The return! (Auto-Biography)

While the three years in Holland are worthy of a book-tome on its own, I have to move on. Time is of the essence. Having arrived at seventy-five since the  seventh of August this year, and with at least another forty years to record, I must move on from the nineteen- seventies. A derailment is a possibility! Still, I must remain sanguine and take heart from the statistics that tell me there is an eighty percent chance of turning eighty- five for those that are in good health at seventy- five. However the odds of turning ninety-five at eighty-five years of age are less cheerful.

A few art shows followed the primary school triptych commission. Here and there paintings were sold and generally things were steaming along nicely. Our three children were growing fast but not so fast that driving around in the Kombi wasn’t at times a somewhat difficult  and testing task. Young children on long car trips is a job too far. Who would not be bored sitting confined in a metal box on rotating rubber wheels? Instead of long drives, we  set up tents in the paddocks together with sheep and Shetlands.  It was a blessing. The kids loved it and with two tents, they could swap around if there were disagreements on which teddy to sleep with or who had pinched an extra biscuit.

My brother Frank with his long suffering chronic schizophrenia was finally repatriated and taken back to Holland in 1975. Australia doesn’t serve the disadvantaged well.  It had been a hell. In bewildered desperation he had jumped off the Pyrmont bridge in Sydney. His left foot was to become forever damaged. He was fortunate to have survived the jump.

Years of tussles between the Australian bureaucracy and my parents did not resolve the lack of care for Frank. He would either be free to come and go as he liked, or, the alternative, have him ‘scheduled’ and he would never come home. The idea of ‘scheduling’ Frank into an Australian institute filled us all with horror. There did not seem to be anything in between. The very term ‘scheduled’ brings Charles Dickens and Bedlam into focus. Even today, I would not want to hear Mental Health and Australia mentioned in the same sentence. At least not during that period. When Frank jumped off the Pyrmont bridge he had for some years joined that army of the dishevelled, the uncombed and lost souls that roam streets, hovering between a vague sanity and death without much care by others except for the desperate parents or a rare kind person that would at times provide food, shelter and some encouraging words.


Two Dutch carers from Holland came to pick Frank up from Sydney and he was flown back to Holland together with my parents. It would not have been easy to have a mentally ill person on a plane, but the Dutch Government would have complied with the relevant regulations. One can imagine! My parents were informed of what to expect for Frank in the care of Dutch social welfare and mental health. He had a room on his own with TV, encouraged to play sport and swim. He would have his own income and free to do with it what he liked. ( mainly cigarettes) . My parents would be at all times kept informed about his health, medication. He would be given dental care, his feet, eyes, all would be looked at and maintained. His days would be spent with activities and at times would be taken in groups on outings, excursions, holidays; even at one stage to France! My parents were free to visit and Frank free to visit his parents but accompanied by nursing staff.

Helvi and I remember once visiting Frank at his new place in Holland and asked if we could speak to his doctor and staff. We were given a lunch, sat around the table talking to the psychiatrist, his doctor, staff and given all the information to do with Frank’s care. An unbelievable and wonderful experience. A weight was lifted from our family. Why was that so difficult to achieve in Australia?

My parents also left Australia for good and decided to be with Frank and own extended family of brothers and sisters. A considerable number had moved into an age in tandem with themselves. Their numerous children were now adults with own families. Many parents now retired and care-free to enjoy life, paint the town red, or if not red at least take a floating tour on the rivers of Europe, sipping champagne and soak up Habsburg’s castles perched on steep cliffs and rocky outposts.

My parents had put up their house for sale in Revesby, that would afford them a little nest egg. It was for them the right thing to do. They would be with Frank and their own family. The rest of us had settled, married and had children of our own.And a bolt of lightning, we decided, or rather I decided, to return to Australia… But of that…next time.

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23 Responses to “The return! (Auto-Biography)”

  1. Dorothy brett Says:

    Interesting as usual gerard. And after a very brief visit to Europe including holland I can see vast differences, it’s as tho australia is Trapped in a time warp on many many levels, not just politically and socially.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. M-R Says:

    Good grief ! – this is one way of publishing one’s story ! 🙂
    As for Australian health care … we are in the vanguard with regard to operative procedures, etc.; but when it comes to ordinary people who have ordinary things wrong with them, it’s a horse of a very different colour. Alas.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, in medical procedures and innovation Australia is outstanding, but, how much of that innovation stays in Australia? Many of the experts seem to be drawn to greener pastures.
      If there is one item that should have put Australia on the global market it would have to be ‘solar industries’. But even there, it was bought up and went elsewhere.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yvonne Says:

    Belated birthday greetings, young chap!

    The care of the mentally ill, elderly and others in Holland seems to be so well advanced. We’re sadly dragging not only our heels, but the whole darn carcass, it seems.

