Art and burgeoning Business acumen.

Me and mother 1995?

Me and mother 1995?

Frank came home and we all went straight back to fear and anticipation of more outbursts. My father did have contact with some doctors  at Callan Park. If we wanted Frank to stay there if he wasn’t well, there was a procedure whereby he could be admitted as an involuntary  patient of the asylum permanently. It also meant he would not and could not come home, even for visits. It seemed a very strange law but there was no way out if we wanted Frank to not come home when he wasn’t well. He would be there at the ‘pleasure’ of the Government. It seemed a very draconian way. Surely Frank’s freedom would be curtailed and from what we had seen of Callan Park, it was an asylum straight out of Bedlam. Many of the patients seemed like caged animals, walking up and down automatically. I remember my aunt taking me to a zoo as a child and seeing a tiger in a small cage just walking up and down, up and down. Many patients were deeply institutionalised.

We wanted Frank to come home when he was well and not when he wasn’t, in which case we could visit him. We thought that enough care at Callan Park would ensure he would not travel home when he wasn’t well enough. That seemed impossible to achieve. Officialdom and obstinate entrenched bureaucracy was the essence of Anglo culture with  the ‘don’t change if it ain’t broke’ reigning high at all levels, even today. This is in direct contrast to the Dutch ‘if it ain’t broke, break it and start anew, try and improve!’  My parents would never allow the permanent involuntary locking up of their son in an institute.

From then on Frank came when he felt like it, well or unwell. It was when Frank started to wander the streets and arrive by train to our home clad in his pyjamas that my parents knew that something had to be done. Home life became dreadful and all would scatter when Frank arrived in an unwell state. Dad and I developed an antenna that would transmit signals when Frank was about to become unwell and cranky/violent. Mum did not have such an antenna. She would fuss and exhort Frank to brush his hair, clean the room, tidy up or this or that. It clearly irritated him. We would tell her to just leave him be, but mum never picked up on that. She wanted Frank to accept her love and care. Schizophrenia does not adhere to giving normal responses.

It is such a baffling disease and experience. Frank would know he had misbehaved and would want to be taken back to Callan Park, yet again. At my sister’s or brother’s wedding (I have forgotten), we were all standing in front of the church’s steps.  The steps ran all along the churches entrance. There might have been forty or more people including Frank standing on the back step behind the groom and bride looking radiant . The photographer was almost ready to take the wedding photos. When we had all synchronised our positions and smiles, Frank all of a sudden pushed his brother Herman down the steps. It was always on the cards and had warned mother not to have Frank at the wedding.

Frank came to me and asked to be taken back to Callan Park. ‘Just put me on the train’, he said. He always felt remorse afterwards yet could not prevent his outbursts. I took him to the train back to Callan Park. Some years later I gave Frank a job working on a building side painting. He did well for a few days including singing his favourite song  ” I am just singing in the rain, singing in the rain”. The Greek painters thought he was very funny, you have a funny brother’ they would tell me. During one lunch and sitting on a ledge which had a steep drop to one side, Frank took a swipe at me. I told Frank that could not be done on the job. He said  “I know Gerard, take me back to Callan Park.” We walked back to his second home, Callan Park, and we said goodbye.

I have written before about Callan Park. There was a royal commission in 1961 and as Royal commissions go, a bit of an exoneration for all from the Private school boy’s clubs that generally manoeuvre themselves into lucrative Royal Commissions. Some many years later another one on Chelmsford and the estimated deaths of at least eighty patients under the care of Dr Harry Baily who committed suicide after the investigation on the deaths of so many patients. Dr Harry Baily was the superintendant at Callan Park when Frank was admitted. Some years later and married to lovely Helvi, I was phoned by my mother to go quickly to Callan Park, “your father is on his way to try and kill Dr Harry Bailey”, she said.  Helvi and I arrived to see my father hopping through the Rhododendrons at Callan Park in the nick of time.  Hot murder in his eyes. Poor dad, driven to the very edge of his sanity as well.

Etching

Etching

I now will try and get to happier words. While all this was happening I did a course in creative drawing together with a certificate in quantity surveying. I still don’t know or understand why I did the latter. A complete mystery, a blank draw each time I mull over that strange choice. I had worked at several jobs and knew how to save. One of those was painting and understood how to try and get my own contracting business going. Maybe the strange course was an idea to break into the world of contracting. In any case, I knew how to price jobs from bills of quantities submitted on my requests from architects and builders. I had letterheads printed with matching envelopes, always a good impression beating others who would scribble their quotes on bits of paper.  I soon had a good and lucrative contracting business. I made good money. I also did swinging stage work on the outside of buildings. I had no fear of heights either.

Another lucky break.

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25 Responses to “Art and burgeoning Business acumen.”

