“You can come now but you’ll have to take me as I am” said Beryl on the phone. What might Beryl have in store for me, I wondered? It turns out her biggest concern for our afternoon chat was beetroot stained hands. She comes from the same ilk that would dress fancy for a shopping trip in the city, appearances matter, hers not mine.
The stories go as far back as the wrinkles on her face, I know because I went to visit. She told me about her life and what’s happening in this moment. Where she sits now, in her mission brown kitchen, has been witness to decades of comings and goings, meals and dishes. It was a perfect snapshot of past and present. I was enthralled in Beryl’s life, full of experiences and a multi-generational family covering all ages, shared with a raw honesty of what it means to be an older woman living beyond their life partner and most of her friends.
Loneliness, as an adjective, doesn’t really touch the sides. Beryl is a recipient of extraordinary kindness and she is grateful for the same. She has teenage grand-daughters that visit regularly and were the drivers of finding her some new canine company to relieve the isolation of living in a family home, on a big block, in the suburbs. Family can’t be there all the time but Marlee, a German Shepherd rescue dog, from GSRV, is a constant. When her grandkids were little she would take them on road trips in her Ford Laser to see family in Beechworth, the tables have finally turned on the responsibility of care, it took 80 years.
Beryl has always owned dogs, routinely German Shepherds. She has a fondness for their nature and as breeding standards have improved over the years, so has their health and lifespan. Jenny, Shandy, Brandy and Ellie are Marlee’s predecessors, the last one dying some 18 months ago.
Marlee is described by everyone as ‘lovely’ but Beryl believes she’s a little fickle. Yes, they share a special relationship, but she prefers the builders over the back fence to her good and available self. Marlee is an outside dog because of her endlessly shedding hair and that might explain why she has such an affinity with the neighbours. Marlee is 11 and undemanding, her arthritis means long walks are not required, the grandkids throw a ball and give her a stretch, she offers a paw and some protection. It’s a senior match.
There’s no doubt that Marlee has filled a void for Beryl. Her lovely German Shepherd is not quite human company but there for the long haul and a best friend.
- Beryl's story as told to Nat Power
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