The letter from Ben, my holiday gift in many ways

This month marks over three years since Ben was last hospitalized. I remain grateful for every day that he is with us, enjoying his family’s love. It wasn’t always like this. There were times he looked at us with such suspicion that I was afraid to be near him; yet, underneath the chest-tightening discomfort there was always my love for this boy/man, my beautiful child. My mantra has become, “It is what it is” – yes, Ben has changed but he is still here, still worth loving, still with potential to keep recovering.

He has no money, except what may remain from his meager social security payments after group home deductions for room and board. The holidays of 2008 are over, and I have in my possession Ben’s amazing gift: he wrote me a letter, handwritten in red ink on a piece of loose-leaf paper. Not fancy, but I know how much care went into it – I know this because I can read his handwriting!

This is what Ben wrote: 1/1/09
A list of my favorite things about you
10. You are always interested in a good conversation.
9. You are fun to be with
8. You have an excellent sense of humor.
7. You unconditionally care for me.
6. You respect my privacy.
5. You can guide me towards being a good person without pushing.
4. You have faith in me; that I can do what I set my mind to.
3. You raised me AWESOMELY – I like how, since I didn’t grow up with a father, you made sure there were men in my life.
2. Whenever I need help, you’re always there.
1. You love me.

I just want you to know that I think you’re great, and not only that, but a great Mom too. You do a lot of things for me that you don’t have to, and I really appreciate and respect that. I like that we hang out so much (you are a fun movie buddy), and back when I was using (pot) we wouldn’t have been. You taught me a sense of family (not just you), which is something I lost when I was using. Thanks for being a good teacher and a great mother.
Happy Hanukah, Ben

Ben is 26 years old. In 2003, he was hospitalized for psychosis five times, in 2005, twice more. His family’s love is a huge part of his recovery – and, of course, so is his medication compliance. The story of Ben’s breakdown and recovery, and the family’s journey to acceptance, is in my memoir Ben Behind His Voices: One Family’s Journey through Schizophrenia to a New Normal. E-mail Claire Gerus, at cgerus@comcast.net for more information. Meanwhile, feel free to comment here as I continue to blog Ben’s progress.

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