Jo aged about 55



Reflections

(from Jo's diary)

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Arthur’s Crisis - Jo’s Father’s and Pop's Mother's Death - 1942 - 1959 - Arthur’s Death
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….About 1935, we came to our worst year. Arthur was still with the Air Force but getting more and more restless. He had his right to private practice as an eye specialist in Collins St., but he found his way with the Air Force trying in frequent clashes with the powers that were. Added to this, there was less and less harmony between us; we pulled harder apart. My father had been taken ill, and was unable to carry on his business. My brother was doing medicine and could be no help to him. It was decided that my father and his second wife Dora would come to live with us.


Arthur’s Crisis

Towards the end of the year, Arthur showed more and more strain and I was at my wits end as to what to do. He decided suddenly to take a holiday and wanted me to go. It was dreadfully hard. I couldn’t let him go alone, and I couldn’t leave my household, so in the end I sent Bill with his father with instructions not to let his father out of his sight. He was only a child, but he faithfully carried out the instructions. Alas, things were no better after the break, and at last came an awful Saturday when he went off by himself promising to be back around 5pm. By midnight, we had sent for my brother Geoff and Bunt Lawrence. The latter, who was devoted to his brother, was a tower of strength. All Sunday they looked for him in the car and then on Monday morning Bunt decided to go up to Arcadia to the place Arthur had loved, and thank God they found him still alive. They brought him down to the private hospital of a kind doctor friend. He slept at the hospital, and made a slow, steady progress towards recovery. When he was well enough we took Steve with us for a holiday at the seaside.


Noone who has not experienced the awful feeling, can understand not knowing where a loved one is. I never feel it announced over the wireless; "anyone knowing the whereabouts" without a sad and cold feeling when I remember the desperation of those days. The fact that we really loved each other came out of this episode, and for a time at least we were drawn very close again.


Jo’s Father’s and Pop's Mother's Death

Through 1936, my father’s health failed more and more. At the end of the year, my father died. I can only say how kind and helpful Arthur was to him. So much so that in the end he seemed to be the only that really mattered to father. One Saturday when he was expected back from Gippsland, poor old Dad kept asking us how long it would be until Arthur arrived. And when at least he did come dear old Dad let go his hold on life and early on Monday morning when I was in the room with him, he died.


Shortly afterwards, Dora went to live with her relatives and se settled down to the life immediately preceeding the outbreak of war. Just before that happened my mother-in-law died in Sydney, where she lived with her daughter (Fay) and Arthur and Bunt went over to the funeral. When Paddy was 18, she left school and started physiotherapy and after her training she was in charge of the physiotherapy department at Prince Henrys hospital. Sue, who had not done as well at school through, I am bound to say, an inherent laziness (though she was Bill began his medical course. So we only had one school boy at Scotch.


A little digression. Today is my 58th birthday. When I look at it in plain figures I can not believe it. Inside me, I seem young and independent still. It has been a fairly lovely day in so many ways, and I felt I had a circle of love right around me. Sue and Steve were there with their loving greetings first thing. Jim sent a telegram. There was just an anxious moment as I thought of Bill. There need not have been. Bill and Elfie rang early in the morning, and Paddy came over with Ken. Then Graham rang and the two girls, Susan and Catherine, called in after school. My cup of happiness was indeed full to the brim. Steve and Sue and I had a little celebration together at dinner, and Al Jolson sang "are your sorry we drifted apart". Yes, I am sorry. Sorry for all the things I might have done to be different. Sorry for all I have lost. I am glad he ignored the day because other times I have felt such a sadness. If you all read this, please forget how wicked my tongue could be and try not to speak of it. Try to believe how I loved you all and as you grow older, try to be different to me. Also avoid getting over tired by using your commonsense.


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1942

1942 Jan 30th, Paddy was married to Graham Anderson at Holy Trinity Kew by Dean Roscoe Wilson. She had become engaged on the same date that I had, and married on the 30th of Jan, I had been married on the 31st. The war was on, and Bill became restless. He was in residence at Ormond College, and one week he left unknown to us and went up to NSW to try and enlist. For 6 weeks, we knew nothing of him and the strain was very great. At last, the Air Force notified us and the University insisted on him returning and completing his course.


