Lifetime of love is stronger than ever
THIS year Dennis Birch wanted nothing more than to celebrate his 80th birthday with the love of his life and luckily, his wish came true.
Dennis and Marilyn first met at a dance, when they were 17 and 19-years-old and just two years later, the pair decided to get married.
Now happily married for almost 60 years and after parenting three kids and two grandchildren, the pair admit they fall more and more in love every day.
“We’ve been married for 58 years and I’d do it all over again … 58 years of marital bliss,” Dennis said.
“We’ve had a very interesting life and we have worked together in business all through those years.
“What do I love about Marilyn? Well, I love everything about her.”
Dennis said his wife was very sweet and they always laugh until they cry because Marilyn had a very quick wit.
She laughed and replied “Well you always have to tell me to hurry up and get ready or do the housework, so I couldn’t be that quick.”
It’s hard to imagine the couple separated, with Dennis revealing they have spent almost every single day in each other’s company, since their relationship first started.
So when Dennis had to make the difficult decision to place Marilyn in full-time care, the enormity of it was not lost on him.
Both Dennis and Marilyn who lives with dementia, have been dealing with their own health battles and when it took Dennis longer to recover from a serious surgery, he selflessly knew it was the right decision.
After watching how well the staff had treated Marilyn during her temporary stay at Meilene Residential Aged Care in Bundaberg, the organisation allowed to take Marilyn in as a permanent resident, at Dennis’s request.
Meilene clinical co-ordinator Neva Wallace described Dennis as one in a million.
“He is such a beautiful, sweet man and all the staff adore him, so he really is part of the family,” Ms Wallace said.
“Their relationship is just so full of love and we all watch them and say ‘gee, they don’t make them like this anymore’ and they really don’t.”
During the recent pandemic, isolation guidelines meant visitor hours were reduced or ceased to exist at all in many aged care facilities.
But for Meilene Residential Aged Care manager Florence Kentwell, she wanted to allow visitation so families felt comfortable, while still ensuring health guidelines were adhered to.
“It has been a really challenging time for our community here, but we have only received really positive comments from residents and their family members,” Ms Kentwell said.
“A lot of places couldn’t offer it, but we managed to continue allowing visiting hours, alongside mandatory health checks and everyone has been really compliant.
“The lifestyle routine of what we’d do in a normal day is really different, but everyone has just really worked together through the COVID-19 complications and it’s business as usual and I’m really proud of my team.”
So when Dennis turned 80 in the midst of everything that was going on with the virus and as it would be his first birthday living on his own, he was concerned he wouldn’t be able to spend it with the love of his life.
But when he approached staff at Meilene, they couldn’t have been more accommodating and were able to make his one birthday wish come true.
Together, Dennis and staff members arranged a surprise date for Dennis and Marilyn to enjoy a lunch on his milestone birthday.
He picked out a dress for his wife to wear, along with a pink flower that she wore in her hair.
Dennis wore his very best pinstriped suit and brought along a bottle of wine to share, as staff members from the village waited on them.
“It was a really fantastic day and it couldn’t have been any better,” Dennis said.
“Having lunch with Marilyn was very important to me because it was my 80th and I just want to spend as much time with her as I can.”
Dennis said he was filled with gratitude for all the work that staff members put into the special lunch date, even if he couldn’t exactly remember what was the menu.
“I can’t remember what was on the menu … I was too busy looking at you (Marilyn),” he said.
“The staff here really embraced it and got on board and everyone had input on the day.”
Meilene lifestyle assistant Sarah Young took plenty of photos on the day.
While the couple were eating, Ms Young laminated the photos and bound them into a special book, so Dennis could share it with family members, many of who live in New Zealand.
Depending on how Dennis is going, he visits his lovely wife four to seven days a week.