was happening in my life, what I had felt when I walked into the venue the first day, and my instant decision not to compromise myself. It was greeted with loving acceptance; no-one tried to influence me, they simply understood. I was able to tell Ann straight away too, as she arrived for the Masters’ week with Phyllis before I left for home.


Bill wasn’t best pleased of course. I think now that he may have been bluffing, in which case I unwittingly called his bluff. But that didn't occur to me then. When I gave him my answer, I knew it was the ending of our 27-year marriage. Afterwards he told people it was my decision to end it. I thought it was his idea! I guess, like some other things, it takes two.

Then there was an awful period of trying to live separately under the same roof. I don't recommend it. I was away a lot, continuing my Master training, but when I was home the atmosphere was cold and strained. 

My friend, poet Barbara Giles, told me by phone, 'There's a bed here if you ever need it.' I declined with thanks because Jennie Fraine planned to move back to Melbourne soon after her baby was born – the father having abdicated all responsibility – and she suggested we find a place together. There were only a couple of months to wait. So when I was at Three Bridges I spent my time trying to divide up the possessions, and arguing with Bill about who was entitled to what. 

I stopped attending the Andronicus Foundation meditation group because Bill was part of it too. I thought it would be too difficult to do that together under the circumstances, and felt I should cede that to him as it was his only spiritual group, whereas I had the Reiki work.

There was one Sunday that I came home from a Reiki seminar to catch Jenette and her chief assistant Val (my intuitive drawing teacher) just leaving after a Master Game session. They knew our situation of course, and were pleased to see that I appeared to be doing well. Bill had made himself scarce about the property while the Master Game was in session, but was in the house by the time I entered. 

After a wonderful Reiki weekend and then the affectionate exchange with Jenette and Val, the bleak atmosphere in the house was suddenly too hard to take. I phoned Barbara and said, 'Is that bed still available?' I took only what I needed for my personal use (including my Tarot cards and Reiki table) and left next day.

Barbara, then already in her eighties, was a lovely hostess. I reconnected a little with the Melbourne poetry community, particularly my closest friends in it such as Joyce Lee and Olga Novak, and generally had a nice time being normal instead of walking on eggshells. I was still teaching at Box Hill and continuing my Reiki Master training, which now began to include tuition in the more esoteric aspects. Ann was gently and gradually raising my energy to be able to receive the Master initiation, a powerful process of energy transmission. 

It felt momentous to have left my marriage and be striking out on my own, into the unknown. I was surprised that my sons, at the news of our split, said things like, 'About time!' Some friends seemed to think the same. Evidently it was more obvious to others than to me that Bill and I were not travelling the same path any more.

I remember, before we decided to separate, while I still imagined my marriage was forever, asking Bill, 'What is it you really want to do in your life?' with some idea of supporting him to achieve it. He said he wanted to do more travelling around Australia. 

'No, that's not what I mean,' I said. 'I mean, what's your vision?' 

He kept reiterating the wish to travel around Australia more, see the bits he hadn't got to yet, such as Perth in Western Australia. I didn't get it, simply couldn't hear what he was telling me. For me, a vision of what to do with one's life would be some aspect of saving the planet! We really were not on the same wavelength by then. After we separated he did indeed travel around the country a bit, including a visit to Perth, and then I realised he had been telling me loud and clear all the time; I was just incapable of understanding.

Back in Melbourne

Jennie had her baby, a daughter. Through a mutual friend she learned of a family who needed to live overseas for a year for his work and were seeking trustworthy people to rent their house. We applied and were accepted. So I found myself sharing a lovely two-storey house with garden in the suburb of Elsternwick, close enough to both city and beach, with lots of trees and some funky shops. I made several trips to Three Bridges to retrieve some of the possessions we'd decided were mine, loading them into my tiny car; but the Elsternwick house was furnished, so Bill agreed to store my books and furniture for a year. Jennie moved in with a seven-year-old son and a new daughter; I moved in with my dog and cat.

My other cat, Sam, had died some time before. He had been diagnosed with feline leukaemia when very young, but Reiki kept him alive much longer than expected. He also had a nose for healing hands. When any of our numerous healer friends would come to visit, he'd take a running jump into their arms. He would go into long remissions. But one morning at Three Bridges I woke up and knew instantly that his energy was absent. When I went into a room in which I'd put two ornamental cloth cats on a windowsill as if looking out, one was face down on the floor. So I knew. If it had fallen accidentally, it should have landed face up, and in a different position. 

