October 31st, 2014
“But I think [Tim] understood that if his story could help change the way we think and move us to action, it was worth telling. Plus, he loves me, and I love him.”—Paul Gionfriddo
We conclude our week-long feature on Losing Tim: How Our Health and Education Systems Failed My Son with Schizophrenia, with an excerpt from the book’s preface in which Paul Gionfriddo discusses why he decided to write about his son. For more of the book you can also read the book’s first chapter, Tim Brings a Gun to School.
When my son Tim was a very young boy, he knew that I was an elected official, and he understood that elected officials made many of the “rules” by which people live. “My dad is important,” he used to volunteer to people when we were introduced to them. The problem was that he pronounced the word as “impotent,” which typically elicited a giggle that puzzled Tim. Giggles aside, he had no idea how apt a description that would become when it came to my helping to make his own life more tolerable.
This book is in part a reflection on public policy and the way public policy decisions I made in good faith affected Tim’s life….
As i imagine is the case for most parents of children with serious chronic illnesses, in the course of over two decades I amassed hundreds of hard-copy and electronic documents relating to tim. they traveled with me from Connecticut to Texas and then to Florida. I saved all that I could, although there were plenty of times I wanted to burn the whole pile of paper or smash the computer in frustration. but after twenty years of storing them I decided it was time to make sense of them. So I began to do what I had been wanting to do for a long time— piece them into a narrative. I had no idea what the ending would be. I just wanted to understand better what had happened to Tim and me as we traveled his path of serious mental illness.
This book is the result. At first, it was all about Tim and not at all about me. But then i realized that I needed to describe better how iI felt about what was happening to Tim. When I started to do this, it dawned on me that I also needed to write more about the role I played as a policy maker in determining what happened to him….
Tim did something i found to be very courageous. He graciously gave his permission in writing for his story to be told. when he did so, I don’t think that he admired policy makers as he once had or had much respect for the rules they’ve created that affected him most directly. But I think he understood that if his story could help change the way we think and move us to action, it was worth telling. Plus, he loves me, and I love him.