I wrote this one cold day recently when the afternoon sun was shining as I sat in our warm enclosed balcony, here at our retirement villa, and I daydreamed for a few minutes……….
I was remembering the day nearly ten years ago when Dorothy and I sat in this very same spot and marvelled together at what we had just done. We had finally sold the large home we’d built forty years before, and laughed about the earlier home we’d built, recalling how we’d moved into both homes before the walls or doors were painted or had any coverings on the concrete floors and had barely adequate furnishings (I actually made our first double bed out of salvaged packing cases!).
But here we were, in what was to be our last nest together – a brand-new 2-bedroom villa unit, fully painted, and furnished with our own gear. Bliss!
We remembered how Dorothy had come home from hospital with our first-born, identical (and unexpected!) twin boys to that first unfinished home, with its packing-case furniture and building rubble for a garden; how my workmates gifted us a stainless steel boiler large enough to sterilise six feeding bottles at once! We remembered how I took on a second, weekend job, to supplement our income and how it took many hours of shared, often twilight, work to ‘finish’ that first home and garden and, more than ten years later, repeat the process with a second, larger, home – a few kilometres further out from the city (on a cheaper block of land!) and a bit further from my workplace. And, of course, the painting, floor and window coverings, and garden construction began all over again! Our family had increased by another three children, so we at least had some willing tiny helpers the second time!
Throughout those early years, I was also forging a career in the food industry in the turbulent sixties, involved in production management and, later, in human resource and industrial relations. The kids were always our priority, and we were both involved with kindergarten, school, clubs and church related committees. Dorothy had her hands well and truly full as she also coped with running the household and caring for her young growing family, with a husband frequently working long hours and regularly away at night school improving his qualifications. We were frugal in every way we could, and seldom acquired anything other than necessities. Holidays were almost unknown, but, when the opportunity arose, we would bundle the kids (and all the accoutrements) into the Holden car and drive three hours to country Victoria and spend some time away from the rat-race with Dorothy’s parents on a small farm, to the delight of the kids! My Dad would sometimes ‘drop in’ when his delivery van job enabled a small detour. Our parents were a source of much support in those early years, especially Dorothy’s mum who would make the long journey to us to ‘help out’ for a week every so often – a real angel of a lady! They were busy times and we struggled financially, so we sold our car (Dorothy’s parents had given us their used, early Holden as a wedding present), and I commuted (very cheaply if not always comfortably) with a Vespa scooter for years.
Towards the end of my thirty years of corporate life we jointly decided I should leave, and we’d buy a small suburban retail plant nursery about six kilometres away. To equip ourselves, we both managed to attend part-time classes at Burnley Horticultural college, and so began nearly ten years of a new, jointly enjoyed, career with plants and people; a wonderful time when we lived and worked together 24/7, even if it was financially inadequate, after my corporate salary! After we sold the Nursery, and just a few years later with our children all happily married off, we decided that our five-bedroom home and garden was too big for us to care for and decided to sell and move to this retirement village. So, all these things we remembered together as we sat on this balcony, nearly ten years ago. The timing of the move here was fortuitous and the small profit was to be so significant today.
Little did we realise that Dorothy’s Alzheimer journey was just beginning, and I’d be sitting here, alone, now. But I continue to be so thankful that we have lived, almost idyllically, until Dorothy’s dementia progressed beyond my ability to care for her. We have been richly blessed with loving children, a happy married life in comfortable homes with few traumas and nothing to regret. I know I really should not be so sad but, sitting in this same balcony (or wherever I am) I do get melancholy, knowing that only one of us can remember any part of our wonderful shared journey……..Ah, reminiscing can be fun, it just depends………..