Stories

Lockdown Stories

 

For lockdown we became an ‘essential service’ and younger people joined in to support people over 70 to remain home. We moved beyond our membership to reach those more isolated, and to alleviate concerns and problem solve where seniors faced difficulties.

We enabled people to stay connected, get the Beacon and our newsletters, crossword puzzles and books, fruit and food with others. We also  showed some members  how to Zoom so they could join regular ‘coffee mornings’.  In the spirit of reciprocity, awhi mai, awhi atu, members called us to pick up and distribute spare fruit and food from their gardens, books and baking.

Taroi & Miria Black

Lockdown was marvellous for us. We were very fortunate to be able to cycle and walk on the beach. We could cycle all the way to West End with no traffic. It got us into a new routine, into good habits.

Brenda O'Shea

I’ve loved every minute of lockdown. I’m past this era. It takes you back to when you were young. People come past and they talk! People are human again. I’ve never seen so many bikes and kids. Most afternoons I switch TV on and listen to Jacinda. I’ve found her so good.

Molly Turnbull, Paekoa Creek Farm Ruatoki

Nāu te rourou nāku te rourou e ora ai tatau e kare mā

From you to us, from us to you

Te koha nunui a Papatuanuku.

Sharing the bounty of the earth mother.

We were all put on a level where we found the goodness in our hearts. We do know how to care for one another.  I’ve always known I lived in paradise and lockdown made me realise that yes, I am there.

Beverley Goodwin

I never expected to be given so much from Molly’s garden, it was absolutely beautiful. We both love our gardens. Jo came around too, it was good to see her.  (In lockdown) crossing my arms was a way to hug and appreciate you all.

Miria Black

I was more creative in the kitchen, and my garden enjoyed me being at home more. It thanked me for that.

Emaraina Milroy

Even before I was in lockdown I was in isolation as I had lost my licence. I just opened all my boxes. I had boxes of baked beans and even 10 blocks of butters in my deep freeze, bought long before, when they were on special.

Poihaere Morris

I had just come out of hospital so I was already in lockdown.  It was a good time to relax and not worry about getting out of my jamas. I only had to get dressed for the work Zooms. Without the internet it would have been boring, though I did a little reading with a real book. I sent someone else out for the shopping and Jo dropped off the newspapers and food.  

Penny Gatenby

A week before lock down I bought a bike due to me not being able to drive a car. I got Guillain Barre Syndrome 3 years ago. I am 80 percent better but that is why I can’t drive a car. So I decided to get a bike. I wanted to get my independence back and not rely on people to take me places. I biked every day for an hour in the days we were in lock down. It has helped me with my balance and fitness and also my mind. And I am still going.

Ilene Burtt

We’re in Lockdown.  No meetings, no exercise classes or Tai Chi, no church services, no shopping, no visiting the coffee shops or strolling with the walking group.

My cat ’Annie’ is my lockdown buddie.  I very much enjoy doing 1000 piece jigsaws but Annie has not permitted me for two winters now to do any. She refuses to be ignored while I work on a puzzle. Now she has obviously realised, in her old age, that I would need something to keep me amused so allowed me to complete three puzzles.  Thank you for your forbearance Annie!

Terry Kirk

During Lockdown I had an infestation of cockroaches in  my unit and I couldn’t invite people who usually support me in.  I slowly cleaned out every cupboard but my ticker isn’t good so it took time.  Eastern Bay Villages delivered food and that was good.

Jann Stagg

Me and my favourite four legged pal, Bella, during Lockdown. We enjoyed the contact over the front fence with the many cyclists and walkers going past in our cul de sac. We were very lucky, it was sunny every day. My son, James, did my groceries. I wrote my list, photographed it and texted it to my son. He texted “I don’t think you need the chocolate.” I texted back “I do”. I saw more of him than I do normally. I did the code cracker and crossword. I pin the cryptics on the fence with a ribbon for my neighbour to pick up.  When my grandson got his driving licence and came to pick up a desk I wanted to give him a hug. He said ‘Gran, we’re still at Level Three’. But we hugged anyway.  It didn’t feel too scary, a hug couldn’t hurt.

Stanislaw (Stan) Chrzanowski

When Stanislaw (Stan) Chrzanowski became a member of Eastern Bay Villages in mid 2017 he said he wanted to record his story of escaping from Poland in the war. Another member, Ed Reid, is keen to listen to stories of the war and had recording equipment. Over a few weeks they recorded four hours of conversations.

Much to Stan’s delight, when Ed visited he brought his dog, Sam. Dogs had been very important in Stan’s life but he no longer had a dog as he could not walk one. In the spirit of reciprocity, members are encouraged to support one another, so Ruth Gerzon started to talk to Stan about how he might support another dog owner who is working by providing ‘doggy day care’.