Paddy and Su Weddings
Marriages of Paddy and Suzette.


At this time (about) I was entertaining military; Air Force and Navy personnel for weekends and among others came James Hume. The chaplain of the Seamen's mission asked us to be Jim's next of kin as he had lost all his people. Arthur consented, so we had another son in our family for the next 9 years and then last year, 1951, be became even closer to us by marrying Suzette. Steve began his medical course and is now nearly completing it. He has just become engaged and we have had the excitement of it all.


I have missed a lot of events in this little journal and now I am very back marker with a sword over my head, so to speak. I will just jot down little things I think of, even if not in their right order. Bill got through his medical course, but the setback in 4th year told against him. He could not get an appointment at a Melbourne Hospital so he went to Perth and after a time decided to stay there and eventually married there, Elflida Bielby. I am very lucky in the choice my family have each made. I could not be happier for each one. Last year, Bill, his wife, and little son came over and while here, little Geoffrey caught polio. I had not been feeling well for some time and the sadness and strain was telling. I was suddenly taken very ill and was in hospital for several weeks. Then I had a god-given housekeeper sent to one to 5 weeks. She was married 4 months later, but I am glad to say is still with me. I hope you will remember me as enjoying life to the full even by myself. Filling it as I could, and trying to defy it to hurt me. But since last year I have not been able to grip hold again.


In laws
Clockwise from top left
1. Marriage of Bill and Elfie.
2. Bill, Paddy and Suzette.
3. Elfie Bielby.
4 & 5. James Hume.
6. Dulcie Watson.


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1959

On wednesday, Christmas eve of 1958, I went down to my safety valve again. Noone would guess how mentally and physically exhausted I was. Mentally, more than physically, I believe. Each blessed note that took me there seemed to sing to me "you will soon be where nothing can hurt you and you can't hurt anyone". At last we came over the hill to the little bay at the end of the world. Where you cannot see anything but the immediate present. When Jim had gone, I slept and when I woke the burden on my shoulders had lifted and I was free. I stood at the lighthouse in the early morning and it seemed as though the clear fresh wind took all my burden away and so it was till the week turned when I must come back. I want to try and do better this year in not shifting my burden onto others. I miss a sister, but perhaps it is as well I haven't got one for no doubt I would be behave very childishly and throw myself in arms and cry myself self which I have wanted to do many time and to what purpose!!!


I often go over the past now that I am alone and it is a pity that sad things stay in ones memory more than happy things. I contrast my quiet and caring upbringing. I only once remember my father and mother disagreeing and I do not know what it was about and it was soon over. Both my parents were gifted with a sense of humour. My father's was a dry quiet kind, kind but keen. My mother's was very quick. I tried to tell my children that their grandmother was something special; she never betrayed a confidence and she was orderly in everything. Unfortunately, she was also very sensitive and worried over other people's troubles as well as her own and she had not her sister Lucy's volatile habit of throwing them off. It would be hard to find two more devoted sisters. It may sound funny, but I had not come in contact with an unhappy marriage or with two incompatible people, and even now I cannot understand it. By nature, I need someone to demonstrate affection on. It is a very ugly life where no affection is, no humour, no kindness, no little loving surprises, no forgetting oneself, never knowing from day to day what is likely to happen next. I thank Jim (?) for the talk we had coming home this time when he presented to me a picture of a rather frightened mare trying to keep on an even keel. If I could only keep that before my eyes I might be more tolerant knowing past history. I can forgive a lot of the past as I hope for forgiveness and will try to forget (though up to know I have found it impossible) the awful accusation made against me by what must have been a diseased mind. I can think of others worse than I am sticking it out and of my dear Gladys whose loving heart was broken for the man she loved with all her heart betrayed her. One thing I still have is incurable optimism. I'm not dead yet and who knows, somehow, somewhere, I may find love and happiness again though late! -------


I will just jot down things as they come to mind and it will be a help and almost as though the ones of the past have come back to me again. I won't be alone. I have just read a book on relief from tension "How to free yourself from nervous tension". One thing it said impressed me:


Worry and extreme emotionalism are the proper solutions to our problems. Anxiety succeeds in accomplishing only one thing, destruction of mind and body. We must use a method whereby excessive worry which leads to broken health and disability is brought under control. In the great adventure of life it is knowing how to take it when the going is tough without breaking down. Life to be worth living has to be accepted as a game of chance, must be played on the gaming table of fate. We must, since we have no choice in the matter, take its risks as they come and play the game with faith and hope that in the end, Dame Fortune will be on our side.


