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!]
Metallurgical engineer – that would be Douglas Blackwell, my dad – singing Christmas carols.
He is, comments Screen One, neatly tucked among your favorite Yuletide memories, is he not?
Reminisces Three, You even have the splendid version of “Little Drummer Boy” your father so loved.
“True. And true,” I admit. “But I have other wonderful holiday moments, too.”
Mind if we play one that wasn’t so special at the time – but is now? asks Four and, not waiting for my approval, rolls the scene, which opens with our daughter bouncing into the living room.
“Have you got all your lines memorized, Daddy?” queries an excited little blondie, perhaps 10 at the time.
I sigh in frustration. “No, SweetPea.”
Stepping near the wonderful wood-burning stove and positioning her buns in just such a way as to maximize their being superbly heated, Leah expresses genuine surprise. “You don’t usually have a problem.”
Right, notes Five. But this is the first time Blackie’s tried memorization since The Accident earlier this year.
“Dad, you helped the choir director write the Christmas play. These are your words.”
“Doesn’t seem to make a difference, Bug. It’s just – well, blank. No retention.”
“Ohhh,” ponders a deep-thinking daughter, who has shared theatrical stages with her father since she was six. “Hey,” she says and snaps her fingers, “maybe I could help you learn the lines! I’ll feed ’em to you until you can repeat some back to me.”
Within just three readings of all the lines in the play, Leah (to my monumental chagrin) sets aside the play script and coaches me from memory. Perfectly.
She’s your daughter, laughs Six. Has your ADHD gift of hyperfocus.
Countless repetitions later, I tell my listless youngster, “I will pay you.”
To sit in the front row, explains Two, and slip your dad his lines when he goes blank.
“Every time you rescue me, you’ll earn 75 cents,” I offer in my best Howard Hughes tones.
Wow, yawns Three in time with Leah’s, your kid is way impressed by the big bucks.
Still, Leah agrees to the arrangement. We even hustle over to the stage to give it a couple of test runs before the crowd arrives.
Flawless, admires One, who rarely compliments.
Opening night. Packed house. Music flows, spotlight glows, peace grows. Veteran thespian Three slows my pace, adds untried dramatic elements. Like pauses.
“The death of the Christ Child is plotted by …” I thunder, then powerfully hesitate for one, two, three extra beats.
“King Herod and his men!” shatters my silence. Is anybody else hearing what I hear?
The magnificent stage whisper uttered by my beaming blondie is not lost on the attentive crowd, now laughing all the way to the back row. I let the laughter die to regain the moment, but tiny lips misread the delay and issue hints once more. “Daddy, ‘King Herod and his men!’”
Shaken and stirred, I now understand I have created an uncontrolled whirlwind. There will be no escape, since I realize I no longer remember the lines following Leah’s twice-repeated phrase.
A young child’s eager voice rises a third time, sighs Two, and a father sinks.
Somehow the play catapults to an ending and much applause. Lights go down, viewers go home, prompters go crazy. “I rescued you!” announces doting daughter, demanding Daddy dollars. I weigh contesting her view of the rescues.
Pay up, Pop, commands Six. Any last words of wisdom about the evening?
“Yes,” I say, shaking my head. “The next show better end in a Silent Night.”
Postscript: I am used to seeing co-worker Mike expertly wheel his loaded forklift around our window factory. But I am not used to seeing him in a red-and-white St. Nick costume that accentuates his African-American coloration.
“Hey, Big Mike,” I call out above the din. A forklift slows in response, a red-capped head turns to look at me, and I shout, “Didn’t know Santa Claus is black!”
He laughs with a bass as deep as his heritage, then slings right back, “You should have, little guy. You’re obviously one of my elves!”
* * * * *
Wait ’til he gets the bill!
Clifford whines … and we weep with him
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