As most of us wind down as the year ends, Cathy and her husband Keith are just getting started. The Blacktown couple are Santa and Mrs Claus at a host of Western Sydney venues — from pre-schools to shopping centres and in their own home where it all began.
Cathy and Keith’s Claus journey started in 1991 when they became foster parents to five children. What started as a temporary arrangement became a loving family. To celebrate her family, Cathy took on the role of Mrs Claus at their first Christmas together and hasn’t looked back since.
She immediately took to the role and the following year joined Keith on his Christmas community rounds. “And I’ve been doing it ever since. I just love it – it’s a lot of fun and the kids really enjoy it. I even bring extra little gifts for the kids — lollies and things, just from Mrs Claus,” she says.
Today, the couple’s ten grandchildren keep them both busy — especially at Christmas.
“To mark the 25-year anniversary of when we first met the kids, I thought it might be nice to get a Mrs Claus costume made for our grandkids,” she says.
“You just have to keep going”
When you talk to Cathy, you quickly see how family-minded and community-spirited she is. She has a passion for helping others, despite facing her own challenges.
It was with low vision and hearing loss that Cathy welcomed many of her grandchildren, went on numerous cruises with Keith, and debuted as Mrs Claus. “You can’t just sit inside and let it get you down,” she says, “it was hard losing my vision and hearing, but you just have to keep going.”
Cathy doesn’t remember life without her hearing loss. As a child she was told it wasn’t severe enough to warrant hearing aids. The 65-year-old remembers her high school days as challenging as she couldn’t hear her teachers or follow the lessons. “It was incredibly difficult for me,” she says.
When Cathy did receive hearing aids at age 21, they proved ineffective. “I spent much of my life pretending to hear conversations, pretending to hear punchlines – just pretending,” she says. Cathy experienced hearing loss whilst raising her children. “It would have been nice to hear the kids when they were young, but the technology wasn’t there as it is today”, she says.
She developed cataracts in her late forties and during a routine operation to remove them lost sight in her left eye. Today, Cathy uses a cane for mobility as her cataracts also affect vision in her right eye.
A lifechanging cochlear implant
In response to her hearing loss Cathy received a cochlear implant in late 2018. “Initially I thought I was too old until I met a lady in her nineties who was getting a cochlear implant at the same time as me. Age doesn’t matter.”
With hard work and support from RIDBC, Cathy now hears the world around her — an experience she describes as amazing.
“I was sixty-five when I first heard the sound of the rain. It was just last summer that I learnt what cicadas sound like — just those sounds of everyday life – they have all been amazing discoveries for me. It’s been lifechanging.”
Initially nervous, the results have been worth it. “I can hear my grandkids and it’s just wonderful!” she says.
Recently her granddaughter tried to fool her. “I told her to turn the iPad off and go to sleep. After I shut the door, she carried on watching, forgetting that I could hear it. So, she got caught and soon realised that Nanna can now hear!”
As for her role as Mrs Claus, she says last Christmas was a joy. “I could hear the children’s voices and the happiness we brought them. It was just magical and made Christmas better than ever.”
Cathy looks forward to the future, with the couple planning to take a cruise for their 30th wedding anniversary. She has a renewed passion for life since receiving her cochlear implant, and the best thing about it? “I no longer have to pretend I can hear, and that has changed every part of my life.”