    Out of interest, do you know what the personal income tax rate is, in Holland? What other sources of revenue does the government have?


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Thank you Yvonne.
      The personal income tax in Holland is actually somewhat lower but GST is higher, which is double at 21%. A social benefits tax is also paid. Overall tax burden is over 50%

      Still, it does provide for lots of good things.

      When is the last time when in your area a new school, hospital, police station, court house, municipal chambers etc were built?
      Let alone, underground wiring, new roads, upgrade of rail, public transport?

      Liked by 2 people

  4. elizabeth2560 Says:

    So sorry to hear about the troubles with your brother. You are right that Australia does not provide for many health issues very well.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Frank is reasonably well and still alive. Very good people, friends of my mother, still visit him regularly. He also sometimes gets a visit from a relative. At the moment one of my brothers is on his way to Europe and will visit Frank as well.
      Thank you Elizabeth for your kind response.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Andrew Says:

    Mental health never seems to get the attention (dollars) it needs and merits. It’s a bit like conservation. Pandas and Tigers score big. Obscure bugs don’t even if critically endangered. Three cheers for the enlightened Dutch, Gerard. I may ask to join them one day.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. ninamishkin Says:

    Belated happy birthday, Gerard. (By all means look forward to 85! After that the sailing’s not so smooth, but one can hope.) Holland does seem to be in the vanguard for the old, the sick, the mentally ill. I have a similar story to tell about a former brother in law, married to a Dutch woman, who left New York at the age of 91 to go live in Holland with her, principally for the health and nursing care. “Care” was the right word: it was very caring, right up to the end.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Thank you Nina. A brother in law of 91 and moved to Holland? That is amazing. How fortunate he had married a Dutch woman. Was it a nice woman?


      • ninamishkin Says:

        None of us liked her, but that has nothing to do with it. They married late, she already had a grown daughter in Holland, and he was crazy about her. She came to New York to marry and stayed here with him until they both got old and sick. Then it was off to Holland. So for him, it was a happy story.


      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Oh, that’s a pity but not relevant. It can be tricky to put traits of people and relate this to nationalities. I hazard a wild stab here. But Dutch women can be quite bossy and finicky on cleaning, scrubbing down the house, the steps, even outside. The washing machine rumbling away, vacuming endlessly. Husband lifing his feet etc.Fighting dust and germs!
        Perhaps she had a formidable libido and this might have been at play here!
        Who knows?


  7. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    So happy that Frank is still living and apparently ding well in Holland. It was a long time coming.
    Belated Happy Birthday Gerard. They say that our bodies are built to last 120 years, providing we stay healthy and don’t stub our toes.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Thank you Kayti. Frank is doing well at the moment and seems to not smoke as much anymore as he used to. He is not allowed to smoke inside!
      I am not sure of reaching 120 years. Milo keeps us fit, drags us outside for our daily walk around town!


  8. petspeopleandlife Says:

    I am so happy to read about the excellent mental health care in Holland. Other countries would do well to take note and do the same.

    To have survived jumping from a bridge in Australia was indeed a miracle. It is good to know that he only suffered an injury to his foot. He is alive and physically ok.

    In the photo, Frank looks reasonably well for a man his age to be suffering from schizophrenia. Most schizs here in the states do not look that good nor do they live to be as old.

    I’m sorry that I have been away from your blog and I have a lot of back tracking to do in order to catch up with previous posts. I have been very busy with older and sick pets and trying to keep up with my small garden and freezing figs from my yard and blueberries that I buy at the grocery.

    I’m feeling not so good but I’m ok so far( the cardio man says). I manage to cope despite the meds that I take for hypertension and the afib thing. I should have had the ablation as Andrew did but I am still too chicken. Will most likely need to have it done at some point when the med is no longer effective.

    And a belated happy 75th birthday to you. I’m three years ahead of you and pushing onward. 🙂


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, I was wondering how you were faring. I do hope reasonable health will persist in your life and that your kind heart will keep working for some years yet. My dear H has an unusual heart beat but only takes beta- blockers and cholesterol lowering meds. However, some say that when weight is no problem the lowering cholesterol tablet taking is a bit of bull.
      In any case her heart is made of gold.

      Liked by 1 person

      • petspeopleandlife Says:

        Yes, Helvi is a gold star lady. I don’t have a weight problem either and I have refused to take the cholesterol meds. The meds can have serious side effects. I eat almost no fat, weigh 118 lbs., yet my cholesterol is 237. I eat lots of veggies and fruit so I’ll soon see if it has lowered or not.


  9. nonsmokingladybug Says:

    Happy belated Birthday Gerard, may the next 40 years be happy 🙂


  10. bkpyett Says:

    It’s never easy being torn. Belated birthday wishes for your 75th, Gerard, that is a wonderful mile stone. Sad that your brother needed to return to Holland to get decent treatment.


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