Wednesday 26th January 2022

My Father Is 98 Today. 3/2022.

My Father Is 98 Today. 3/2022.

In his mother’s arms. 1924.

My father, Andrew Simpson, was born in Wollongong NSW 98 years ago today.

11.1.1924.

He was the second child and first son to his father, Andrew and mother, Henrietta. His parents met via WWI when he was recovering from war related mustard gas poisoning & she was from the town where the hospital was located.

After the war, the war bride arrived to make her home in her new husband’s city of Wollongong. His family had emigrated from Scotland before WW1.

Dad went on the become brother to two more siblings. In the middle photo, Dad is around 11, and this is likely the last pic of his whole family.

Andy, Dad’s Dad, was fatally injured in a workplace accident at the Steelworks in Port Kembla.

So, it’s 1935, and already the effects of the Great Depression left their mark on Dad and his family. In fact, in a way, he has to grow up from then.

His mother, Gran as I knew her, became an embittered and sad woman not only because of widowhood but due to family matters, received no help at all from her late husband’s more well-to-do family.

What my father tells me helped him was:

Joining the scouting movement

Being an excellent student at school

Having some support from local men who ensured Dad’s education continued at Wollongong HS.

But, at 15, he needed to leave, to become employed and with his aptitude for office work, good understanding of figures, he was given an office traineeship with Australian Iron & Steel.

He worked hard, he rode a push bike to work and he revelled in the scouting connections.

From 1939-1945 Australia was in WW11, and Dad was working in an essential industry and could not enlist. He did community work with the Rover Scouts but it bothers him still that he could not play a part as many did…friends and family, to help his country.

By 1946, life sure stepped up a notch or 3, and he’d done very well with his clerical work and was on his way to being an accountant…and met a lovely woman who was a lady cub master, at Mt Keira scout camp, marrying her on 2.11.1946.

Dad found a different and more loving extended family via Mum’s relatives and was accepted by all. They worked hard, saving money and after 3 years, just about had a brand new house built in Gywnneville with the help of many friends, ready to welcome their first child, Denyse.

Sadly for Dad, and Mum too, he was obliged to go and work in Melbourne for most of my first year of life as it was company policy. He rode it out though, helped by me and mum flying to Melbourne to stay for a while.

By the time Dad returned and was told for his continuing employment – after all, this was a big company which had trained him and given him work experiences for over 10 years, he would be based in Melbourne.

With much thought, and in discussion with some independent mentors, he resigned and took up a role as the works accountant with a fertiliser company based in Port Kembla.

Life was improved  more so, with the addition of a son, and a Holden Car! Dad tells me he had a car in order for many months & whilst waiting had some basic lessons in driving, so when he took ownership of the car, in Sydney, his mate said “you drive home”.

Memories here are mine. Life as kids in Wollongong was family centred, we both went to the local primary school just down the street. We were taken to the beach, Dad helped us learn to body surf, we joined brownies and cubs, and enjoyed life with a few challenges. One was when Mum’s hearing, very damaged after childbirth, necessitated her having major surgery in Sydney and Dad managed work, seeing her and making sure us kids were OK with neighbours helping out.

The forever home and comfortable life in Wollongong did not remain. Dad’s skills were seen as being needed at the higher end of the company ladder, and was offered the role of Chief Accountant in the Sydney Offices of his company.

In recent years Dad & I have chatted about this big move which must have challenged their marriage as Mum had her family nearby and couldn’t even think about moving.  It did happen and despite the initial misgivings, turned out to be a richer and more varied life than either could have imagined.

Balgowlah Heights, Sydney  Years. 1959-2011.

Aspects of my parents’ life have also been covered within the Telling My Story series here.

Now, as I share on his actual birthday, and I cannot visit him because I am not well (not covid) I thought this might be a good way to share.

1960s into 1970s.

Dad’s life expanded socially and work wise with contacts in the new local community, joining scout association and kids’ cricket group both with my brother’s activities. Supporting our local primary school and getting to be part of the much larger community on the northern beaches. He and Mum joined sporting clubs to play social tennis and he became a golfer at Balgowlah Golf Club as a Saturday regular. It was a great sporting and social connection for him, eventually becoming the club  treasurer and later a life member.

Work was big and busy and often took him away for a day or more to visit work sites in relation to his financial role. As we kids grew up, Mum would often accompany him and that was best for them both.

The Big Trip in 1966.

His bosses were progressive with the big company take over of the original one, and Dad was selected to attend the Harvard Business School Management Summer Program at University of Hawaii in June 1966. A VERY big trip beforehand took him literally around the world, visiting places of business related to the big company. It changed his life in so many ways as he still tells us. Eight weeks away and endless friendships and connections made helped he and Mum when they then had their turns at international travel and over time, many trips back to Hawaii.

The class of 1966.

Kids Grow Up. Leave Home. More Happening! 

I left to teach at Barraba in 1970, and met my husband, marrying in 1971 and  my brother had an OS trip and work training, and then in 1976 married his wife. Dad saw that wherever we (the kids) ended up, he and Mum would come to visit where possible. He and Mum did get to see a lot of Australia thanks to us both.

