Because ADHD is anything but traditional, I decided months ago to skip writing about Father’s Day. Readers expect just such a column, and if this disorder is known for anything, it’s known for bringing the unexpected.
Yet the Hallmark holiday draws near, and I cannot shake the feeling that – this one time – it would be perfectly acceptable to be normal.
Nice work, Sherlock, all six screens protest. You just got us kicked out of the club, you … you Real Worlder, you!
Problem is, I don’t really understand “normal.” I’ve seen you folks demonstrate it. Certainly seems easy enough to mimic. But I’ve also heard plenty of people speaking Slavic tongues, and I can’t do that.
Unsure of how to do this, I’ll write a bit about my dad. Then I’ll write about my daughter, who isn’t a dad but whose presence on Earth makes me a dad.
As you know from earlier columns, Douglas Blackwell is a brilliant metallurgical engineer. Though he sees everything in a most logical manner – think Mr. Spock, minus the ears and stiffness but giving that special Vulcan sign – Dad connects with his children. Deeply. Lovingly.
All six of us. Even the ADHD prototypes. (Yes, I mean that term to be plural!)
What speaks so loudly to me is that Pop intentionally steps into his fourth child’s irrational, off-kilter world. (Mine.) He does it in style. He does it consistently. Doug Blackwell is no one-hit wonder.
Dad makes spaghetti with elbow macaroni to see if I think it tastes any better. He teaches me soccer despite his having been a phenomenal football all-star. He laughs with my jokes, sighs to my poems, claps at my dreams.
Perhaps one night’s events best describe my strong-bodied father’s gentle heart. I return home to the sight of our cocker spaniel running the front yard and making horrific noises. “Dad!” I shout, propelled into the house by two tiny eight-year-old legs. “Frosty’s dying!”
Leaning intently over the stove, Pop stirs ingredients in a huge, steaming pot. He calmly turns, laughs, winks and says, “The pup’s fine, son.”
“He’s not,” I shout back, tears beginning. “He’s hardly breathing!”
Dad pulls a chair from the kitchen table to himself, scoops me one-handed (the other still stirring the pot’s contents without difficulty) and places me, standing, upon the chair. “Look in the pot, son. Tell me what you see.”
Frosty’s dying and your dad’s making treats? asks one screen in disbelief.
But another reminds me, You do love popcorn balls.
“Right. Popcorn balls. I cooled the extra caramel and stuck it to the roof of Frosty’s mouth.” He laughs at my wide eyes. “The terrible sound you’re hearing is him sucking it. He’ll enjoy that treat for hours.”
Years later, the arrival of my own daughter puts a special light in my father’s eyes. He has two healthy grandsons, courtesy of my twin sister, and he loves them mightily. But as his thick wrists naturally cradle little sleeping Leah, Pop whispers, “A blondie. Just like her dad.” He kisses the tiny forehead tenderly. “Two great little boys before her, but this is the family’s first girl.”
Dad slowly turns to face me fully, perhaps to give his words more emphasis. “She’s the queen bee.”
It’s not long before Leah’s solo billing gives way to more family females. Pop, to his credit, treats all Third Generation offspring equally. He does not favor older over younger, boy over girl. But as often as he sees Leah joyfully mixing with her lively cousins, Dad smiles and softly offers, “Queen bee, that one.”
And that she is, indeed. A chip off the fatherly block, Leah carries my ADHD to new heights. Her humor is lightning fast and far more frequent. She is a singer, dancer, actress, waitress and more, knowing before she is four that one day she will marry “Caybee,” her beloved playmate Caleb.
I wonder how I might ever see something of my Real World father in very ADHD Leah. She seems too much like me – blonde, smiling brightly, talking endlessly, even starting life left-handed before switching to the Dark Side.
The first glimpse arrives in a surprising way. Leah’s third-grade classmate fearfully stands before a class brazenly mocking the boy’s unskilled artwork.
Unauthorized, the usually bubbly Queen Bee rises from her chair, strides to the front and silences the class. Turning to the boy, one she does not know well, Leah softly questions him about the drawing. He, eyes locked on shoes, mumbles unsure responses.
Leah’s six screens hit hyperfocus and digest the limited details in the breadth of a heartbeat. She spins an engaging tale about the art, pointing at colorful but indistinguishable sections as she encourages her co-presenter to describe what they represent. The talk ends powerfully, the class bursts into applause, the boy hesitantly smiles, and the teacher steps away to call Leah’s parents.
She got every bit of my ADHD, a gift of much less renown and yet undeniably, spontaneously Blackie Blackwell.
Leah, this week turning 27 (happy day!), is the best of both of us, Pop.
Happy Father’s Life to you and me.