And I know a father who had a son.He longed to tell him all the reasons for the things he'd done. He came a long way just to explain.He kissed his boy as he lay sleeping, then he turned around and he headed home again.
- Paul Simon, Slip Sliding Away
The phone rings and rings, then finally connects the 21 year-old son with his permanently exhausted father.
“Dad, um… I, uh… messed up, I guess.”
“Yeah, um…, uh huh.”
“Okay. What happened?”
“Well, see, it’s kind of complicated…”
“Where are you?”
“Um… I’m not really sure.”
I had a number of phone calls like this from our ADHD son about a car wreck or an out of control party, or similar situations with police or other authority figures he’d pissed off, when he was still living with us. I wrote about these events in ADHD Dad when they were happening in an attempt to try to comprehend my son’s behavior, even a little, or just get the smallest glimpse of what was going on in his head. But it was the intense anger and frustration I felt toward him that bothered me the most, I think. I mean he kept on doing the same stupid things over and over again, no matter what I said or did, and then lied to me until he was caught out and then he’s shrug and say, “Uh, sorry Dad,” like everything was all even again and he could go right back to wrecking cars, drinking, doping, dropping out of school, and covering for his loser criminal pals and that would be okay. No matter the draconian punishment, restriction or financial consequence we brought down on him, he’d adapt and keep doing what he was doing. How could he be such a stubborn dork? I didn’t understand. Sometimes he blamed his ADHD, which I thought was b.s. because I had ADHD way worse than him and I sure didn’t act like that. Then recently I was going through some old family photos from my parents’ house and found this picture of myself in 1970.I stared at this picture, face to face with a dork just as stubborn as my son, and was immediately worm-holed back into my own ADHD 21 year old brain. I closed my eyes and I heard my conversation with my dad on the phone, “Dad, um… I, uh… messed up, I guess.”It’s not that I’d forgotten my early twenties. I remembered my car wreck out in Nevada, dropping out of MU, or buying a VW bus and a motorcycle on time planning to pay for it with dope deals, or getting arrested in Boone County Missouri, or Vernal Utah, or passing out drunk on the street in Oakland. But I saw them as colorful, funny stories of my past. That’s not me. I was a kid. I’ve been sober and together for years. And hypocritical, too, apparently. Because looking at that picture (which looks like a mug shot but is really a liquor control card from Kansas City, I swear,) reminds me how justified I felt in everything I did and said. And I suddenly get a clear idea of what it must have been like for my folks to get my phone calls and listen to my excuses, lies, and repeated pleas for cash. They freaked-out back then, but I knew they cared. Not that it changed what I did. But I did change, on my own time.
My son called me about drugs again recently. I was shopping at a Kroger in Georgia, where we live now, and he was on his cell in Hawaii, where we used to live and he moved back to be with his friends. He works the night shift at McDonalds, and is thinking about going back to school. He wanted to know what I took for my acid reflux, because he’s got it now. “Diet and exercise,” I said.
“Uh huh,” he said, “Nothing else?”
“Push-ups and vegetables. It works,” I said, “Also hearing from you once in a while helps. Keeps me from worrying and getting all anxious.”
“Yeah, right,” he said. “You doing okay, Dad?”
“Yeah,” I said, “Miss you.”
“Miss you too,” he said. “So maybe you think I should just have salad on my break?”