Sadly just when he was coming round to the idea he died at the end of 2017, before this option could be pursued. But at least we were able to provide the family with the hours of audiotape and some lovely photos of their Dad.

Thank you, Stan. You will go down in the history of our organisation as the first Foundation member we supported.

Terry

Terry is a musician and entertainer. He made a special bicycle trailer for his instruments so he could play his ukulele in rest homes. No longer able to ride a bicycle, he needed a mobility scooter to continue to get out and about and delight seniors in our community.

He was referred to us by another member who saw that the paperwork needed was getting him down. Helen Payne, a member with a long history of advocacy and funding applications offered her support. She brought her laptop over to help Terry fill in the forms and approach people who could provide the right kind of supporting letters.

Terry said: “I’m so grateful. I couldn’t get my head around it. Helen made it so much easier. I’ll be able to be more independent and still be involved in the community.” Fingers crossed, Terry will soon be mobile again and people in rest homes will benefit from his musical skills. Now Terry is mobile again and seniors are enjoying his musical skills.

 

Photo top right: Foundation member, Helen Payne supported Terry to get funding for a mobility scooter. Terry made some changes so it could also carry his ukeleles and sound system.

Photo bottom right: Terry, an accomplished musician, now entertains seniors around town

Vic’s Homeshare Story

Vic Brough was looking for someone to share his three bedroom home and for some money to help pay off his mortgage. He also wanted a ‘reason to get out of bed in the morning’. Together we developed a homeshare agreement and offered to support him with interviews, police and reference checks. We searched through our networks and came up with a good match – Anatasha Valentine. Ana, is a positive person, full of energy and keen to learn new skills and build new networks. She has a mild learning disability and wanted to move from the country to town to become more independent. Vic and Ana enjoy each other’s company. Meanwhile Vic found many ways to support other members, small maintenance jobs, giving people lifts. His problem now is not that he needs more reasons to get out of bed, but he may not have time to go to bed.

Photo: Vic and Ana

 June’s Story

 

This story, written by an EBV member, John McCoy, shows just how important friendships are as we age. It shows how a woman who contributed much to the community became lonely and depressed as she aged. A regular visitor and the friendship they developed made a really positive difference in her later life. There are many people in our community who would benefit from this support.

The following is a true story, the names and location have been changed to protect June’s identity.

About four years ago I decided that I wanted to become a volunteer and I approached “Age Concern” in a Provincial City and offered my services as an accredited visitor. I was allocated to be a visitor for June, who was a 94 year old, widowed, English born lady. June had requested a male visitor as she had female friends who visited now and again.

I found June to be a tiny lady who was deaf and legally blind, due to macular degeneration she could only see slightly through the side of one eye. She lived alone and did her own shopping, and managed with her carer who called in for an hour daily. We found we had something in common as we’d both been born in England and had lived through the 2nd World War. She was born in 1920 but shared the same birthday as my daughter. June was a lonely and depressed person who had previously lead an active life. She had been a girl guide leader, active members of both the SPCA and RSA, and had worked in a number of local charity shops. During her working life she had worked as clothing worker in Oxford Street London, been a secretary for the last of the Romanvofs in a wine business, and been a farmer’s wife. She had a room set up as a sewing room and right to the end of her life despite her loss of sight could still use a sewing machine.

I began to visit June every Monday afternoon, at first for an hour, but gradually this increased to 3 hours or more. I found that she had a wonderful memory and gradually she began telling me about her school life in the 1920’s. I went onto google and contacted her school, and a class there wrote back to June and asked her all about her school days. We spent an afternoon answering their questions and sent them back to her school in England. June was thrilled with this exercise and she started reminiscing and remembering lines from poems from her school days. I would then google the line and if I could find the poem, I would play it on YouTube for her. From then on, our Monday afternoons would become her memory time and we began finding songs from her younger days, which I would play for her or type out the words. Her favourite song was “The Old Lamplighter” and an iconic song for her was “I’ll Walk Beside You” by John McCormack – which was the song played at her wedding in 1947. Gradually, between visits June would try and think up songs to try and trick me to see if I could find them on my phone. June was largely ignored by her family, she had 25 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild, but she told me that she had only ever been visited by one of them. Her sons would visit now and again and one of them, when the mood took him, would shout and bully her. My wife visited her once and found her locked in the bathroom, she had locked herself in there when her son had come and began arguing with her. I spoke with a lady at June’s funeral and she told me that she had also found June locked in the bathroom after a similar situation.