Grandkids and Home Improvements.

In late 1971, our first child, Dad’s first grandchild, was born. As we spent each school holidays with my parents (we were country based teachers) our daughter felt that their place was her second home. In 1978 Dad made a big decision for his comfort and enjoyment…and added a large in ground swimming pool to the back yard and it was loved by many till the house sold. More grandkids arrived in 1979, 1980 and 1981.

Work Comes To An End. 1983.

Dad is a planner and very astute financially. He was tiring of the office work…especially as leadership changes did not appeal, and whilst he could have been promoted to the ‘top’ job said no. He preferred using his financial expertise and not having the ‘buck’ stopping with him. His retirement present from work was a farewell trip around the world…first class, I think, with Mum, to see all of the works’ related places where he had made friends.

Active Retirement Years. 1984-2005.

Golf more often, trips away, taking grandkids on holidays, having a  Gold Coast holiday for each winter, and much more. Helping his family out in many ways. Dealing with deaths of his mother, other family members and more. Pragmatic and an organiser meant things happened well. Garden maintenance, volunteering at a local youth club, making new friends, farewelling older ones and taking time to enjoy life. A walk along the beach at Manly and even a surf until it became physically challenging. Welcoming the first great grandchild, then over the years till now, another 10! Celebrating zero birthdays and anniversaries. Golden Wedding Anniversary in 1996.

Not Wonderful Times.

Mum was not well and in 2006 even though she was fine to celebrate their Diamond Wedding Anniversary with the family, it was clear her health was taking a toll on her and of course on Dad, as her main carer. In early 2007 Dad and Mum were told she was terminally ill with secondary brain tumours and the decision made by her, and supported all the way by Dad and us, was no treatment other than palliative care. Mum died on 5 March 2007. Dad was both relieved and bereft.

The next 3 years were ones of transitioning to being by himself and remaining as well as he could…and his goal remains that. A great walker and social person he continued his practice of getting out and about each day and meeting friends. But time, and a large cold house meant he was ready for more comfort and people around him.

New Beginnings. 

After selling the family home, Dad hosted a farewell to Curban Street with all of us there and it was bittersweet. Nevertheless he moved on and into the spacious, modern and well-fitted out apartment at Dee Why where he is today. He has made a whole group of new friends in the 10 years since he moved in. He hosted a 90th Birthday for friends old & new, and family at the RSL club next door 8 years ago. His health has remained good until the last couple of years where he was troubled with a balance issue and he spent 3 weeks in rehab getting that sorted. His GP says his heart is in great shape. Sadly, mobility is challenging but he has a walker. His eyes are affected by macular degeneration. But his mind remains incredibly active and rarely forgets anything. He can’t score at darts anymore because of his eyes. But he can listen to music, chat with others and use the phone. Interested always in learning more, his neighbours who are originally from the UK and he get together weekly for sharing knowledge and history. He cares for himself including minor cooking. He has a cleaner. He is well.

Today, even though I cannot visit him as I am not feeling well, friends are taking him out for lunch. Yesterday my brother, who lives close by, and family took Dad a cake, and we facetimed for his 98th Birthday.

He has no secret for living to this age. He has outlived all of his older times friends and his family.

Happy 98th Birthday Dad.

Denyse.

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Remember. 32/51. #LifeThisWeek. 97/2021.

Remember. 32/51. #LifeThisWeek. 97/2021.

Remember? Oh yes, that’s right. We had our daughter 50 years ago last week.

“50” years …wow. Indeed.

We became parents at 21. Mind, you back then 21 meant we were already working and in permanent employment with the N.S.W. Department of Education. My husband was in his 4th year as a teacher, I was in my 2nd. Now, I look at our granddaughters who are older (just) than 21 and in different employment and life-style situations than us. Not a judgement at all. It shows the ‘gap’. Our daughter was around 25 when she became a Mum and did not get permanent employment in teaching until some years after that.

 

Our daughter does not like the spotlight nor this amount of attention but I sense given it’s her 50th we are celebrating, and it’s lockdown, then all on-line I get some leeway! On the day, she was teaching remotely, supervising her grade (she is a relieving Asst Principal at the moment) and making sure her youngest stayed on task for home-learning

During the weeks before her birthday I posted a care pack of favourite biscuits to savour at home, and some presents and a card for the day. I also sent later on the two blog posts relating to her birth year and some memories in photo collages.

 

More times to remember…

We celebrated with a family zoom….can’t can share the  one image &  we did have fun.

She LOVED her birthday that was at home…with her whole school staff, arranging a staff meeting (all on zoom) to sing her Happy Birthday and they delivered little cakes and a huge bunch of flowers. I made her smile…with a beautiful message via instagram from our fave author Trent Dalton. He mentioned how much he values teachers too. Aww.

A few more photos to remember her stories before 50th Birthday.

1991. K at 20, with Mum & Me.

 

With her brother’s family and hers, our daughter managed this magical photo shoot. Always remember the sweet surprise when I got the big photo on canvas and book for my 70th birthday.