Denise was still living with us then. She said she had been noticing a lot of road kill the past week, when out driving. (Our indigenous animals, such as wombats, have never developed traffic sense.) We tuned in and got that Sam knew his time was come, went away to die where we wouldn't find a body to cause us distress, and that he had probably chosen the quick way of going under a car. In any case, he never came back; not in that body. So I moved into the Elsternwick house with one cat, gentle Ishtar, and my huge dog. 

I had the front bedroom with ensuite, and the front living-room. A central rumpus room became a storage area, with one small section for my desk. Jennie and family had the upstairs bedrooms, their own bathroom, a small office and a TV room adjacent to it. We shared the big kitchen-dining room and the small back yard with its crab-apple trees, lawn and rosebushes. We went about our respective business most of the time, and had dinner together in the evenings.

Jennie's very efficient. She suggested weekly meetings to see how it was all working and to communicate any glitches or wishes; she initiated working out a roster of jobs for cleaning and maintenance. Putting these ideas into practice had everything flow smoothly and amicably. And of course we were old friends anyway, through poetry; I'd known her since before she had any children. 

It was also her idea that we host some poets’ dinners ‘to welcome ourselves back to Melbourne’. Six people was about the right number to fit around the dining table, so we’d have to have several dinners. We invited both old friends from the poetry community and, daringly, some we only knew of by name. We trusted they’d know our names too, and accept. They did. We also asked people to bring some new work to share over after-dinner coffee. We didn't have very many of these dinners as it turned out, life becoming full and busy as it does, but those we had were most enjoyable.

Later Jennie devised a writing course as part of her business activities. (Her wonderful business name was ‘Poetic Licence’.) I of course participated, as it was for both beginners and experienced writers. Those gatherings were great, too.

Sometimes I stepped in and baby-sat her kids, if her regular sitter wasn't available and she couldn't find a replacement. I'd been in Adam's life since he was born, so he accepted having me around. Mikaela became mobile, crawling happily and safely up and down the stairs, and then a toddler walking. 

Jennie had asked a mutual friend to be Mikaela's godmother but this young woman found herself at a loss as to what that entailed. She asked Jennie to define the term, and when Jennie explained about being someone who would always take an interest in the child, and in particular watch out for her spiritual wellbeing, she said, 'That's not me. The person you're describing is Rosemary.' So Jennie relayed this conversation to me and asked if I would accept. 

And so I acquired my third god-daughter. For much of her life since babyhood we have connected more via social media than in person, though we do meet now and then. She was always very loving. When she was still in her teens, I asked why she loved me when she hardly knew me and she said, as if it should be obvious, 'Because you're my godmother.' She's an extraordinary young woman, an animal lover with a strong social conscience. She doesn't seem to have the writing bug herself, but is married to a writer.

New Problems

The animal loving had to be taught, as it must to all young children – otherwise they think animals are toys, without feelings, and child or animal or both will likely suffer for it. One time I noticed my cat Ishtar trembling when Mikaela was in the room. Jennie said, a trifle guiltily, 'I think Mikaela's been throwing bits of Lego at her.' Obviously she did learn to treat animals more gently after that.

There were problems with Flint, too. He'd always been a bit of a roamer, which is no doubt how he got to be a stray in the first place, but always came back home to us. The neighbours in Three Bridges got to know his friendly nature and where he belonged. (We did have to discourage him from chasing anyone's cattle. That can get a dog shot in the country, no questions asked.) In the city, we needed to keep him contained. The back yard was small. I walked him as often as I could, but I had actually created some work in addition to the teaching, which took up time. I advertised for a dog walker and a vibrant young woman turned up, a student who needed extra income. I needed only a short conversation to know she was perfect. She loved Flint, and he came to love her so much that I was almost jealous.

Bill and I had declared bankruptcy soon after we split. I registered with Centrelink and went on the dole. I was required to look for full-time work. I didn't find that, but I did find Reiki and Tarot clients. I walked past a little New Age shop near the station and saw a weekend class in Tarot reading advertised. I was doing all right with my readings, but thought some training would be useful. The shop was owned by a young couple expecting their first child. He was the Tarot teacher, and a very good course it was. I was one of four students.

