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.

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[You in the Real World, be sure to click on the red underlined hyperlinks! And know these accounts are truewithout exaggeration!]

Doug and Leah      Dad (the Prince of Popcorn) and his oldest granddaughter, Leah

You may remember –

And you may not, counsels Screen Two. But that is why we have provided links.

– our oldest Blackwell sibling, Michael, decided he would cease celebrating the days we had lost someone in the family. “From now on,” he explains, “I am going to honor their birthdays.”

We, his younger brothers and sister, applaud this perspective and agree to follow the practice. Which is how I have come to write about my dad, Douglas Blackwell, in this week that would have notched his 88th year of life.

If ever someone were to be described accurately as a “father to the nations,” says One, Pop would be that man. He saw beyond genealogical lineages and neighborhood boundaries, making sure every child with whom he came in contact felt special.

“And he does that in so many ways, guys. One of my favorites is the summer night he steps out the front door and, observing countless children running past his perch upon the porch, cups hands to lips.”

“Freeze!” he shouts, which confuses a number of us because that is not the type of tag we are playing at that moment. “Stay right where you are and count off out loud.” He taps a young boy who stands in plain sight on our grass-less front yard. Moments later, a hesitant “Uhh, one!” is uttered.

no-cloaking“Rats!” I softly respond, having selected a first-rate hiding place beneath the gap created by our massive picture window. Calling out is going to blow my present cover and my future cloaking choices.

Still, reminds Six, your dad has instructed you. Silence is not an option.

So I do, indeed, call out “24!” and am mightily spooked when “25” arises from lips attached to a girl hiding in the same brush mere feet from me. More broadcast numbers split the night air, the last one being “51, Mr. Blackwell!”

Dad turns to Mom, who has joined him on the porch. “See?” he says with undefined delight, then rushes inside our bright yellow home at 45 Old Oak Drive.

Noticing everybody standing in somewhat frozen postures, Mom shakes her head, waves off the collection of kids in polite dismissal and apologizes. “Sorry. Go back to what you were doing.”

Three murmurs, Nobody actually says, “What is that all about?” But I have to believe the thought is going through heads other than mine.

Fifteen minutes and two games later, Mom opens the front door again and holds it wide for Pop, who is carrying two large pots. “Come and get it!” he shouts as he reveals their sacred contents:

Caramel popcorn balls! exclaims Five. Dozens of them!

The locust plagues of Egypt pale in comparison, marvels Four. Smaller hands eagerly reach, excitedly grab, greedily withdraw. Pop gently reminds one child after another that the plentiful popcorn balls are carefully calculated to provide just one per person.

The game swiftly resumes. Having been caught early on, I enter our house and walk into the kitchen, which is undergoing no small cleanup. Cookware and ingredients seem to be everywhere as Dad, happily whistling, tackles a sticky stove.

“Pop,” I tell his back, “the kids are saying how great you are.” He laughs as I add, “Thank you. That is really nice.”

“Just a little treat,” he downplays. I am about to protest, but a rhythmic sucking sound makes it way to my ears. Looking around the kitchen, I laugh in surrender. “What is that noise?”

A finger points down. My eyes take in Frosty, our cocker spaniel, tilting his head and mouth this way and that, apparently losing his battle to consume something my father fed him.

“Is he OK, Dad?” I ask, eyes wide.

“Fine. I made him his own heated little caramel ball – no popcorn – cooled it slightly and then stuck it to the roof of his mouth. He’ll be busy licking that for a bit, which will keep him from barking at all the kids – 51! – in the yard.”

Sheer genius, cheers Two. America would be just fine with a few more like him in every neighborhood.


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