Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The Public Trustee

sent a letter here to my brother and I sent it on to him - and then forgot about it. I assumed it was something to do with his first wife. She died some time ago and my assumption was that the Public Trustee in this state had just caught up with that fact. Yes, it can take them years.
But it was not that at all. It was something much more unexpected. We need to go back some considerable time in the history of this family.
My maternal grandfather had a number of siblings. We had very little contact with them because my maternal grandmother was a very difficult woman who made having a relationship with anyone almost impossible. My maternal grandfather's family was also not close knit. His father had died when the children were young and his mother, unlike my paternal grandmother, was apparently not a letter writer.
We rarely saw our maternal great-aunts and great-uncles. One, great aunt whom I remember seeing twice, had one child. He was intellectually retarded. The claim was that a vaccination had made him that way. The truth was that he had been born that way - a fact told to me by another great-aunt years later on the death of her sister. The claim was used to try and prevent any of the children in the next generation being vaccinated against anything. Fortunately it did not succeed.
And I met the child. He was considerably older than me of course. I met him once at the home of his parents. He was there for the weekend from his home in an institution for the intellectually retarded. I was in my early teens and I remember him as being an overweight man who sat there rocking backwards and forwards holding a small toy car and making meaningless noises. We "played" together with the car while the adults talked. I hope he enjoyed it but I had no way of knowing.
Several years later I went with my grandfather to the institution he was living in. His mother was away. I assume my grandfather had some guardianship role because I can remember him signing a paper of some sort. We then took this "child" for a walk in the grounds and my grandfather gave him some chocolate.
I later taught in the school attached to the institution but I didn't see him again. My grandfather had died by then as had his sister and nobody at the institution seemed to know of his whereabouts. My mother, her brother and her cousins were apparently not interested. The adherence to "Christian Science" by some of the family did not help. Gradually, over the years, he was forgotten. 
And so we come to the letter. It was a sad thing. This man died in 2009. He died intestate. That should not have happened. Someone should have made provision for his death. It can be done. The Public Trustee's office was, after five years, beginning to catch up with this. He was probably buried or cremated without so much as a funeral service. There would have been no relatives there. He would have been a first cousin once removed from me and my siblings. We never knew him. I had assumed from something my mother had said that he had died not long after his own parents.
Now his "estate" is to be divided among his more distant family. The letter my brother received told him that the estate was small and not to expect a great deal.
We discussed this. That there should be anything surprises us. We did not and do not expect anything at all. There is only one thing to do in such a situation but even that is not going to relieve my conscience. We should have known. We should have visited. We should have given him some days out and seen that he was properly cared for.
I hope what's left will at least buy someone else with nobody who cares a walk in the park and a chocolate bar - and perhaps a little more than that.

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