Today, at 94, Pat is articulate, direct, funny, and great company. But her life has been lived in two parts, after a mid life tragedy changed everything.
Pat was a young girl helping her father at the family cake shop in Surry Hills in Sydney. She began to make regular visits to the Chemist shop across the road. “I noticed there was a very nice young fellow working in the Chemist. I started to pop in three or four times a day. Each time I’d just buy a packet of gum. The boss eventually said to him ‘I think that girl likes you - why don’t you ask her out!’ ”
“That’s how we met!”
The fellow turned out to be a student chemist called Colin. Colin and Pat were married, and Colin started his own Pharmacy. It grew into an excellent business. In due course there were four children - Trish, Phil, Cathy and Tony. “Colin was fabulous, a beautiful man. A fantastic father, beautiful with the children, clever, and he gave us all a wonderful life.” Pat found her dream home, a wreck of a house by a river in Sydney’s south. They renovated it together. Pat remembers looking out the window and becoming strangely fearful. “This is so beautiful. Why am I so lucky?”
A tragic car accident a short time later changed things forever. Colin sustained a head injury and though he survived for a time, he was a totally different person. His complete personality change was a tragedy that upturned the family’s life and shortened his own. When he died, Cathy and Tony were still in primary school. ”Colin died far too young. I was only 48. We were all lost without him. That was the end of our dream. It really was. I had a beautiful life. And the bubble burst”
“In those days there was no back-up help.”
“Nothing at all. I decided I had a job to do. I decided to dedicate my life to the children who had lost their father. I wanted to make sure they still had the same life that we had always given them. I could have remarried, quite easily. But I didn’t want anyone coming in, to tell me or my children what to do. At that time we had the lovely large house in Sydney and a holiday house at Whale Beach. I managed to keep them both.
“For the kids, life went on, pretty much as well as it possibly could, after losing Colin. And even though it was never the same - we were happy. And I guess I give myself a bit of a pat on the back for that.
Eventually everyone grew up and had their own lives.
When Pat’s youngest Tony got married, she decided to leave the big family home, and moved to her current house. At that time, Pat was 66. At the children’s suggestion, she began to travel.
“I hadn’t really planned to travel, but it turned out I really enjoyed it. At one stage we all travelled around Europe, London, Venice - all seven of us! I had some great experiences. I went to China, just as it was opening up - that was incredible. I eventually went to India when I was 80. India was great, but I think that finished me off!
“Eight years ago, after a bout of bowel cancer, I needed help for the first time.”
“I was recovering. Anglicare came in and they were fantastic. They got me breakfast and got me showered and got me comfortable for the day. I could never have made it to this grand old age without them! Dare I say it - (much laughter) - they are the wind beneath my wings!
“It’s a bit off-putting if you have someone in your house, and, you know, they’re just doing a job, just paid for their work. The Anglicare girls go beyond that. There’s always been a friendship. Which I think’s important. Very important. You’re glad to see them, and they’re pleased to see you - and they do everything that I need done. Even down to walking my little puppy Montie.
“As I’ve got older, my needs have become greater.“
“Now, I’m 94, and they come every day and look after me. I like to cook but my eyes are a problem now. But it’s great, they come and help me, sometimes we have a good afternoon just cooking together, and I really enjoy that. Sometimes we don’t do any jobs. We just have a lovely afternoon out, and have a coffee and a donut - or a meat pie! If you want, they’ll come and just have a good chat! If I have a problem with a medical appointment on a certain day, or a check up, they will work things round so someone can take me. They always do. The people who look after me are really nice ladies.
“I think Anglicare is a fantastic organisation. They are really the complete package. It’d be shocking without them!
Thank you Pat for sharing your story with us. In some instances, details such as names and places have been changed to protect privacy.