January 7, 2018

fallout from 'the gift'

This won't make much sense unless you read 'the gift that keeps on giving or not:  you decide'.  Sorry.  This is in response to my New Year's resolution to write shorter posts . . .

Lad put on his coat and raced out the door.  He was sobbing.  I burst into tears.  My mom was sitting on another couch.  'Ernie, what is it?'  I held up the book.  'Dad wrote that my kids have ADD and that Laddie gives me a run for my money.'

To me ADD is like any undesirable ailment:  allergies, nearsightedness, asthma, etc.  But for most of the population ADD is associated with a lack of intelligence.  I know this NOT to be the case, but the stigma is hard to escape. 

Cover of the book.  My kids
thought my dad resembled
a younger Tom Hanks.
I found Coach in the family room reclined in front of the TV.  He didn't even know that Lad had left.  I told him to drive after Laddie.  I spent the next hour hiding in the laundry room trying to compose myself.  Eventually my Mom came in and hugged me.  She admitted that she had never read the book.  'Dad just doesn't think,' she reminded me.  After years of experiencing this first hand, I didn't need a reminder.  Still, what the Hell?

I just couldn't understand why it was necessary to include those few hurtful sentences in the book.  Yes, Lad gave us a run for our money, but there are layers to this.  I felt it was too hard to sum up in a two sentences.

As parents we should've taken him out of the Catholic school.  The kids were mean and he had no friends.  His acting up wasn't just because he had ADD.  We were dumb parents.  We tried, but we failed him.  Coach worked long hours and I had my hands full with the gang.  Lad learned to appreciate negative attention and I became accustomed to dishing it out.  Even though I feel like an older and wiser parent now, I am far from perfect.  Damn it, sometimes being a parent is so hard.

As I stood in the laundry room, I tried to figure out how to fix this.  There was a lot of emotion.  Can that page be rewritten and the book be reprinted?  Yes, I know.  Irrational.  Every cousin and aunt or uncle now had a copy of it.  There is one cousin in particular who doesn't care for Laddie.  So this cousin was just handed a written account of Lad's shortcomings.  Oh, I wanted to punch a wall.

Despite my hurt, I was also upset that Dad's awesome gift was now ruined.  There was even the littlest bit of guilt that it was my family's reaction to his book that was causing the initial glow to fade.

Then there was my brother, Pat.  I wanted to strangle him.  You proofread this?  No red flag moment in there, Pat?  You didn't want to say, 'Hey, Dad, this won't thrill Lad.'  Why not focus simply on other things?  If he insisted on focusing on 'frustrations' or struggles, mention my challenge in putting Coach thru physical therapy school when we were newlyweds.  Why not just describe your kids and mention why they make you proud?

I suppose it might be hard for Pat the proof-reader to see how someone else might be hurt considering the opening sentence to Pat's paragraph:  My fourth child and the first boy is pretty intelligent.  Seriously?

I explained to my Mom as I leaned up against her dryer that everything always seems to backfire for Lad.  I shared a story with her that I had kept to myself for years.  My Dad once took Lad to a Notre Dame alumni dinner that was held downtown Chicago.  I think Lad was in 8th grade or early high school.  It was such a treat.  When Lad got home, I called to him anxious to hear how the night was.  'It stunk,' he barked.

I was shocked.  Apparently when Laddie asked if my Dad thought that Laddie would someday be accepted into ND, Dad said, 'No.'  In the course of the conversation, Dad informed Lad that all of my brother Pat's kids would get into ND, because they were all soooo smart.  (notice the pattern?)

My Dad is an accountant.  Everything needs to fit on a line and be reconciled.  I wondered though.  How would this hurt be reconciled?


Suburban Correspondent said...

Your Dad isn't going to change, probably. It's more important to teach your son that all this is about your Dad's shortcomings, really, not Laddie's. His inability to be generous, his inability to love fully...

Ernie said...

That is a very good point. We tried to explain to Lad that my Dad was using his childhood bad behavior as a way to demonstrate MY struggles. (Why that needed to be a focus here - I have no idea!)
He just wasn't thinking about how it would hurt Lad. Coach told Lad that my Dad isn't a bad person, he just made a mistake and wasn't being considerate.