I now realise that as a mother of five young children she was genuinely pleased to have some peace and quiet for a change. Mum was a good talker and loved people but she also was very content in her own company and was never bored. She would spend hours in the garden and if forced indoors would knit, cross-stitch or devour a period romance novel or murder mystery.
Like many women of her era, she stopped working to have a family but she used her sharp brain in other ways, especially after her children grew up and she began studying French and history.
When Mum was diagnosed with cancer she encouraged my dad to continue his voluntary involvement in State junior football because she knew it would be important for him to have another interest outside work after she was gone.
Dad continued to work for a number of years after her death and by the time he finally retired – at the age of 75 – he had finished his footy duties so the prospect of him suddenly being home alone every day was a bit worrying to us kids.
As it turned out, the family’s concerns were unwarranted. A loyal Catholic convert, Dad immediately put his hand up to join the Glenelg Vinnies Conference – at 83 he still does rostered home visits, attends meetings and packs food hampers. He is also a member of Probus and is actively involved in Neighbourhood Watch, in between following the various extra-curricular activities of his 12 grandchildren.
However, retirement can be a challenge for some, particularly men forced into early retirement due to down-sizing in the workplace and the difficulty of over-50s being reemployed.
Women of my generation are more likely to have had long careers and haven’t necessarily developed interests and networks outside of work like our mothers.
However, as this month’s feature on ‘Life beyond work’ (p12-15) illustrates, there are plenty of ways to fill the void and make a contribution in some way, whether it be to the family, the Church or the community. Similarly, there are opportunities for personal growth through faith studies, retreats and pilgrimages.
Your local parish is a great place to start if you are looking for ways to be of service and use your skills for the benefit of others. Or you might just want to join a prayer group or take part in some social activities.
Our story of 84-year-old Pat Syrus cooking lunch for hostel residents is a beautiful example of someone doing what she enjoys and at the same time making a difference to other people’s lives.
It brought a smile to my face to hear Pat speak so humbly about her voluntary work – from giving communion to the sick to Catholic Women’s League meetings and the Archive committee.
‘People do a lot more than I do. When I read The Southern Cross and I see what these people are doing, I really don’t do much at all,’ she said.
Pat insists she is blessed, and so too are we, to have people like her and my dad in our Catholic community.Jump to next article