Personally Speaking

ADHD has been both a blessing and a curse in my life. While it has given me a reason for much of the negative or less than favorable events of my life, it now leaves me trying to undo many of those things that have shaped me as an individual.

Good or bad, the decisions we make throughout our lives create who we are as individuals and help to define our personalities, morals, and values. Included in all of this, are the people in our lives. It is the people who come and go, our families, our friends, and even those unsavory individuals who would not have been missed, had they not show up in the first place. Sometimes it is the people closest to us that can cause the most grief. It is, in the majority of cases I’m sure, not done intentionally. It is because of their position in our lives as husbands, wives, close friends, and siblings, that they have the greatest impact on decisions that we make. It is these people that we look to when there are big decisions to make. Their thoughts and ideas carry more weight than those opinions from people we haven’t known quite so long or respect as much. As a result, their comments are sometimes hurtful.

Before I continue, let me give you some insight as to who I am emotionally. Of my mothering ability, my sister said to me when I was all of 15 years old, that she thought I was capable of raising a child even at that age. Not that I would have ever acted on this but I have been ready since that age, to be in the roll that I now have. My self esteem has always been on the low end. I think this comes as a result of the many struggles I’ve had associated with ADHD, undiagnosed until 6 years ago. I feel as though I have failed more than I have succeeded and when I do succeed, the moment is brief. My own family that I built with my husband, and the family that I have grown up in, mean more to me then the air I breathe. So it only made sense that I would want to instruct them on the dynamics of the ADHD mind so that they would be better able to help me. It was imperative that they understand the struggle that I deal with everyday so that when they wanted to give me advice, it would fit neatly into how my thought process works. It made total sense to me: if I tell them how everything works, then the information they give me is already in ADHD format.

There was one huge problem, they didn’t wanna know. In my mind, this was so totally out of sync with everything that made sense to me. These are my family, why would they not want to help me in the most efficient way possible?

I have had elaborate conversations with them about how I need to “just do it….”,  “just spend a few hours every morning…”, “all you need to do is…”, it gives me a headache just thinking about it. When conversations like this would come up, I would launch into my shpeal of how my thought process works. I thought they would be eager to know. I’d tell them how it’s not as simple as they make it sound, about what my brain is capable of processing at any one time, but it was never enough. It made it sound like I was making excuses. I have no reason to make excuses.

Here is some background history on a sensitive issue: my husband and I designed our beautiful little cape style house, from the size of the foundation to the shingles on the roof and all that’s in between. While working on the house, I went into premature labor with our first child. He delivered at 24 weeks and 5 days gestation. I spent my weekdays living in the Providence, RI Ronald McDonald House while he continued to work on the house. On weekends, I came home and helped out. Said child turned 12 this last October.

Now, I love this house my husband built for us. I have never, ever, regretted anything about building it or disliked anything about it. I beam with immense pride when people ask about the house or complement its design. The knowledge that is stored in Will’s brain to build something so fabulous, amazes me even still today. I’ll never forget him saying, “I want to build a castle for you and our children.” And he did. Blood, sweat, and even a few tears, were shed in its construction. There hasn’t been a day when I haven’t been proud to live here. On the few nights when the boys were afraid to go to sleep, I’d tell them, “Your dad built this house, monsters can’t live here.” It was always enough for them to snuggle down in their beds and go to sleep.

A few years ago, Will was angry with me again. We had been arguing and he said that I didn’t respect this house enough to take care of it. I was floored. I was hurt deeply, couldn’t even believe that such a statement was said out loud. This house is my life. It contains the lives of three guys who make my life whole. Me, as wife and mother, am responsible for keeping the home light burning, for keeping the house looking respectful and welcoming. Stay caught up on the laundry, keep the kitchen and bathroom clean, and be able to have friends over for dinner at a moments notice. While he was upset at my lack of skills, I felt like he was trying to make me be like his mother. I love and respect her but I will never be like her. We are very different people. She doesn’t understand me either, but that’s okay. She doesn’t need to.

As I sat mulling over his comment, I remembered something my mother said to me when I was a teenager. I was likely supposed to be cleaning my room or doing something around the house that wasn’t getting done. She said, “When you have your own house, its going to be a mess…,” and so it came to pass, my own self fulfilling prophecy. That will never leave my mind.

