Now that I’m in my 70’s, I am very lucky to have some Aunts who are still alive. People on both sides of my family seem to have lived long lives. My favourite, Aunt Phyllis, turned 100 years today. She is my mother’s younger sister.
Phyllis was born in Hamilton in 1920. She was the fourth of eight children and has outlived all of them except for her youngest sister, Nancy (one of twins). Her father owned a boot shop in Hamilton but went broke during the great depression when people could not pay for their shoes or he kindly gave credit for products that he sold to poor people. Her mother (my grandmother) was a competent pianist and played at the local church and at the silent movie theatre. Phyl’s family
moved to Melbourne in the 1930’s when my grandfather took on a job as a life insurance agent with one of the large insurance companies in Melbourne.
I found this photo in my archives of my aunts and uncle who were lined up in order of age.
Phyllis left school when she was 14 and began an apprenticeship with a company that made lingerie, wedding dresses and trousseaus. She became a skilled seamstress. Her last job was in a company that made window blinds and we had a couple of the ones that she made in our kitchen windows for some years. She married her husband Norm in 1948 and had three children – Jenny, David and Phillip. Norm died in 1999. Until recently, she was living independently at home but unfortunately became too frail for this to continue. For only the last few years she has been living in an aged care centre. She has some difficulty remembering specific details like dates and some people’s names but she can still carry a very intelligent conversation.
Because of COVID-19 her nursing home is in lockdown and only her direct family were allowed to visit her in her room for her birthday. I was fortunate that I could arrange to see her through her window and I am very grateful for that opportunity. Her aged care centre is more than 5 km away from our home (the maximum distance that we can travel under our current restrictions), but we are allowed to travel further for caregiving (either physical or psychological). I was having coffee this morning with a couple of old mates, making sure that we were standing and appropriate social distance apart, when a police officer also stopped to buy some coffee. I explained my need to visit Auntie Phyl to him and he told me that it would be quite okay for me travel that distance. He gave me his name and badge number in case any other officer questioned me as to why I was so far away from home.
At the nursing home I was able to enter via the car park and walked around to the back gate where I could stand outside Auntie Phyl’s room and visit. The nursing staff opened her door so while she was sitting in her chair inside he room, I was able to have quite a conversation from outside. It was a lovely day with the sun shining on my back as I chatted to her. Phyl had been having a very busy day with a visit from her youngest son during the morning, a lunch celebration with the other guests and then one or two visits in the afternoon with people such as me. She was certainly the centre of attention – the oldest resident that the Centre had ever had.
For such an occasion, it was a little surprise that her room looked like the inside of a florist shop. She had many birthday cards strung up on the wall along with
a big bunch of balloons.
Phyl had received cards from many friends, along with one from her local member of Parliament, the Prime Minister and the Governor General. Her favourite was the card she received from the Queen.
I stayed for half an hour, until her eldest son arrived to visit and then I left via the back gate again. This was quite a remarkable day. It is the first time that I have ever taken a photo of someone who is 100 years old. I had to laugh when her little Asian nurse came along with a cup of tea and congratulated her for becoming a ‘Centurion’.
I took this next photo a few months ago (before Covid-19). It is my favourite photo of the two of us together.