They had rooms for hire above the shop, which became my venue for giving Tarot readings and Reiki treatments, and leading meditation groups. Peter had a day job while Katherine minded the shop. She would take bookings and phone me with the information. As I was only a five minute walk away, if I was home she could slot clients in immediately. I even conducted some Reiki classes there at weekends, using the whole space. It didn't get me off the dole but it did satisfy the authorities that I was doing something to help support myself. 

I felt irrational shame at having lost my marriage, my home and my well-to-do status. I hated going to the local dole office. Elsternwick was adjacent to some areas of high unemployment and poverty;  the dole office, which served several suburbs, seemed full of angry and depressed people. Even the staff seemed that way, particularly one security guard who was constantly approached by people wanting directions as to which counter they needed (which wasn't his job). I saw him snap at someone one day, just as I was leaving, and had some judgmental thoughts about him. 

I stepped outside, tripped over, and fell on my face on the bitumen footpath. I ripped the knee of my slacks, jarred my thumb painfully, and bled copiously from my forehead. The plastic bridge of my glasses had snapped in half, and one spiky broken end had stabbed me right between the eyes. I’m thankful it wasn’t IN either eye. 

I grabbed a wad of tissues, clamped it to the spot and in a moment it was saturated, so I threw it in the gutter and applied my hand instead, using Reiki to stop the bleeding. A kind young man came and helped me to his car, parked nearby, so his wife (who was sitting in it feeding their baby) could take a look at the wound. He explained that she was a trained nurse.

‘It’s stopped bleeding,’ she said, ‘But you're going to have some nasty bruises.' I was shaken, so the young man kindly drove me, in my car, just around the corner to their doctor and then walked back to his own vehicle. I kept Reiki-ing my face in the doctor’s waiting room. When he cleaned it and had a good look, he said, ‘It’s not bruising, but it will probably get all swollen and puffy.’ 

I kept Reiki-ing it constantly. No bruising or swelling occurred, but I did get big, unsightly scabs on my forehead and cheek. I phoned Ann to say I couldn't possibly assist her next weekend. I told her I looked so awful that I wasn’t going out in public for fear of frightening children. I could hear her smile over the phone. 

‘Just keep Reiki-ing it,’ she said.’You’ll be fine.' And she was right. Luckily one of her other assistants had called in and seen it at its worst or no-one would ever have believed me, my face was so smooth and unmarked by the weekend.

I thought about the metaphysics of the injuries. I’d been feeling superior to the angry security guard and next thing I was brought to my knees (‘pride goes before a fall’). My thumb took some time to recover: I literally ‘lost my grip’. I had been feeling shame about my situation, and for a little while the face I showed to the world was so damaged and ugly that I didn't show it.

I decided it was time to smarten up. I was a Reiki channel, training as a Master – why the heck wasn’t I fixing that dole office? I could hardly bowl up to strangers and request to give them Reiki, but I could put it into the environment. So I started discreetly Reiki-ing the seats and counters every time I went there, and over the months the energy there lightened. That same security guard turned from an angry, bitter-looking man to a cheery, friendly fellow who was only too happy to help the clients when asked. I can't swear that it was regular doses of Reiki that made the difference, but it was very coincidental. It made a big difference to me too, to take charge and do something positive instead of feeling sorry for myself.

It was also interesting to notice that, while Bill and I had used to be heavy drinkers, I no longer felt the inclination to drink to excess. I was eating healthier too, and doing more walking. I rapidly lost most of my overweight. 

Animals and Men

Flint was inclined to jump the hedge and wander around the neighbourhood. Though he always came back safely, it was a worry. Large dogs aren’t supposed to roam the suburbs unattended. I asked Bill (who had been a builder) if he could come and put up a high fence behind the hedge. We were on speaking terms again by then. 

He had had his own adventures. The people who bought our property split up, the man and his adult son moved into the Three Bridges house with Bill also still in residence. It was not a happy household, with two newly-separated, disgruntled husbands! Bill borrowed some money from an old mate, found himself a house in need of renovation (hence selling cheaply) in an outer suburb called Ringwood, got himself a job in another old friend’s fish canning factory, moved out of Three Bridges into the Ringwood house and renovated it on weekends.

He did put up the fence for me as requested. But one night when everyone was out, Flint jumped the fence with ease, got hit by a car in the dark, limped home and lay bleeding on the front veranda to greet Jennie when she arrived home. She got him to the veterinary hospital, meanwhile wondering whether I was lying dead or injured somewhere, as I had not initially planned to be out too!

