A life of remarkable achievement in the face of constant setbacks.
Now in her 80’s, Patricia is delighted to be looked after by Anglicare. In fact, she says emphatically “it’s the best decision I ever made.” She tells her story with salty humour and honesty.
“My father was a bad boy from a wealthy home”.
“He was kicked out of school, took to the sea and became a master mariner. He stopped off in Hong Kong to join a tennis club, and met my mother. Mother was sweet, quiet and innocent. He was the opposite, so the marriage was doomed. And as a result, I was born in Hong Kong. He didn’t stay with us for long. But he never lost his Irish charm”.
While still a young girl, Patricia moved to Sydney, contracted tuberculosis, won a coveted place at Sydney High, and matriculated at 16. It was the beginning of a lifelong pattern of high achievement mixed with serious setbacks.
Bright and full of life, curious, and a lover of history, language and literature, she began studying to be a teacher, till complicated circumstances saw her caught unexpectedly in a poor marriage. “I was trapped. I tried to break it off. But I was stuck. The honeymoon was the most dreary experience of my life. It’s appropriate that we spent it at Repulse Bay!”
It was the beginning of 20 years of challenging times.
Patricia ended up raising 3 children, being the bread-winner, mother, working day and night, trapped by circumstance in a dreary life far from her dreams. Her health suffered. She contracted whooping cough, chicken pox, hepatitis, measles, and underwent a series of surgeries. It was a trying time.
“That’s when I learned to deal with what fate brought me. It served me well for the next 60 years.” Things came to a head when her husband’s infidelities finally forced an end to the marriage.
Finally free, Patricia’s career flourished.
Patricia began to find the life she had wanted, and she was happy. Patricia soared. Prior to the divorce, she had been working at a high level as an education consultant, and had been touring Hong Kong, UK, Scandinavia to research innovation in education and bring the learning back to Australia.
After the divorce, she thrived, winning senior leadership roles at high levels in education and corporate life, including national roles in Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action. She completed 3 degrees including a Masters in Australian History; she worked for extended periods in the UK, Canberra and the US, lectured in teachers’ education in Australia. It was the life she had dreamed of – teaching, leadership, innovation, advocacy, a remarkable contribution, and an extraordinary achievement in the circumstances.
But over that whole period, Patricia was battling a succession of setbacks.
Her poor health worsened. Eventually she contracted meningitis which left her in a coma for three weeks in New York. She recovered but was never the same – she was disabled with loss of eyesight in one eye, partial paralysis and deafness. A second marriage arrived - “he was a difficult man, but at least he made me laugh” – but sadly he died of cancer just five years later.
After her disabling illness, she became an active advocate for change and education, took on leadership roles in a range of disability groups, and was Australian Delegate to the World Disability Congress. But eventually, her body giving way and mentally exhausted, Patricia walked away from it all. Today, at 84 and living in a unit in Sydney’s leafy north west, she’s happy to have found Anglicare.
“Anglicare is the best decision I have ever made!”
“Five weeks after I found Anglicare I had to have a cataract operation. Thank goodness! How else would I get help with eyes drops five times a day? They come to me and tell me what they can offer me. I’m tickled pink with the carers I get – and I get best care all the time. They arrange things so promptly and willingly for me. I’ve never been involved in an organisation that is so efficient, and yet everybody is smiling and courteous. It’s amazing. I’m usually terribly critical of inefficiency. But Anglicare are truly the most well-meaning people. The organisation is top notch! I’m so delighted”.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Patricia. Some details have been changed to preserve privacy.