Waiting Game

Mum had a huge operation and lost a lot of blood. My friend Ann later told me she was told to prepare theatre with the necessary instruments etc for a really high risk patient. She was surprised at the resuscitation equipment that was needed and knew this was going to be a risky operation for someone. Then mum was wheeled in and she was stunned. It never showed though, my mum never forgot how my old friend, one of my best friends ever, had looked after her. She said Ann was so tender, so kind, so professional. She said Ann promised her she would be okay, that she would look after her. And she did though I did not see Ann again for some years.

My mum’s previous Pulmonary Embolism nearly killed her and they always expected it to happen again. Mum never knew, apparently when she had her gallbladder out the same preparations were made. Denise Lethbridge also told me about it years later. Mum really suffered a lot with her surgeries and arthritis and her “nerves” and was never 100% in good health.

Dad drove my brother and myself to visit mum in the evenings at Gosford Hospital. As soon as I walked into her shared ward the first time I saw James who I knew from Terrigal. He waved and after mum got a bit tired I went over and said hi and recognised the patient he was visiting as one of my girlfriends I used to know from around Terrigal. She gave me a huge hug and was so pleased she had seen me as I had basically disappeared from the pub circuit. James and Jennifer were together which was wonderful, though her having miscarriages was not. They were so perfect together, and gave me their phone number.

Dad rarely said anything at the hospital, in fact mum and dad rarely spoke in front of their children so it was always a strain to visit mum as I did most of the talking. I found myself going back into nurse mode very quickly and helped mum get comfortable and introduced myself to the other female surgical patients. Some of the staff were girls I had worked with and some I had gone to high school with. It was all very familiar.

Once mum was home it was hard to get her to relax and recover. Nothing I did was done the right way. She tried to do the washing which was downstairs. I decided the time I was there would be an unpaid job and tried to get things into a routine to suit mum but she slipped into a really deep depression. I managed to get my brother off to school in the mornings and be ready for him after school. Mum filled her day with watching Days Of Our Lives and The Young And The Restless. I used the time to read or sew. I also drank a lot of coffee to fill me up as I needed to lose the ten pounds I had put on because I was not using up the kind of energy I had been using up with nannying and nursing. The weight came off with long walks to the beaches and down to Canton Beach and to the shops and library at Toukley .

Mum was recovered physically but emotionally was another thing. It took all my tact and love to cope with everything. I was beginning to feel despondent myself. Seeing my nursing friends, an old boyfriend having moved on and all living their lives made my own seem empty by comparison. I knew I could have a great trip with Daphne and family early next year but I wanted a proper long term career.

I applied to The Navy and also answered a full page advertisement in The New Idea for Ansett Air Hostesses. One day just after I had applied I was walking back from Jenny Dixon Beach and as soon as mum saw me she came outside and told me three Naval Officers in a Jeep had been to see me! They knew that an older school friend of mine, Narelle Halverson had been in the Navy and that she had told me a lot about it. Mum was so excited, she said they looked fabulous in their uniforms and came in for a cup of tea and the tea bread I made especially for dad. At the same time I heard back from Ansett to go for an interview in Sydney next month.

I chose to go to the Ansett interview before I went on with the Navy. Mum was disappointed, though she thought I would not get in with Ansett. The interview was in a hotel near Hyde Park and I walked through the park afterwards on the way to shop in Myers and Centrepoint. It had seemed to go well, they seemed more interested in how happy and jolly I was than anything else. And how I would respond to people who were not pleasant to me. They actually scorned nursing, as if it did not matter the demeanour one used on ill people.

Once inside Centrepoint I went to see Daphne and Des in their shop to let them know I might not be able to come back. I remember saying to Daphne that I wanted to do something important, to have a career. She said that I was important to her and to Des and the children. I was so immature to say that to her and apologised instantly. She understood and we had a lovely long chat.

I heard back from Ansett that they needed me to come in for a second interview. This time I wore more makeup and a figure revealing dress. It was summer so they could see I was the right weight and could hold a conversation. They said they had been a little worried about my self confidence last time but had no issues now and wanted to offer me a place in the next intake.

Cannot even begin to say how excited I was, and even more excited than me was dad. He had been asking me weekly how my diet was going! The next intake was not for four months so I had to let Daphne know I could not come back to them or go on their trip. She said to come for the weekend and I had a lovely time with the children, and babysat so the adults could go gambling in Double Bay again. While I was there Daphne told me my sister had come to see them when I first left them to look after mum. She said some really nasty things about me and said it would be better if she took the job and went overseas with them. I guess I should have not been hurt but I was. She always wanted what I had but we had different personalities. She would not have patience with the children or the adults for that matter. Daphne said she let her have it and told her that I was a friend not just an employee.

So over the next four months I helped mum and babysit my young cousins, including the little toddler, born when I first went nursing. Their mother had just gone back to work hairdressing and mum loved this little girl so much, it also helped her depression to have her there each day. I knitted jumpers for winter for my brother and an all over cabled 8ply camel wool coat to wear in Melbourne as I imagined autumn would be cold. I could have used the camel coat Daphne and Des had given me but I had given it and the bag to my sister when she had gone on and on about how I did not know how lucky I was to have such things.

