Friends, family and Aunty Maud

Columnist Peter Leith has always been one to take time to talk, lobby and observe. In this true short story, the 91-(and a half)-year-old relates an all-too-common life journey.

Maud, Rob and their children came to Australia from Scotland in the early 1960s. More than three decades and several grandchildren later, they had retired and bought one of the brand-new homes in a secluded ‘court’ development in a hamlet a few kilometres south of the Queensland border.

Each continued their volunteer activities, Rob as a soccer coach and Maud as an RSPCA worker. They worked together tirelessly to turn bare earth into a wonderful garden. Maud became a stalwart of the local gardening club and their garden won prizes and was featured in the local papers.

Maud became the surrogate mum to all the younger women in the court and became ‘Aunty Maud’ to all their children. She arranged with the mothers that any and all the children who arrived home from school before their mum got home were to report to Aunty Maud. With all her loving care for them, Maud never spoiled the children. They all respected and obeyed their Aunty Maud!

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Rob’s Alzheimer’s developed quickly. He was soon in a nursing home, was moved to palliative care and died. Her garden, the children and the neighbours helped Maud survive the shock.

Her children expressed concern at her living “all by yourself in that big house” and tried to persuade her to downsize and move into an aged care community several kilometres away. Finally she moved, much to the disappointment and sadness of her neighbours, especially the children.

Her house sold quickly and the new owners rented it out while they caravanned around Australia for two years. The garden was untended.

Maud, separated from her familiar environment, became anxious, gave up driving and no longer communicated with her neighbours and friends. She was soon put into a nursing home.

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Recently one of Aunty Maud’s former neighbours saw a notice on Facebook from one of Maud’s children. It read: “Mum has died. We are overseas and there will be a private cremation.”

When the new owners of Maud and Rob’s old home returned from their caravan safari, they levelled what remained of the garden to make a parking space for their caravan and boat.

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Written by Peter Leith