Last week I turned 50. What does this means to me, this cracking of the half century? Being of a certain age brings with it some certainty of confidence, some acknowledgement of wisdom that I like. But this recognition is bittersweet as for me it has unexpectedly come with great loss.
It’s not that I mourn my youth. It was well spent. It was filled with adventure and achievements; I’ve travelled and lived overseas more than once, learned another language, had several careers, which have given me independence and money. I’m proud I’ve built a house on a beautiful property which is forever my home.
The proudest achievement of my 50 years are my two children, Sang and Jinny, who I adopted as babies and raised to fine teenagers now about to embark on adulthood with confidence and heart. When I see my boy babysitting friends’ toddlers so attentive and interested, I know I’ve done a good job. And when I see my girl, delivering speeches as SRC rep at school, then making funny joke videos with her bestie in her spare time, I wonder at how she managed to be so like me when we share no biology at all?
I’ve never been short of men in my life; two husbands and plenty of boyfriends and have loved them all. But my Anth I loved most intensely with the sort of love that spans dimensions and gives you strength that everything is all worth it, even when life is at its most bleak.
It is because of this love, that on turning 50, I am incredibly thankful. For being alive. For making it this far. For this sweet, sweet life. My friends and others who know me might find this attitude a bit strange, given recent events. They might wonder why I might feel thankful. You see, only last month I lost my precious Anth to a very nasty, quick and merciless disease. Brain cancer.
Listen: Mia Freedman interviews Samuel Johnson on the struggles of being there for someone battling cancer. Post continues after audio.
We had been together 5 years but 5 short months from diagnosis he was taken from me. Two and half months in, he proposed to me in the back of an Access Cab, on the way home from hospital.
That day we had invited family and friends to a BBQ planned as a last hurrah. We knew the illness was terminal, but Anth was stable and had a day pass to go home. He was wheelchair bound by this stage and had to travel places by Access Cab as he was a big man and impossible to lift in and out of a car seat. As we bounced along in the back of the cab he turned to me and said “I think it’s about time we got married.” “Really?” I said, surprised. Anth had never been keen before to remarry (he had done it twice before). “Why not?” he said. I thought about it a moment. “Why not indeed.” I said. “I’ve never had a proposal in the back of an access cab.” I started to cry and kissed him. “Third time lucky,” he said.
The last hurrah BBQ morphed into an impromptu engagement party with the wedding planned in a few weeks time. But only some days later, on his 51st birthday, Anth suffered multiple seizures due to his brain swelling from the spreading cancer. The neurosurgeon said a craniotomy was the only chance for him, and us, to have more time. Thanks to a obliging marriage celebrant, and an intensive care unit full of excited nurses, we were able to get married at 10 pm that night, before the looming shadow of the operation the next day. Our wedding night I spent next to his hospital bed in a recliner chair. The doctors let me stay by his side right up until it was time to go into theatre, knowing that these precious hours may be our last together.