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Not a quiet retirement

29 May 2019

Not a quiet retirement Image

Many retirees finally find the time they’ve always wanted to put towards a hobby. Cheryl Loues has become the volunteer in charge of indoor plants at the Mission to Seafarers (MtS).

She moved back to Melbourne and into a Docklands apartment about a year-and-a-half ago after 35 years in Tasmania.

The mission community roped her in after she attended a six-week course on indoor plants that was held there. Cheryl was trying to figure out how to turn her balcony and living room into a sanctuary as impressive as her massive garden in Tasmania.

“It’s interesting, when I was a child the mission building always really fascinated me because it was such an interesting building,” she said.

“We used to drive past it coming in from the western suburbs, because I believe Footscray Rd used to go past before Wurundjeri Way and all the rest was built.”

“I never knew what it was and I never asked anybody.”

“It’s really quite odd that I now live across the road from it and have an understanding of what it does and how it serves the community. My balcony actually faces it directly.”

Retirement suggests self-care, but Cheryl’s life at the moment is mostly about caring for others.

Not just plants, but family too. In between her time at the mission caring for plants like devil’s ivy, mother-in-law’s tongue and spider plants, she’s so busy she wonders: “how I ever had time to work”.

A close family member’s shock medical diagnosis means that Cheryl and her husband spend much of their time baby-sitting.

Part of the reason they moved back to Melbourne from their stint in Tasmania was because of family.

“My mother was the main catalyst because she was getting close to 90 years old and still living on her own,” Cheryl said.

And a couple of weeks ago there was a botched break-in attempt at her mother’s house in Altona. Cheryl now sleeps there every night, often with baby-sitting duty during the day.

Humans are much higher maintenance than indoor plants.

But Cheryl actually spent most of her life caring for animals.

Cheryl had a career as a veterinary nurse. Her husband wanted to start his own restaurant, which prompted the move to Tasmania.

“He’s Chinese and wanted to have his own place but the competition here in Melbourne was already really fierce.”

“We were 22 and we couldn’t afford to compete.”

They expected to be in Tasmania for a couple of years, and spend three-and-a-half decades there.

Their kids grew up and moved to Melbourne, and the parents thought why are we still slugging it out in the restaurant?

And the move back home has not entirely felt like moving home.

“Even though we grew up in Melbourne we feel like we’re in a new place, Melbourne isn’t the same,” she said.

“The main difference has been that there was no residential in the city of Melbourne.”

“No one actually lived in the city, it was all commercial. That’s the major change.”

Residential space in the CBD was non-existent when they left Melbourne in 1981.

Cheryl described much of what happened in her life recently as a “tailspin”.

In moments of respite she notices small things about the places and people around her, like a group of visitors at the mission running through a “murder mystery” activity.

“They were having an absolute ball. It’s things like that which make it great.”

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