I did however know that I deserved this opportunity and I was not going to squander it.




I Land On My Feet

I stayed home in Noraville for a few weeks then applied for various nannying positions with families in Sydney. I interviewed with several and decided on a lovely family with three boys under five years of age. The interview was held in Centrepoint Shopping Centre in Sydney CBD as the parents had two fabulous clothing stores there, Shim and Shives. I met the parents there as they had an incredibly busy career and I was offered the job on the spot. The father Des was a little concerned by my youth but the mum Daphne and I hit it off straight away. She intuited I was more mature than my years and knew I had a younger brother who I had half brought up. I really landed on my feet with this position. My recent nursing experience and background in working with children also helped. My sister picked me up at Central Station and dropped me off after introducing herself to the family. My mum had been in touch with her and asked her to look out for me.

They lived out at Dover Heights in a massive art deco mansion complete with outdoor pool and a converted ballroom which was used as a games room. They also had three boxer dogs, a mother dog and two bitches. Unfortunately these gorgeous dogs became a pack when anyone unknown approached the fence let alone the door. When my sister and I arrived Des had locked the dogs securely in the ballroom. I was introduced to the three most gorgeous boys, under five years of age. Stunning looking in the English way with blondest of hair and blue eyes. Totally different in personality. The oldest Justin a sweet caring boy already at Preschool three days a week. Jake the eighteen month old a bundle of mischief and delight. And Jackson, a gorgeous little boy of nine months, a treasure.

I was given a room downstairs and had the run of the house. They were an ultra modern family, really ahead of their time. Des was totally supportive of Daphne who was a feminist. Though he did not do housework etc. Then again Daphne did not do any either. They employed cleaners from a top agency. I cooked the children’s dinner for five pm, they were already bathed and had usually almost finished their food when their parents arrived home at 5.30 every night but Thursday’s, which was late night shopping. Everyone had finished eating but Jake who just loved to try me on over his vegetables. I adored them all but he was so mischievous that I had a special place for him in my heart.

After a little while the agency sent out a young English single mum named Lesley to clean the house. We got on so well immediately that Daphne arranged for her to look after the two youngest on Thursday mornings so I could go shopping. I loved it, catching the double decker bus to Bondi Junction, going into Myer which was amazing compared to the Waltons Store where I had shopped in Gosford. There were lots of boutiques and Italian style coffee lounges. The Mall had not been built yet and it had a wonderfully eclectic atmosphere. Sometimes I took the baby Jackson with me, he was as good as gold and loved bus trips. The bus conductors were really helpful too in getting the strollers off the buses. It was so much fun and so different to anything I had experienced before. I gradually built up a nice wardrobe of accessories from Bondi Junction to match the wonderfully huge camel kid leather shoulder tote bag Daphne and Des gave me as a thank you for the extra babysitting I did once a month so they could go gambling in Double Bay.

In a matter of weeks Lesley and I became firm friends. It was approaching winter and Daphne and Des needed extra sewers to hand sew the leather buttons on their amazing range of kid leather jackets and coats. I asked them if Lesley could come over to dinner with her little boy and Daphne and Des immediately loved her and offered her a substantial amount of extra cash to sew these buttons on in her spare time. I used to go over to her place one night a week and help her with her backlog, sewing being my forte!

While working there I used to go home to Noraville on Saturday afternoons on the train and get the 4.30am train back Monday morning. I was young and fit enough to do it though it was starting to get really cold at that time of the day. Daphne and Des surprised me with a beautiful camel coloured, fitted to the body, three quarter length kid leather coat. The coat matched the tote bag they had given me and was way nicer than the one I had in London in 1970, I still had that but it was heavy and hurt my shoulders. I eventually kept the old suede one at Noraville to use there if a friend suddenly needed a jacket.

Lesley and her son came up one long weekend to stay in Noraville. Her son was a similar age to my young brother and got on brilliantly with him. While mum looked after the children I took Lesley to Budgewoi Pub and from there we went to a friends house where everyone sat around and smoked dope. She kindly said no thanks but go ahead and I was really impressed at how she communicated with all the surfers there. They were mostly from Sydney, some I had known for years who were locals and most were famously reticent. She had them eating out of her hand. Unlike me, who was even shyer with chaps now, or wary would be a better word. Some of the guys were the Sydney surfers who rented a house just down from us and I regularly baked them cookies on a Saturday evening and dropped them around to them. They were famous for their marijuana munchies. And their sweet tooth.

The boys gave us a lift home and everyone was fast asleep. Lesley shared the spare room double bed with her little boy and I had my old bed in my lilac and white bedroom. The next days over breakfast Lesley chatted to dad and afterwards Denise Lethbridge came up and took both boys out on the trail bike and we all had a very relaxed time. It was the first time I really noticed dad so accepting of my friends. Mum enjoyed cooking her fabulous roast meals and my aunts and uncles came over with the cousins. First time in a long time there was no shadow, no feeling of dread or fear there with dad. Lesley actually said your dad is lovely, he just seems starved of communication that is all. I thought about that and realised I had always chatted away to him, until the teen years, when the trouble with my sister started. So I tried to include him in things more and he seemed to be much more relaxed too.

