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!]
This is not going to be a sad story.
It’s a column, not a story, points out Screen One. And that’s a most curious way to begin it.
“It involves death and the loss of a loved one.”
“A loved One?” repeats One incorrectly. I die? I die and you don’t think that’s sad?
“You are loved, One. But you are not the loved one we lose.”
“Mind if I proceed?”
This is not going to be a sad story. It does have sorrowful elements, however. Those elements revolve around the Blackwell family, already reduced by the death of one –
There it is again! shouts One. I’m a goner, aren’t I?
– beloved brother, Jeff, who passed back in July of 2000.
Oops, whispers One, red-faced. Sorry ’bout that, chief.
And made smaller yet again by the equally unexpected death of Doug, honored father and patriarch of that bold Blackwell brood.
Bold is good, says Six.
The word has gone out to all corners of Earth –
Earth is round, corrects Four. Minor point. But important in a column promising honesty and accuracy at all times.
– that Dad has passed and we will be holding his memorial service in the next town over. Invitations to attend are freely extended.
And freely accepted, comments Two. Your dad is a hero to many people.
In shock, I – who had seen my brilliant father so vibrant at a family reunion just one week earlier –
Maybe, theorizes Five, he waited until after the entire clan gathered so he could say goodbye in his own way.
– ask my lovely bride to drive the heavy-hearted hours with me from Ohio to New Jersey. There we meet up with mournful Mom and my four remaining sibs.
Mike, Dianne, Ted and Barry, Three recites in order of ages. Jeff, of course, is no longer among you.
“Ouch, Three. I made that clear in the beginning. Weren’t you listening?”
Certainly. But your Real World readers only have one screen to help them. Repetition can’t hurt.
Time slips past unnoticed until final visitors are ushered out and we, his children, are escorted into a smaller side room.
Wearily we sit, exhausted by the throng of well-meaning friends. Memories stroll down our cheeks in telltale tears as each of us scans the face of another to see how all are holding up under the strain. Mom finally breaks the strength-sapping silence.
“He was a … a good dad,” she says, voice straining to complete her thoughts. “He loved you kids.”
Unbidden, my screens roll image after image of the many ways in which Doug Blackwell showed how every single child he raised was his “favorite.”
“So I thought it would be nice,” continues Mom, “if we would show him how much we love him, miss him, by saying something special.”
Screen Six whispers, I know this is tough, lad. We’re here for you. We’ll get you through this.
Laura squeezes my hand. Two murmurs, I asked her to do that.
Mom stands, shivers a moment, then walks to a table by me. She picks something up off it, takes a deep breath, turns to face us.
“I bought six candles. There’s one for each of us to light in remembrance.”
“Mike is oldest, so he can start. I will finish for us.” She calls each of us forward to receive a candle.
“You have the first candle, Mike. Diannie, you’re next. Den, here’s yours. Teddy, you have one and then I have one.” Mom looks down at the single candle remaining on the table. She peers around, deeply puzzled, and sits once more.
“Wait!” she commands, shaking her head. “Mike, the twins, Teddy.” She counts her fingers. “Why did I buy six? Mike, Jeffy’s gone, Di, Den, Teddy. And me. Who’s missing?”
Problem, alerts mathematician Four, as if I didn’t already know it. Your distraught mom forgets the “baby” of the family.
That same fact registers on three other surprised faces. Mine joins them in looking at Barry.
Hahahaha! bursts Three into laughter. Barry’s sitting right next to your mom, dramatically rolling his eyes and silently pointing at himself!
Dianne, far more disciplined than her youngest brother and Screen Three, fights smiling and gently says, “Mom, the sixth candle is for Barry.”
The room explodes in unparalleled laughter. Barry, embarrassed, introduces himself to Mom. Most of his words go unheard, falling prey to the raucous noise, but five Blackwells – taught long ago not to swear – clearly hear Mom’s frustrated response.
“Well, chit! Chit, Bar!”
We slap each others’ knees, roar amid our tears and, visibly heartened, bid our most excellent father farewell.
Postscript: In 1997, my 10-speed bicycle and I endure a rather one-sided encounter with a speeding white Toyota. As I’ve done every year since then, I awaken on Aug. 28th, check the clock and rejoice I am alive.
For me, 2006 is no exception: I’ve made it to another anniversary.
Hours later, though, I learn from Michael that our family loses Pop to what originally appeared a small difficulty but swiftly, unexpectedly became life-ending. The official medical reckoning of his Earthly goodbye is precisely sixty seconds later than my personal awareness of awakening this same morn.
My screens often weigh that single minute of shared life and wonder why it was orchestrated in such a fashion. Perhaps it is to help me understand the importance of every moment. Perhaps it is to treasure the brief time “together” with Dad before his death.
Perhaps I will never know.
But this I do know. Pop’s love for us and others flowed so fully, the trampled grasses of our childhood home’s front yard often hosted countless neighborhood youngsters drawn to his warming, welcoming presence. That detail alone should tell you the measure of the man.
I miss our hero.
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Unless there’s something in it like THIS …