Sunday, January 11, 2009

Who pays the ferryman?

Barry in the arms of his maternal grandmother (1945)Barry in a deckchair at his paternal grandmother's (1948)Barry and Julie, Hornsby 1950 (Baz 5, Julie 2)
As an executor, I discussed the terms of Dad's will with him a couple of weeks ago. "Should I just give Barry's share to him, or would it be better if I looked after it for him"? I knew the response before I asked, really: Dad is aware that Barry is challenged financially and has always come to the party - without strings. However, he does want me to continue to help him and to bring him into the town, off the commune, when it is necessary.

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?
Laurie with his three children (New Years 2004)(Laurie 82; Barry 58; Julie 55; Ross 53)
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


Z said...

Hi Julie, I just wanted to let you know that while I haven't left any comments (I'm not very good at voicing serious feelings), I've been reading your posts via my reader. They're very touching pieces: thank you for sharing. I wish Baz all the best, he seems a sweet and gentle soul.

Julie said...

Thank you Z. Your comment and your wishes are most appreciated. As you may divine, it has been an emotional series to write. But I am so pleased that I could write them in a way that gave some meaning to the events.

freefalling said...

I don't think we have to determine the value of a lifetime.
I dunno - I just don't think we are capable of measuring such a thing - not even one's own life.
The yardsticks by which we measure them are largely meaningless.
But it is nice to have people who care for us, when our burden is too heavy to carry alone.
Baz is lucky to have you and your family to help him along when the road is tricky.

I've loved reading about Barry.
Not just his story, but the love I can feel in the writing of it.

Virginia said...

Dear Baz is so lucky to have you Julie. Thank you for having the courage to shar it .