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    • Oh, no... That sounds so much like my mom. I think I heard from my sister that she had shock therapy when she was in Sayre, and apparently it helped for awhile. Maybe that's how she got out. She would not see a doctor, even when she broke her ankle.

      I went to see A Beautiful Mind with Toni and I've only been so emotional in a movie once — Million Dollar Baby. For both movies I had a 3-day hangover. Btw, Sean Penn plays the Madman in the upcoming movie version and he's unrecognizable.

    • A Beautiful Mind made me sick for days. There are drugs available now that would have made mom's life, and the lives of her family members, much less stressful. But distrust of doctors and fundamentalist religious beliefs led her to refuse all drugs. In her last two years she came to trust her caregiver and accepted the "vitamins" that wonderful lady provided. And anxiety and paranoia faded. We enjoyed the most relaxed and rational conversations of our lives.

    • Paul Johnston

      Mom left dad and moved in with her parents. 

      I am curious as to why your mother left your dad and if this was ever revealed to you? Was it primarily due to the on set of her mental illness and that placed just too much stress on your family? You mentioned that later on in life you bonded with your father with the help of his wife. I am wondering why you may have been fearful of your father? (excluding the example you gave of his dislocating your shoulder by swinging you around.). Was it mainly the fact that you spent most of your time with your mother and infrequently saw your father?

      Somewhere in the past, maybe an interview or an article, I was aware of your being sometimes homeless as a child. However, your story above is more complete and takes great courage to tell. As you relate, your hardships and trials were many. However, most importantly as you point out, there were crucial supportive people at the right times and places in your life that allowed you to overcome a very difficult childhood! The follow through on this is it may be possible that each one of us could play a supportive role in someone's life that ultimately make all the difference in the world as to the outcome of their life.

    • Chris MacAskill

      I'm not sure why mom left dad but my understanding is schizophrenics often become alienated from their families. They looked so happy together when they were younger.

      My father was known to have a big temper. He had been the captain of his hockey team at Queens and a golden glove heavyweight boxer in the navy who was proud of giving an opponent amnesia for a day when he knocked him out.

      When I was in junior high, he took Jane and I skiing and somehow we got in a good-natured snowball fight between the three of us. I threw a long one and got lucky, it came down on my father's head and packed snow in his sunglasses. I thought it was hilarious and started laughing.

      I guess he thought I was mocking him and he marched me to our cabin, made me pull up my shirt and drop my drawers, and he lashed me with his belt to teach me respect. The whole time I was thinking I would never forgive him, I didn't have to, nobody could make me. I had thrown a snowball and didn't deserve this.

      The next morning Jane said I had big welts on my back. It was a long drive home and I didn't speak. When we got home, Julie knelt down to give me a hug and I just walked past her and went to my room. She must have talked to Jane or dad because eventually she gently opened my door and sat beside me on the bed without speaking. I was lying face down, sulking, and she gently slid up my shirt to see my back. I heard her give a soft gasp. She just sat beside me for I don't know how long with her hand on my arm, but we never spoke about it. We didn't need to.

      I was never the same around him after that, not until I became an adult and married Toni. I think I got over it in a year or two and I always tried to impress him, I just wasn't going to mess with a temper like that.

    • Paul Johnston

      Chris, that is really a tragic growing up episode. I am sorry to hear this. After I asked my question, I was reviewing your writings and saw that had it not been from Julie you would have run away from your father. All these memories and feelings about events in your life centered around your mother's schizophrenia and your dad's temper fit together perfectly to add up to big time trouble for you to deal with. Your reaction to all this is very normal given everything. Your fleeing your dad in the sailboat incident brought up all those past violent memories compounded by having to deal with your mother's situation and what you were going to have to do to survive all this, not only figuratively but literally!

      You have mentioned the supportive people in your life who made all the difference in your life. Imagine, had your dad's temper been one of more compassion, how much a difference that would have made for everyone dealing with your family situation. It is very common for victims of abuse to want to please those that inflict the pain.

      I am guessing your father grew up in an era "when men were men", "spare the rod spoil the child" and "men don't cry" era. In the mid 1950s, Jackie Gleason's The Honeymooners portrayed man's potential for violence toward family members. "One of these days! One of these days! To the moon, Alice!" was Ralph Kramden's (Gleason) humorous threat for physical violence. Humorous because it never happened because he believed "Alice, you're the greatest"! The dark reality is men sometimes do inflict physical violence on family members.

      Your photo of your mother and dad reminds me of what a promotional photo of two movie stars of that era looks like . Your mom reminds me of the actress Claudette Colbert and your dad, a dashing military hero who apparently could paint! They do look happy!

    • It seems to me that schizophrenics withdraw from their families, and most everyone else, because no one can enter their internal, frightening world. The words "You don't understand" or "You'll never understand" were frequently heard in our house. My older sister was in constant conflict with mom and left home as soon as she was able. They never reconcilled.

      My father, on the other hand, was the most patient and steadfast person I've ever known. The wife of one his university faculty colleagues experienced a breakdown about the time that mom did. He eventually had her committed to the state hospital, got a divorce, and went on with life, urging dad to do the same. But he refused to even consider it.

      Both my parents beleved in corporal punishment, and I earned the occasional 'spanking' while growing up. I discovered that one of mom's whippings could be shortened by yelling and hollering, while dad expected me to silently "take it like a man." Mom would most often grab a switch in the heat of the moment and let fly at my legs. Dad would wait until tempers had cooled, sit me down to explain exactly why my behavior merited punishment, and after I agreed, apply his belt to my legs. Welts, "the marks of disobedience", were expected but were never severe.

      My last whipping occurred when I was around 6 years old. I had so egregiously disobeyed that mom did not punish me immediately but waited for dad to get home from work. He took me into the bedroom for our "talk", then had me drop my trousers as he removed his belt. Then he said, "You know, this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you." Being a smartass, even then, I blurted out "Well, if that is really true, shouldn't I be whipping you?"

      The raised belt stopped in mid air, and there was a long moment of silence. Then dad said "I never thought of it that way, but you're right! Pull up your pants and take this belt." By now I was crying, said I was only kidding, that I had done wrong and deserved punishment. How could I do this? It was unthinkable. It was my fault. But dad lowered his trousers, handed me his belt, and instructed me to whip his legs. We were both in tears, and I half-heartedly struck a blow or two, but he stopped me and insisted it must be hard enough to "count", to raise welts. So that I did. But resolved to never again earn a whipping from my dad.

    • Chris MacAskill

      I am guessing your father grew up in an era "when men were men", "spare the rod spoil the child" and "men don't cry" era.

      That's so true. I've often wondered why I grew up to be a pushover, as my kids all tell me I am. It was hard on my wife but our kids loved it until they had kids of their own and now they don't like it.

      Your photo of your mother and dad reminds me of what a promotional photo of two movie stars of that era looks like.

      Now that you say that and I look at their photos again I see it!

    • Amazing. Its 1:20 am here, at first i planned to read it in morning then i couldnt sleep and read your story. Truly inspiring.

    • Chris MacAskill

      Thank you, Awais. I often wonder what would have happened had I not been caught stealing that sweater? I very nearly outran the detective and for awhile I was mad at myself for giving up because when he caught me I could tell he was completely gassed.

      What would have happened had I followed my instincts and run away, which I so nearly did? I could have pulled it off. Oakland was just over the hill and I knew how to stay hidden. What if I didn't meet Mr. Davis in high school? What if Julie didn't turn out to be the step mom she was? What if I didn't meet Toni at summer camp? I've always wondered about these things.

    You've been invited!