One of my most treasured keepsakes from my father is a letter he wrote me from the hospital. I was six or seven, and in his letter of just a few sweet sentences he told me that he would be away for a while and that it was up to me, his oldest son, to look after my mother and younger brother. He did not seem sick to me and I could not understand why he had to go away at a time when I was struggling with the nearly impossible-to-learn skills of long division and how to catch and throw a baseball.
Several years later, as a fifteen year-old completely baffled by the much more bewildering tasks of how to talk to girls and read my own emotions, my mother explained that the place where my father stayed for a month or so those years before was a mental hospital. Many years after that, my father revealed that he had been diagnosed with what was then called manic depression.
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