|Grandma Stanfa, Uncle Bob, and my dad, Denny Stanfa|
As young children, my sisters and I alternated between observing him in hushed laughter, being afraid of him, and attempting to treat him the way the mentally ill should be treated.
After my grandmother died when I was thirteen, we worked together as a family to try to allow my uncle to live alone in her house. We brought him occasional meals and took him to doctor appointments. My cousins mowed his lawn, and my mother and I took his half-feral cat to the vet. We joked that the cat was crazy, too—probably insane from the half-dozen weather radios that Uncle Bob kept blaring at all times throughout the tiny house.
He told me on one of those visits that the radios helped drown out the voices.
I didn’t know how to react when he asked me if I heard the voices too, or when he mentioned receiving messages from the “All Powerful” who was spying on him.
As a child, I had never heard of post-traumatic stress disorder. Not until I asked my dad to tell me more about my uncle did I gain a better understanding.
“I remember him being a loner, perhaps kind of unusual in some ways,” said my father, who was ten years younger than his brother. “But when he came back from Korea, he wasn’t the same person. He had changed. He just wasn’t… right.”
I’m still not certain if my uncle had early signs of schizophrenia before the war, or if PTSD from his service in Korea—including the day he witnessed most of his friends around him die—was the cause of his mental illness. But I have no doubt that his time in Korea altered the rest of his life. No amount of medication, therapy, or electric shocks—the popular treatment at the time—ever seemed to help.
As an adult, I’ve grown to understand he was not alone.
All gave some. Some gave all. Some, like my Uncle Bob, ended up lost somewhere in the middle.
If he were here today, I would hug him and finally say thank you.