 

18th Birthday for only son. We enjoyed being back celebrating too. With the fam!

 

Thank you for our Anniversary Cake, K.

My Birthday cake made by my daughter.

 

Glad I got this shot! Thanks KT, I know it’s not your fave thing to do. Brunch by ourselves in Jan 2021. A rarer than rare occasion in covid.

 

Our first born with a first born Mum and fifth born Dad.

We love you and always remember how it was to become YOUR parents back in 1971!

Mum and Dad.

Link Up #252

Life This Week. Link Up #252

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Women of Courage Series. #64. Anne Howe. 89/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #64. Anne Howe. 89/2021.

In July 2021 The Women of Courage posts will be connected in some way to World Head and Neck Cancer Month (July) and the #WHNCD Day on 27 July 2021. Those who have followed my blog since 2017 know I was diagnosed with a rare Head and Neck Cancer in my upper gums and under the top lip. More here.

Two years ago….around this time of year, I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

Whilst Anne Howe, who is in her late 60s, and I have not met in real life, we have connected on-line via a very supportive facebook group for those affected by Head and Neck Cancer. The details are below. Anne’s story looks short yet it is incredibly full of courage from Anne’s words, taking the best chance you can as a human to survive a devastating diagnosis and allowing those who have your trust to do their best for you. Anne is a very determined woman, loved by her large family and often a carer to others. She has had more surgery since her post-HNC photo was taken and this has been, as best as it might happen, for her to have some teeth added inside her mouth.

Note from Anne:

 While I have had teeth made I am unable to wear them until I have had the screws implanted in my jaw and the bridging work made. Then its fingers crossed to hope my jaws don’t crumble due to the radiation. So still a way to go there.

I chose to use both images supplied by Anne as they do illustrate her words at the end of her story. I have, though, used her image before the surgeries for her Woman of Courage collage because it was then she needed to have all the courage she could muster to go through her many trials in her head and neck cancer journey.

Thank you, Anne. Let’s share your responses now.

 

 

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

My moment of courage kicked in when I presented for surgery to remove a SCC (squamous cell carcinoma) tumour from my nose back in 2017.

I was nervous and terrified as anyone is when facing surgery but the full impact hit when my surgeon came to see me.

His first words when explaining my surgery really tore through me.

He could NOT give me informed consent.

I would have to trust him and he promised to do the very best he could for me.

At best he would remove the tumour and do his best to repair the damage but at worst I could just wake up with a hole in my face.

With a very shaking hand I signed on  the line but while doing it a very gentle hand covered mine and a gentle voice told me he would take good care of me.

I woke up to find I had lost most of my nose, my top lip up to the nose, some of my left cheek, my central upper jaw and part of the soft palate.

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

After my surgery I was informed by my surgeon that I was stage 4 and he didn’t think I would survive.

He had done his best to get me this far and I made up my mind to do whatever I needed to do to get through this which is exactly what I have done.

I knew I had a long hard road ahead with a lot of work to be done.

Over the last 4 years I have endured 11 surgeries on my nose and 30 sessions of radiation.

I still have further nasal surgery to have and also surgery on my mouth due to having lost part of my jaw. (this is some of  the surgery I mentioned in my introduction)

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

When I woke up from surgery and first  saw my face I thought that was it.

Never in my wildest imagination did I think it could be repaired to the stage it has.

I put my faith and trust in my surgeon which was the best thing I could ever have done.

The other thing that helped get me through was the love and support of my family and friends.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

I have learned from this experience that I am stronger than I ever thought I was.

I have often been told I am very brave but I disagree.

I have fears just like everyone else but to survive I just had to put on my big girl pants and do what was needed as the other option just didn’t bear thinking about.

It really was a live or die situation.

Over time my strength has just grown.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

To anyone going through something that fills you with fear or concern my advice is to give everything you have because only then can you say you really tried.

Surround yourself with some people who will truly understand and accept you no matter what.

Sometimes I have needed to vent or just have a good cry to let those emotions out and that is important too.

Never give up.

 

My favourite saying through all this has been:

My face does not define me I am still the same person.

Anne, your courage and your story blow me away. What a great relationship you have with your surgeon. Trust is so much a part of it. I am so glad you are here, and looking after your family too…as you continue to recover. Thank you so much.

Denyse.

Note About Head and Neck Cancer Support on-line.

IF a family member or someone you know does have a diagnosis of a head and neck cancer or that person is a carer, the value of a good facebook group cannot be over-done. The friendly space that IS this group for eligible people to request membership is a good one. There are people from all over the world but the group is not huge so personal connections can be made. It is mainly made up of New Zealanders, and Aussies too…along with those from the U.S. There are questions to be answered to join and it IS strictly for those with a head and neck cancer. Link is here.

This is a link to Head and Neck Cancer Australia too. This is where I found information initially after my 2017 diagnosis and where I am now an Ambassador.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

Copyright © 2021 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

 

 

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Two-In-One. #TreeSquare #SundayStills. Evergreen. 87/2021.

Two-In-One. #TreeSquare #SundayStills. Evergreen. 87/2021.