My sister is another story. Things have gotten ugly with her on at least one occasion. I was desperately trying to explain to her why I am the way that I am. She was here at my house. We were standing in my quaint kitchen with it’s white and green tile counters and maple cabinets that I had picked out myself. I was backed in a corner, literally, between the stove and sink. She kept on comparing me to her clients, she’s a recreational therapist, and there is no comparing. We are apples and oranges I said, they will heal, I will not. They can overcome their addictions, my ADHD will never go away, it can only be managed. I found my backside up against the edge of the counter, my heart was ready to break through my chest and the hair on the back of my neck was standing up. My blood pressure was rising and I was very angry. In a quiet voice I said, “You need to leave.” But she kept on talking. A little bit louder now, “You need to go home.” She didn’t leave but the rest of her stay, until the afternoon of the next day, was strained.

My dad has become my go-to guy. When I have issues relating to my ADHD, I call him. We’ve had lots of conversations, a few of them pushing an hour long. He understands better than most, partly because we think he has it too. He’s read tons of info which often gets passed on to me. While I don’t always remember to read it, I know its all there waiting for me.

My husband continues to be my biggest challenge. He says he understands what it is but he isn’t any more accepting of my different way of thinking. We often end up in a rut, both wanting the other to be something other than what we are. While I believe that’s its easier for him to be more flexible with me, he’s feeling cheated because he works all day and comes home to find out that I really haven’t done much, according to his way of doing things. “I can do in a couple what it takes you all day to do.” Thanks for the reminder.

There have been days when I feel as though he is lost to me. I often feel that I will never meet his expectations. I’ve been this way for at least 38 years. How much time do I have to figure this all out? How consistent do I have to be in order to redeem myself? How much is good enough? The large chasms in our relationship where we seem to just exist together, are frequent. He tolerates whatever it is I’m doing, or not doing as the case may be, and I try to work through the void that has been left in his wake. I have piles of reading that give ideas and plans but he gets frustrated when things don’t work and he doesn’t like reading. I want him to come to counseling with me but its always an infringement on his time and paycheck, even if its only an hour per month. Here, the little voice in my head says, he doesn’t think you are worth the time. Someone said to me, when I voiced this out loud, that maybe he is afraid. He may be worried about being thrown under the proverbial bus, worried that maybe he’ll be judged. My initial reaction is no, that’s not like him at all. I just can’t imagine him being afraid of anything. That being said, he is like most men and does not discuss his feelings with me. He would rather slink away and brood, letting hurt fester until at some point, it blows, widening the already wide chasm between us. While I hate being on the receiving end of his knife-like sarcasm, I’d rather he let it out. Better out than in, right? By going to counseling with me, he has a place to let it out where he won’t be judged. I desperately need his help and this is such an easy thing to do. Leave work a half hour early, join me for an hour session 2 times per month. Get things out. Work with a different clinician who has a better plan. Help me make a game plan for us and for the boys. What could it hurt? How much is “fixing” me worth?

So these people, these are the biggest, most important ones. They make my world go round. Now, my handsome boys can be added to that list, too. While my youngest seems more concerned with his next game of Minecraft, my oldest is grasping some of the issues I have and helps out on occasion. He is mature beyond his age and I hope that stays with him. While I’m not sure about this rollercoaster ride with my hubby, I can say for now that we need to find a happy medium, something that works for both of us. In the heat of the moment, that is hard to think, much less say. If he’s willing to work without pointing fingers, I am too.

