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!]
“Eloquence” and “persuasiveness” are not the same as “mindfulness” …
“Guys,” I say to my screens, “think I’m in trouble.”
You? laughs Screen Three in mock surprise. How can you be in trouble? We haven’t said a thing!
“My column goes live in four hours. Haven’t written a word!”
Nonsense, replies One. You’re writing as we speak.
What’s the problem, Black? asks Two.
“May bump the column I had planned to run.”
Spontaneity is courageous, admires Six.
“But not a good idea.”
What could possibly go wrong? ask the screens in unison.
“You guys sound like Thor,” I say, shivering. “I just think people may take it the wrong way.”
Black, reassures Four, folks misunderstanding you is a lifelong event. Why change now?
Tell me what you plan to write, counsels Freud-sounding Five, and I’ll analyze its danger factor for you.
“Screens counseling me about danger? That’ll be the day.” I shake my head. “It deals with last week’s column, actually.”
As Captain Obvious, comments One, I remind you that’s already written.
Do most of your readers, wonders Two, have damaged short-term memory like yours?
“Wha-? Why would you even ask that?”
“You’re not hearing me. Last week I wrote about the Blackwell family losing beloved Big Boy No. 2 – Jeff, JB, Big Blackie – back in 2000.”
Yes, affirms Five. We were there for both … Jeff’s passing and the column.
“At the same time, I cited the unexpected death of my wonderful father.”
Are you worried about the reaction to the family laughter that occurred during the wake? wonders Four. You handled the topic respectfully.
“Thank you, Four. But actually, I’m worried about the opposite.”
What’s the opposite of laughing? queries theatrical Three. In my life, it’s been booing. Get the hook! Familiar with that, I am.
“Many good-hearted people thought I had just lost Dad.”
You wrote right in the “ADHD Powered” postscript that Doug Blackwell passed in 2006, asserts Four.
And didn’t read the column to learn details? finishes Three.
“ – and thought Pop’s death had just occurred.”
No problem, says Six, who carries a big hammer and sees all problems as nails. Fix it. Tell ’em now.
Screens roar, laughing and repeating this unfamiliar word multiple times.
“Listen, there’s been an exceptionally heartfelt outpouring toward my family and me over this ‘recent’ devastating development. While Pop’s loving influence is so big and strong it does feel like he passed mere days ago, that’s not accurate. Worse yet, excellent childhood friends DID lose their dad last week.”
Black, says Five, using the therapist tone my beautiful brown-eyed bride employs, you told the truth. Look at the feelings behind the feelings. This isn’t about the present. Dip into the past to see what’s generating all this hesitation with which we’re so unfamiliar.
“Already know the answer. Don’t want to go there again.”
Easy as 1, 2, 3, cheers Six. It’s like a walk in the park. Piece of cake. Shootin’ fish in a barrel.
Sometimes, murmurs Two, Six scares me. Anyway, tell your story.
An Ohio University freshman far from home and late for class, I look into my closet and see that I’m out of clean clothes.
Not completely, notes One. Your upper-crust attire remains pristine.
Fashionable Three agrees. Throw on a crisp shirt, a smart tie, those pressed slacks and knock ’em dead.
My ensemble completed by shined shoes, this sharp-dressed man steps out into the dormitory hallway and immediately encounters Big Dave, a friend with whom much uplifting banter –
Blarney! corrects Three.
– has been exchanged.
Rather fills the hallway, doesn’t he? comments Five.
“Look at you, Black!” he says, scanning my never-seen-before “good” clothes. “What’s the occasion?”
At Three’s coaxing – He’ll laugh so hard! – I drop my eyes, feign sadness, speak to the ground: “Lost Mom last night.”
All 335 pounds of high-school wrestling star wrap themselves around me, effortlessly lift me off my feet and suspend me in a tear-filled hug. I am smothered against a mighty chest that heaves in deep, deep waves of emotion. Sobs seeming the size of Saturn escape my friend.
A friend, indeed, sighs Two. It’s only you and Davy … tell him. Now. While he has the chance to brush tears without public comment.
“Hey,” I add with an attempted chuckle, “my mom – ”
“I know, I know,” interrupts this weeping giant. “Couldn’t tell you guys at breakfast, either. My own mom” – he struggles to breathe amid the choking tears – “died last night, too.”
He gently puts me back on what should be Terra Firma, but I am spinning madly.
Screen Six urges, Check Davy’s face for signs of laughter, but five other screens confirm none exist. Amid silence broken only by sniffled sighs, we face one another, hearts aching for reasons separated by light-years.
I do not see the mammoth hand reaching, squeezing my shoulder and back simultaneously. “Thank you, Blackie,” rolls out in a voice too gentle for that powerful frame.
“Such sadness,” I whisper. He walks five paces, looks back with a sideways glance, issues a phrase that’s sadly held true four decades.
“We’ll never forget this.”
May his pain make us better men, exhorts Six.
Postscript: Weeks later, I take the heat for Screen Three and apologize to Big Dave. As I explain my tendency to “speak first, think later,” angry tears of betrayal course his face, though his huge well of kindness forgives my all-too-quick ADHD comment.
While this hard lesson has taught me –
Taught? jabs Three. Others live and learn. We just crash and burn!
– to be far more cautious about dire statements outside the family, word battles still rage within, as evidenced by my next-youngest brother’s intentionally, humorously misleading comment following last week’s column.
Thor: I go see dad at the hospital the evening he passes. He is weak. I know from looking at him he has hours, if not minutes, left with us in our world. His eyes catch mine as I enter his hospital room in the critical care ward. He slowly motions with his hand to come nearer; tears well up in my eyes as I start crying on possibly the longest walk I have ever had. I sit next to his bed. He musters all his strength, pulls me close, whispers:
“You, Teddy… are my favorite child.”
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