Once we got back to Sydney Lesley’s boyfriend who had dumped her at Circular Quay when they arrived on the ship months before suddenly showed up. I babysat so that they could talk and have some privacy which was not possible in her one bedroom flat at Bondi Beach. He was living at Surfers Paradise and wanted her to move up there with her son to be with him. She decided to stay in Sydney to save money to make a new start there. When we had our regular weekly dinner at Daphne and Des’ we explained this to them and they immediately offered her training as a pattern cutter in their Bondi factory. She proved to be brilliant at this and eventually took over all aspects of the work.

The dinners were fun and spun off my use of my old basic Home Science Commonsense Cookbook from year one in high school. One day after a few weeks of living there I had decided to cook a few meals for us adults and I tried the fruity lamb curry recipe in it. Des came over and tried a spoonful and exclaimed it was a traditional Indian dry sweet curry and delicious. Restaurant quality! So I made Cornish Pasties and many other dishes for us to savour. I bought new cookbooks from Myer Bondi Junction and tried recipes, it was fun and as the children always went to play with their parents once they returned from work I was free to indulge my creativity in the kitchen. We also had takeaway on Friday nights and I was included in family outings to restaurants if I happened to stay in Sydney for the odd weekend.

I was so happy there, I adored the boys and Daphne was fabulous, although I was very wary of Des, not frightened but kept him at arm’s length. No hugging etc and I did not like being alone in the house with him, or his good looking brother who stayed for a few months as was recently divorced. Obviously a reaction to my rape and it’s aftermath though I did not consciously think of what had happened in that house in Gosford.

My friend Linda left Gosford Hospital a few months after me as did all the people who had shared our house. Ann had been sent down to Royal North Shore Hospital for investigation into severe headaches. I spoke to her often on the phone. She returned home after a few days of intensive testing. My sister came over to visit a few times and let us down a lot too by not turning up when she said she was going to. It pissed me off that she disappointed the children.

Over winter the boys had a lot of colds and bugs. Dr David Bennett had started working out of Bondi Junction and he made regular house calls as he could see I could not get all three children to him when they were ill as I did not drive. He had a problem with the dogs. He asked that they were well secured before he came out and no wonder he was nervous. They used to throw themselves in a pack at the glass doors between the ballroom and the sitting room. Dr Bennett felt I was very isolated and had too much responsibility and would stay for a cup of tea and my homemade cake and a chat. When I needed my Pill script I would go in to see him in his rooms in Bronte Road, Bondi Junction.

Lots of reps gave samples of clothing to Daphne and Des, we all had some nice things but especially the boys. There was a knitwear company that made miniature versions of their high fashion sweaters for the boys. Three sweaters in the same shades of blue but different styles. Just gorgeous. The only time I had real trouble clothing wise was when  Des suddenly bought tickets to go to Cairns for all of us. I only had a few summery things with me as had taken my summer clothes back to Noraville. The ones I had not thrown out that is. My tastes changed once I lived in Sydney and I did not have my sewing machine with me to make my new summer wardrobe yet.

Once we were in Cairns Daphne loaned me a short sleeved top and I bought some blouses to wear. It was very hot in the hotel rooms of the family suite so we kept the doors open and while the parents partied downstairs I read while watching the children. We went exploring the region for several days, finding it very beautiful but my overwhelming memory was of the humidity.

Back in Dover Heights it eventually became warmer and the boys had swimming lessons in their huge pool. The instructor was great with them and they really enjoyed themselves. We went down to Bondi Beach a lot as summer approached and met Lesley and her son down there. Eventually though she moved up north to join her boyfriend. We did not feel good about it however as his family who were wealthy disapproved of her. It is why he left her in the first place.

I took Justin the four year old up to Noraville several times. He loved it. Daphne was estranged from her father who lived nearby in Wyong but the whole family picked Justin and I up the first time Justin stayed with us. It was his first sleepiver! Mum loved cuddling Jackson and was quite tearful as she would have loved more children. Unfortunately she had a lot of heavy bleeding and was diagnosed with fibroids. After having a D and C it was advised she have a hysterectomy.

My sister insisted that as she had looked after dad and my brother a few years before when mum had her gallbladder out, that it was my turn now. I did not know how to bring it up with Daphne. I was so upset, I adored the boys and every aspect of my job. It had long term implications for retraining in the garment trade or in fashion and retail. But I had an obligation to look after mum. It was expected that the daughters do these things. It was never ever considered that dad would take time off to do this. We were supposed to look after him. One of the issues for mum was the split level nature of the Noraville house. The laundry was downstairs and it would be months before she could lift washing etc.

Eventually after about five days I brought it up and Daphne said she knew something was wrong. She said no problem, come back when you are able to leave your mum. And meantime they would book the world trip they had been talking about for six months time which should be plenty of time for me to have helped mum back to health again. And I was coming along with them!

I packed and tried not to cry as I said my goodbyes a week later. I loved them so much, even Des, whose weird brash sense of humour had grown on me. Even loved the dogs, though individually, not as a pack.

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