He only had a broken leg, and convalesced in my big bathroom. But I couldn't spend as much time with him as I’d have liked, nor could Jennie, and even my dog walker had to attend university during the day. It was just after this that I found out toddler Mikaela was throwing things at Ishtar. I decided I needed to find a safer home for both my animals. And really, who else would you ask to look after your children but their father? I put the hard word on Bill. He had always missed them, so he was delighted to agree.

I took my dog walker with me when I delivered them, so she and Flint could have that last bit of time together. Bill had invited us for dinner. He and the animals were rapt to see each other, and he served us a very nice meal. (He always was a good cook.) I couldn't help noticing that he had slimmed down too, and was dressed very smartly. He was looking good! On the way home, the dog walker said that, from the way he was looking at me, she wouldn't be surprised if we got back together.

‘No way,’ I said. But I did mention to some friends how good he was suddenly looking. 

‘That’s dangerous,’ they said, ‘when your ex starts looking attractive. Better find someone else fast.’

I had a Tarot reading from Peter, who had taught the Tarot course. He was an excellent reader, and I was consulting him on other matters, mainly my finances and career prospects. But he also saw several possible men for me in the future. He thought one might in Tasmania  (my birth State, where I still had family). Also there seemed to be someone in Melbourne. Yet another, he thought, might be younger than me; that would be very nice but probably not permanent.

‘Oh no,’ I said. ’I’m sick of failed relationships. I want the next one to be happy and lasting, thanks very much. Don't bother with any temporary ones.’ 

I repeated this in no uncertain terms to the Universe later, but I didn’t really expect anyone to show up in this lifetime; I meant to be putting in my order for the next incarnation. I thought I was far too old, fat and ugly (even after some weight loss) to ever attract another man. When my adult sons expressed curiosity about whether I wanted a new relationship, I replied that I expected to be celibate for the rest of my life. They roared with raucous laughter and fell about.

‘YOU! Celibate? Ha ha ha ha ha!’ I was quite hurt, but they were right.

As was Peter, who turned out to be correct in his predictions about each of those men – and in this lifetime.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Comrades and Allies

Writing this, I am beginning to realise I've had an eventful life. I wouldn't have had it any other way, but it's startling to perceive just how packed with incident it has been – particularly in those Three Bridges years. Some of these events held the seeds of the new life that was to come for me. The adventures into Reiki and professional Tarot reading, for instance, and the work with the Andronicus Foundation and the Master Game. Also, some strikingly important friendships began at that time.


Denise, who had contacted us via the Andronicus Foundation, became a close friend. She learned Reiki I and II from Ann in classes held at our house. Eventually, heavily pregnant, she phoned one night to say that her partner, who had a drinking problem, had turned violent. Could Bill come and get her and her son Luke? He did, and she came to live with us. We had plenty of room. After her baby daughter was born – by emergency Caesarian, with me as Denise's support person, giving her Reiki throughout – they all continued to live with us for a time. When we tuned in to this babe, before and after her birth, Denise and I both got that she had incarnated to be with both her mother and me. It was mostly to be with her mother, but apparently there were things she would learn from me.  (When we did some past life regression work, it appeared that Denise had been my daughter in a Scottish lifetime, a long time ago.) 

At this point, let me backtrack to my friendship with Ridge, and a time when he 'saw' certain figures around me, dressed in shining robes. One, a female, spoke to him telepathically and told him I knew them, had known them all my life. He asked for her name, and said she showed him a coin, a very bright, shiny coin. 'Penny?' he wondered aloud, then said, 'No, it's silver.' Suddenly I knew.

'Sylvie!' I shouted. That was the name of one of my 'imaginary playmates' from when I was little. Then I remembered them all: Sylvie and Maudie had been my closest friends of the group, but there were others. I particularly recalled a long-legged boy named Andy. Ridge said they were spirits of children who had died, and that they must have grown along with me. As an adult looking back, I realised their clothing as children (not shining robes then) indicated different historical eras and social classes. They were all English-speaking, which makes sense as I wouldn't have been able to talk with them otherwise. It seemed they must have been assigned, as guardian angels. 

