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 really don’t have a choice,” my father says.
Heard that a few thousand times, eh? whispers Screen Four.
“I know, Pop, I know. It’s just the thought of the trip taking so long – ”
“Not that long, son.”
“ – and being stuck on that Amtrak train for 18 to 20 hours. Sheesh. I could run there faster!”
Dad sighs, hits “rewind” on the same conversation he’s had with his ADHD-powered son the entire Christmas break . “Let’s go over this again. It’s 20 hours to Chicago. But you two stop when your train hits Athens, Ohio, just 14 hours away.”
“Dianne and I could drive it in 10 or 11.”
“OK, then, next point. Does your twin have a car?”
Teeth gritted. “You know she doesn’t.”
“Do you have a car?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, I do!”
“No, you don’t. You may own a car,” Pop clarifies, “but you don’t have a car. You chose to leave the Camaro at home for Ted to use.”
“To top it off, there’s a snowstorm rolling up. Two tired sophomores returning to Ohio University are safe riding in Amtrak. You are not safe driving in the Poconos.”
The Pocono mountains! exclaims treacherous Screen One, siding with my brilliant metallurgical engineer father. Heavy, powerful Amtrak won’t be blown off the “road” by high winds, huge trucks or –
Moose, offers Two, then shakes his head. Canadian trains seem to meet ’em pretty often, though.
“It’s not so bad,” Dad says. “You’ll have each other for company.” He tousles my curly hair. “And I’m getting up bright and early to drive you both to the station.” Big yawn. “Have a good night.”
Doug Blackwell just ended the discussion, points out Five.
Don’t panic, Black, soothes Three. Time will fly with us entertaining.
“My very fear. All this energy. All your ideas. All in a place where I can’t even pace the floor across all those miles.”
True to my father’s carefully planned ways, we bid Mom goodbye after a tasty breakfast, slowly drive to Newark, New Jersey, and arrive with far too much time on our hands. Pop and progeny discuss the excellent family Christmas, our career dreams, the dropping temps and any other topics that leap into heads attached to bodies dreading a long rail ride.
Where IS the train? asks Six impatiently, though the Amtrak engine actually pulls in precisely as scheduled.
Both Di and I assure our father we are capable of handling the luggage we have, but he slings bags over broad shoulders and boards the train with us. He helps tuck gear in various places while cautioning us not to leave our belongings unguarded.
Count on us to stay attentive! the screens reply through my words. Dad grimaces, slowly repeats the cautions specifically to Dianne, and gives us both long hugs. He shares words of parting that, for any other moment, would bear great meaning with their love and wishes for educational success.
Not this time, murmurs One.
I see what catches One’s attention: behind my father, lights flash. Not flashing lights as in police cars, but flashing lights as in train passing one well-lit building after another with ever-increasing speed.
“Dad,” I say, “Amtrak’s rolling.”
Eyes widen as brilliant metallurgical engineering father scans the fast-moving landscape just outside the dim lighting in which we three stand.
Bet right now your dad wishes he were a different type of engineer, smirks Three.
Pop corners kindly conductor, painfully pleads, “Pause progress.”
“No drops ’til the scheduled stops,” says the ticket-punching prince, almost getting his own ticket punched. “You’ll have to ride to the first point, get off, explain what happened and ride back.” He daringly adds, “Might have to pay.”
Five calculates distances and states, Barring additional surprises, your father should return home by 8 tonight.
Twins look at one another and smile widely. I say, “It’s not so bad, really. We’ve got each other for company.”
A first-rate father laughs at tasting his own words, squeezes those trouble-making twins and asks, “Anybody bring cards?”
Postscript: Dad handles well the “stereophonic sass” from his collegiate kids. I fare less smartly when I exchange e-mail shots with Miss Brianna, 10, the elementary-school eldest of our friends’ four darling daughters. Though I write her mother, I copy young Bri and word the e-mail as if including Bri were unintentional. My youthful nemesis is not fooled ….
Blackie: Please, Mrs. Montgomery, let Miss Brianna know I have a snow shovel and a broom laid out for her to use once she arrives [for our fun weekend sleepover]. The three other children will enjoy their playtime while Miss Bri cooks dinner, makes the beds, cleans the kitchen and builds an addition on the house.
Brianna: Dear Blackie, there is more than one use for a snow shovel. My dad used a snow shovel on a raccoon because it was annoying.
* * * * *
And for still more “catty” remarks …