In the late 80s, I regularised Baz' relationship with the Deputy Commissioner - he had not submitted a tax return since he left the airforce. It transpired, as I guessed, that he owed nothing and they were pleased that he now officially existed. It doesn't make sense to feel guilty about not submitting a return when you earn such paltry amounts. Since his breakdown, Baz has subsisted on leather work that he sells at local markets - as long as he can keep his van on the road. I've lost track of the number of replacement engines Dad has sourced for him over the years! When the market income dried up, I insisted that he go on the dole. He can save on the dole because he grows nearly all his own food.
About 5 years ago, he cut his hair for the first time in 40 years. This is about the same time that he became an active parishioner of a Roman Catholic church in Port Macquarie. This is really good for him, as it gives him something to believe in, something to be involved with and people who will look out for him. They help him celebrate his birthday and invite him to their Christmas dinners. They also got him involved with volunteer work at one of the local nursing homes. He is really good with old people who are easing out of their life.
The real difficulty will come during the next 5 years or so. He will need to move into the town so that people can keep a better eye on him. He is not averse to this on the occasions when I have broached it. The problem is money: he owns one-seventh share in a commune. How the hell do you realise this? What he would like to find is a shed that someone will rent to him: a shed with a bit of land for his veggie patch and for his dog to roam.
So, I come back to where I started: how do you determine the value of a lifetime? Dad can say as much as he likes that Baz hasn't done much with his life, but he has survived. He has a generous nature and a quick wit. He has the strength of character to overcome extreme circumstances, whether self-inflicted or not. Who can ask more of anyone?
|from The Waste Land |
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
T. S. Eliot