Frank and own House.

Life in the garage with mother looking on. My Lambretta scooter with sister Dora.

Life in the garage with mother looking on. My Lambretta scooter with sister Dora.

With so much happening despite the dramas, the joys, and many tearful tribulations, life in the garage assumed some normality, even became routine. Things fell into place. We got a pet dog and chickens were bought at the markets in Sydney at 6 weeks of age. They all turned into roosters. Dad could not eat chickens from the shop let alone our own roosters. The roosters probably killed each other or possibly got killed by that dog in the photo. I think my brother John started breeding his pigeons after the debacle of the fighting roosters.  We all had our place and those who worked kept surrendering earnings to our chief accountant who was now targeting the next objective; the building of our own home. After two years of some very tight turning and twisting in the crowded garage our house was built and we moved in. It was a glorious day. My mother’s saving and scrimping were legendary amongst  immigrant’s communities. She used to scrape the butter from the paper, shake the tomato sauce bottle, and empty the last smidgen of jam, that I have yet to see repeated anywhere in the world. And I have seen some scrapings! She sewed, patched, and knitted with not a minute to waste. If it was loose not nailed down, mother made it either into a meal or into garments or something useful, even pan holders. It was no wonder we could get the house built after just two years in the garage.

The photo above shows me on my scooter just before taking a round trip Sydney to Melbourne through the Snowy Mountains. It would be a trip of well over two thousand kilometres. I packed enough clothing, a small tent and some cooking utensils, including I suppose, a fork and knife. I went with a Dutch friend who had a Vespa. Vespa were considered a bit more upmarket. During that period I became part of a scooter club that met fortnightly at an ambulance-hall in Parramatta. My friend took a complete suit with him. He knew a girl from the Migrant boat that lived near Melbourne!  He planned to visit her. I did not know any girls but was keen on them from a distance anyway.

Hand coloured etching

Hand coloured etching

The trouble with Frank might well have been one reason for this trip. I wanted to get away!  It was such a creeping illness. The behaviour did not add up and it must have been such a puzzle. Why would Frank so often behave  bizarre?  He  was his own worst person and even though at times he was sorry for his behaviour, it would not stop and seemed incapable of stopping. My parents hoped that with the move into bigger house, things would get better. We were counselled by my mother to try and accept Frank and include him more. However all of us were younger than Frank. We might have felt sorry, I did, but we also had own friends, own growing up to do. Slowly Frank did become excluded. It was all too strange and upsetting.  I would hear my parents talking into the deep of the night about the problem of Frank. It crept into our lives as nothing before, not even the experiences of migration and the sardine-like condition in our previous fibro garage came close to this problem, let alone understanding the reasons or getting it resolved. It was all getting dark and joy of our own house was slowly leaching away.  It could be tempting to feel that the migration and other traumas effected Frank badly but there were already things with Frank before the immigration from Holland.  I remember Frank was taken out of high-school in Holland to learn a trade with a watchmaker. However, it did not last long…Frank’s behaviour already then was becoming erratic. He would be very obsessive about certain things and not with other more important issues. He was becoming a bit outside of things.

My parents in front of their old house. It was their last visit to Australia.

My parents in front of their old house. It was their last visit to Australia.

After Frank’s run with so many jobs in Australia, almost on a weekly basis, it must have dawned on my parents that Frank had a serious problem. It all came to a head when once again Frank had become violent and thrown a pair of scissors at his brother John. The scissors were sticking out of John’s thigh. My father took the pointy scissors out while Frank escaped through the front door. At the time dad was doing some drying of dishes. Dad followed Frank outside with the dish towel still hanging over his shoulder. Frank was faster but both run up the hill with dad in pursuit. Frank, half way up the hill then ran into someone’s garden and hid himself between the bushes. As dad arrived with tea towel still slung over his shoulder, the owner of the house and his garden came out brandishing a shot gun. Without mucking about or further ado or contemplation of this strange event and Frank hiding in his azaleas, the man pointed his gun at the sky and fired a deafening shot.  This seemed to calm the situation. The police arrived and Frank was taken away. This was the last day in Frank’s life where he would enjoy a normal family life. Of course, ‘normal family life’ is open to question and has endless variations. Nothing is really normal. So much still to come and so many answers for begging.

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20 Responses to “Frank and own House.”

  1. petspeopleandlife Says:

    Mental illness is a terrible thing for the individual and the family. And there is yet to be a decent medication, without side effects, to control delusions, hallucinations and, mood swings.

    But aside from all that, the mentally ill are not well treated in some countries and it is a sad life for many of those that are saddled with an illness that is not of their choosing.

    Those times must have brought great stress to your parents and to a lesser degree to you and the other siblings. When folks have no idea what is going on until all hell breaks loose the irrational behavior is perplexing and affects the entire family. It is good that no one was hurt terribly bad or killed when your brother Frank threw the scissors at his own brother.

    Liked by 6 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      It was all so baffling and complicated. Nothing made sense and no one explained much at that time. I don’t think mental health rated highly in Australia and still lags behind. It was assumed that somehow my parents had been responsible in some deeply hidden or esoteric way.
      The care in Holland for Frank could not have been more different. Of that more to come!

