Rebuilding Bridges

 Dear Madeline

It had been many years since I had last seen you when we met again in 2009 at Emma and Michael’s  wedding in Albury..

Terry and I were becoming closer and he was keen to make the wedding of his only daughter, a reunion of sorts.

I was aware he was seeing you regularly and I knew you would be at the wedding. I did not know how you would respond to another gay Ingrey,  given the dreadful way Steve had treated you and the stories I was hearing about Joe and my suspicions as to the cause.

I was nervous, you had more reason to hate this family than anyone on earth.I need not have worried, It was wonderful to see you and we spent the evening, reliving old times and occasionally delving into the recent.

I think everyone in the family, felt some guilt about what had happened after your  break up with Steve, particularly with how Mum had turned her back on you. It was only after many tearful chats between you and I over the next couple of years, that the full enormity of the devastation emerged.

Terry had kept me informed of some of the issues with Joe since 1994, but until 2008  Terry and I would talk only sporadically, so I really had no idea of the depth of the problem.

That is my fault.

I had some suspicions when Joe did not come to his Father’s funeral in Melbourne in 1990, I guessed what may have been the cause, but I hoped like hell that I was wrong.

I had asked young Steve and Josie where he was, but their answers were far from convincing, Joe would have been still at school, so it would not have been difficult for him to get time off to come to his father’s funeral.

I had visited Steve several times in Albury following his departure from your family and his decision to make a life with Nick. They would often tell me about the kids coming to stay and I would drive home to Wagga with a deep sense of unease. It is amazing how you can feel something and not do anything about it, but my suspicions were so abhorrent I could not get my head around it.

The thought of a father abusing his own children was beyond any sense of comprehension I could muster and I would put my fears back in their secret box.

When my visits to Terry’s over Christmas and at other times during the year, became commonplace. Especially, after my diagnosis in 2008, you and Joe as well as Josie and her family were a very welcome and vocal part of the loud, drunken fun nights in the “Man Cave”.

I was though, shocked to see Joe after so many years, there was not much left of the gentle sweet, funny boy I remembered from his early years. He was an emotionless giant, sedated by the drugs he was taking to deal with his violent outbursts and schizophrenia.

The family reunion in 2013 at Beechworth was something you and could be proud of, you had helped me pull this together and I was humbled by your support. I think everyone enjoyed the chance to get together, talk about the past and watch the new generations of our families happily play together. Hopefully free, now and forever of the demons which had haunted our generation.

Joe was not there and it wasn’t until we were back at Terry’s on the way home that you told me what had happened. At that stage, Joe was under surveillance at the mental health wing of Albury Hospital following an Incident in January 2013.

Joe had a history of mental problems and had previously done some Gaol term for some of his more violent actions. Is this the right way to treat a damaged person, rather than seeking a source? The answer is clearly NO but this is how the system operates.

My admiration for your steadfast support of Joe through drugs, gaol and mental illness over the past 20 years had grown immeasurably in the times we now spent together. We would speak honestly and I developed a better understanding of what you had been through.

In late 2012 – early 2013, Joe had gone off his Meds and this had precipitated his mad rampage through the outskirts of Albury in the 40-degree heat of a January afternoon. He had gradually shed clothes as he ran, until being arrested; naked and terribly dehydrated.

Following a few weeks in Hospital to treat his dehydration and sunburn, he had been transferred to the mental health wing after being arrested for public nakedness and lewd behaviour.

How lewd can a man be when he can barely stand and is incoherent?

Joe’s court appearances were brief and focused on his mental capacity to plead, either guilty or not guilty.

He was kept in remand for over 18 months, being moved from Gaol to Gaol across the state making it almost impossible for you to maintain your visits.

When he finally transferred to Silverwater Metropolitan Remand Centre, I could at last do something to help. The times you spent with me in Sydney during 2014 were bittersweet, you and I would sit on the balcony and talk about your pain but also revel in the joy of family, on several occasions I went with you to visit Joe in Gaol.

The clang of the gates, the dehumanising of good people locked in this horrid cycle; these times are indelibly imprinted on my mind and gave me just a glimpse of the pain you had endured periodically for twenty years.

In July 2014, you asked me to appear for Joe at a mental Health review of his capacity to plead, you would not be available and I was pleased to assist.

I sat and listened to a panel of Psychologists and Psychiatrists debate Joe’s mental capacity until I was asked to speak on his behalf.

“I have a very simple question, if Joe had been convicted of his original offence at his first hearing in 2013, he may have been given a sentence of 3 -6 months and would now have been out of Gaol for at least 12 Months”

“How can it be fair he has now spent 18 months in Gaol, away from his mother and any support network. This has been incredibly hard on his family, made even more so, by the fact that he has never been convicted of any crime in this instance”

Hopefully, my words had some effect because finally Joe had a date set for hearing In Albury.

He has now been back with you for over 2 years and is slowly rebuilding his life, once again with your steadfast help and support.

Madeline, your resilience and love is an inspiration and I am proud to call you my sister.

The evil of the parent and the effects of childhood abuse, last a lifetime but Joe is so lucky to have you on his side.

I am ashamed we looked away when we should have looked more closely and I am so deeply sorry.

Thank you for forgiveness

Love

Bruce

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