Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The beat of a different drum

Barry 1979Where are you?
In a phone booth ...
Who is with you?
No one - not now. I wrapped myself in alfoil 'cause their rays cannot get through that.
Will you stay there until I come over and chat with you? No no - it's okay. I can sleep in the chook run. They wont think to look there.

My heart turned. My skin stank. My stomach hurt. I had no choice but to phone Dad: I couldn't drive all that way by myself. Sydney to Kempsey and back in a day and arrive in time to pick the kids up from child-care. What a way to start my supposed day off! One child-free day a week: a day to hone my Cobol skills. Gone. Poof!

At least the hired Commodore rode well, and we turned into the driveway beside the Clarence River clattering across the corrugations. I grabbed Dad's hand and we made a beeline for the ramshackle chookrun: no Baz. Taking an audible breath, we headed hand-in-sweaty-hand for the weatherboard house. I was looking for a body - nae, bits of body. We tiptoed slowly, bending to look under beds and within wardrobes. Panic rose within me and came between us: I could not voice this.

In 2002, the three of us return to the farm for the first time since 1962We found him out the back, in the veggie patch, between cauliflowers gone to seed and the most starkly beautiful of thistles. We found him. Sitting wrapped in alfoil. With a splat of alfoil stuck over this Third Eye. Fingers tipping in silent prayer. Childlike in his simplicity, he allowed me to lead him back to the car, slide him into the passenger seat as Dad, struggling with a useless rational response, turned the key. The door was locked; he had a seatbelt on; I leant over him on the gutter side. But I knew he would jump if the voices urged.

Come morning, the living room was in chaos yet my older brother was a sea of calm sitting wedged between two large, silent woofers. On the third day he leapt at me, insistently pleading to be taken to North Sydney where Lobsang Rampa had a bed that would levitate him to his next stage. To this day, I shake my head disbelieving my own naievity. I believed him. I packed two toddlers into car seats, and drove up Walker, across Berry, down Miller. Nearing the intersecton of Walker and Berry for the umpteenth time, I stared in horror as he suddenly was weaving between a blare of vehicles, pointing skyward and shouting "That's it - 13th floor". Swept up in the change of lights, I circled, hoping against hope that he would float by. And he did.

In 2002, Baz and I wandered over the hill where we had played cowboys and indians during the late 50sLater that evening we asked him to come with us to the local hospital as I had an appointment for female problems. I pleaded with the Resident to at least listen to him, if not commit him. With my refusing to leave the consulting room, the doctor eventually chatted with Barry about putting him up for the night. Holding his hand, I escorted him down the crumbling pathway, with two very large chaps following, hands clasped over belly, blocking out all light and all retreat.

Within three weeks, the mogadon and phenergan had stopped the devil from clawing its way out of his navel charkra and my older brother started life afresh as a shuffling zombie.

There's a certain slant of light

There's a certain slant of light,
Winter afternoons –
That oppresses, like the heft
Of cathedral tunes –

Heavenly hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the meanings, are –

None may teach it – Any –
'Tis the Seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the air –

When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death.

Emily Dickinson


freefalling said...

Which is the lesser of the two evils - the madness or the disconnectedness?

Julie said...

The "disconnectedness", but that is only my opinion. Neither he nor Dad can remember the madness. Barry has filtered it out and only mentions the mainstream things that occurred in his life from 16 to 36. He could not have gone on remaining "mad": he would have exploded and harmed himself just to get it to stop. He will be down again for our "christmas" next weekend. He sleeps on a mattress on my living room floor. He is exhausting because he talks all the time because normally he is alone. He goes to bed when it gets dark and gets up when it gets light. His only companions are his dogs. That is why he joined the church. But that is for the next and final instalment.

Joan Elizabeth said...

Julie, I am enjoying the stories. Family history is an intriquing topic to write and read. But for me one thing really stuck out -- Cobol -- ancient history. I was writing Fortran and Assembler at the time. The reason why I popped back to add a comment I read an interesting statistic in today's Computerworld "According to COBOL purveyor Microfocus, COBOL programs today process 75% of the world's business data and around 90% of all financial transactions". It just won't die!

Julie said...

Well - I'll be blowed!

I did Assembler, Cobol& RPG and my then-husband did Fortran.

Those statistics are mind-boggling. It means that there are still people out there writing Cobol programs ... Why? I guess it also means that there are still massive mainframes on stand-alone airconditioned floors. Surely it doesn't mean that there are still coding sheets, punch-cards and nightly processing runs! Oh spare me ...