      Liked by 4 people

  2. Julia Lund Says:

    I look at the photo of your parents and your family life that you have brought to life for me with your memories and it really matters to me what happened to you all. The trip on the scooters must be an epic story in itself. And Frank … I hope he found somewhere life felt safe for him. And you and your siblings and your parents …

    Liked by 4 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Thank you, Julia.
      Frank did finally find the care that he needed. Simple really. Trained and caring staff with empathy and understanding. Good doctors and a well funded mental health system. But, it was in Holland.
      The trip on the scooter was great. Going on a dirt road through the Snowy mountains was at one stage blocked by a huge herd of semi-wild cattle. We had to stare them down. After an hour or so, one cow slipped past us. Then the whole mob followed en masse. A great experience.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Julia Lund Says:

        I’m glad for Frank and for the people who love him. As for those cows … I was once ‘caught’ in the middle of a herd rushing to be milked. At least I was in a car, though it was still disconcerting verging on terrifying.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. rod Says:

    This is just so good. The photograph of you and Dora is great – I wonder what happened to Dora? No doubt we will find out in due course.

    My daughter has been mentally ill for over twenty years and dealing with her tuckers me out several days a week. I had better not go into detail on this.

    Like

  4. gerard oosterman Says:

    My sister is good and like all the original Oostermans still married to same partner. All are retired or semi-retired.
    I am so sorry to hear about your daughter not being well. It is difficult and I hope she is getting help and loving care. Frank and my parents did not go to Holland till 1974. We were also living there then as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. nonsmokingladybug Says:

    Still until this day I scrape butter of paper, clean ketchup bottles with water and other funny things I do. It comes from my Grandmother, there was no waste in our house. The two world wars had taught her.

    Liked by 3 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I am curious about the period in Austria/Italy with your grandmother. I lived in a part of Italy during the early sixties that was still being claimed by Austria in a village called Bressanone or Brixen. The occasional post-office would get blown up and planes were dropping bombs. My passport was confiscated, as a possible terrorist!
      Your grandmother installed good values that most mothers (and some fathers) inbedded at that time.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    I use the butter wrapper to grease the cake pans etc. I learned thrift from the Depression. Some things stick with you.
    This is a very full post. These years must have been so difficult for your parents and also for the children with Frank;’s illness. How terribly disappointing to work so hard getting your own home and then having to give it up to go back to Holland.
    One of our favorite movies is “The Man From Snowy River.” That must have been a great coming of age trip.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Andrew Says:

    Mental illness is just that – an illness. It should be treated as such and the sufferers not shunned or disparaged. They need support and care and perhaps refuge. I feel deeply for Frank. The distance from normality to the edge is not very far and it doesn’t take much to tip over.

    Liked by 3 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes Andrew, if only your understanding was spread more around. The good thing in Holland was that Frank was given some work, went on holidays, joined sport and by and large was made part of a community when it was judged he was well enough for that.
      Normal is subjective. I mean, is Abbott normal pushing refugee boats back?

      Liked by 3 people

  8. auntyuta Says:

    We’ve been very busy during the past week or so, Gerard, and only today did I catch up with all your last post. I am so interested to read about your life. It is very well written. Thank you for sharing! Thank you so much.
    It was so good of your parents to take Frank back to Holland where apparently he has a much better life than he would have had in Australia. It seems here in Australia not enough money is spent on mental health care.

    Liked by 2 people

    • auntyuta Says:

      I meant all your last posts were extremely interesting for me to read. You recall so many details and write about it in a way that is fascinating to read.🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Thank you Uta, How was Peter’s birthday? I had to laugh over the ‘bootle’ of Vodka. My parents tried to get reasonable care but at that time there was just institutional care or jail with very little in between. Even today, jails are used to ware-house the mentally ill.

        Liked by 1 person

      • auntyuta Says:

        This reminds me how lucky Gaby was that she did not have to suffer institutional care for very long. And she was never in danger of being put in jail, for no-body would have been able to look after her there!🙂
        The family listened attentively to the bottle of Vodka story when they were at our place last Saturday afternoon for coffee and cake. In the evening we all went to the German Club for dinner and a bit of dancing.
        Yes, the birthday went well. I am just about to publish a few photos from that day.
        Peter was happy that day. But not so happy the following day when our car broke down on the way to Sydney. But this is another story!

        Like

  9. gerard oosterman Says:

    Yes, my thoughts have been with your daughter Gaby as well. It would not have been easy either.
    Frank never spent time in jail but Callan park was a very forbidden looking building, much like a jail. Heavu steel gates, creaking doors and wardens with bundles of keys.

    Like

  10. berlioz1935 Says:

    The story of your brother Frank is a sad one. I can’t say much more than all the other commentators have already said.

    There was never any reason why Gaby should have been in jail.

    The house looks very much like a “Rothman Home”?

    Like

  11. Silver in the Barn Says:

    Gerard, our daughter was diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder a few years ago. I thought it couldn’t get much worse than her seizure disorder, deafness, and brain injury but it could. Nothing can prepare us for coping with mental illness. That’s all there is to it. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to reason with her to no avail. She was convinced I wasn’t her real mother. Because of my eyebrows. I know you can understand.

    Like

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