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!]
Why is Jean Blackwell’s photo in this column? Stay tuned ….
“You are not left-handed.”
Looking up in surprise at Terrence F. Shay, the man who has just spoken such an unspeakably wicked aspersion, I shift uncomfortably in my seat at the Ohio University dining hall table.
“You … are … not … left-handed,” he says again, this time chewing and spitting each word with bitter emphasis.
You write left-handed, Black, fires back Screen Five. Remind Shay that is how scientists determine hand dominance.
“Yeah,” frowns Shay noncommitally, “I’ve heard that.” He shakes his head in denial of its truth. “But you’re really a righty who just happens to do one or two things left-handed.” He points at the fork I heft. “You’re even eating with your right hand, Blackwell.”
Whispers Two, Do not check your hand. Do not give him that pleasure.
Shay, clearly and completely a southpaw, escalates his attack. “Fact is, writing might be the only thing you do lefty. I’ve watched you long enough now to know you don’t eat, cut, or throw left-handed. You just write. That’s all.”
And then he hurls his heart-halving harpoon: “You’re a pseudo-lefty. Nothing more.”
My screens vigorously defend me, but not a single point they offer is worth spouting. I clearly am a lefty-wannabe.
The table slowly, silently, sorrowfully empties of sympathetic friends. Suddenly very alone, I mentally leave the just-endured collegiate crucifixion and float back through time, finding myself a third-grader in Hillview Elementary School.
An aged face hovers before mine, her lips lashing and lacerating. “I will flunk every single paper you write with the wrong hand,” Mrs. K snarls. Taking the thick Number Two pencil out of my grasp, she wraps her two hands around my left and emphasizes, “This is the wrong hand.”
“Sinistre” is the Latin word describing someone who is left-handed, repeats One in shock after hearing Mrs. K state it first. Who says that to school kids?
I try to use the right hand. Really. I study the way my two older brothers pick up their pens. I watch my twin sister wield her writing implements. I even ask Pop why he throws lefty but writes with the “correct” hand.
He shoots me strange looks. Nothing new about that, sighs Five.
Paper after paper returns to me, angry red “F” marks marching across the page, spelling my doom with a single letter. When I fearfully protest, Mrs. K snaps back, “Just so you know, I see you occasionally switching your pencil back to the wrong hand. You’re not fooling me. Do you understand? ” She leans menacingly forward and all but hisses, “Until the entire paper is written with the right – with the proper hand – you will receive failing grades.”
The day arrives I must deliver my gradebook to inquisitive parents. Finding mom at home standing upon a ladder, paint roller in the “acceptable” hand, I tentatively extend my Death Notice. Mom descends, wipes fingers free of latex, slides the book out of its life-preserving cover and opens to the painful page.
“Behavioral checks are in all the best boxes!” she says in admiration.
Surprise, more likely, counters Three.
The intake of breath, pursing of lips, and resultant gasp tell Four, She knows! We are done for!
Weeping without restraint and begging that Dad not be shown the handwriting grade, I apologize for lying and promise I won’t hold back any more.
“Hold back what?” she asks, confused. I throw open the top drawer of my dresser and withdraw dozens of papers, every one presenting a huge X across the width and height as well as a squarely centered, severely circled “F” at mid-page.
Stunned, she drops onto the bed. “Why would you” – Mom struggles to keep tone from terrorizing tot further – “why would you hide this from me?”
Because life is something we value? queries Six.
“So afraid, Mom! I’ve tried, I’ve really tried. But I keep using my left hand and she just keeps marking F’s all over my papers.”
Mom’s face freezes, eyes wide. In very low, very calm voice, she asks, “You got an F in handwriting because you are using your left hand?”
Misunderstanding her question, I cry even harder. “Yes, yes, but I won’t do it any more. I promise!”
“Lie down,” she instructs, pointing to my oldest brother’s bed. “Do not move from here. I will be back soon.” Exhausted, fearful, I swiftly drop away from the world’s woes, returning to consciousness only when Mom again cradles my face.
“Son,” she says, her voice cracking, “you may go to school and use your left hand. Mrs. K understands you write best that way. She also understands I told her this is how it is to be from now on. And I mean it.”
Though Mom’s words are soft and comforting, her eyes are fiery embers, all but glowing in the deepening dark of the room. She pulls me to her and, as one, rocks us gently, carefully, thoughtfully. Comfort engulfs me.
There and then, I discover Mother’s Day is not a singular event occurring once yearly. And superheroes, I learn, may be sweetly scented.
Postscript: Sorry, Mom, but you get just one column in May.
Sunday is Mother’s Day, reminds Screen Two. Her birthday is right behind!
“I know. I feel kind of guilty, putting the two events together.”
As well you should, affirms Five. Though you and your twin arrive just after Christmas, Jean Blackwell insists upon celebrating your birthdays separately from the holiday.
And from one another, adds Three. She wraps gifts in proper attire – Yule paper for Christmas, birthday paper for births – and even makes separate multi-layer cakes for you and your sister.
All this, marvels One, despite the birthday of your brother Jeff exactly a week later and yet another beautifully executed cake.
“You’re right,” I sigh. “But Mom isn’t with us any more.”
“Happy Mother’s Day, Jean and JoAn. And happy birthday wishes for number – “
A gentleman, interrupts Two with a sly wink, never tells.
* * * * *
Blackie’s Weekly Wonders
Blind mom “sees” her unborn baby