Now and then I would take June on her errands, usually to the Post Office, where she would draw her pension out as cash because she would not use her eftpos card. She had $20 weekly taken out and put into what she called her ‘funeral account’ so that she would not be beholding her family when she passed. Once a month my wife and I took her to Age Concern meetings and she also went to monthly Probus meetings. June and I became great friends and she would often ring me up between visits for a chat. Towards the latter half of 2018, June became very frail and began having falls and developed shingles. She would not agree to going into a nursing home as she determined that she would leave her home to her three children. Halfway through 2018 my wife and I decided to move away and go back to live in Whakatane. June was heartbroken and Gloria and I were upset as well, but we promised to keep in touch by phone. We would phone each other frequently and I would play her favourite songs to her through the phone. I last heard from June early 2019 when she called me in tears to tell me that her younger sister (94) had cancer and had only days to live. June used to phone her in England every week and talk to her for two hours, she was heartbroken and said it was wrong that her younger sister would die before her. This was the last time I spoke with her, a day or so later her daughter phoned me and told me that June was in a coma in hospital. My wife and I went to the hospital but were told to ring June’s family, June had died and just before her sister in England.

June would have been 99 this year. Gloria and I attended her funeral and the chapel was overflowing with people from the organisations that she belonged to. Both my wife and I will never forget June, she made a huge impression on us with her attitude to life and her humility and humour. We have a picture of June in a prominent place in our home and see her every day and often have a word or two with her. June, I am a better person for having known you.

Donald Ray Smith

Donald Smith was born in August 1932, the middle child of five siblings.

His early life was spent in a small house out of Masterton in the Rangatunas. His mother had a small farm and his father worked at the Wainawa freezing works. His parents, Ethel and Ray, were very hard working and this work ethic was instilled in the five children.

The children would walk two miles to school and two miles back again. Before they left for school there were seven cows to be milked and a big load of firewood to be chopped. Everything was very manual including a wood burning stove and a copper for washing the clothes.

Donald’s first school had eight pupils in it. His family and a maori family. That was all. His school days were mostly happy times. He distinctly remembers the smell of milk at morning tea time and in the autumn they had apples, both supplied freely from the community.

After some time the family moved to a place near the Castlepoint lighthouse as Ray, the father, had a new job as the lighthouse keeper. This time the children had a walk to school of five miles and home again along the beach was another five miles.

It was a good life despite the hard work. There were no stores nearby. The local supply ship the “Matai” would come every three months delivering their basic staples like flour, rice and other essentials. The kids would row out in a longboat to meet the ship. It was a great adventure and lots of fun even when there was a big swell.

They ate well because there were plenty of good sized fish in the sea and bush tucker like wild boar and deer to hunt for at night. This love of the outdoors, hunting and fishing, has stayed with Donald all his life. In fact, as recently as last year Donald sustained an injury falling over when he was whitebaiting. To this day it still causes pain.

In the winter when the river flooded Donald’s older brother had to piggyback Donald on his shoulders to cross the fast moving stream. There was no bridge. Donald recalls how frightened he was when this was happening. Those river stones were very slippery!

Donald began his working life at the young age of thirteen. It was quite by accident really as the local school had no teacher for the older pupils. He was to go on and work sixty six years in total, only quitting when his late wife Lynn died.

Scrub cutting was a logical first step on the career ladder. Donald had the experience and he was a strong young lad so he started work scrub cutting kawini at Matakona out in the farmland not far from Masterton. This job lasted six months and he was paid sixpence an hour!

After this a job came along that Donald really enjoyed. Employed by the local rabbit board, his job was to lay poison(strictning) in the time when it was still legal to use this poison as bait. He did the odd night shooting as well and this job lasted about three years. He got some extra money selling rabbit furs. The best part about this job was that it was outdoors and he was very much his own boss.

Farming called again so Donald spent a short time milking cows and shepherding at Tainui close to town. Working in construction had appeal so after farming Donald worked for Rigs Construction building the Pioneer Hotel in Masterton.

Just eighteen he had already had four jobs. He liked the variety and thrived on change. The next move was going to be a challenge of a different sort. Donald was now old enough to join the army so that is what he did. He spent four years as a private and his major memory of this period is when the armed forces had to protect the picket lines during the waterfront strike. It was a scary time and Donald never went out in his uniform when he was off duty because he might be attacked by the picketers.

At the age of twenty three Donald packed up his army kit and joined the railways. His job required tubing out the coal fired engines of the locomotives. Later on in his life he would return to the railways and enjoy the longest tenure of his varied working life.

After the railways Donald returned to the rabbit board. First he worked for the Tainui rabbit board and then he moved to Eketahuna and did the same work for the Wairarapa rabbit board. In between he always had fencing to do with his brother-in-law.

At no time in his sixty six years of work did Donald have a curriculum vitae. He just sat down with the boss, had a chat and that was that, the job was his. When could he start? Why, straight away of course.

