My dad was schizophrenic
My dad was schizophrenic. It wasn’t diagnosed until his later years. Thinking back, of course, you can see signs that pointed towards it. Dad was “special”, there was a history of unemployment, he was a talker but not much of a listener, he would get agitated if anyone disagreed with him, there were bouts of depression, he left the church for a time. He functioned, and he was Dad. This was what we knew, and we loved him. Dad loved us and always tried to do what was best for our family.
Dad loved God very much and raised us to be Christian. He made decisions that positively influenced us and helped us to become strong Christians. We were very involved in the church and lived in Christian community. All of our activities revolved around Jesus because that’s the way it should be. Dad was very evangelistic and many people are grateful to him for bringing them the truth and how to have a personal relationship with Jesus.
Naturally the later years were a different story. It started with not being able to hold down a job for any length of time. When he did something good, he was better than others. When he didn’t do something, he was better than others. He felt superior and put others down. He left the Church. He started crying lots. For a while he sat in his recliner and hardly moved from there, but wore a hole in the leather arm by constantly rubbing with one finger. Then the paranoia where there were conspiracies against him. He threatened to burn down the house and other irrational and dangerous behaviour. At this point, he had to leave the family for security reasons.
Dad entered a mental health hospital for a time, then continued with treatment and medication. He got his own apartment and again became active at church – but he was different and it was hard for people to interact with him, and hard for people to reconcile themselves with who he had become. He was constantly asking people for money which caused them to want to avoid him. He would make demands of his family that caused them to avoid him. It was hard to get away from him when he “cornered” you which caused people to avoid him. Yet he had friends from “before” who were committed to him and for that I will always be grateful because his kids were now busy with their own families and didn’t know how to deal with Dad anymore.
My own kids looked forward to their visits with Grandpa. We would meet him at the park across the street from his apartment and would feast on Kentucky Fried Chicken. Grandpa would push the little ones on the swings, watch the kids play in the sprinklers and hand out Freezies. Visits were confined to a couple of times during the summer, as well as family meals at a restaurant for Thanksgiving, Christmas and his birthday with all the kids and grandkids. Hopefully he enjoyed these times as much as I did.
Then God gave me the blessing of being involved more with my Dad again. It started with a phone call from someone in Dad’s apartment who was there to evict him for unpaid rent. A contact name at the health department was given to me to arrange to become Dad’s power of attorney. Eviction was avoided. Dad had not paid any of his bills for about a 6 month time. All of his pension money was being sent to an oversea scam. Dad was convinced that he was to inherit 5 million dollars from Nigeria, from a previously unknown relative. Then it was a mine in Argentina he was investing in. Then the inheritance again. Then he needed to help this lawyer from Nigeria get his family to Canada. Then he was to marry a woman from Nigeria. A pattern was set, but Dad was schizophrenic and couldn’t see this for himself.
I was named Dad’s power of attorney for his finances and his care. It was amazing. Every phone call I made brought immediate results. I spoke with the right person in the right department every time. Dad’s lawyer was a friend who donated his time and some money to help with Dad’s bills. Other friends donated money. I was able to pay back all of his outstanding debts over the next year, and gave Dad gift cards to buy groceries and a very small allowance. He had been eating at soup kitchens up until then to free up his money for his scam. I met with Dad more regularly.
Once the debts were paid off Dad revoked the power of attorney and again had control of his money. I got another phone call from a concerned creditor whom I had dealt with previously to advise me that Dad was not paying his bills to them again. Dad refused to talk money with me. He insisted I trust him. He knew what he was doing. This time every phone call I made resulted in frustration on my end. No one would help. I realized that God was asking me to wait. It wasn’t easy, but I did. I realized the worst that could happen was that Dad would live in a shelter for the homeless and eat at soup kitchens. And Dad would be fine.
I was finally able to convince Dad’s doctor to sign papers on Dad’s behalf and I was named Trustee of Dad’s CPP and OAS. I had control of his pension, which was most of his money, and enough to pay his bills. I again started to pay back Dad’s debts. Eviction was avoided again as long as I could promise I now had permanent control of Dad’s finances, which I did.
Another phone call came. This time it was Dad’s superintendent in a panic. Dad’s apartment was infested with bed bugs and cockroaches. I dealt with the health department again. Dad was moved into a homeless shelter. I hired a cleaning company to go in with me to clean out the apartment. Wow! The walls were alive with bugs. It was aweful, and incredible that Dad had lived with this. He was becoming sick from all of the bed bug bites. Absolutely everything was thrown out. Again all of my phone calls resulted in reaching the right person in the right department. God was speaking again.
It was decided that Dad could not move back to his apartment and he finally agreed to move into a residence. What a wonderful place! It was run by a couple of Christian sisters whose Dad had been schizophrenic and living on the streets. They wanted to provide a home for people challenged with mental illness so they wouldn’t have to live on the streets. They always had a bible open on their desks and would pray with the residents. All the staff was Christian. They fed Dad, gave him a bed, cleaned his room, washed his clothes, gave him a bus pass and gave him a modest allowance. Dad’s friends visited him there. The residence now received Dad’s money, and he was subsidized and cared for. He wasn’t always happy there, but he stayed.
The kids and I would take Dad out to the movies or a museum and dinner once a month. We all looked forward to it. Visits were no longer centered around money and I could develop a new relationship with Dad.
God had taught me so much. I had a much clearer understanding of mental illness. I learned to deal with so many different agencies and government departments. So many people cared and so many of them were strangers. I saw God work again and again. I knew God took care of us, even when we couldn’t take care of ourselves.
Then Dad got sick. He had cancer. He was moved to a hospice where he stayed for almost 3 months and died with dignity. But that’s another story.