Fast forward to Denise and her new baby. One afternoon she was in their bedroom, the baby asleep in her bassinet and Denise sitting beside her doing 'absent Reiki'. Not that the baby was ill, but Reiki is not only for treating illness; it enhances wellbeing in general. Obviously the baby was present in the room, not absent, but using that method meant Denise didn't have to disturb her sleep. Reiki II, the technique for 'absent healing', allows for telepathic contact with the client; useful in many circumstances, including when treating an infant too young to talk. 

I was in the living room. Denise suddenly called out, 'Was there ever a TV show called The Mavis Bramston Show?'

'There sure was!' I said. 'I always used to watch it.' 

Denise said, 'This baby is telling me she used to watch it with you!'

The Mavis Bramston Show was a wonderful Australian satirical comedy show which aired from 1964 to 1968. Denise had obviously never heard of it, which is not surprising as she was probably not even born at the time, or at most would have been a very young child.  The year of this conversation was 1991.

We both assumed that the baby must have had a past incarnation with me. Yet that didn't quite fit. I watched the Mavis Bramston Show with my immediate family, not usually anyone else. Denise then tried asking telepathically what the baby's name was when she used to watch it with me. 

She said, 'I can't quite get it. Oh, wait a minute, she's trying to show me. I'm getting an image of a shiny coin. Penny? No, it's silver...'

'Oh my God,' I said, 'Sylvie! She's my imaginary friend come back to life.' Then I had to explain to Denise about the so-called imaginary friends, and the conversation with Ridge, so like the one I'd just had with her. While we were still gob-smacked about that, she added,

'She's telling me that she used to help you write your poetry.'

'That was HER?' I said. I remembered times when I was writing late at night, and felt a presence looking over my shoulder, taking an interest. It even seemed this being was making occasional suggestions. I once tried to ask who it was, and thought I got the name Sylvia. I was right into Sylvia Plath at that time, and dared hope the great Sylvia was mentoring me from Beyond. But of course Sylvie would be an affectionate version of Sylvia.

Denise found a place for herself and her family when the baby got a little older, but the friendship continued for many years, in various places, as we both moved house several times. There was a time we shared a house, when her daughter (my god-daughter) was 12. The girl asked me to teach her magic, so I gave after-school lessons to her and a school friend, with parents' permission. 

Denise died too young, from cancer, some years ago. Her daughter has come through the loss of her mother at a young age to become a beautiful, strong young woman. She loves animals, the outdoors and travel, shows no great interest in poetry, and is in a relationship with a fine young man. Recently they visited me and I finally told her the story of her birth, and of her time with me as Sylvie, my friend in spirit. Denise was psychic, also she eventually trained as a Reiki Master; so her daughter, who had grown up with all that, was able to deal with this kind of information.

She was actually the second god-daughter I acquired in those years. 


It was while I was teaching at Box Hill TAFE that my friend Jennie Fraine was running a poetry workshop and used my first book of poetry, UNIVERSE CAT, as a teaching aid. One of the students fell in love with the title poem:

I AM the cat
with silent eyes

I mark the fall of the leaf
and the grasses glistening

I listen to life
and death.

Life grieves
death leaps

and both together breathe.

I sleep in the warm
I am tied to the loves of my house.

But sometimes
I come untied.

Wild in hail or rain
electric to thunder
voluptuous for sun

I am chameleon

old wise woman
the witch

and then
the child on your lap

I am a universe.

© Rosemary Nissen-Wade 1981
from Universe Cat, Pariah Press (Melb.) 1985
First published Luna
Also in Secret Leopard: new and selected poems 1974-2005
(Paris, Alyscamps Press, 2006)

She was a cat lover, of course. She asked Jennie if she could have my address to write and tell me how much she liked the poem. Jennie didn't think I'd mind. She thought, quite correctly, that I'd be thrilled. And so Helen Patrice wrote me my first (and to date only) fan letter about poetry. It was charming, she included a terrific cat poem of her own, and of course I wrote back to thank her.  I met her in person when Jennie invited me to her group as a guest workshopper. Helen and I were something of a disappointment to each other, we found out many years later. She couldn't believe this plumpish lady in late middle age had written all those fiery, uninhibited poems. I couldn't believe this meek, mousy little girl hardly out of school was the strong, frank, charming letter-writer. 

