Communication between you in the Real World and those of us with ADHD often proves as successful as conversation between men and women.
“Fascinating,” says friend Bob Duyckinck, “how we are all wired. What is normal to one is strange to another. I love that my wife, Shelia, sees the world differently than I do.”
Bob’s wife often comments – in startled tones – on the way the ADHD brains of her husband and daughter work. But, as Bob notes, “even we in the ADHD community have our separate issues. Daughter Julia found success through medication; I always hated the disorder (I find the rest of the world in disorder!) but developed many coping skills.
“Yet I rely on the ADHD to help me be a successful automation engineer. I run machines in my head, easily understanding processes, anticipating problems, envisioning improvements and writing control sequences.
“I’ve also learned that understanding is a bridge to acceptance, not to agreement or concession.
“My wife has learned that life with me is the same as having a golden retriever. Shelia also says that whenever we – the pets or the humans – act up, we can just put on our shoes and go elsewhere for a time” until normalcy returns.
I assume that “normalcy” is defined by Bob’s wife. (How unfair!)
Families of mixed heritages – with our disorder and those without – must find ways to correctly convey thoughts to one another. This is more difficult than cats working with dogs and expecting compliance.
Somehow, the Duyckincks and others overcome the huge difference in styles of thought. We know this because ADHD generations co-exist and life goes on. However, different families communicate through different methods.
Allow me to introduce one of the unusual ways in which Blackwells interact.
Earlier I wrote of my brother Barry swimming through sharks by strapping groupers to himself. (Barry is not a rock star high-fiver who seduces groupies for thrills. He is a speargun diver who introduces groupers to grills.)
Knowing that Barry, my scuba- and free-diving youngest brother, encounters sharks more often than I eat dessert, I e-mail him a photo of a seal, eating a shark, which the seal had just killed.
Don’t miss the point here: a seal killed a shark. Killed five sharks, actually. My sharing the news of this reversal of nature quickly sets off a communication phenomenon in the extended Blackwell dynasty that I call “threads.”
Threads occur when one family member transmits the initial e-mail, photo, video or doctored document for group consideration and all recipients respond with comments, kudos, and killer comebacks. Threads originally started as “margents,” which are easily explained.
In days of olde, it went like this: Barry writes an interesting letter. He puts this letter into “The Box,” a large-sized cardboard mailer devised by “let’s-stay-in-touch” oldest brother Mike, and sends it first-class through the U.S. Postal Service to the next sib in line, Ted.
Ted, excited that Barry has written, reads the letter and then writes his own.
Before Ted tucks his letter with Barry’s into The Box and sends it to me, however, Ted writes self-proclaimed clever comments in the margins of Barry’s letter.
Each sibling repeats Ted’s literary indiscretion, marking up earlier letters and slinging them up through the age chain until they reach our dismayed parents, who look toward Heaven and shout, “Oh, my gosh! Which kid whipped up this disaster? Exactly how much did we pay for his college?”
Her college. Meet my twin. The family’s only daughter. Our one lovely shot at good behavior. Yes, Dianne writes the first marginal comments, then cutely names them “margents” as if this will keep her out of trouble. (It does. Rats.)
“Margents” are well received by family members, as seen in the following snippet of an actual snail-mail letter. This letter, originally written by newlywed Ted, is subsequently commented upon by older brother Jeff and by me:
Ted: So, thanks to everybody for my wedding gift, the nice new grill. I pumped the gas feed button a bunch of times, then called my new wife over and said, “You gotta check out this awesome pushbutton flame starter.” She couldn’t see what I was explaining, so I said, “C’mere. Let’s lean in closer and I’ll show you by pushing the automatic starter.”
The explosion blew us back eight feet. It burned off all our eyebrows and set our hair on fire.
But even after that, my thoughtful wife showed she still loves me. Many, many times that day, she’d suddenly scream, “Ted, you’re on fire!” and slap my head until the flames were out.
Jeff: Won’t you wonder why she’s still slapping your head a week from now, Teddy?
Blackie: C’mon, Jeff. You know how wood smolders…
Postscript: Left you laughing! Left you wondering! What other methods does the barbaric Blackwell brood use? Why didn’t I finish the shark-eating seal story? Well, the thrilling conclusion makes the column too long for ADD’s short attention span. And a column on an entirely different topic will run next week. So do come back (please) Thursday for that. And then return June 20 (yes, that’s also a Thursday – seeing a pattern?) to read “the rest of the story.”
You can’t use that “rest of the story” line, one screen protests. That’s Paul Harvey’s. But you could tell readers about the time he called you a “no-talent cub reporter” and threw you out of his Chicago office …