Geraldene Ferris is forthright. She seems to enjoy being a shocking senior.
In her quieter moments of reflection, the 80-year-old says she regards herself as an honest, frank person with a common sense built on having to stand up for herself through life.
“Then again, I could be just a pure-bred bitch who hasn’t mellowed with age,” she says.
Geraldene still holds startling views on marriage after seeing off three difficult husbands ranging from a business conman to those seeking to corale her brumby spirit and her hard-earned dollars.
“All the good men I’ve met I’ve let go. I should never have been married,” she sighs. “From what I’ve experienced, I would run a high-class call girl service and have my pick of men and get pregnant to those I choose and then say hooroo.
“I don’t know whether I ever truly loved but I do know I’ve never been in love.”
With her stunning looks, Geraldene attracted men easily but, she says, often the wrong ones.
While she regards marriage as a mistake she repeated, Geraldene is grateful she has two wonderful children and grandchildren.
Below the outward turmoil in her life there is a caring heart which sustained her for years while volunteering as a counsellor to help distraught victims left by homicides in Queensland. A tough job for a tough caring woman.
The toughness started with the early years of growing up.
While Geraldene loved social studies and reading – she still devours more than a hundred books a year – she was pulled out of school against her wishes at age 14.
She was a bright middle child with one brother and three sisters, but her trucking father decided she had to stay at home to care for her sick mother who was wasting away with cancer while her husband was out with other women.
Geraldene says with characteristic bluntness: “Sometimes I wish I hadn’t been born or rather into another family. With some of my family, I love them, but I don’t have to like them.
“Dad had trouble keeping his zipper up but I suspect that when Mum passed away, it was through one of his nursing girlfriends that he got me a job as a nurse. It set me along the path to becoming a registered nurse for 50 years and a good one across many fields if I do say so myself.”
Geraldene says she never really planned for the future, but has always lived every day as if it was her last.
“Since my childhood, I haven’t been afraid of anything. I’ve relied on sheer guts and determination – didn’t worry about tomorrow,”she says.
These qualities were tested when Geraldene’s home burned down and many precious possessions, including valuable antiques and irreplaceable mementoes, were lost.
“These are just material things on the periphery of life when I’ve buried a child,” she says. “They say time smooths out the rough spots but inwardly I’ve cried since, more than I did then.”
After building several businesses from scratch and succeeding, one of Geraldene’s great loves was piloting light aircraft. She gained her wings at age 43.
Another of Geraldene’s passions has been riding big motorbikes with the Sunshine Coast Ulysses Motorcycle Club where she met a great riding partner in best friend, Sheila, to travel across Australia as the merry widows.
The phrase “I’m not going to die wondering” is often used as a popular throwaway line, but with Geraldene Ferris, it has driven her lifelong passion to look every challenge straight in the eye and get on with life.
While restricted by health issues, Geraldene is still powered by the passion she exudes as a provocative senior.
Garry Reynolds is an author, who as part of his rehabilitation after three strokes, has set out to capture life stories within the senior community.