I don't recall how we got past that, and why we stayed in touch, but we did, via letters and phone calls. (This was before we all had personal computers, and used emails.) I guess we had so much in common that we could dismiss the superficialities. Besides our shared passion for cats and writing, we were both starting out as professional Tarot readers, and we had similar literary tastes, socio-political views and senses of humour. As Helen once said, we ‘get’ each other at very deep levels. Somewhere along the way we became ‘best friends forever’ despite a roughly 20-year age gap, and she is still very much in my life

She was newly engaged to her first husband when we met, and was married soon after. Her daughter Susan, my first god-daughter (now herself a mother of three) was born late 1989 and her son David, my god-son, mid-1992. There were visits back and forth during those years, Helen came and stayed with us for a brief ‘retreat’ at one time, and in 1991 she did Levels I and II Reiki in Ann’s classes at Three Bridges. We practised our Tarot readings on each other, and read and critiqued some of each other’s writings.

Both her children were born profoundly deaf, which demands a big commitment on the part of parents, e.g. managing and constantly cleaning  the complex hearing aids required. Helen recently reminded me: 

‘With me drowning in oceans of nappies and hearing aids, you suggested, in a letter, that I write small poems to keep my writing alive.’ 

I think she’d have found a way anyhow, but as she’s one of my favourite writers I’m glad for whatever part I’ve played.


I’ve mentioned the writing workshops I held in the local community. After they finished, I became inspired to run a one-day writing event for poets, and invited some old cronies from Melbourne. That was before I knew Helen, but Jennie Fraine attended. So did a young woman called Leah Kaminsky, a poet and fiction writer, whom I hadn't previously met. A mutual friend asked me to invite her, feeling she needed that kind of contact.

We all had a great day, and Jennie and I so clicked with Leah (whom Jennie hadn’t met before either) that we arranged to get together again, just the three of us. Not only were we very much on the same wavelength as women and writers, we were all graduates of powerful self-development courses with an organisation now known as Landmark Education. This had given us increased ability to confront things, complete things, maintain commitment and integrity, and stand for whatever we intended to accomplish. It also meant that we could communicate from that shared background, without having to explain the concepts to each other. It was a great basis for encouraging each other’s writing.

We began to meet regularly at each other’s homes to eat lunch, write together into the afternoon, and encourage each other’s projects. This in itself was quite a commitment, as Leah lived in a Melbourne suburb, I was up in the hills out of Melbourne, and Jennie was outside Melbourne in a different direction, on the Peninsula. So we took it in turns whose home we used, and only two of us at a time had to travel long distances. Later we found a school vaguely in the middle, willing to let us use a room in return for doing some poetry workshops with the students. (To the best of my recollection, Jennie, who was was already working with schools in that way, fulfilled this commitment on behalf of us all.)

This association continued for many years. We soon named ourselves the WIGs, short for Withhold Identification Group, as we discerned that when there was something not working in our writing, it usually involved some kind of withhold. We still sometimes address each other as 'Wiggie'. We also became inspired by Natalie Goldberg’s book, WRITING DOWN THE BONES. It was then a new publication which Jennie discovered on a trip to America, and she brought back copies for us all. Some little time later Leah visited America and brought us back the just-published sequel, WILD MIND. We christened Ms Goldberg 'Saint Nat' amongst ourselves, and adopted her ‘timed writing’ practice henceforth. 

Eventually Leah got married to an Israeli and went to live in Israel; Jennie, who already had a young son, got pregnant (with my third god-daughter, as it turned out); Bill and I broke up ... (more of this anon). Through these and many other adventures, including a time Jennie lived and worked in New Zealand, we stayed in touch – by email, eventually – and continued to write together on designated days, in our respective countries. We shared the results by email.

A New Alliance for Bill

Rewind to Three Bridges. I started teaching the Poetry section of the Professional Writing Course at Box Hill TAFE in 1989. Some time during that year we invited class members and the Head of Department, Izzy, a brilliant woman whom we all loved, to come to Three Bridges for a writing weekend. By then I had a lot of innovative and fun ways of sparking pieces of writing. Later Izzy pointed out an ad for something similar at a country venue, for which a fee was being charged, and said, ‘You could have made money!’ But we did it for the enjoyment. 

I think people brought food to share, and their own bedding. We had enough rooms, beds, couches and bits of floor. We gave two students who were a couple a room to themselves, and another to a single mum who had to bring her little daughter.

Bill really clicked with this young woman and her little girl. I thought nothing of it. He was a very paternal man who usually related well to kids, and we had always thought it perfectly possible to have platonic friendships with people of the opposite sex without endangering the marriage.

