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! And know these accounts are true … without exaggeration!]
Nephew Luke (Ted’s son) keeps fiancee Morgan and country safe …
“Next Wednesday is Veterans Day,” I say to my screens. “About which hero – or heroine – are we going to write?”
When do we ever do the expected? replies Screen Six, astonished. Still, we know you love our service folks as much as we do. Is there any way to honor someone for meritorious efforts and still put an ADHD twist on it?
Write about Lance, suggests Three, prompting spontaneous applause from the other five screens.
“I’m 92,” says Lance. “Though I’ve lost two of my three sons to strokes, I can say we come from a long-lived family. Dad passed at 98, Mom at 96, a cousin is still alive and sharp at 101 and I figure I’ve got a good 10 years ahead of me yet.”
Look at his aged eyes dance! claps Five.
“Tried to join the service in the second world war. Wanted to go off like all the other boys and fight for my country. But I wasn’t allowed to serve because of a perforated ear drum. Very embarrassed to be left behind, even for medical reasons. So I did the next best thing: served the boys serving the country.”
A veteran wanna-be? puzzles Four. How did he serve if … if he couldn’t serve?
“When I was 12, my folks left me with an aunt in Wisconsin while they looked for work in Texarkana. Even then, I knew I’d have to get really good at something if I were ever to escape the loneliness.
“Decided to play the piano accordion. Loved that, but it didn’t seem like I’d get far. Kept picking up instruments … got good with nearly a dozen. Then I convinced myself I could play smooth-toned trombone as well as Tommy Dorsey does, if I would just practice eight or 10 hours a day.”
Screen One’s jaw drops. That is not practice. That is a sentence.
“After six months,” boasts Lance in remembrance, “Marquette University picked me to play for their marching band. I was still in high school!”
The resulting publicity propelled Lance into numerous gigs mimicking the Big Band style of music. From there, it proved an easy step for this 19-year-old to travel the world, entertaining the armed forces slugging it out with evil Axis powers far from home.
“We went to France, Italy – the Queen even beckoned us to England! She tried to impress us with her own band, but they really weren’t very good. Since the Queen gave each of us a court representative to guide us during our time there, I asked mine to dance. She was 60!”
Lance thoroughly enjoyed playing for the Allied troops, sounding sad in explaining that the truce left him wondering what to do with his days. He did not wonder long. An invitation quickly came to play for a Dorsey: Jimmy, Tommy’s older brother. “We toured all the big venues, especially those in New York – like Radio City Music Hall and The Roxy Theatre.”
But Lance’s wife, a beauty he initially wooed at 16 (“I sent her a letter every other day and one 45rpm record every week, making sure the song had a title meaningful to us both”) and married three years later – missed their firstborn son. She returned home, granting permission for Lance to continue his musical traipsing.
“Couldn’t,” Lance confesses, voice almost too soft to hear. “Knew I’d miss the music and excitement, but missed her more.” He slaps his knee. “Told her the first time I met her, ‘I’m going to marry you.’ She said, ‘I know musicians are fast, but you don’t get to be that fast.’”
He looks up at the sky – “The sun is wonderful!” – and finishes his earlier thought.
“She stayed mine for 51 years. Lost her when I was 70 and I can’t wait to see her again.” Those dancing eyes now do what brilliant skies do not: cloud over.
“Sir, might I hear again the songs you played years ago?”
Soon seated at a baby grand piano – “grand” understates the way he makes it sound – Lance flawlessly plays “Stardust.” Encouraged by my surprised clapping, he tickles the ivories for “New York, New York.” Next he delivers several songs from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, some of which roar along at breakneck pace.
Suddenly he is leaned forward and, eyes closed, breathing hard. “OK, sir?” I ask.
“Tired, Black,” he says. “Think I might need to lie down. Sorry.”
I wheel him back to his room, gently help him into his bed, see him smile. Within moments, he passes into dreams. “Good night,” I belatedly offer in awed tones.
Rest well, urges Six, then respectfully adds, Thank you for your service, “soldier.”
Postscript: Lance so enjoyed his overseas touring that he sought new means of being able to do the same after his exit from “life on the road.”
“I learned I could win a world trip if I bought just 100 instruments from the supplier to my several music stores. So I bought a hundred, traveled widely, then bought 200 more instruments to earn another two trips.”
And you sold all those instruments? disbelieving Screen One asks through my lips.
Loren sighs and whispers in muted regret, “Still have, umm, a ‘few’ packed away somewhere.” Broad smile. “But it was great.”
* * * * *
Blackie’s Weekly Wonders [thank you, vets, for our freedom!]
Combat veterans sing this nightly …
… But this veteran gets to live it