Re-visiting my first school. Lots of evergreen in trees in the playground. Me, not so much!

Since knowing that trees were to be the focus for BeckyB’s Squares in July AND that they would be featured on Sunday Stills too, I have been extra vigilant in my tree observations and my photo taking. To be honest, I am always finding something to photograph outside but with a theme like trees…I was IN!

Terri here has now  moved into her new abode and I will share this post soon as ‘my’ Sunday becomes Monday here. Terri is in the northern hemisphere. I do enjoy sharing and am happy to wait till Monday.

Being Square is Fun!

Join in this lovely challenge and post a photographic square daily for one month every quarter. The theme changes every quarter and is announced on this blog a few weeks, occasionally days, in advance of the challenge month. The challenge months are January, April, July and October.

Here’s all you need to know: Thanks so much to Becky.

Create your square post, and include a pingback to one of my daily square posts (not this page or the home page as otherwise I don’t know about your ping!). You can also add the link to your post in the comments on any of my square posts

  1. Include the theme’s tag (sometimes this may be the only way I can find you too); the theme for July 2021 is Treeswhich makes the tag #TreeSquare

 

My Squares in Evergreen…from Trees in Nature. Each has a small description of place underneath.

Many trees like this on the lake and coastal areas where we live.

 

Another evergreen pine-type tree right on the lake!

 

An Australian native evergreen. The banksia tree. Coastal loving tree.

 

This is evergreen alright and perhaps more of a large shrub but it is saving the beach from erosion.

 

This evergreen is a gum tree and its angle is somewhat precarious.

 

Evergreen National Park on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. I grew up very close to here.

 

And this is the suburb where I grew up. Balgowlah Heights NSW. The pink arrow points to our former home. Lots of evergreen everywhere, including the colour Dad chose for the roof end.

 

This is what is left of the evergreen Dad & Mum had in their garden. House completely unrecognisable. Interestingly owners used same green for front door. Great place for us all: kids, grandkids and great grandkids 1959-2011.

 

Missenden Road Camperdown. Evergreen trees form canopy. My walk along here is to the Hospital for my check ups (still having them) and surgeries in 2017-18.

And my collage for #TreeSquare on Instagram:

I hope you have plenty of evergreen and trees around your area. They are such givers of life, literally!

Denyse.

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Women of Courage Series. #63. Cosette Calder. 86/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #63. Cosette Calder. 86/2021.

In July 2021 The Women of Courage posts will be connected in some way to World Head and Neck Cancer Month (July) and the #WHNCD Day on 27 July 2021. Those who have followed my blog since 2017 know I was diagnosed with a rare Head and Neck Cancer in my upper gums and under the top lip. More here.

Two years ago….around this time of year, I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

Those of us who have been diagnosed with a head and neck cancer never feel quite alone when there are others we can share our stories and one such place is a special facebook group (private, but ask to join) here based in New Zealand. This is where I virtually met Cosette Calder, aged 46, and she was someone I reached out to share her story of head and neck cancer, and here she is. Thank you Cosette.

 

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

  • In 2015 I was diagnosed with throat cancer.
  • I had a young family, full time job and life was busy.
  • Suddenly everything stopped and I had to undergo Chemo and Radiation Treatment to beat this cancer and have a chance to live.

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

  • I had a brutal cancer treatment.
  • I couldn’t eat food and had to have a tube inserted into my stomach.
  • For two months I only drank water and was tube fed.
  • I lost 8kgs and some of my hair fell out.
  • I really had to dig deep to get through this treatment.
  • I had a plastic mask made of my head and shoulders.
  • This mask was for the radiation treatment.
  • My head had to be perfectly still on the radiation table so the mask was bolted across my face to the table for 20 minutes a day during radiation treatment.
  • It is incredibly scary and claustrophobic.
  • I somehow managed it.
  • I am proud of myself for the courage of wearing the mask when I was so ill and feeling down.
  • I fought hard whilst being so unwell. I didn’t realise I could be so strong.

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

  • Keep putting one foot in front of the other.
  • Sometimes we can’t help what happens to us.
  • Keep moving on and keep trying.
  • Acceptance too helps.
  • By accepting my cancer diagnosis I was able to focus and keep moving ahead.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

  • I am stronger now.
  • I have been pushed to the limit and I know how lucky I am to be here.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

  • You CAN do it!

 

Oh my, yes we do have brutal treatments don’t we?

However, in reading this of your experience as a head and neck cancer patient Cosette, and, now well-recovered, it is a tribute to your human qualities of strength and courage that you have recovered and now share your story. Thank you again. I am sharing the information below from the New Zealand Based Facebook Group for Head & Neck Cancers. Thanks to for all you do to share awareness!

Denyse.

Note About Head and Neck Cancer Support on-line.

IF a family member or someone you know does have a diagnosis of a head and neck cancer or that person is a carer, the value of a good facebook group cannot be over-done. The friendly space that IS this group for eligible people to request membership is a good one. There are people from all over the world but the group is not huge so personal connections can be made. It is mainly made up of New Zealanders, and Aussies too…along with those from the U.S. There are questions to be answered to join and it IS strictly for those with a head and neck cancer. Link is here.

