Love endures for Frank and li’l sis Lilian


A special 95th birthday surprise, when Frank meets his sister Lilian again

It was a touching moment when the two siblings – my 95-year-old father Frank and his 92-year-old sister Lilian – fell into each other’s arms and wept.   They had not seen each other for two years since my Auntie Lilian’s 90th birthday and the emotional reunion took place at father’s facility – the Glynde Lutheran nursing home.  Both have deteriorated since then as they are now in walking frames, but they both have a certain alertness and they shower each other with affection. And sheer delight at the occasion.


Since then Frank has moved from Renmark to an Adelaide aged care facility and Auntie Lilian has moved from independent living into a nursing home at Elizabeth on the outer edges of Adelaide suburbia following a number of falls.

My father Frank had no idea of the surprise I had in store for his 95th birthday.   Lilian is his only sister and the only surviving sibling – their four brothers are all deceased.


At their age, such a reunion holds it challenges – negotiating with nursing staff at both ends – and ensuring that Auntie Lilian will be comfortable leaving her facility and driving into the inner suburbs. It will be the first time she has left the nursing home since being admitted in April. She had suffered another serious fall which left her unable to care for herself.


My father is almost blind through glaucoma he can make out hazy shadows and while poor of hearing he can recognise through voice. And the moment Auntie Lilian opens her mouth with an emotion “Frank!’’’, he cries out in delight. “Lilian, my little sister’’.  And so the tears of joy flow and we, who watch on, are caught in the emotion, too.  Together, they have clocked up 187 years of living in each other ‘s lives.

Dad wont let go of Lilian’s hand

My grandmother was pregnant with Lilian when she and grandpa brought their two little boys (Frank the oldest was two years six months old) by boat to South Australia. My English great aunts told me that grandma was sick every day on board and wrote back home telling them it was a “hellish voyage”.   Auntie Lilian was born one month after “Frankie’’ turned three years old in 1921, the year they arrived here.


It is an hour-long drive to Elizabeth, but as soon as I saw her sitting in the lounge patiently waiting, I knew this will be a special day.  One of the carers pulls me aside.  “She has changed her clothes about five times wanting to look nice for today,’’ she says.


The walking frame is a recent addition, she tells me.  Behind her conversation is the same bright, kind auntie I have known all my life.  At 92 years of age,  her stage of ageing illuminates that father Frank has deteriorated markedly over the past three years when he was 92.


The moment she is satisfactorily settled in the car, she fires off the questions about all the children and the grand-children (remembering their names) the marriages and the births.  She wants to know how I am coping as a widow and tells me her own story after my uncle died. And, we haven’t left Elizabeth yet! It’s as if she has stored up all the questions and wants to get them off the agenda first.

I tell her she looks lovely today, but she comments: “I am not happy with my hair.” And she pulls a few loose strands back behind each ear. ” Does that look better?” she asks. All her life, she has worn her long, fine hair in a bun at the nape of her neck –  the same style as her mother, my grandma.

She wants me to take her to a chemist because she needs tweezers and a shaver “For myself’’, she adds.  “I must be well-groomed mustn’t I?’’ And I  marvel at her care and attention.


“When I left my unit to go to hospital, they cleaned everything out and no-one can find my gopher! I am sure it was nicked,’’ she says.


It may well be the last time the siblings see each other and they know they are blessed to have both lived such a long, relatively healthy life.  Which is why my father strokes his sister’s soft face and won’t let go of her hand.  And they chatter on as if they were once more children sitting on the verandah of their Dudley Park home.




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