Dear Grandpa, Its Memorial Day

me & Grandpa abt 1986Dear Grandpa, It’s Memorial Day weekend and you have been on my mind this weekend. Yesterday was the picnic with the in-laws. It’s become less of a family gathering and more of a social gathering of friends, which is okay too.  Will’s family is not nearly as large as ours is. Many of the older generations have passed on or have health issues that don’t allow them to attend. I spent a good part of the time sitting halfway between 2 groups, the younger half below and behind me while the older half was above and in front of me playing horseshoes. I was sitting at the fire pit, working on my  custom drop spindle, not a part of either group yet privy to the conversations going on in both. Oddgh, I was comfortable in my own space. The things I find interesting and enjoy doing are not shared by anyone here so I am used to sitting on the sidelines. I was told once that I talk about the same things all the time yet I do as anyone would, I talk about what is going on in my life at a given moment.  So needless to say, I don’t say much. Today was the town parade and ceremony. They played ‘Taps’ on the bugle and I though of you and the day you were laid to rest. I had never known what it was like to loose someone close to me and it hurt pretty bad. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve wished that the boys could have met you. I’ve told so many people about you driving Dusty in the parades and singing Polish lullabies to all the kids. I sang what I could remember to my kids. Its still soothing to hear but I miss you doing it. After today’s parade was a town picnic. Its a wonderful gathering of folks to celebrate our vets currently in the service, those that retired, and those that have passed on. Just like in Stephentown, there are families in town that have been here for ages. Some of our elementary kids spoke on the theme for this year, ‘It is for Us the Living.’ Its amazing what kids will say when they are able to speak their own words instead of just being given a script to read. They speak true and from their hearts, about what this holiday means for them. One of Jake’s buddies won a contest put on by the PTO and Memorial Day Committee for writing an essay about how we can help our vets. Eriel is much like Jake in personality so they are two peas in a pod. Eriel got up to read his essay in front of the town and did really well. When he came and sat down afterwards, I gave him a thumbs up and the sheepish look I got told me he was pretty proud of himself. He seems like a good kid. One of our younger service members, a Marine, was there in uniform. I couldn’t remember what your dress uniform looked like so I didn’t know he was a Marine until I asked. Once I asked though, I could see you all dressed up like it was yesterday. You looked so handsome. I think I only saw you in uniform once, before you passed away. I have a picture of you out of uniform as well, at Camp Pendleton I think. Looked like you were hanging out in the sunshine, wearing just shorts and your boots. I love the picture. My grandpa was a stud muffin! On days like today, I wish I had spent more time asking you questions about the war. Jake is an avid history buff and likely knows more about the war than I do and he’s 11 years old. He would make a great history teacher but says he’d like to be an architect. He also mentioned something about joining the air force because he’d like to fly. Its scares me but I’ll support him all the way if that’s his calling. I miss you terribly Grandpa. When you passed away, the family started to separate. There seemed less of an effort for the family to get together and those of us who are first cousins, got married and started having children of our own. It’s so much harder for everyone to get together when there are two sides to every family. When I moved to Connecticut, we said that we would head back to New York once a month. Not only did that not happen, it happened even less once we got to having kids. I miss the picnic atmosphere and having family gather all at the same place. Now, with the farm sold years ago, there isn’t a place big enough for all of us together in one place, inside. Next year is Mom and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary and I’m not sure where we’re going to have the party. I have thought of inviting everyone down to Connecticut and have everyone pitch a tent in my backyard. I’m sure we would have enough room for that. Will could build us a nice shiny dance floor and we could polka and swing dance. So much has changed within the family dynamics too. People have changed, moved away, had arguments, and misunderstandings. I’ve learned things about my family that I’m not really sure I want or needed to know but what I do know is, they are all still my family and that will never change. We are all human and as such we make mistakes. We need to get over it and move on. You only get one go-round so you better make the best of the time that you have. Life is too short to spend arguing or holding grudges. On occasion, I miss being a teenager and being naive about the ways of adult life. It was easy to spend summer in the pool and have picnics at the farm. I miss the Fireman’s Muster and the Block Dance where we could hang with our friends and sneak away into the shadows to steal a kiss from our boyfriends. Sometimes, ignorance was bliss. I miss getting off the bus at the farm and helping you carry warm milk into the house. I remember snuggling baby goats for the first time while it was so cold outside and brushing Dusty at every opportunity I could. I wish you were here to pull us all back together again. Here’s to you Grandpa, for serving our country and for keeping our family whole. You are well and truly missed.   Here are pictures of 2 of Grandpa’s brothers who are also veterans, Uncle Victor and Uncle Chester. I’ve never met you but you’re still missed. Notice the rakish tilt to Victors hat. Love it!

Also pictured is Grandpa riding Prince. It is the only picture I have of him on horseback.

Uncle VicUncle ChesterGrandpa on Prince