I am so excited to introduce the sweetest couple Norm & Shirley to completely brighten your day. As I walked into their home, Norm gave me a warm inviting smile as he sat in his front room, radio on, working on a puzzle. Shirley invited me out to her back patio to sit in the warm sun with a cup of tea.
‘Lets chat!” she exclaims.
Shirley is so full of life, and an incredible personality. I walked away feeling this sense of gratitude and clarity. Her outlook on life is so inspiring and it is just another example of how you just do not know how interesting the stranger sitting next to you in the coffee shop could be. Reach out and say hello. It could absolutely transform your day and theirs.
I would describe Shirley as a vibrant, beautiful and down to earth lady. As we made some tea we chatted about how her and her little brother grew up at the bottom of the Bunya Mountains.
“My parents were great. We had a lot of love from them and I can’t remember any bad things as a child. I especially loved my grandma and granddad. They used to pick me up in their arms and they would always have something nice for me. When I was 6 I was sent to town to live with them for schooling, as there were no schools in the country. We would go home to mum and dad on the school holidays. My parents would come to town once a month, then my brother joined me when he was old enough, and I helped look after him. “
I thought to myself how hard it would have been to move away from your parents at such a young age. It didn’t seem to faze her at all, this must have been so common, there was no home schooling as an option in those days!
Shirley went on to chat about her teenage years, “In my late teens, we didn’t really have boyfriends. We were all just wonderful friends. We were about 18 and we used to go from Dalby to Toowoomba for dances, and when you came home it would be quite late. The boys wouldn’t pair up with the girls or anything; there was just a general respect for one another. On the bus ride home whichever girl lived the furthest away; the boys would see that girl home so she was safe. There was no such thing as walking home alone in the dark being frightened in my day.”
I didn’t realise lovely Norm was not her first husband, Shirley went on to tell me that she was married to a lovely man named Arnold, and although they tried, they were unable to have children.
“We had 2 mis-carriages, which was very disappointing. We got through it together, things come across your path and you deal with them, you don’t want to be miserable or nasty to anyone. They didn’t have IVF in those days; I never looked into adoption, for some reason it wasn’t for me. Unfortunately later in life my husband got terminal cancer. His last wish was he didn’t want to die in a hospital, and I promised him he wouldn’t. So I nursed him at home for the last 18 months of his life. He used to look up at me when he was really sick and tell me he wanted me to go on and be happy. It was a hard time but he was not in a lot of pain, as the cancer spread to his liver first which took him. He had a comfortable ending, and I was with him.”
As she spoke I felt a lump in my throat. I couldn’t imagine how that must have been for her, and I asked her how she coped.
“After he passed, I had times when I was just so sad and disappointed. I felt a lot of frustration. We had a great life and we had all the love and even though we couldn’t have children, we enjoyed each other. I did ask why. That little word – WHY. Why did it happen to me, and why did it happen to him, he was only 55 years old and it was so unfair. After a few years I had a moment where I thought. I’m sick of my life; I want to do something and find somebody. Norm was mentioned to me from a friend as he had also lost his wife to cancer. We had a blind date together and we had so much in common. We didn’t live in the same town, but we wanted to be together. I wouldn’t live with him unless I was married so we got hitched and here we are 30 years later happy as ever. Norm’s wife died at 54 and they had kids who were all grown. We talked about our late husband and wife all the time, and why wouldn’t you? It made everything so happy in the family.”
Of course I had to ask her to share some secrets to a long happy marriage. She went on to say she believes in give and take.
“If you have an argument don’t go to bed on it, as that will rattle you. If something comes up and you disagree with it then say so. But you need to remember you are not always right. If you do find out you were wrong admit it!”
“My advice to the younger generation of today is just to be respectful and have patience with the elderly. There is no need to be rude or swear at us if we are a bit slow, swearing is just so unnecessary, especially to an older citizen.
Shirley’s life advice is to simply “be a good person, and live by the law.” she also added that small gestures go a long way. “You don’t have to give someone $1000 but you could just have a little surprise for them and it will make their day.” Her husband Norm pipes in saying he is always nice to all the ladies he meets (with a cheeky sparkle in his eye), I joke back, “Oh I bet you do!” at almost 90 years old I see a mischievous and funny man who hasn’t lost his sense of humour and Shirley and I crack up laughing at him. He shrugs and successfully puts another little piece into his puzzle.
I turn to Shirley and ask if she has any last words for me before I head home. She laughs and throws her hands up, hmmm… she has a little think and gathers some last words of advice.
“Getting old is hard, and you can feel sorry for yourself. But I say be grateful every day, if you have sore legs be thankful that you have legs that work! Those Paralympic athletes just amaze me. Go out and do what you love, we like to watch all sports. We used to love going to the movies but they are too loud now – Norm even takes his hearing aides out!! (Laughs). Travel is also a big thing for us. We always loved going away and we had a caravan for 17 years.
People will ask me, “how are you today?”
I say, “I’m up. Dressed. I’m here for the day. Whatever happens tomorrow I cannot control. As long as I have got half a bed, food in my house, I can go out and have lunch with Norm, or I can go and do something I enjoy like playing cards, then I am GREAT.”
If you have an argument don’t go to bed on it, as that will rattle you. If something comes up and you disagree with it then say so. But you need to remember you are not always right. If you do find out you were wrong admit it!