My Father’s Mental Illness.

Somewhere in the vicinity of 1967 and 1968 something inside my dad snapped. At the time, people called it a “nervous breakdown.” Later, more clinical descriptions became Dad’s labels, such as “paranoid” and “schizophrenic”. My dad was in and out of the Veterans’ Hospital. During one of the times, my dad was outside the hospital, I experienced one of the saddest and most frightening events of my life.
My father feared to lose my mom in a divorce. Acting upon this fear, he abandoned reason and held my mom against her will in a bathroom in the house. He threatened to kill my mom, but after several hours my mom talked her way out.
The following week, he grabbed me and took me to the bedroom that he and Mom had shared happier times. But this time was different.
Dad didn’t threaten me or hurt me, but he did give me two sleeping pills to swallow without water, and then he told me to calm down and be quiet. After locking the door, he retrieved his favorite handgun from the closet: A World War II German “Lugar” handgun.
Soon the police were on the other side of the door demanding that he give me up and saying something like “come out with your hands where we can see them.”
Very quickly the police ascertained that both my father and his brother were veterans and firefighters with the Minneapolis Fire Department. This afforded some time for my dad to think as the police agreed to stand down out of professional courtesy to a fellow first responder.
Soon after that, my Uncle Bob was talking through the door with my dad, his brother. Bob eventually secured my freedom by removing the bolts from the door and convincing my dad to surrender. The most enduring memory I have from those days was of me that night, sitting at the top of the stairs, weeping, as I watched my dad hauled away in an ambulance and wearing a straight-jacket. I was seven.