After the rabbiting, Donald wanted a change of scene and a job change so he applied for work in Christchurch driving trucks for Port Freighters. The ships would be unloaded at the port of Lyttleton and Donald had to deliver the goods.He enjoyed this work for about three years and then the employment situation worsened in NZ. Jobs were scarce and you had to take what you could get. During this period Donald got work trimming trees along the banks of the Waimakariri river. When that work ran out he got work for Cadburys cleaning out their tins. A far cry from the rabbiting and the truck driving but Donald was just happy to have work.

Still single at the age of thirty nine, Donald moved to Glen Innes in Auckland where he met his wife Lynn. They were both truck drivers. Donald drove his truck for Mana Transport taking him all over the North Island and the South Island as well. He married Lynn and they moved to Mangakino where they had four children, all still alive today. By this stage Donald was back working in his favourite environment- the railways, driving trucks and doing odd bits of work. He had this job for thirteen years before he was made redundant. They owned the house in Mangakino so Donald got work on the Pokani sheep station nearby. He was an experienced rouseabout and he also got stuck into the shearing when that time came around. I daresay he probably went out hunting and trapping in the evenings and weekends. His family never went without and he had a lot of friends in the railways and in all his other jobs along the way.

Summing his life up Donald reckons he owes his happy life to good parenting, good food and a healthy outdoor lifestyle. He finished working at the grand old age of seventy nine when his wife Lynn passed away. He now lives in his own unit in Edgecumbe near his family and he wouldn’t have his life any other way.

Written by Isabella Morisson

Emaraina Milroy

L to R: Beverley Goodwin, Molly Turnbull and Emaraina Milroy at Ohotu Marae in March 2020.

Emaraina Hinekura Noeline Simpson Makea Milroy, first came to Ruatoki in 1949, fresh out of the Auckland Teachers’ College.  She recalls the College’s headmaster as a fatherly figure who warned her off this posting, telling her that the Māori there were uncivilised. Presumably he thought her years at college had ‘civilised’ this young woman from Hawkes Bay with her Māori and Rarotongan heritage.

The young Emaraina was not phased by his reservations. She was, after all, one of 18 siblings who all contributed to her self-sufficient family by growing crops and milking cows in her childhood years of depression and war.  Emaraina did her homework, contacting a missionary woman in the area, and after telling the headmaster that the missionary was her auntie finally received his blessing. 

Ruatoki brought Emaraina more than a job. Over the school’s back fence Ted Milroy was building a home. She became smitten and they married.  This home is the one where she now lives.  For decades they lived in cities and brought up their family of two children. It wasn’t until 1989, when Ted became ill, that they came back to their Ruatoki home. At the time Emaraina wasn’t keen to return but now she is glad they did. The past three decades have brought her rich opportunities.

Emaraina has a great love of learning, of music, of dance. Back in Ruatoki she not only immersed herself in learning about rongoa but also Japanese Reiki, an ancient healing using the hands. The energy passes through the healer and into the patient’s body. She has also studied Egyptian healing and her car has a personalised numberplate reading ‘Sekhem’. The the name of the Egyptian goddess, Sekhmet of all powers, attests to her passion for this form of healing. She also studied rongoa for six years with Dr Te Awhina Riwaka.

Emaraina began life as a Catholic and remains a firm believer in the power of karakia and practices of love, compassion and forgiveness. After her husband died, she recalls, hardly being able to get out of bed. Her anger at herself for being unable to have stopped his decline, weighed her down.  Forgiveness of self and others is central to her tenets and she believes it is crucial to the vibrancy and health that characterise her life at 90.

Emaraina was just 79 years old when she met Ngaire Kerse of Auckland University. This was the beginning of her 10 year journey as a participant in the university’s LiLACS study: the Life and Living in Advanced Age Cohort Study.  She became one of 1000 people in the Bay of Plenty aged 80 or more who were studied from top to toe with detailed interviews and tests of memory, strength and more.  Several papers have been written about ageing based on this research. Emaraina says they consistently found that her health puts her as 15 years younger than her chronological age.

Emaraina’s fundamental belief in her ability to look after her own health led her to discharge herself from a recent hospital admission. Listening to the school choir at the Whakatāne Catholic church, she fainted from dehydration. At  hospital staff didn’t give her liquids she asked for, but wired her up to monitors.  After, five hours she pulled out the plugs and took herself home.  Since then her doctor has pronounced her fit and well but she is still waiting to get her driving licence back.  Even before lockdown, this lack of a licence clipped her wings, precluding her from visiting town and the Whakatāne music society events.

Lockdown is not a problem though as, even in her bubble of one, Emaraina still has her health, her beloved garden and a well-stocked freezer.  The weather has been kind and she can be found most days talking to her plants, though she admits that, even with her respectful communication, they continue to grow out of control.

 Story recorded by Ruth Gerzon

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