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Imagine yourself in a multiplex movie theater. Curiously, no walls separate the half-dozen theaters that form the multiplex. Miraculously, you are watching six different screens all at once, thoroughly understanding and enjoying every scene, word, character.

Welcome to ADHD. 

[You in the Real World, be sure to click on the red underlined hyperlinks!]

Granddad Albert

“Feelin’ sentimental,” I confess to my six screens. “So, tell me what you know about the photograph above.”

A hint, at least, begs Screen One as the other five jostle one another in rising to the challenge.

No clues! shouts Six. It’s not like we haven’t got a good mind of our own.

“The elderly gentleman is Albert Blackwell. He is my father’s father. Were he still among us, this very week would have been his umpteenth-something birthday.”

How imprecise, shrugs Four. He’d be 116, a longevity for which Blackwells are not known.

Says One, I already know the three younger chaps around him are Barry, you and Thor.

“Right. That’s a no-brainer. But what’s special about the photo itself?”

Black-and white, declares Four. Dark-ages relic.

“More special than that.”

Two takes a guess. The three youngest are paying attention?

Asks Six, Is it because all four shown in the photo are male Blackwells, yet nothing dangerous is happening?

“No, no, and no,” I reply with a laugh. “It’s because it was the very last photograph taken of first- and third-generation Blackwells.”

Wrong, Gumby! asserts Three. Your family took photographs all the time. Your dad lived behind his Polaroid, whipping up all those instant B&W snapshots. And when James Garner and Mariette Hartley told him he could now take instant color shots? Beside himself.

“Right,” I say, “but look who’s in the shot. My father’s father – Granddad Albert – and then three of my father’s own kids.”

Lost me, says Five.

“No,” I sigh, “lost Albert. Forever, after this.” A deep breath. “Last photo ever taken of Granddad, sneaked by my mom as Albert tells a trio of enraptured boys several wild tales from his own youth. Two weeks later – we hadn’t even got back the processed film yet – Albert and his sister Mae are murdered in their Denver high-rise.”

Silence. Deafening. Full of pain. Loss. Worlds spinning.

“So here we were, Grandpop and grandsons talking and laughing and daring to think for the first time there might be four generations of Blackwells showing up for a family event. Then a man with a small mind and smaller life steals our dreams and elders, his unforgiving steel carelessly cutting history.”

Your grandfather died in June 1981, correct? asks Four. He does not await my confirming answer. And your twin sister Dianne’s baby, Jason, the first in the entire family for that generation, appeared in March 1982?

“What of it?”

The dates suggest that out of the terrible sadness arose young Jason, whose conception – his very beginnings of life – within mere days of Albert’s life ending helped pull all of you out of your downward spiral.

 And, shouts Six, brought you back to three generations! Before a year had passed!

 “I admit it, guys,” I say, quietly. “Hadn’t seen it that way before.”

Then we need to expand your horizons, offers One.

 “Oh?” I laugh in surprise. “And how will you screens do that to me?


Grandkids Luke and Livy flank Granddad

For starters, let’s use your father, offers Five.

Um,” I murmur, reluctantly, “go easy there.” I say this distantly, somewhat wistfully. “That’s a different pain, but fresh, too new. Lost Pop in ’06 but I still see him from years earlier, bent over a buoyed lane, cheering me in the midst of another hard-swum, 50-meter butterfly race.”

Caution noted, says Two. And because of your loss, we’ve worked hard to keep you plied with fresh images from those days. Long-term memory functioning at full capacity.

But the point, interjects Five, trying to recapture his original thought, is that when your father passed, you still had three generations. It wasn’t until your heartbroken mom joined Doug in early ’08 that you again dropped to two generations: you and your sibs became the new upper, older tier; daughter, son, nieces and nephews formed the second.

Think about it, says Three. It’s all very dramatic. There are so many of you Blackwells running about the world, yet you’re down to just two –

Your entire clan is diminished, Six interrupts. How easy it would be at this point to dread life for its losses rather than live it for its joys. But you, laddie –

“What are you, a Braveheart castoff?”

you and your sibs never lapsed into that, choosing instead to keep going forward, wringing every drop of enjoyment out of the moment instead of peering fearfully about.

 “So is my Attention Deficit Disorder (‘Hyperactivity’ seasoning included in rather generous doses) responsible for that?”

No, says Five, with Four concurring. I believe it is your family trait, because all of you manifest this wonderful survival gene. While ADHD is positive and certainly life-at-its-fullest oriented, not all of you manifest the disorder.

If you had, assures Six, your mother would have preceded your father in death.

And, perhaps most interesting of all, continues Five, is that the trait runs strongest in the lone female of your generation.


Grandma cuddles Camden Edward Strete

DiAnnie Oakley, as you boys so often call her, is a sharpshooter in more than just name. Remember, she restored your family to three generations by having Jason.

 “You make it sound intentional. Babies arrive as the result of many reasons.”

Yes, says Four, following my lead. She is known for being a fan of fun.

Six and One applaud and shoot each other smirks.

“I meant comfort,’ you low-rent Etch-A-Sketches.” 

Regardless, insists Five, the first child to break the 67-month reign of just two generations comes through whom?


 She being the beautiful one-year wife of –


 – the firstborn of Dianne.

 “Crikey!” I shout. (Six mutters, Bit part in Crocodile Hunter, mate?) “You’re on to something here.”

Right, nods Four. You’ll always be this close to three generations of Blackwells as long as Dianne’s brood continues their winning ways. Feel better?

You shouldn’t, injects Five. Their last name is Strete.

It’s all right, whispers One. They’ve got that bodacious Blackwell blood coursing their veins, and the name will throw Death off the trail. Clever!

 Screen Shot 2013-04-26 at 6.52.03 PMPostscript: Since this week’s column is about generations, you probably should “hear” the exchange between our friends, four-year-old Mason and his young, very fit mom.

Lauren and MasonMason: I don’t wanna get old.

Lauren: Neither do I, Mase.

Mason: Well, if you do push-ups, then you won’t get old. That’s all I know. I don’t know anything else.

Lauren: Okay. I will keep that in mind.

Mason: Wellllll, you should really do push-ups because I don’t want you to die.

Post-Postscript: Granddad Albert’s birthday always arrived one day (and quite a few years) before the birthday of my next-youngest brother, Ted. Albert (who is gone) proved himself a bit wiser about his annual celebration then does Thor (who is with us), as you’ll see in this terse but tragic Ted-told tale …

I take Luke to basketball practice and jog an outside track, closing my eyes to “envision” myself making great football moves. I “fall” off the side of the track – nearly nine inches! – and hear my ankle go “pop.”

This is not good.

 I feel a little twist farther down the knee and hear a loud “Pop!” emanate from deep within.

This REALLY can’t be good.

Another jogger sees the whole thing and kindly rushes over to help me. “Thanks,” I tell him, “but I’m just resting.” He laughs all the way to his car. Probably home, too.

So here I am on my birthday, a softball-sized ankle beneath me. And it’s raining.

“Since you’re stuck inside, Birthday Boy, maybe you and Mason should do some pushups. Then you won’t get old. That’s all I know. I don’t know anything else.”