This is a link to Head and Neck Cancer Australia too. This is where I found information initially after my 2017 diagnosis and where I am now an Ambassador.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

Copyright © 2021 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

 

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What’s Under The Trees? #SundayStills #TreeSquare. 84/2021.

What’s Under The Trees? #SundayStills #TreeSquare. 84/2021.

Since knowing that trees were to be the focus for BeckyB’s Squares in July AND that they would be featured on Sunday Stills too, I have been extra vigilant in my tree observations and my photo taking. To be honest, I am always finding something to photograph outside but with a theme like trees…I was IN!

Under these trees on the M1 near our house – we were on our way to Sydney here – is the Wyong River.

 

Terri here has now  moved into her new abode and I will share this post soon as ‘my’ Sunday becomes Monday here. Terri is in the northern hemisphere. I do enjoy sharing and am happy to wait till Monday.

Being Square is Fun!

Join in this lovely challenge and post a photographic square daily for one month every quarter. The theme changes every quarter and is announced on this blog a few weeks, occasionally days, in advance of the challenge month. The challenge months are January, April, July and October.

Here’s all you need to know: Thanks so much to Becky.

Create your square post, and include a pingback to one of my daily square posts (not this page or the home page as otherwise I don’t know about your ping!). You can also add the link to your post in the comments on any of my square posts

  1. Include the theme’s tag (sometimes this may be the only way I can find you too); the theme for July 2021 is Treeswhich makes the tag #TreeSquare

Here’s my “what’s under the trees….and “WHO” as well.

Some photos are a trip down memory lane, starting with this. The ones with green frames will form my #TreeSquare contribution as collages.

 

January 2006, I am under a Palm Tree at North Shore Oahu. Hawaii.

 

What was left under the Christmas tree at our son’s house!

 

Under these gum trees, we shared games, stories and more with our students at Weilmoringle P.S. in 1976-1977.

 

Under these trees is a playground of the school where I was principal 1999-2003.

 

Under these trees is the way to the old Wyong P.S.

I admit, I have a lot of photos where trees help tell the stories. More to come.

 

Under the canopy of Autumn trees in Telegraph Rd Pymble 2019.

And now these:

Under these trees is the sign to the property east of Narrabri NSW which was our first home in 1971.

 

And to say, thanks to the trees for being the best subjects ever….

 

From sunrise you protect us…

 

To  sunset you protect us.

That’s my story on trees. And for Becky’s Squares:

I hope you enjoyed this Australian-based post about trees, with one from the U.S.of A, thank you Hawaii!

Denyse.

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Women Of Courage Series. #59. Tribute To My Relatives. 74/2021.

Women Of Courage Series. #59. Tribute To My Relatives. 74/2021.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

This is a different take.

I wanted to show my appreciation for the Women of Courage in my life. All of them are no longer living. I know I  am applying my judgement through my lens as a:

  • granddaughter
  • niece
  • daughter

To these women:

  • my paternal grandmother: known in this as Etta.

Henrietta Season (nee Earl) Simpson

  • my maternal grandmother: known in this as Vera.

Vera May (nee Bailey) Chapple.

  • my aunt (Mum’s sister) known in this (and to me) as Poppy

Thora Doris Chapple.

  • my mother known in this as Noreen

Noreen (Chapple) Simpson.

I know this is a very lengthy post and some may not wish to read it all. I wrote their stories of courage for me to remember. I hope you get to read some parts. I found it a process which helped me get more insight into who came before me, and what qualities I may have inherited or learned as behaviours.

About Etta.

I knew Etta as Gran. When we lived in Wollongong too, we saw her more often. Dad shares that it was always by obligation. She visited us in Sydney, coming up by train and she attended our wedding and got to see her great grandchildren from both me and my brother before dying in her late 80s in 1985.

Etta displayed enormous courage in 1920, to follow her then fiance, a soldier from Australia, back to his hometown Wollongong. She left everyone and everything she knew back in, as she called it, “home”.

Nevertheless, love won. She married, and despite some England vs Scotland prejudice (Andy, her husband was of Scottish descent) she went on the have her first two children, one of whom is my Dad. Over time, though, I can guess her courage waned, as during the Great Depression years, her husband was out of work, and by then two more children came along.

A family of 4 small mouths to feed, and to find work for her husband, she courageously left the family home with them all. It was owned by  her mother –  a widow who had migrated shortly after her daughter. My father tells me the stories of them driving up to Auburn in Sydney, to live temporarily for his Dad to have work. It did not last, and they, like many, relied on some work, handouts and more.

How do I imagine this was for Etta? I think, given she was a middle class woman from England it must have taken an enormous amount of courage to live in a new country with new ways, and to deal with society in that city where she lived. You see, I know that her husband was banished in some ways from his family due to underlying secrets about money and jobs. Sigh. She had to deal with those disappointments and a lack of what she might have thought was coming to her and her new husband when she arrived in Australia.

