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After decades of separation from his father, a member of Step Up on Second shares his experience, strength, and hope through the true story of the recent healing and renewal of their father-son relationship.
By Les Jones
“I have spent half of my adult life being homeless. I once saw a doctor that said that most people get their first mental break in their late teens and early 20s. But I was different. I showed signs of mental illness almost from the start.
Having a mental illness and not knowing what was going on, things were tough for me and my family. I was striving to see what was wrong and my dad, in particular, couldn’t figure things out. Instead of recognizing that I had a mental health issue, he thought I was just bad.
So almost from the start, things have been rough with my father. He could not understand what I was doing or thinking, which resulted in no communication with him. My sister once suggested that maybe I needed professional help, that the troubles I was having were treatable. There were answers for what I was fighting, but I resisted them, thinking “I must just be bad”. It finally came to a head in November of 1998, when I saw my family for the last time and became completely separated from them.
After several years of living in the streets, hopeless and lonely with low self esteem, not knowing what was wrong, I finally remembered what my sister said and sought help through Step Up on Second in September of 2000. I was put on a program of medication and supportive recovery services and my life began to stabilize. Since 2002, I have remained housed (a big feat for me). I have also held a job for 3 years straight. Another big feat.
In 2009, a hurricane went through Houston, my home town. I was concerned how the family was. I called my brother, but the line was disconnected. I looked up my uncle on the internet and found his address and phone number. With the support of a friend at Step Up, I called and left a message. I began to speak with my uncle on several occasions.
One day my aunt called to tell me my uncle had died. She said he was really proud of me and always spoke highly of me. She said that my half brother James was at the funeral. I always felt a tie to James and asked her to let him know I wanted to get in touch. Four or five days later he called and we reestablished contact after all those missing years. The next December James came to California for a reunion with me.
Last Father’s Day, while sitting at my computer, my girlfriend, Sarah (another gift!), whispered in my ear, “Why don’t you call your Dad and wish him a Happy Father’s Day?”
I thought awhile. I had never done that before. I said OK, and gave my father a call. I wished him a Happy Father’s Day. It was short and sweet. Maybe 30 seconds, but it was a start. He seemed happy that I called and I am glad I did it.
We later on spoke again for a short time. The tentative reconnection was
I decided that I wanted the family to meet my lady Sarah. A few weeks ago, we flew down to Houston for a long weekend. It was the first time we had all been together in 12 years. The communication was great with everyone, even my dad.
When we left, my dad and I hugged – the first in a very very long time. I was able to say to him, “I love you Pop… Thanks for all you have given me.” I think I choked him up. I found out it’s never too late to go home. And I so am glad I did.”
Donations can be sent c/o Step Up Development
11693 San Vicente Blvd. #902, Los Angeles, CA 90049 • Phone (310) 696-4510 x2200
or online at www.stepuponsecond.org/donate
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