36. My Little Sister Barbara – Journal Entry 8th Feb 1979

Persig’s suggestions are still the best for writing: start with the top right brick and list all the things you want to say. If writing a long report, story or whatever, give it an outline, however rough. You may not keep to it but it’s good practice. So important points are not missed, make sure the writing has structure.

After talking to Tobi yesterday, I wondered what skills were being taught to people in Rocky and the coast. I will talk to Diana about it.

What I have to do today and tomorrow:
Today (Tue)                  Rocky (Wed)
-make bread                    -Dentist 9:30am
-make up a schedule

Let me try and recall what Tobi and I talked about. She had a good day in Yeppoon. She bought food at Grandma’s Pantry and visited the second-hand shop where she met Lillian. She was impressed with Lillian, who invited her to her place. Tobi was very pleased with her exploration.

Tobi had taught a potter friend welding. Now the friend had a successful studio and supports the family. The husband who didn’t take his wife’s interests seriously, suddenly discovered how successful his wife actually was, when he lost his job and stayed home to help with the housework. He’s struggling to set up a consulting business and doesn’t seem to be doing well. Tobi and friend got their scrap iron or metal from a workshop. I can’t recall what the workshop produced. The men looked at them in surprise, when they first called to ask for scraps, and said they could have as much as they wanted. They were surprised at the quantity the two women carried away, but of course they had given them generous permission. They had been going there for five years to get scrap. The friend made a sculpture for the workshop, with their own scrap, and got paid. The workshop is very proud of their sculpture. At first, the workmen were very conservative. Now they enthusiastically show the women some new cut-out scraps of unusual design.

Just phoned Tobi about an idea I picked up in the Woman’s Weekly. Tobi told me she was very worried about reports Ned brought back from his first day at school and wanted to talk with the teacher. I put her in touch with Mary who seems to have experienced similar troubles with her kids. One child was picked on in English class because she had an accent.

20th Feb 1979

Phone call from Del to say the boys had sold her son a bike for $20 and an exchange bike. The bike had no seat and the wheels were falling off. The son had been up half the night worrying about the deal, and had hidden the bike, not telling her what was wrong with it. I told her that was no good and arranged a meeting this afternoon (for when Marcello got home). A bit of an awkward position really because the exchange bike is on the verandah – it’s parts sprayed with anti-rust paint. However, we’ll have to sort this one out. The boys’ mistake was in assuming he had as much freedom over his affairs and possessions as they had over theirs.

Late last afternoon Monika was hard to find in Yeppoon because of a misunderstanding over the word ‘surgery’, so after after looking in at the hospital and on the beach, Johnny went to her mother’s place. A rather upset mother said she was not there, where was she, why didn’t she know anything about it and to tell her to come home. Johnny dealt calmly with this, all the while preoccupied with finding Monika and telephoned home to check where to go. Monika is to stay this night at Yeppoon with her mother. That girl seems to have lots to worry about. Her father is now in Brisbane, is rather lonely and writes often. Monika tries to write as often as possible. The girls have led fairly independent lives, going out on their own a lot. The mother seemed to have led a ‘mystical’ existence, delving in the supernatural, ESP and such like, and meditating in her pyramid. She’s tended to stay up very late and get up late, so much so the household moved in fear of waking her up. They had to wait until she emerged.

I seem to be in an excited physical condition, I developed a ticking in a nerve under my right eye, and found it hard to get to sleep these past two nights. I had a shocking migraine on Saturday, more vomiting than pain in the head. Friday dinner out was an ordeal – more like a mild nightmare, which towards the end of the evening, tightened the muscles in the back of my neck. It might be worth writing as much as I can about the evening. I find I’m a bit hazy or maybe reluctant to analyse what happened – the main reason being because what was supposed to happen didn’t, and I feel guilty, though I know bloody well I had stressed the number of people should be small and carefully chosen.

To get back to how I feel. It is a tightness in the chest which is much better today. On Monday (was it only yesterday?) yet another emotional scene with Barbara vomiting at breakfast, me keeping her at it, my mother implying we were harsh and unfeeling and Barbara looking from face to face with a fatuous and frightened look on her face. Barbara is not so much mentally retarded as spoilt, very spoilt with cultural habits quite at variance with Australian norms and behaviour. These upsets are very draining on one’s body. I’ve also been getting sidetracked quite fast, despite firm resolutions. This morning I read the Australian Women’s Weekly, as I usually do, to get an idea of present trents and thoughts. I read a little article on a woman’s experience fostering five children at one time. Then another reader’s story about her mentally retarded brother. It had an utterly devastating effect on me because nothing happened in this person’s life – he was sub-normal, retarded and that was it, so he was in limbo. He had no companion limbo-ites. The Webster’s dictionary defines limbo as ‘barred from heaven through no fault of their own’, ‘a place of restriction or confinement’. For 85 years he was a solitary human being with his ‘I’ll be alright’ affirmation. He seems to have made no demands on anyone – only his little sister loved him and cared about him, but even she did not share her life with him.

I am bold enough to make this remark because I too know what it is like to have a mentally retarded sibling – my younger sister Barbara. I’ve had to look after her since the time of her birth – to relieve my mother who supported us by working at home. My sister had hampered my playtime quite a bit. Now I realise what a frightening responsibility it was; I was about 10 or 11 and could so easily have dropped my sister or accidently hurt her in some way.

My sister lives with us now and is quite spoilt in many ways because she grew up with no responsibilities, nothing was expected of her. In a completely different cultural environment like Australia, she showed up most oddly and badly.

I think I’ll leave off writing about Barbara for the time being.

24th Feb 1979

We slaughtered some ducks, a goose and a couple of chickens.
A cyclone is heading our way, don’t know what it will do to the coast.
It’s 3pm and time to service the moke.

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Author: K.

Being here now.