But the years at Three Bridges gradually eroded our marriage. I continued to work at Box Hill, and we maintained friendships with a number of my students from those years, even after they graduated from my classes. Bill’s friendship with (let's call her) Annette was a bit different, though. 

Gradually it became more of a friendship between him and her, excluding me. I still didn't pay much attention to that. I was busy with my various interests and commitments. If Bill happened to bump into Annette somewhere and they had a cuppa, or if she was moving house and he was helping her shift furniture, so what? She was a single mum with a young child; we had both always helped people when we could. It was only later that I realised it’s a bit strange when you rush home from work, shower, and change into your good clothes in order to go and help someone shift furniture!

After we split, they did have a very close friendship, and went out on what looked like dates. But she was in the ‘off’ of an off-and-on romance with someone else, whom she eventually went back to and they have been together ever since. She invited me out for coffee one day, I accepted from curiosity, and she assured me there had never been anything sexual between her and Bill. I didn't contradict her – but it wasn't what Bill had confided to others, who saw no reason not to tell me, since we were split up by then and I wasn't pining.

However, Annette was not the ostensible cause of our break-up when it finally happened, though I’m sure the thought of what might be possible with her gave Bill some secret impetus. The official catalyst was my Reiki Master training.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

No I Don't Want To Revisit My Traumas, Thanks!

 The Background
My dear husband Andrew had Alzheimer's before he died. He also had physical  conditions – diabetes, peripheral neuropathy in the legs, an artificial heart valve. Gradually, in his last two years of life, he came to use a wheely walker some of the time, then all of the time. All this required more and more care from me and his medical helpers.

The Alzheimer’s wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Its onset was quite late. At his eightieth birthday party, it wasn’t apparent – he made a great speech.  (The wheely walker, too, was still an unexpected part of the future then – he did lots of dancing that night.)

Even when the Alzheimer’s did show up, we were lucky that our GP referred us to an excellent geriatric specialist, who prescribed medication which slowed the progress of the disease (although it could not halt it). He stayed in the early to middle stages. For many people, sufferers and families, it gets much, much worse.
And yet it was far from easy.

I’m thankful he didn't stop knowing who I was, or who any of his friends and family were. But he got confused in other ways. 
He wanted to go to his office in town, and became anxious and argumentative when I didn't cooperate. How could I? There was no office in town; that had been decades ago, in a very different city. It was a little easier when he thought we were already in his office, and wanted to lay out magazines half the night, by pre-digital publishing methods, until I could persuade him we had done enough for the time being and could go to bed.

From something on the TV news one night, he decided our Prime Minister (Julia Gillard at the time) needed his advice, and set off down the passage to see her in her office, which he seemed to think was through our spare room. It was disconcerting and deeply scary for him to find that was not so. In various ways he often thought that what was happening on the TV was also part of our here-and-now reality.

He would get agitated about things on which it was impossible for me to reassure him. Sometimes I managed it, but no-one can prepare you for how to cope with early stage Alzheimer’s; you have to play it by ear. It’s all very changeable. His reality was constantly altering. There were general tendencies, like those I’ve just described, but the details were never predictable.

The medication which reduced his regular evening agitation had to be carefully monitored for side-effects, such as making it even harder for him to walk. Although life became a round of medical appointments, sometimes almost a conspiracy between me and the doctors, we didn't always get the dosage right.

His physical ailments were not due to Alzheimer’s, yet some were very similar to what happens to Alzheimer’s patients in the advanced stages. They too can lose mobility in their legs, for instance. Like their carers, I knew all about trying to wrestle the wheely walker in and out of the car, while simultaneously trying to forestall its user from wandering off into traffic.

His incontinence, though, was indeed due to the Alzheimer’s. Early on I learned to manage it in a way that preserved his dignity and saved embarrassment; later he was less aware of it himself, so it was simply a matter of keeping him physically comfortable. 

I loved him and wanted to make life easy for him. 

It was heartbreaking to see him lose the capacity to use his computer efficiently. He was a writer and researcher; he had had one of the first pc’s in the country, even before the invention of Windows and Apple operating systems; he taught me how to use a computer. 

And there were many other heartbreaks.

But he is dead now. He has been dead four and a half years. He died peacefully, he was ready to go, and until the end – even at the end – he did know who he was, who I was, who his children and his friends were. I still love him and miss him, but I have adapted to being alone and I think I have a very nice life. I am eternally grateful that he did not linger longer and deteriorate further.

