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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

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Autumn contemplating height of Washington Monument DC   See “My daughter made a WW II veteran cry” after the postscript …

A special three-day weekend rolls up –

At high cost, lectures Screen Five, to those courageous military veterans who stepped into the fray on our behalf.

– but before celebrating America’s independence, I must keep my promise to friend Lana and her aged father. Storms uprooted impressive old-growth fir trees in Miss Lana’s spacious acreage. We are going to clear off the felled giants, make them something Washington Staters find useful:

Firewood. And plenty of it.

This should take just hours, if senior citizen Dick Murray holds up. An Olde Worlde kind of man who builds things by hand, he is in good shape.

It’s clear, though, he’s not going to match the output of a strong young buck, comments Six.

I grunt as I toss heavy tools into my tiny car, but smile even as I wheeze. Fact is, this boy’s pretty proud of the new seven-pound maul and 10-pound sledgehammer I just bought. Such weight behind my swings will speed splitting the logs.

Down the highway I zip, fairly singing as I picture Dick’s surprised face marveling while I create woodpiles all around his daughter’s property. Arriving at the toppled-tree territory, I am greeted by smiling Lana and a cool cup of water.

“Go easy on him,” she says, looking over at her father.

“Will do,” I reassure the daughter of Dick. “I realize he’s quite a bit older. I know he’ll do what he can.”

Classy, Blackie, affirms Four. Ease her fears and embarrassment.

Lana laughs. “Talking to my dad.”

Country humor? questions Six, then blusters, Sure won’t be us going down.

I walk to Mr. Murray. The hand I extend is clasped, engulfed and squeezed so hard I wonder whether blood still circulates my body. Dick sees the wince race across my face, travel most of my body and return to my eyes, which want to wet themselves.

Much like their owner, snips One.

“Sorry, son,” he says, looking at his massive hands in what appears to be true repentance for the finger fireworks.

Don’t buy it, Boss, says Six through gritted teeth. Game on.

We stand, gauging one another. I am early 30s, my hand throbbing as if it were wrapped by a python, not a mid-50s man.

Compliment him, suggests Two. He’ll relax, realize he doesn’t have to keep up with you.

“Thanks for cutting the logs into rounds,” I commend. “That will save time.”

big barDang, whistles Four. Look at the size of the bar on his chainsaw! You always work with 24-inch, maybe 30-inch saws. He could fell sequoias in single swipes.

“Let’s do this, sir,” I toss back over my shoulder as I pop the car’s hatchback and slowly, deliciously withdraw my arsenal.

Savor this moment, encourages Five. You’ll need to be kinder as the day progresses and he winds down.

Bump goes the new wedge on the ground. Thump goes the heavier maul. Whump goes the heaviest sledgehammer.

BOOM! goes something behind me. Dick stands above the “round,” which is 40 inches across. Or would be, if his very first maul swing hadn’t split the entire round in half.

Criminy, gasps Two. Who – what?- has that kind of size and power?

Dick and I look at the splitting maul his hands cradle. “Twenty pounds,” he offers unasked.

Four also offers unsought info. That’s two of your sledges, almost three of your mauls!

Dick and I look down at what now seem my Tinkertoy-sized tools. He steps closer, picks up my new maul and one-hand swings it against the half-round just created. It makes a funny sound – poink! – and bounces off.

“Fiberglass,” he mutters of the handle. Turns it upright.

High-grade, space-age resin locks handle and head, boasts Five.

“Epoxy will bust halfway through the first cord, maybe the second.” He uses his free hand to place his own wooden-handled beauty in my nine fingers. I cough at the unexpected heft. “Want to use mine, Blackie? I’ll cut more logs into rounds. You split ’em.”

orange lightningSeeing the maul’s weight is not easily controlled, Two coaxes me. What an explosion of wood when your swing is true! But Dick nicknames me “Lightning” because I rarely strike the same spot twice.

An exhausting (for me) hour later, Dick sets aside the Chainsaw That Ate New York City, picks up his maul and splits several remaining rounds in less time than I bust the two beside me. He studies my face, gently counsels, “You’re tired, Blackie. Let’s stop and return next week.”

Plenty of steam left! retorts Six. But as I stumble to the car, what leaves my lips sounds more like, “Great idea.” I’m wearily pulling away when Dick’s words box my ears. “You may want real tools.”

“I like shopping the women’s section.”

Pricing 20-pound mauls is without merit. I can swing neither cost nor tool. Is one week enough time to buy weights and bulk up? wonders Two.

The following Saturday morning arrives and I, out of time, desperately ask my screens for ideas –

Generating thousands daily, touts Four.

– that will get me through the good-natured Mighty Murray’s mocking, because it’s clear I’ve lost the battle.

Just gotta go out gracefully, says Five.

In the midst of many ridiculous schemes, Screen Three produces a winner. I laugh, prep myself per his instructions, and oh-so-carefully drive down the highway to Miss Lana’s forested homeland.

My “aged” competition is primed. “Same lightweight tools,” he observes with a Cheshire Cat grin. Lana laughs as Dick asks, “Sure you’re ready for work, Blackie?”

“Yep,” I smile back. “Even have new clothing.” Dick scans me but shakes his head. “Oh, can’t tell what’s different?” I fill the already hot July air with a falsetto, “Let’s do this, sir,” and remove my work shirt, revealing a …

Gleaming white bra.

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Postscript: On an Independence Day of a different year, I find myself serving as makeshift mascot for the Ridgefield High School “Spudders” of Washington State. Tucked inside a giant potato costume on July Fourth, I madly run up and down the cordoned-off highway’s two-mile parade route, shaking veterans’ hands, kissing babies’ faces and flinging candy everywhere.

Should you mention it is 95 dehydrating degrees? asks Screen Two.

Heat inside the costume quickly reaches “baked” levels.

But onlookers’ laughter and cheers, Six proudly states, spur the prancing potato to greater antics yet.

Dry breaths comes harder, faster, unsatisfying. I reach the route’s end, find my parked car and unexpectedly drop, still inside Mr. Potato Dead. A passerby rushes over, slides me out of the heavy gear, pours his half-consumed water bottle into my liquid-longing lips. “You OK?” he asks, eyes scanning my drained face.

“Gonna make it.” Gasping. “But I … I’m French fried.”

* * * * *

We understand freedom isn’t free and thank our heroes across the decades!

My daughter made a WWII veteran cry

Military mom surprises 13-year-old son

SSGT Barry Sadler tells The Ballad of the Green Berets

Young son with cerebral palsy walks to returning veteran dad

Lee Greenwood asks that God Bless the U.S.A.

Soldier causes her father’s jaw to drop

Phil Vassar sings of an American Child