Thursday, 28 July 2016

The Barry's Big Bash

A story about losing a spouse, rotten timing and me putting my foot in it.

It was a chilly one, the day I blundered into Mr Rupert 'Barry' Barrymore’s front room - a day I won’t forget even if I wanted to.  Barry and his wife Edwina were both now well into their 90’s (mid, at least) and had been married for an impressive 70 years... well, very nearly 70 years should I say.

They lived blissfully together in their large two-storied house that they admitted was now far too big for just the pair of them.  But it was the family home and they had raised all nine of their sons in it "...and we're not going anywhere, Dollie!"

NINE BOYS!!!  (I know right?)

After more than four years of fortnightly Home Care visits to the Barry's, we had our routine beautifully choreographed.  And Barry would always joke as he wheeled the chair-bound 'Eddie' out of her spot in the lounge room to be temporarily parked in the kitchen to make way for me with the vacuum cleaner.

“Oh, Eddie and I seem to rattle about in this place like a couple of lose screws!”

Cheeky Barry was the sole carer of quietly content Edwina who 15 years ago, had been diagnosed with Leukaemia.  Their boys had all grown up and scattered far and wide so it was all up to him to look after her as best he could.  And considering his age and a few niggling health issues (throw in a smidge of assistance from the council’s Home & Community Care department), Barry was actually managing quite-nicely-thank-you-very-much.

And he did it proudly, without a dot of reservation.

"Because she’s my girl, Dollie… always has been… always will be.”

And I tell him he’s a romantic fool and he laughs like it’s the wittiest thing in the world.

“Got our 70th wedding anniversary coming up next month, Dollie.  Can you believe it?  The lads and all the grandies, great-grandies AND great-great-grandies are coming home and throwing us a big party at the RSL.  Eddie is getting her hair and face all done up... plus the local newspaper wants to take photos".  

"It should be a swell time!”

It was heart-melting seeing them both anticipating their Big Day (and hearing the word 'swell' being used so nonchalantly).  Although it was clear that it was more about the family being back together again that they looked forward to rather than the fuss and bother of the event itself.

As Eddie whispered to me one morning during the planning stage, "It's going to be so exhausting - I shall sleep for a week afterwards, Dollie!"

Sharing happy times with Clients
Pink and pwetty...
(The official Barrymore invitation)

Fast forward a couple of weeks later and I couldn’t WAIT for my visit to find out how the celebrations had panned out...

A grey wet Tuesday, and in I strode to get the lo-down on the 'Barry' ho-down.  Rows and rows of cards lined the hallway shelves, covered table tops and escorted me all the way into the kitchen where I found lovely Barry sitting quietly doing a crossword.  Or just staring at the crossword was probably more it.

Hmm... must’ve been a bloody good night - he's still pooped!  As I plonked down beside him I touched his shoulder so he didn't get a fright (prone to a bit of deafness is our Barry).

“Looks like someone’s had a bit too much partying, eh Barry!”

It was then when I went to do my usual silly-billy wave to Edwina at her favourite posi in the lounge that I saw the empty wheel chair.  And a noticeably gaunt Barry smiled as he looked up at me with the most pained eyes to tell me how just the day before their big party, “Dollie, I lost my girl.”

The impressive multitude of greeting cards that I’d assumed were congratulatory Anniversary cards turned out instead, to be Deepest Sympathy cards.

Poor Ed... was dead.

I was absolutely stunned. But unfortunately, it's par for the course in the Aged-Care industry.  You would think I'd be used to it by now.

Although an honest mistake, I couldn't help but feel like the winner of the Most Insensitive Ninny competition. Barry Barrymore of course was completely dismissive about it all.

"You weren't to know, Dollie" which of course made me blub even more.  "And she went in her sleep surrounded by her family, just what she always wanted".  This sweet kind man with his heart, broken in half... making ME a cup of tea so I could feel better.

Just so, so, so, so unfair.

Death of a spouse
Not-so-jolly balloons...



  1. Awwww - very touching Dollie. You are so sensitive to it all.
    from Marjorie (Marj)

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Marj. From one 'sensitive' to another I suspect. Have a great day in Newcastle! xxx