I must live by this. In the games I play, I have been as particular as I could be never to complain or gloat, but I have complained about life to my family and the only excuse I have is that like most people I wanted someone to put me right with myself. So many years now I can't take a trick. I guess when I say that when I go back to Moonee Ponds I feel better, the hearer says to herself, Poor Soul! But everyone goes back to a sense of security. Well now I am going down memory lane to fears and childhood. I must have been a very highly strung child (possibly following meningitis, I had two nightmare fears, one of earthquakes and one of choking). I have never lost them really. I can remember once in terror asking a policement friend of my father's if he thought there might be an earthquake and he said " No, if there was one I would run it in". Silly, but somehow comforting and another time asking the same thing of my dear Dr B, who was a student at the time, and he reassured me and gradually that fear went. But the other fear persisted, augmented by a cousin who used to pretend that he was choking after swallowing a peach or apricot stone, till I would be almost beside myself with terror. Then I had a terror that my parents, especially my mother, would die.


One of my early happy memories was going when I was a bout 5 years old to Sydney with my mother to stay with the Stewarts and riding from the station in a Hansom Cab and going to the theatre with my parents. My father while his eyesight lasted loved musical comedy and I was quite little when I went to see the Geisha Girl, and Flora Dora with him, and I saw all the Gilbert and Sullivans and as grew older all the good dramas. I am very thankful for their love of the theatre. I miss it very much. The heart is out of it when you cannot come home and laugh and sigh about it with someone. Another thing I have always missed, and there is harm of writing of it where only I can see it--is my Dad's surprises--often instigated by mother but never with anything more than a brief suggestion. He didn't have much, but what he had, he gave. He never had a win but that he did distribute his bonuses to us. He never went away but that some surprise was waiting for us on return. A room done up, something new etc. It makes me cry now sometimes when I think of it.


Another memory is driving with Jessie to a party. Her father's groom drove us and a bad thunderstorm came on. The groom began to tell us terrifying things that had happened in storms such as this one. And suddenly I thought; "he is only trying to see us frightened, I won't be frightened by a storm again. And I wasn't until some years later when I was struck by lightning in bed, sent for a ticket in Tatts "Lightning strikes" and won £5.


From this point in the story are about 50 handwritten pages to go in transcribing this document; dealing with incidents in the lives of her children. After the children left home, Jo mostly wrote in it when she was lonely or unhappy, and it is rather maudlin at times. Yet, it gives a precious insight into her personality and also the real sadness of the “empty nest” when a couple find they have little in common. The task of completing the transcription will be completed eventually.


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Arthur’s Death

Early one morning, Steve came in to ask me to help him pack things for his father in hospital. This was a shock, as I understood it was for rest treatment. And so follows the last 8 weeks of almost 49 years of travelling with someone. 8 weeks. The end of security and the wish to go on. Everything comes to an end; yes death takes care of that-forever. I tried so hard in those last weeks to wipe out some of the past and sometimes I think I did. Nothing that he wished for was overlooked. He was happy again I think. Steve and Jim helped him wonderfully. Sue came down and we all gave home all of our love. In the early morning, the nurse called me and I ran in to kiss him and say goodbye. I hope he heard. I wish he had left me a loving message after 49 years. I think he thought we were close to our 50th and he had written part of a speech for it.


We “closed our ranks” as I think he would have wished. In fact, in everything I think we tried to carry out his wishes. Into our lounge where he sat so often alone by the fire reading or playing patience, we brought him. The Baptist minister conducted a short service. Catherine Anderson played his favourite hymn “Dear Lord and father of mankind, forgive our foolish ways”. Then Bill read from Pilgrim’s Progress the crossing of the river by Christian “and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side”. His sons and sons-in-law bore him away from me and salute him in his last resting place.


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