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!]
Handsome Ron Tijerina and his longtime bride, beautiful Catherine, co-founded “The RIDGE Project,” a nonprofit begun in 2000 to build a legacy of strong families. Though RIDGE now serves both genders equally, it originally sustained those clans who had lost fathers and husbands to felony charges resulting in prolonged incarceration.
Mr. Tijerina certainly understands that, comments Screen One. He spent no brief time behind bars himself while his wife labored alone to keep the young family together in his absence.
But Ron early on determined those years would not be lost, that he and Cathy would produce something powerful out of the extended, painful separation. And that product of their brilliant imaginations, hopeful hearts and ceaseless prayers is the reason 200 invitees today celebrate The RIDGE Project’s Inaugural Summit. This is the first step in truly taking its TYRO (“novice, apprentice, or someone learning something new,” yes, but also a “soldier” or “recruit”) coursework to the nation, teaching participants how to overcome destructive generational cycles of poverty, incarceration, and dependency.
And thus build strong families, applauds Five, breaking those debilitating patterns into which so many families fall and remain trapped.
Several speakers are lined up for the day. Persuasive Miss Mariah leads, addressing the considerable medical and insurance needs of families deprived of one or both parents. Points effectively and swiftly made, she makes ready to exit the rather elevated stage.
Go help her, Black, commands Six, but I, having seen three portable steps leading up to the left side of the platform, assure myself a similar structure exists at right. Still, insists Two, this is the gentlemanly thing to do.
“Relax,” I tell my screens. “I’m tired of always reacting first and thinking later, of being the mindless man in motion. Remember how I ‘rescued’ the Chinese gal from her burning car?” Silence. “Well, I do.” Pause, then huff, “Trust me, this woman is fine.”
Snapped her ankle, guesses Five.
Body follows limp leg and woman crashes to Earth, writhing in agony. People leap to feet and dash past frozen me and my front-row table seating. Disbelieving, I share her pain but find that mine pulses from another time, another locale.
Boss, cautions Three, do not revisit this related episode. These things happen. Yet the screens replay their ancient tragedy even as they protest my modern viewing ….
Having just learned canoe rental costs at a suburban Chicago park, I stroll the dock, well aware of being under-dressed in frigid April air. Kind of pushing the recreational season, eh? shivers Four, and I nod agreement just as a scream punishes my ears.
Two young men – teens, and brothers at that – inexpertly guide their canoe with fumbling strokes. Neither wears the requisite safety gear and, as the craft founders –
Does that mean it sinks? asks Two.
– the boys’ screams intensify.
I race back to the dock’s edge as Six shouts, Dive, Black, dive! Use those lifeguard skills! But my launch is preempted by one youngster who laughs, bends, grabs a water-soaked life jacket and easily slips into it. “They’re fine,” I soothe, embarrassed at my over-reaction.
The words do not comfort Six. See how the second panics instead of putting anything on? And the canoe itself swiftly takes on water. They may freeze and drown.
“I’ll freeze,” I lightly sling back, “and then we’ll all drown!”
Six is correct! asserts One. The two desperately clutch one another as their bodies slide into the bitter cold. Dive deep, Black. Swim underwater and come up behind the teen not wearing safety gear. The second should float for a time.
I do not dive but race to my parked car, warning surprised family I must save two drowning boys. Then I run back along the lake’s shore side, which seems closer to the duo. Stripping clothes, I stop only when frantic wails of a mother beside me prompt my eyes to look up.
One boy wildly slaps the water, life vest not enough to counter his inability to swim and his desperate motions of retrieval. He chokes and sputters and screams, a foreign tongue calling the unseen sibling.
Perhaps you can use his position to gauge the point of disappearance of the brother, suggests Four.
Rescue will not happen in the depths of this bitter cold and dark lake, sighs Three. The second is no more.
Excellent swimmer, you, whispers Six to me. National records. Yet your strength did not help this one, Black. You never even went forward. Why? he asks in confusion, and then chides, That is not us.
The words of Six apply to my failure both then and now. Sitting wordlessly amid the uproar fueled by still more rushing attendees and arriving paramedics, I burn inwardly, whelming shame coloring my face as Miss Mariah calls out in pain at each attentive touch.
You are ADHD-powered for a reason, states Three. The laughter – mocking or participatory – always will be there, Boss.
Five adds, Use what you have been given or regret what might have been. But vow this moment we shall “know” no more broken ankles … no more lost boys.
Hello, world. Here I am – TYRO, ADHD, ready – at last. Get in. Sit down. Buckle up. Hang on.
Postscript: Owens Community College is a proud partner with The RIDGE Project. And I am a proud instructor of Owens’ own superlative truck driving program, which helps RIDGE Project participants quickly get back on their feet in more ways than one.
“And I think the Terrific Tijerina Twosome – Ron and Miss Cathy – enjoy our being there,” I reply.
How do you know this? asks Four.
“Well, I could say it’s the warm letters Miss Cathy and her staff write to me after every event in which we labor together. But since a picture is worth a thousand words, I will simply post a photo of Ron (at right) wearing my bright orange glasses and let readers decide for themselves.”
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Blackie’s Weekly Wonders
You kids, don’t try this at home …
This gymnast is all heart