  1. Carrie Rubin Says:

    Schizophrenia is such a difficult illness, for both the sufferer and his/her family. How stressful that must have been for you all and how painful it must have been to see your brother go through it. Although there are better treatments now, it’s still a very complicated disorder.

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, It was a terrible time but we survived and became stronger. My parents had the best times in retirement back in 1974 till my dad died when 78 and my mum a few years back at almost 96. They could visit their son and Frank visited them, knowing he was cared for and safe.. When my mother father died a fantastic couple that were friends of my mother and us took over and still now visit Frank regularly and keep us informed about his wellbeing.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. bkpyett Says:

    Interesting Gerard to hear of this time with Frank and your own developments. The picture you drew of the wedding party was very vivid! Enjoy seeing your etchings too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Thank you Barbara,
      The wedding still turned out very good and all are still happily married.
      I hope the portrait of your husband will hang at the Archibald competition in NSW art gallery in a couple of months time.

      Like

  3. Yvonne Says:

    I’ve just caught up with the most recent chapters of this part of your life story. Thank you for sharing this with us. You have written heart-felt, thought provoking words, Gerard.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Silver in the Barn Says:

    When one member of a family has mental illness, they all do, it seems. I’ve spent more time than I would ever want to in mental hospitals watching my daughter shuffle about in a drug-induced haze. Oh, she’s feeling much better, they would tell me. Yeah, right, that’s because she’s not feeling anything at all. Wait until the drugs wear off. Thankfully her condition is less acute now. Really a nightmare on all fronts especially these “hospitals” which are nothing more than warehouses for the insane.

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Oh Barbara,
      I know. Let me shed a tear on your behalf. Your daughter is in good care now and so is Frank.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Silver in the Barn Says:

        What is so important to remember is that mental illness is not a character failing. It is a malfunctioning brain just as one might have a bad kidney. I was just at an art exhibit featuring several Van Goghs which I simply cannot look at it without imagining his poor rampaging brain creating such beauty for all of us to treasure. I’m rambling, sorry!!

        Like

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        And Vincnet did not sell a single painting while alive. He did it though, didn’t he?

        Like

  5. Andrew Says:

    I hope there is a sense of closure after such distressing events, Gerard. I think you are helping many others through your writing. You create a sense of understanding and clarity.

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Thank you Andrew. When all our appointments with doctors et all are finished I want to go and visit Frank. He is wheelchair bound and because of his smoking is suffering form shortness of breath. He has to be wheeled onto a balcony for his ciagterret. He still gets a visit every now and then from an amazing and wonderful couple who were friends of my mother.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    This has been an extraordinary account of your brother Frank, Gerard. Thank you for sharing and making us aware of this terrible disease.

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I hope to have now done with Frank but I’ll see how it goes. My pen does takes me almost at will to other unexplored avenues of expereinecs. I feel so satisfied when people enjoyed reading this story about Frank

      Like

  7. nonsmokingladybug Says:

    Someone once said “I one family member is sick, the whole family is sick” and it made so much sense. It must have been very hard on you, watching your brother suffer. I can only imagine.

    Like

  8. rod Says:

    I get the feeling that your etching is a reaction to Callan Park.

    Like

  9. Curt Mekemson Says:

    I’ve been enjoying your art work, Gerard. The other day I commented that something you had done reminded me of Picasso. Today’s piece reminds me of Paul Klee.

    My brother was fairly unhappy for most of his life. Then he became a homeless man with a pickup and then a van, migrating back and forth between North Carolina and Florida. He has finally found a degree of happiness and peace. –Curt

    Like

  10. greenwritingroom.com Says:

    You’ve done well, Gerard, this is a hard burden for both the sufferer and the family, and more frequently occurring than most of us realise. I remember my mother once saying about another family being lucky because, ‘they have six children and they are all healthy’. I said why shouldn’t they be, and she explained that there are lots of things, small and big, that can go wrong with people, so the more children you have the higher the odds of being unlucky.

    Like

  11. gerard oosterman Says:

    Thank you Hilary.

    Helvi’s family had nine children. They beat the odds and all turned upright on their feet. Of course, family dramas and usual ups and downs excluded. Two of her siblings have passed away since, including her favourite sister who visited us on our farm a few years ago.

    Like

  12. berlioz1935 Says:

    I gave you a “Like” because I want to thank you for trusting us by sharing. The subject matter is anything to like about. I remember reading a lot about Callan Park and Chelmsford during the Roal Commission.

    I like your comment “Officialdom and obstinate entrenched bureaucracy was the essence of Anglo culture …” because that how Australia is. And Abbott has put it as neat as possible (Nope, Nope, Nope). Born Australians don’t understand our criticism as they have nothing to compare their country with. We are an island in cultural as well as geographical terms.

    Our criticism is out of love for the country, not spite, as there is so much to love about. We want it to be a better country.

    I always looking forward to your writings.

    Like

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