Surrogate ‘grandchildren’

Recording those small but important aspects of life has become a mission for our 91-year-old columnist Peter Leith. He continues his series of true short stories, titled Aspects of Ageing.


After many years of living and working ‘down south’, Molly and Jim moved to a village on the far north coast of New South Wales. They and their family had holidayed there several times in the past and loved the climate, the lifestyle and the fact that, while it was close enough to the ‘big city’ services of Brisbane to be able to access them when necessary, it was far enough a way from them to be untroubled by them.

They also reasoned that just as they and their children had frequently visited the area, so too could, and would, their grandchildren and their parents. 

It did not work out quite that way. The world had changed.

Daughters, sons and their partners moved to more remote parts of Australia and even overseas.

Molly and Jim found themselves bereft of the contact with children and grandchildren they had hoped for.

The local bowls and social clubs, friendly though they were, were no substitute for ‘family’.

Purely by chance, Jim, a keen gardener, saw a notice in the local post office, seeking volunteers to help restore the garden at the local primary school. He went to see the principal, took one look at the rundown flower and vegetable garden and was hooked, signing on right away.

Molly was very glad, for Jim’s sake but, not being much of a gardener herself, felt a bit left out of things.

It was not long before Jim and the other ‘garden volunteers’ got the idea of involving the kids in the garden. Boys and girls in the after-school care groups soon found working in the garden a great way of waiting for mum or dad to collect them.

The after-school care organisers then discovered that Molly was a talented painter with a wide range of handicraft skills. Now she, too, is up to her armpits in after-school care activities.

Molly and Jim now have many more ‘grandchildren’ than they ever anticipated.

Have you ‘adopted’ other people or causes to fill the gap left by unavailable family? What do you recommend? Do you have a story or an observation for Peter? Send it to [email protected] and put ‘Sunday’ in the subject line.

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