Yet…..there was more to come. In 1935 her love and husband died. From an injury sustained in the work he got back into at the Steelworks. She was widowed with 4 kids, the youngest was aged 2. From my then 11 year old father’s recollection she remained sad, and unable to offer her children some of the love and discipline they might have  needed. Instead, as he tells it, that came from her mother, Edith.

What Have I Learned About Myself From This Woman of Courage?

I have learned compassion. I am also far less likely to quickly make a judgement about other people’s decisions. I do not judge Etta at all now. I have tried to share with Dad (in our recent chats) just how hard it must have been for this woman he called Mum. She had no idea that being courageous would lead her to a life of poverty and being shunned socially in the town where they lived.

Etta did ‘classy’ for special occasions like my christening and her Mum did too!

About Vera.

When I remember Vera, Nanny to me, I remember her care for me but it was edged with a pretty strict regime. She died when I was about 8, my mum losing her Mum in her 30s. I stayed with her and my Papa and their extended family quite a bit as a child and always felt loved and cared for. However, in the latter years of her pretty short life I recall her severely affected by a stroke and that my grandfather cared for her at home for sometime. I have a strong memory too, of an Ambulance taking her to Wollongong hospital, and that later my mum was very sad because her mother had died.

I have done some family history research as has my daughter and with Dad still having an excellent memory I ask him about his late mother-in-law  and her life. She lived a hard physical life. It was in a rural/small town area of the south coast of N.S.W. Interestingly she and her brother (Don) married a brother and a sister (Ettie). So there was a closer blood relationship between the families. My grandmother worked at home, and kept the home fires burning even after having 3 children because her husband had been blinded in one eye in an accident at the local coal mine. In fact, he was in Sydney Eye Hospital having surgery on his eye socket and to have a glass eye added when my Mum (Noreen) was born in Dapto.

From that time, of course, there were hardships relating to one person unwell and unable to work full time again, even though he did what he could. Vera lived by Christian convictions (she was Presbyterian) and her strictness around the family life and upbringing may have contributed to her courage. I do know she tried to have me read the bible from a very young age. I still have it.

Then, tragedy struck.

In a way that no-one could envisage but would in some ways become a life saver of sorts. Vera’s sister-in-law, her husband’s sister and married to her brother, died giving birth to her third child – a daughter. This was in mid 1920s. Neither survived. Nor did her husband and father of 2 sons, ever recover. Vera, whose own situation was pretty dire, agreed for the family’s sake that she, her husband and 3 children – Poppy, a son, and Noreen, would move to the house that was being paid off by her brother. This allayed fears of being evicted from their rental as work was thin on the ground during the Great Depression.

Now I add what I know is hearsay. From my Dad, telling me Mum’s memories. That house was full. It had 3 bedrooms. Your Nanny and Papa slept in one room, Uncle Don & his son, another, and your mother & Poppy in the other one. Bobby (son of Uncle Don) slept on one part of the verandah as did your Uncle Keith. This pattern continued even as I recalled as a child. Over time, the children became adults who could work. And they did. It was the start of WW2. Your grandmother had not only a house full of family but made the house available for soldiers stationed near by and of course was encouraged to give back due to her Christian upbringing. She worked. As did those other woman, your mother and aunty, just to keep the household fed. Her brother contributed nothing other than the shelter. He sunk into a deep, life lasting depression, only emerging on days when his beloved greyhounds needed training and then to catch up with other trainers. 

What Have I Learned About Myself From This Woman of Courage?

I have learned that despite life’s biggest and hardest challenges we can survive. However, sadly, that did not help Vera live. Her life stopped. Prematurely. In 1957 Vera died. She had been unwell with blood pressure causing a stroke and then another one ending her life. I remember my Mum’s sadness the most. I learned that I have strong women in my mother’s family but that their health frailty and anxiety about health is something I have been given. I am more resilient as a result of recent life events like my cancer but I also am wary of my health because of my lineage. I do take medication for high blood pressure and it is controlled well.

I hope Vera was happy on her wedding day.

About Poppy.

As I prepare this post, it is Poppy’s birthday and she would have been 98.  Dear woman she was to me and my brother and to our kids as well.  Born Thora Doris, that was shortened to Poppy by one of the relatives and that’s who she was to us. She was the middle of 3 with Mum, Noreen, the younger. These two shared a bed in one room until Mum left home to marry Dad. They were a  sporting and community minded family even with the hardships at home and little money. Poppy’s intelligence was good enough to get her from the local primary school into the selective  Wollongong  H.S. in the late 1930s and funnily enough she was in 2 years up from my father! But she still had to leave school, as Dad did, aged 15.

Poppy and Noreen played competition sport: Hockey to be exact. They played at representative level and  it was a great way to meet others socially too.  They travelled around N.S.W. and to Sydney.  This was mostly by train. I have included both of their Hockey photos in this post. I am the least sporting person ever but I did inherit a love of competition from someone!

I only ever heard dribs and drabs about Poppy’s life as a young adult. I know she was shy. I know too, that she trained to be a telephonist. Those were the women who sat at large banks of phone lines and plugged in calls.  First with the Post Office in her local area on  the South Coast, and then after the war, she went to the Steelworks to work  in their section. Before that, I understand she may have had a boyfriend but that he  was  killed in the war. My mum seemed to attract more male attention  but I don’t think my aunt  was ever jealous. She was already friends with my dad before mum met him.

