With the International Day of love upon us we wanted to take a moment to share with you the touching story of Paul and Olga Williams. Their love has endured through the trials and tribulations of married life for 58 years and has not waned, despite facing one of their toughest challenges yet, dementia. This is their story …
Valentine’s Day love story – Paul Williams
Our lives began 15,000 kilometres apart, Olga an Australian nurse travelling Europe, and me, Paul, a Royal Air Force electronics instructor. By chance, on a freezing November day in 1954, we boarded a crowded train leaving London for the north of England. The only seats left were next to each other and, being in transit from camp since 3am, I promptly fell asleep.
I awoke to a strange voice; it was Olga’s fascinating Aussie accent. Olga said she had seen nothing much of London, so I volunteered to show her the best places to go. To my surprise Olga accepted, and so began our uncertain romance. Uncertain, because Olga was to return home via Canada, and I was to immigrate to New Zealand after my RAF service.
We enjoyed each other’s company for nine months; it was only when it came to parting we realised we were in love. Eight months of intensive love letters between the UK and Canada followed. It was all too much for Olga, so she decided to return to England in June 1956 and marry me. Of course I agreed, and I also agreed to come to Australia. I eventually took my Oath of Australian Citizenship; a strange thing for a Pommy to restate allegiance to the Queen.
Our 58 years have passed in a blur with the usual ups and downs of married life. As years went by, a most wonderful feeling was our growing sense of love and togetherness. We have two sons and a daughter, who know and love us for who we are. We were most fortunate to live in an era when Mum could raise the family while Dad was breadwinner. My career was in the computer industry, and Olga later returned to nursing and extensive charity work until I retired.
With the benefit of old age I realise what great times we shared together. For example, our two years working in America in the 1960s; a marathon trip through China and Russia on the Trans Siberian Railway; being arrested by the KGB for spending dollars instead of roubles. In retirement we travelled Australia from Cape York to Cape Leeuwin WA, and wrapped up with cruises around Australia and New Zealand. However, things were about to change.
Olga showed growing signs of dementia on the New Zealand cruise. She was much disoriented while on the ship, and could not remember my Christchurch relations. I thought it might be “old age creeping on” but in reality I was denying any idea that she may have dementia.
A visit to our family doctor and a specialist confirmed Olga had Alzheimer’s disease. I began to learn about dementia and how to care for Olga. I was fortunate to have a Baptist Care day centre nearby where Olga could safely enjoy activities while I had a few hours respite. However, as dementia advanced, Olga experienced behavioural changes which prevented further day centre care. After several months of care at home it was clear Olga needed full time care in a residential facility.
The move into residential care was the second separation in our lives, and was felt more deeply than the first. Letting go of my carer’s role was difficult until Janet Godsell, an Alzheimer’s Australia NSW Carer’s Group moderator, explained “You must let the care staff do the caring while you provide the loving.” I have since slowly adapted to a more fulfilling role.
Despite the facts of dementia, and with time to do the loving, I have found Olga has not lost her fundamental need for love and care, and to enjoy life to the best of her abilities. I now visit Olga to help with lunch, play the piano for her and spend quiet time while we rediscover our togetherness. We will enjoy our Valentine’s Day.
It will be two years tomorrow that we lost our lovely mum and dad lost the love of his life(61 years of marriage). Cherish the time together.xx
Olga sadly, lost her fight with dementia abd passed last year. I have been a friend of Paul and Olga's for many years. Their love remained strong to the end. Paul continues to show this love in the work he does as an advocate for people living with dementia and their carers.
A lovely story about my aunt's and uncle's continuing life together. That last paragraph, Paul, is quite beautiful.
This story is about my two wonderful parents in law who continue to provide an inspiration for my own marriage to their lovely son. Paul's dedication, love and commitment to Olga is reflected in the love that shines through her struggles with dementia. A real love story.
That is so beautiful. My Mum died of dementia 18 months ago. Olga is lucky to have you.
Hearts forever intertwined. People suffering dementia shine when those around them love them. Thank you for your story.
A lovely article - thank you for sharing your beautiful story. And I agree totally with Janet's comment.
Thank you Olga and Paul for sharing your beautiful love story. When my darling Mum first entered Residential Care I was told a similar thing. Happy Valentines Day.❤️❤️❤️
Dear Paul - thank you for sharing your story with us all. Janet's words of wisdom are so "spot on". Happy Valentines Day to you both. All best Helen J