When I was a boy and my father would pick up my brother and I for weekend visits, it occurred to me after a while that his behavior was quite a bit different from that of a typical adult.
He was content to walk up, down and around the corridors of our small-town shopping mall as Aaron and I grabbed whatever cash he handed to us and ran around to various stores, searching for the latest action figures, Lego sets, or cheap but cool-looking clothes. He could sit and observe the steady flow of the water fountain in the mall’s center for hours, placidly sipping on his iced tea, watching the passersby, and chatting with the occasional acquaintance.
We would stay overnight with him in his small, ramshackle apartment, and only much later on did I wonder why it was that he never searched for a new job so he could live somewhere nicer, or at least a little bit larger.
Schizophrenia was the reason why. It took a while, but I eventually realized that it would’ve been hard for him to focus on finding a job when he was dealing with the voices that spoke to him in his head. Voices from people far away from him, from people he once knew, from celebrities he saw on television. Voices from people who may already have been dead.
This story is about my father and the experiences that led to his descent into schizophrenia, the disease that drove him through bizarre and nightmarish personal realities, but which also helped to shape and define his abstract personality throughout the course of his life.
But this story is also about my brother Aaron, who ended up reflecting more of our father’s disorder than I have, or so it seems to me at this point anyhow. And some of our more recent correspondence, I believe, demonstrates that.