But what about her courage?

It’s in sharing this story that I acknowledge one of mental  ill-health, sadness and grief. She lost her Mum  (Vera) at an early age. Work at home fell to her, even though she was a full-time  working woman. I was a  young kid and my brother and I were spoiled a lot by her: lollies, taking us to the Dapto Show and more. She loved to read and I devoured her women’s magazines when I stayed with her.

Life  challenges took a big toll.

As I understand it, she had what was called a nervous breakdown based on her workload and went into a Sydney private hospital  for electro convulsive shock  treatment. I was about 11. I remember visiting her but not much else. She was able to return home and was given modified duties with her employer away from the switchboard. That continued until she turned 60. She was well-respected. An ardent follower of sport – Rugby League in particular- and a kinder and more caring Aunty and Great Aunty I am yet to  know.

What Have I Learned About Myself From This Woman of Courage?

I have learned selflessness is something that needs to be balanced with self care. I saw Poppy taking care of everyone else first…and then, over time, herself last. She used to eat for comfort too but was incredibly lonely as well. Her latter years of life were spent in a new-to-her house, which was almost hers along with her older brother who was severely unwell due to depression, and excessive alcohol intake and more. She rarely saw people once she stopped work and so that was something I, along with my parents would try to rectify with visits and encouraging her to come and stay with us. She was the kindest hearted person and totally devoted to her family. I have learned that overdoing it via work can cause issues with our health (yes, I know I too suffered) and that seeking treatment and continuing life afterwards is not to be discounted. In fact that IS an act of courage right there.

Poppy is next to little girl in pink hat, and to my Dad in blue shirt. I think this might have been her last Christmas with us.

About Noreen.

It’s only been in the recent 5 or so years that I have been interested in, and talking more to Dad about, Mum’s history. Dad and I are the talkers. Mum sure could talk but she also had an impediment for as long as I can recall. Mum was left very deaf in one ear in particular, which her specialists back in the mid 50s attributed to having children. In fact she and Dad were told not to have more. Before I go back to earlier times, even before she met Dad, I remember her being upset because she couldn’t hear. I know Dad always came to us kids in the night because when Mum was lying on one side, she heard nothing. But what I want to recall is her immense courage in doing something to help her hearing. She was a shy woman from the South Coast but it would be an operation of big magnitude that her ENT specialist in Sydney said would help restore some hearing….and she went through with it.

We were under 10s then and I remember feeling sad about Mum’s absence. Dad took us up to RPA one time. Interesting fact, when I was in Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, my room overlooked Gloucester House where Mum had that surgery. And it helped her for some time but in her latter years, she needed more hearing aids. It frustrated her so much when we would talk and she wouldn’t know what we were saying, and in a group setting, or people around a table it was more annoying too. Sigh. I am wondering about compassion here. My husband tells me I talk loudly and it is true and it is always clear (OK, bit rough since my mouth reconstruction) but we used to have to do that at home.

Mum was the baby in her family. However that did not coming spoiling as I wrote in Vera’s story, Noreen and Poppy had home duties even when high school and work called. Mum did enjoy fashion. She worked locally in a store and eventually, for her, got the job of her dreams selling shoes. Honestly, I am so not like that. Mum had the best collection but was a small size, frustratingly for her granddaughters. She became someone who loved her competitive sport and I have seen that in her as a tennis player (it was a way to become friends in Sydney, when she joined a club). She was lithe, fast moving and skilled. Hockey made her very competitive.

About the courage she had. I talked to Dad about this not long ago. As a woman who had met the man to become her husband through the Scouting Movement, she became friends with his friends, and her sister often accompanied them on picnics and overnight stays. All above board. They were wed, he continued study to be an accountant whilst building their first home, and Mum worked each week…and I was eventually born. Just into the new house too and Dad was transferred to the Melbourne office, very unwillingly. He made it a deal, that he had to be home for his daughter’s first birthday and he did. However, in the midst of that year, Mum very courageously took us both by plane (1950 people!) to Melbourne from Sydney. I cannot fathom how much courage that took but love won!

But after marriage, and having one child, when she saw Dad not only get his driver’s licence and a family car, she decided that was for her too. She got that licence soon after my brother’s birth and had independence not many 1050s women enjoyed. Yet, she loved her house, her neigbourhood and more. And then all that came undone.

She had already dealt with the death of her mother. But her husband had some news she did not like. He was being promoted to head office in Sydney and he really could not turn that offer down. She did not want to go. Everything was unknown. Dad eventually convinced her it was the right move but he was challenged by the circumstances too because of the time between when he had to start and when he could move us up after selling the ‘first home’ built together.

