ADAM – ‘The Intermediate Years’

Our move to Hawke’s Bay proved beneficial for Adam. We found a rental property in Outram Road, Hastings, with easy access to the main shopping centre. The region is a major agricultural and horticultural centre. The fertile Heretaunga Plains surrounding the city produce stone fruits, pome fruit – apples and pears, kiwifruit and vegetables, and the area is one of New Zealand’s major red wine producers.

The 1931 earthquake caused widespread devastation, reducing many buildings in Napier and Hastings to rubble. My father’s second cousin, Marie Buck, was one of seventeen people who died when Roach’s department store collapsed. The clock tower in the centre of Hastings features a memorial to those who died.

Having completed his time at the Hastings Christian School Adam moved on to Hastings Intermediate and then St John’s College. He enjoyed his school years in New Zealand. St John’s College, with its pastoral emphasis, nurtured him and supported his development as a person.

Adam maintained an interest in sport, playing cricket and rugby for St. John’s College. He captained the junior cricket team, demonstrating his leadership skills.  In 1995 he broke his arm at the wrist trying to run down a ball in a rugby game. The red plaster attracted attention and various remarks which Adam appreciated.

Adam developed a passion for fly-fishing and the Tukituki River became a favoured location. He would spend many hours with friends pursuing the wild brown and rainbow trout. Fly fishing requires stealth and patience, qualities Adam possessed in abundance. His efforts were regularly rewarded.

The Tukituki is a superb stretch of water and Adam’s knowledge of the river grew with the seasons. He wrote about his experiences.

“I have had many memorable experiences fishing the Tukituki River. Describing this magnificent river is hard because it changes around every bend. There are places where the river runs wide with weeping willows on one side and luscious grass banks on the other. The trout often rise under the willows taking dropping willow grubs.”

Adam Rickard

Sibling rivalry happens in most families. It is a feeling of tension between two siblings. Children have widely different personalities and temperaments. There will be competition. There will be anger, jealousy, and resentment. There will be fights, and some will be intense.

Two years separated Nathan and Adam. Nathan was bigger, taller, louder, more socially adept, more academically gifted. Older brothers can be a source of inspiration, but they can also cause feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. This can be a challenge for the younger sibling who is developing their own identity and autonomy. They may resort to actions that offer a release for their frustrations and anxieties. This was true of Adam. In his quest for recognition and equality, he became determined and combative.

We returned to Australia in 1997 having lived in New Zealand for 11 years. We lived in my parent’s house in Tyabb. This was a particular wish of my mother before she died.

It was a difficult transition. Life transitions are challenging because they force us to let go of the familiar and face the future with a feeling of vulnerability.  

For Adam, it was a significant loss. There was so much about New Zealand that suited him. The pace of life, the smaller supportive communities, the sporting opportunities, and recreational pursuits all worked for him in providing an enjoyable and fulfilling life. There was sadness for all that was left behind but also uncertainty and anxiety about what lay ahead.

We enrolled Adam at Mt. Erin Secondary College but underestimated the challenges he would face. Adam found the adjustment to a new school in a country he had been absent from for so long, particularly difficult given his reserved nature. He struggled academically and socially, finding it hard to initiate friendships. He was a rugby player in an environment where aussie rules reigned supreme. A highlight for Adam during Year 11 was gaining 1st prize at the Royal Melbourne Show for his wooden bowl made from pine and redwood. During his final year he was known to abscond, but it is unclear what the underlying issues were that prompted this behaviour. Did he want to avoid the scrutiny of his teachers or did he feel uncomfortable amongst his peers?

Adam completed his Victorian Certificate of Education and took up full time work at Taranto Farms, a market garden in Tyabb. Adam was required to do different tasks including driving the tractor and forklift, but eventually ended up in ‘the shed’ where he was responsible for the washing and packing of produce. Quality control was a high priority as they were a supplier for Woolworths. Adam was offered an apprenticeship, but he was hoping for a different vocation.

Adam, like most of us, encountered setbacks, experiences that were disheartening and painful.

 In February 1999 he was diagnosed with ‘synovial chondromatosis’ in his right shoulder. Adam had little strength in his arm, restricting his movement. Surgery was recommended to remove calcification from the bone. A combination of lengthy hospital waiting lists and unexpected cancellations made it a drawn-out process. It was Adam’s mother who took up the cause. Her strong and persistent advocacy made the difference and Adam’s shoulder was functional again.

When Adam commenced full time employment, he had sufficient funds to purchase a new mountain bike to ride to work. Unfortunately, thieves prized open the window of the garage and took his bike. Adam had his suspicions as to who the culprits were, but the police were unable to solve the case.

In 2002 Adam continued his apprenticeship with the Master Plumbers. He had completed his pre-apprenticeship training the previous year. As well as practical assignments he was studying at Melbourne’s R.M.I.T. He found the travel and low pay a disincentive and decided to put his apprenticeship on hold while he sorted out his priorities.

Adam experienced bouts of depression. He did not always like what he saw when he looked within. New Zealand was always there in his thoughts and it provided a viable and attractive option. It was evident he still had a strong emotional attachment to the Hawke’s Bay region. He flew out on Sunday, November 17. He wrote in a letter,

“As I have become someone I do not like, I feel going away is what I need to do. I am sad to go but it is for the best.”

It was a positive move. Adam was able to stay with friends and found work in a plant nursery. He wrote in an email,

“I have been well and stress free. Work is good and the people are friendly… Fishing was awesome last week at the Tukituki. Caught about ten and had twenty strikes. They were all around 2 pounds, but one I caught was about 2.5 which I kept and smoked.”

In April 2003 Adam returned to Australia and slipped back into his job at the market garden. He purchased a Ford Falcon sedan and started a course in personal training. Adam continued to develop his skills as a guitarist. Life had a certain rhythm, and the future looked positive.

In 2004, at the prompting of his parents, Adam moved out of home. He found a shared house in Mt Martha, by the sea. He started a new job as a forklift driver with ‘Exfoliators,’ a company who specialised in vermiculite and perlite, fireproofing and insulation.

He developed a passion for books and became an avid reader, like his father. We were able to swap books and talk about what we were reading.

Adam was an adventurous person. In 2005 he successfully applied for a counselling position with Camp America. He was appointed to Camp Echo, a few hours out of New York. Adam hoped to be part of the mountain biking program. Adam contracted mumps and experienced swelling in his cheeks and testicles. He was taken to hospital. He was given injections and advised not to undertake any physical activity for five weeks.

Following camp Adam travelled around for a few weeks before flying home. He wrote about his experiences, including his viewing of the ‘Statue of Liberty’ and the ‘Everglades Safari Park’ in Miami, Florida. He says,

“When I was in New York we caught the boat out to the Statue of Liberty. The mood was exciting on the way out. I thought it was awesome and took lots of photos. It looks defiant when you look at it front on.”

“We went to the ‘Everglades’ on a tour and the guide said the water was high (a legacy of Hurricane Katrina). I saw two alligators and a turtle, so it was alright.”

Life for Adam had its challenges, but it was a good life with many rich and varied experiences. What happened over the next six years to unravel a life that offered so much promise?

Author: Bruce Rickard

Reflections on Suicide and Staying Alive: My son's suicide changed everything. I felt an obligation to understand why anyone would want to end their life. My regular blog posts explore the causes and prevalence of suicide and what is needed to sustain a healthy mind and a hope-filled future.

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