Family History a Stark Reminder
The content of this chapter of Love versus Goliath has been published earlier on this site in a different context. Here I have re-worked those two articles into a chapter of the book. Please let me know your thoughts. Is there sufficient detail? Does this paint a picture for you? As the reader, have I reached out to you to encourage you to want to read more?
Sadly, there is more to my story than I care to remember, then or now. I’d stored the memories away in the back of my mind somewhere, safely locked away where they stayed out of my daily life.
Melanie had commented just a few days before I should try to ensure I concentrated on the positives of progress to date, rather than the negatives. She was right, I should have been doing that. There had indeed been positives and I was most grateful for those. I continued to be haunted by the possibility a result will come too late as we juggled the waiting with the risks to my family’s safety.
Apart from the precarious situation my family was in, my own childhood made coping with the situation particularly difficult for me emotionally.
September 2010, an anniversary just passed at the time of this stressful period, was the 40th anniversary of my father’s death at his own hands. He had connected the car exhaust to a hose, a suicide method of choice for men, it seems. I had moved out of home to stay with a local minister and his wife as I could not handle my parents’ constant fighting. I also had a school vacation job. One day my mother called me at work to ask if I had seen my father. I had not. I think it was the next day she called again to tell me my father was dead. He had been found in the car, in a back paddock of the farm, by the neighbouring farmer.
The night before my father’s funeral my mother attempted suicide, not for the first time, nor the last. On the day of Dad’s funeral I went from the funeral, to the wake, to the hospital. I do not remember a lot of the day as I was very distressed and the doctor had given me some medication: I have no idea what it was, but I think I was a bit like a zombie, simply going through the motions.
In about the January following, my mother was hospitalised again and then ran away from the hospital. They rang me, a 15 year-old, to ask me to look for her.
March 2011 was the 40th anniversary of my mother’s death by overdose. She was missing for a week. People kept telling us “she’s just gone away for a break, she’ll be back, don’t worry”. I knew she wouldn’t be back. Her body was only found when someone waiting at the local bus stop on a warm day smelt the decomposing body.
Two vitally important people in my life snatched from me too early. Then in April this year, 40 years later, a third vitally important person was snatched from me.
Please forgive me if I didn’t handle the whole thing with ease and a calmness others may deem more appropriate than my stress.
It was that Sunday I made the connection, for me personally, between the events of 40 years ago and the events surrounding my husband’s visa battle. I had suppressed the feelings of loss for all those years, now faced with the fear of losing yet another person the fears returned.
The fear of never seeing my husband alive again was eating me alive. Yet I had to continue to work effectively and try not to let any of this impact on my professional life. How was this possible? It wasn’t possible, but I did the best I could.
In the few days prior to the weekend when my family history came crashing back into my consciousness, a Chinese woman, an asylum seeker here with her husband and son, attempted suicide and was then in hospital in Australia. Her husband and son were ”removed” six hours later. China had the current Nobel Peace Prize winner in jail. Were the husband and son now in jail too, I wondered? I did not know the details of the case nor the grounds for removal – I did know it made my heart ache.
I realised what that time 40 years ago gave me was a very real fear bureaucracy would let me down when I needed it most.
The medical bureaucracy had refused to action my well-founded fear my mother would soon attempt suicide again. I had tried to have her committed, but at only 15 I was too young to drive the process. When she disappeared the police, despite her history, would not take any action. They followed the rule book on the number of hours a person needs to be missing before they will do anything.
Had either the medical/legal professions or the police taken action when I tried to get action, perhaps my mother would still be alive today. Well, maybe not now, 40 years later, but she may have been at my wedding, she may have seen her grandchildren born. She may have been there for me when I was learning how to be a mother myself.
I have missed my father more than my mother over the years. Perhaps had my mother received better medical treatment at the time, my siblings and I may not have lost him too. I will never know.
I do know that my experience left me with the fear that when the chips are down, don’t depend on any bureaucracy to take action. It is not as if the police couldn’t have looked at the situation, checked with the hospital, then decided perhaps there was a risk here and they should DO something.
It seemed to me that no-one cared 40 years ago. Only I cared, along with my two younger, scared, siblings that I was trying to look after. Oh, did I forget to mention that we were just left alone for the week? I was 15, my sister, 11 and my brother, 8.
Is it therefore any wonder, when faced with a similar situation where members of my family were at risk and I was again waiting on a bureaucracy, the same fear arose?
I was ignored before. No action was taken. It cost my brother, my sister and me horrifically. I was ignored again in April of 2010 when the man I love was taken from me, despite the hours and hours I had spent fighting to be heard; fighting for him to heard.
Why would I expect this time, now, to be any different? My experience was that I would be ignored again.
At the time of that watershed day, when I realised my history was impacting on my ability to handle the current situation, I did believe that this time some action had been taken – but I also knew that until I had my family in my arms I would not know if I, or the bureaucracy, had done enough or done enough fast enough.
Past experience, I realised, was casting an ever present gloom over each day that I could not escape.
Strangely, I was relieved I had this realisation, for I felt it would probably help Karen help me. I wrote an email to the Decision Maker explaining the relationship between the events 40 years apart and thanking her for the conversation we had, for it was something in that conversation that I believe had brought my history into sharp focus in the context of the current situation. That email was probably a bad decision.