My views on Noreen’s courage from there:

  • she accepted the move, despite her anxiety and loss of family and friend support
  • she ended up, as parents often do, making friends with a woman whose son was in the same class as hers and from then on, it was great..over time of course. But she had met many people close in age, interests and more. That remained the case until her death!
  • she joined P&C, Scouts & Guides parent groups, tennis clubs, card clubs, was part of the first V.I.E.W. Club formed to raise funds for The Smith Family, she did Meals of Wheels and more
  • she became more of the sole parent at times, being independent with a car helped, as Dad travelled interstate and then…the big one:
  • 1966 he was flown by the company he worked for, around the world, ending in Hawaii for 6 weeks at Harvard Management of Business Summer School. It changed his life. Mum cried at the kitchen sink after he left. I had never seen that before.
  • But, as in all things, she rallied and we were teens at school, and she even drove us with friends to Port Macquarie
  • Over time I saw Mum grow in her personal strength indicating a change for the good in terms of courage
  • She did not do well however, with her own illness. Who does?
  • Well, she became so unwell at the end of her life because she lost her confidence, her ability to manage her body well and I believe that in keeping Mum as safe as he could, Dad was right but it was at the expense of ever knowing what had happened inside her to cause her death.

What Have I Learned About Myself From This Woman of Courage?

It’s taken me till the past few years to realise that I could learn to “talk less” as they say and listen more. Noreen used to say I rushed my kids too much in the mornings, getting them to school and pre school, and I agree but I also had to….and I liked work outside the home. In fact I needed it. But I also look back now at Mum and admire her quiet courage…especially when she did not want to “be” or “do” what she was. In the end, and it was her almost end, it was her words “no more test, nothing” that set the path for her once it was discovered she had secondary brain tumours. That’s courage done confidently and quietly but firmly.

We all agreed, as did her team.

Thanks Noreen, for my life, and for me making better inroads into understanding you and your life way past the time when I could tell you so. I had to get to now to know this, aged 71. You died when I was 58.

Such a favourite. Noreen, with her first granddaughter, at the front of 61, with Andrew, Dad.

Thank you to readers who came this far. I really appreciate it.

Denyse.

 

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

Copyright © 2021 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Reflections On Mother’s Day 2021. 56.1/2021.

Reflections On Mother’s Day 2021. 56.1/2021.

 

Content Warning: Should any post about Mother’s Day be a concern for you, please don’t read…I am sorry for your situation whatever it is.

 

After a long period of reflection (years) I chose to write about Mother’s Day to be published on Mother’s Day, 2021.

My mother told me Mother’s Day flowers were chrysanthemums and were always white. She recalls her mother being given a white flower at church on Mother’s Day. I remember these things. But cannot find any pics of chrysanthemums.

Here it IS Mother’s Day 2021.

I cannot help but do a trip down memory lane to try to understand my mother and my mothering…OK. Not all of it, because much cannot be put into words.

Reflections.

  • I grew up in a 1950s-60s  household where Mother’s Day was remembered….by my father whose domineering and controlling manner meant I have had his words about this occasion rattling around my head since I could remember. Maybe 6 till my recent old(er) age.
  • It was a day where of course we gave Mum a card, probably some flowers and may be a gift. But I never thought of the occasion without ‘obligation’. This is who I am. Long memory.
  • Mum was a kind, sharing and shy woman whose care of her husband and us two kids was exemplary. She loved that she could care for us that way. In fact, it carried on to the ways in which our kids and my brother’s would remember “Noreen” for, and her three great-grandchildren who knew her before her death in 2007.
  • Dad….where will I start? Here at the point of the conversation I had with him only 3 weeks ago when I spoke of the courage his mother had coming to Australia to marry her fiance. His comments? “She was alway cranky and complaining and wanted to know, when we arrived to visit, when we were returning” OK. I understand but as I said, Gran having been widowed with 4 kids probably had a lot of grief.
  • So why did I begin to resent the forced nature of Mother’s Day? Probably for that reason. It did not come from my heart and then, as I had kids (strange but true) I believe I began to feel the old family history repeating itself.
  • Sigh.
  • I became entangled in the “event” that should be happening as I am a mother. Oh how embarrassed I am now about that. I did not demand anything (not my Dad) but I felt sad and disappointed if I was forgotten on Mother’s Day.
  • Cringe.

What Has Changed?

  • My mature thinking, a big dose of cancer and an obligation-free mindset
  • I honour MY adult kids as they make me so proud to be their Mum.
  • I actually asked my kids, a few years back,  to allow for my imperfections (there are many) as their Mum as I was, at the time, doing the best I knew.
  • I expect nothing back. At long last. Not anything. Thanks Dad…by the way, I have told him this but his memory is…dim.
  • I know that I am loved but I do not need to see evidence or whatever based on the ‘have to’ mindset we see far too often.

Two Posts: 1971 and 1979.

These two posts are about my mothering years, in particular giving birth to our daughter, and then after a long gap where we thought that we could not have any more children, we had our son.

My Mother’s Day 2021.

  • It’s a Sunday.
  • We will be cleaning the house on our fortnightly roster.
  • I will go out for my Sunday coffee.
  • I will reflect on my gratitude for a change of mind and heart and send my love to our kids and their kids…and Dad.
  • Forgiveness is powerful as is My Loving Kindness practice.

Take care of yourselves and each other.

Denyse.

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