Living frantically

Easter Sunday I got a call from my Brisbane cousin in a bit of a flap. It was about 11.30 in the morning and I was preparing to go out for lunch, but I stopped to listen and calm him down.

As before he was near breathless with stress. He explained to me he’d been in a bus the previous night that had been in an accident. One passenger received minor injuries. He explained that the bus driver refused to call for an ambulance because the passenger was Asian. He told me he called an ambulance and thereafter it was a babble I couldn’t follow, but included allegations of racism and corruption in general, and specifically the QLD emergency services. He told me he had written a detailed statement that he was preparing to submit. The upshot of all this was he couldn’t live in Brisbane anymore and he was leaving and did I have a bed for him?

This was not a call I wanted to receive. I explained to him I had nothing more than a couch to offer him and anyway he should calm down first and don’t do anything hasty. I went to lunch but returning I felt bad and contacted him again. I reminded him that if he really intended to move then he had to have a plan in regards to his studies, his income, and somewhere to live. I was the wise uncle. By then he had calmed down and thanked me for my counsel.

Then last night I get another call from a similarly frantic cousin. This time he’s already left. He was calling from a Hungry Jack’s somewhere in northern NSW on his way to Sydney. The crux of the call was that he wanted money from me.

Even if I had money to give I wouldn’t have. I don’t think it’s a good idea to sponsor seemingly irrational behaviour, especially when I don’t have the full story. As before, he battled to be coherent, ranting about Queensland again and going on about his repressive mother (that much I could believe).

He took my rejection hard and began talking in complex circles and making references to a red Ferrari I used to have (it was a mate’s red Trans Am, 30 years ago), and to the supposedly salubrious address I had in Brisbane fifteen years ago. There was also a confusing reference to our paternal grandfather. I gather I came out light in the comparison and he began to abuse me. That was enough for me and I rang off.

I couldn’t let it go, though. I kept thinking of this very troubled guy sitting alone in a fast food joint without any money. There’s no doubt he needs help – he appears paranoid and probably bipolar – and if he’s not on medication he should be.

I sent him another message, firstly stating I was not in a position to help him financially and explaining why. Then I reiterated that I was happy to support him but the best thing he could do right now was to head home where he would be safe, and to seek help. About an hour later he responded by thanking me.

Then, after discussing it with a friend, I contacted his sister through Facebook explaining the situation. I left my number to be contacted directly. I haven’t heard back from her and may never – her account seems inactive.

I find the whole situation disturbing. I haven’t seen him for 25 years. I’ve only got his version of the story. Very clearly he has issues that need to be dealt with professionally. I don’t know what his support network is like in Brisbane, though quite possibly it’s scant. On top of that I’m in Melbourne. Regardless, I fear what might happen if he isn’t properly supported.

As a blood relative I’m sympathetic, but then I would be to anyone in his situation. I feel like he’s a bit of a stray dog that’s followed me home after a few kind words. I don’t want to let him down, but I really don’t know what I can do.

It sounds awful, but I can’t help being grateful that for all my problems I never had to deal with this inner torment. It must be terrible.

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