Extended families

How two women enriched their lives by taking in overseas students.

Peter Leith is 89 and describes himself as ‘half-deaf and half-blind’, but he has never been one to dwell on his challenges. Extended families continues his Aspects of Ageing series of true short stories.


Both Gwen and Pat lived alone in ‘too-large-for-one-person’ homes, in Melbourne’s north-west.

Pat is a widow, with a daughter in north Queensland. Gwen, a retired teacher, had never married.

A mutual friend put them in touch with the student accommodation officer at nearby La Trobe University.

With some hesitation, both Gwen and Pat hosted their first short-stay overseas students. They were girls from south-east Asian countries.

They quickly became ‘hooked’, both on the company of the young women they hosted and also on how to cook and eat Asian food.

Pat has already made two visits to the homes of ‘her girls’ in Vietnam and Sri Lanka.

When Gwen died, one of ‘her girls’ flew from Bali for the cremation and took some of Gwen’s ashes back with her to place in her family’s memorial garden.

Gwen would have liked that, as she had always wanted to visit Bali.


Extended Families is a short story in a growing series called Aspects of Ageing. Peter says the anecdotes are based on fact and “reflect the reality that there are many forms of ‘age abuse’.”

Do you have a story or an observation for Peter? Send it to sunday@yourlifechoices.com.au and put ‘Sunday’ in the subject line.



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    10th Feb 2019
    I have suffered from loneliness all of my life, because I am different from most people in so many ways - and have been persecuted for my peculiarities. Nothing to be done about it, I suspect. I've learned to live with it, helped by having cats as companions. Sartre was right: "Hell is other people".

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