The View From A Lonely Grave – Margaret’s Story
Margaret never imagined herself as one of the tragic heroines in her much-loved and well-worn romance novels. But in a way, that’s exactly what her story turned out to be.
Just out of high school, Margaret had thrown herself into being everything she thought a woman should be. She got married to the first man who showed her any real interest, as was done in those days. They moved into a flat that he already owned and Margaret was soon pregnant.
After several years, with several children at her feet and another growing inside her, Margaret was told by her husband that she needed to be doing more. She wasn’t pulling her weight. She stayed at home all day while he went out and slaved to bring home money for her to spend. According to him she was selfish, she wasn’t a good wife.
Wracked with guilt and desperate to always be ‘the good girl’, Margaret began the first of a life-long series of casual jobs. She cared for the children and the house during the day and then, once her husband arrived at home, she went out to clean office buildings.
She spent so many nights staring over the city. Looking for lights in other buildings. Hoping to see someone, anyone, reflected back at her. Someone who could see her.
But nobody ever did. Years and years went by and Margaret existed between two worlds. She never slept for more than a few hours at a time, not even after the children were grown and in school. If she was sick or didn’t get work, she didn’t get paid. And if she didn’t get paid, Margaret’s husband would tell her, again, what a burden she was. What a bore. How selfish and unkind of a person she truly was.
Her children heard this narrative their whole lives and they knew the script off by heart. So, eventually, they started chorusing what their father was saying. Selfish, bore, useless, bad wife, bad mother. Selfish, bore, useless, bad wife, bad mother. Margaret’s husband died and was honoured by his family and friends as being a hard worker, a loving father, and a good provider. Margaret’s hands shook too much to clean anymore. Margaret shook whenever she looked in the mirror. She was very afraid.
The entirety of the estate went to the children. It was only right, people said. He’d worked so hard for them. They deserved it. The children knew the same thing and told each other as much. “It’s what dad wanted. It’s what we deserve.” Margaret had no superannuation as a result of working only casual positions her entire life. The children sold the home from underneath her and then shipped her back and forth between them. She was a burden – a selfish, boring, useless bad mother. They were too busy to take her to the doctor, so she didn’t go. They were too inconvenienced by her presence to invite her to family events, so she didn’t go.
They told her it would be better for her if she found a place of her own and started to pull her own weight. “You can’t keep living off other people, Mum!” Margaret made rent on her flat for a while but, when her meagre stipend from her children ran out, she was asked to leave. When Margaret went to a shelter and they asked her if she had any family nearby she said no. She didn’t want to be a burden any longer. Now, Margaret is alone, out of sight and out of mind of the children she slaved to raise. She was afforded no dignity or respect in life and was led to believe she deserved neither. She has to rely on the kindness of strangers.
Margaret is not just one woman, a growing number of homeless woman are elderly and unable to rely on the support of family. Domestic violence (in all its forms) and elder abuse are large contributing factors to homelessness amongst Australian women. Share The Dignity provides incontinence products for women like Margaret and you can help the rising number of women in her position by donating incontinence products to the Share the Dignity April and August #DignityDrives