Yes, it could have been a great deal worse. Nevertheless, it was arduous. I went through great stress and grief, and after it was all over my doctor diagnosed me with post-traumatic stress disorder. I have many resources for self-healing, as well as good friends similarly gifted, and for some time I also had the services of a good therapist – until the time I felt I didn't need her any more, and she concurred.

The Objection

So I came through all right. But I don’t understand why some people think that – because of my experience – I will be excited to see films or read books about Alzheimer’s – particularly about long, loving marriages where one partner contracts the illness and the other has to learn how to cope.

‘You’ll really love this!’ they say.  

No, I won’t.

It’s easy to avoid  the movies. The ads and trailers aways give the game away. If some fool lends me a book with title and blurb that don’t immediately alert me, still I don’t read very far. There was that best-seller not so long ago, about an old man with dementia escaping from a nursing home in only his pyjamas, and having adventures which readers and reviewers described as hilarious. But I didn't find that out until after a kind friend lent it to me to give me a good laugh. I closed it after the first page. Not my idea of funny! 

The afore-mentioned fools – and there are quite a few of them – are my friends, you understand, people who saw me go through it all and said they couldn’t imagine how I coped. They were very supportive at the time. They don’t mean to be offering me a nice dose of mental torture now. 

I decline the deeply moving poems; I avoid the brilliantly acted films and plays; I return the incredibly amusing books so kindly lent. And I explain why, briefly and politely. It surprises people. 

'Oh, that never occurred to me.'  

'I didn't realise you'd see it that way.'

'I just thought it was so moving / hilarious / brilliant.'

The Exception

After all, all by myself, I found one book on the subject which I could read and even sort of enjoy. The public library was selling off old stock, and there was a novel by Kate Jennings for $2: Moral Hazard.

Kate Jennings was a wonderful Australian feminist poet of the seventies, who disappeared as a poet after moving to America and becoming an essayist and fiction writer. There she married a much older man who eventually developed dementia. She then became the sole  breadwinner, and went to work as a speech writer for a major financial institution – very much against the principles she had always held, as a matter of economic necessity.

So did the heroine of her novel. I'm quite prepared to believe she fictionalised the story in some ways – changing people's names, collapsing several events or characters into one, that kind of thing. I'm guessing; it's simply described as a novel, without further elaboration. There must be some justification for that label. But, however the book was fictionalised, I know it's based on the life she lived. I think that's what enabled me to read it, after I got it home and discovered what it was about.

It wasn't somebody's wonderful idea about what it must be like to be married to an Alzheimer's sufferer. This author knows. She doesn't need to write a moving account; she just needs to write what happened, which she does baldly yet understatedly. 

One thing I like about the book – apart from her writing, as skilled as ever – is that some of the story concerns the protagonist, Cath's, job: a bad fit which she takes only because illness is expensive and she needs the income. Jennings acknowledges that, even though her husband's illness is the most important thing in Cath's life, it's not the whole of her life. Other practicalities must be lived and dealt with too, around the edges of that central fact, becoming important in themselves. We don't and can't exist in a vacuum.

I also like the renewed realisation this book gave me that Andrew and I got off lightly. Cath's husband gets much sicker than Andrew ever did, and takes seven years to die instead of two. I'm thankful all over again. At the same time I recognise many of the things that befall Cath and her husband, and I know very well from first-hand experience that the author is restrained in conveying the harrowing details. She doesn't dwell on things which I know (from what she does say) would have happened – repeatedly.

So I'm actually glad I read it. For sure I would not have kept on reading if I hadn't wanted to. (I am still not planning on reading anything more on this topic!) The characters come across as real, which of course they are, and Cath and her husband are engaging. I like her 'voice'. 

I would call this book a fictionalised memoir. However, reading it as a novel allowed me not to go to pieces while doing so. 

And it's a good book.  

It’s a very good book! (Which might also have something to do with the fact that I liked it.) After I wrote this post, I checked some of my facts on Wikipedia, and also learned:

'Jennings was awarded the Christina Stead Prize for fiction for Moral Hazard, which was also shortlisted for the 2003 Miles Franklin Award, the Los Angeles Times Fiction Prize, and the Tasmania Pacific Region Prize. Snake [an earlier novel] was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, as was Moral Hazard.'