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!]
Professor Henry Jones: Those people are trying to kill us, Junior!
Indiana Jones [shouts]: I know, Dad!
Professor Henry Jones: This is a new experience for me, son.
Indiana Jones: It happens to me all the time.
“Stuff happens” – the politer variant of a crude bumper sticker – is true whenever those of us with Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder are nearby.
Beyond a doubt, agrees Screen One, you are magnets for trouble. It is drawn to you as surely as slugs to beer.
And yet, says Five, I find no biological basis for such an attraction. Perhaps you could cite additional examples from your brief and somewhat medically-assisted life?
Seated with seven other Blackwells at our big, round dinner table, I face a giant window. Often I am distracted by the tremendous amount of activity on the outside of that pane of glass, this despite the bedlam around me as huge appetites vie for thirds while sneaking goodies off the unguarded plates of siblings.
However, notes One, since story-telling and calorie-killing are such natural elements of Blackwellian days, you are neither quiet nor hungry despite the distraction.
This evening, quiet I am, silently watching one of the gigantic oak trees of neighbor Jack Robertson. My father, rational and engineer-minded Doug, immediately recognizes my silence constitutes something gone terribly wrong. He swiftly scans my face, then turns to allow his eyes the same view my riveted gaze enjoys.
Together, father and son watch Jack’s biggest oak, weary of life, finish swaying curiously one last time and uproot, its unspoken but clear destination the center of our populated kitchen.
Not content to visit death alone, murmurs Four, that ancient tree grabs locks branches with another titan and drags it along, slowing their motion as they topple forward.
Dad moves faster than big men should as his strong arms scoop little bodies out of dinner seats. Mom yells “Got him!” as she tugs tiny Barry free of his high chair and runs.
Impossibly, the descending tree does not reach our home, settling instead for flattening part of a backyard fence and all of our swing set. Mom shudders as she views the smashed slide, thinking aloud of how often half the neighborhood’s kids are seated there, waiting for us to finish dinner.
Ah, but dinner! I go back to that pleasant task as others chatter about the fallen giant. Dad casts a curious glance my way, studies my face, shakes his head.
Why no warning words? I am asked by Two, who already knows the answer my father does not.
“Something awesome’s about to happen.”
Since then, I’ve compensated for those “sounds of silence.” I had lots to say the night my next-oldest brother JB took out the front-yard fence portion the tree hadn’t.
Good ol’ Jeff, learning to drive, pleads, “Dad, couldn’t I at least take the car up the last of Old Oak Drive and park it?” Dad, formerly a fatherly fount of wisdom, agrees.
I believe, says Three, that is the only time your pop allowed his brains to vacation during his many years of raising you.
In backing up, JB mistakenly presses the “go” pedal rather than the “stop” pedal.
Them’s the brakes, offers clever Four.
At high speed in reverse gear, JB rips out each post of the fence nicely lining the driveway.
“Hey!” shouts Pop in a less-than-precise engineer way. Panicked Jeff zips toward a huge oak tree that defines boundaries between our property and that of our wonderful Robertson neighbors.
Dad, years earlier a collegiate football legend nicknamed Alley Oop, is no lumbering caveman here. As if he’d buttered his pants, he smoothly, swiftly slides across the extended single seat and stomps the brakes, stopping The Runaway Ride.
Our family wagon, its two occupants barely breathing, perches atop a small hill, nanoseconds from being perfectly launched through the wall of the Robertson residence. Unintentionally, Jeff expertly maneuvered our car in a manner that has it coyly sidled up to the tree, not a whisker’s room between them.
Mom bursts forth from the front door and shudders as she views the smashed fence, thinking aloud of how often half the neighborhood’s kids are seated there, waiting for us to finish our homework.
Thought this was supposed to be a Thanksgiving column, grumbles Two. It’s all about trees.
“My friend,” I console him, “do you not think the air was filled with parental praise for having kept us alive through two death-defying stunts?”
Throw in another tree story, pleads Six. That’ll teach Two to bark.
Years after JB launches the family wagon into space, a massive tree two homes up from ours shucks its upper crown and heavy limbs so forcefully the neighborhood is rocked. The Blackwell boys, back in New Jersey for a family reunion, rush up the street to view the wreckage – er, help out in whatever way we could.
Sharks to sinking ships, observes Four.
Young Mrs. Barth, homeowner, staggers out of the abode, frantic and clucking as she walks about her lawn and street, both with gargantuan pre-furniture chunks of oak strewn about. In faltering voice she assures us, “I’ve called my husband. He’ll be right home.”
We know her husband. He is Jimmy, a fine athlete in his day (though certainly no Alley Oop) and a purveyor of fine pork through his butcher market. He is a good man. It is only right we comfort his grieving wife and stay to encourage Jimmy as well through this disaster.
Screen Six starts laughing. Check out your oldest brother. An all-too-familiar look drifts across Michael’s steely blue eyes and angular face.
“Guys,” says Michael in that authoritative “don’t make me beat you up” tone which awakens our little brother survival instincts. “Guys, Jimmy’s on his way to see what damage the tree did.”
“Not much time,” Mike continues. “Take your places.”
Six words. One command. We know what to do.
Scrambling, each of us finds a massive piece of oak in the limb-laden street and, with a conspiratorial glance at one another, lifts it. “Oh, thank you, men!” says a female voice we must assume is Mrs. Barth’s, who must assume we are helping, because we assume positions that appear helpful. But no further words issue forth because …
Teamwork! broadcasts Six, thrilled. Be all that you can tree.
Death be not loud, shouts Three, amped for theatrics.
Death, perhaps, corrects One, but dying … ahh, lots of sound with that.
We gasp with intensities suggesting bodily harm. We thrash beneath logs with rowdy realism. We moan through moribund moments.
Bravo! shouts Three. You are strained professionals.
Jimmy pulls up and exits his car as if ejected by slingshot. “Omigosh!” he yells, incredulous eyes absorbing the carnage. He sees our crushed bodies writhing, thrashing, agonizing. He hears our cries for help, for relief, for medics …
For triple-scoopers at Baskin-Robbins. In a waffle cone, if it’s no bother.
Jimmy Barth, a good man now and fine athlete in his day, laughs heartily. As he extends a helping hand to free each “trapped” Blackwell, the air is filled with thanksgiving.
May it be the same for your home.
Postscript: Oldest-brother Mike (he of angular face and steely blue eyes) responds to the final story in this trio of tree-troubling tales …
I’d forgotten all that at the Barths’ home. And I’d sure forgotten that I was the humorous troublemaker.
Me? ME? I’m the straight, hardly-EVER-get-in-trouble son. YOU guys must have planted it in my head, somehow. Yeah, that’s it … that’s the ticket.
I’m STILL not admitting to anything.
Remember, Jimmy is the owner of Barth’s Pork Store. Let’s tell him that, despite extensive injuries received from the exploding oak tree, the Blackwells forgo suing the Barth family for two dozen fine-tasting hot dogs.
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Remembering “Out of Africa … into Rossford” (Nov. 7 column)