The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

What I Have Learned

What I have learned as an adult with ADD and a working parent.

I have to become my mother.

I have to become my father.

I have to learn what they learned.

It does not matter what I want.

It does not matter how I feel.

It does not matter if I am happy.

It does not matter that I am unhappy.

It matters that it does not show.

It matters that I do not disturb or disrupt others with it.

It matters that I do what I am supposed to do.

It matters that I say what I am supposed to say.

It matters that I go where I am supposed to go.

It matters that I appear as I am supposed to be.

I am a husband.

I am a parent.

I am an employee.

That is all that I am.

What I want to be, what I feel about that, whether I’m happy with that or not comes after every thing and every one else.

It gets whatever time or room is left, if any.

I think I understand my mother now.

Before she knew what she wanted to be or could be, she was a wife and mother, with kids to raise whose happiness and dreams mattered more than her own.

They had to.

At some point she realized that.

She got depressed.

She had migraines.

She went back to school.

She took some classes.

Then her father died.

Then her grandfather died.

Then her aunt and cousin died.

And she had more things and people to take care of.

She did what she had to do.

There wasn’t room or anything else.

But at least she got to be angry.

She’s seventy now, and a widow.

I think I understand my father now.

Before he knew what he wanted to be or what he could be, he was a soldier, then a father and a husband, and then an employee.

He had a family and an employer whose wants, needs, and dreams came first.

At some point he realized that.

He went back to school.

He took some classes.

But he had more obligations than he had time.

My father died last year.

He was seventy-six.

And me?

The kid they raised, whose wants, needs, and dreams came before their own?

There was a time when I had dreams, and a desire to make them real.

There was a time when I believed they should be real.

There was a window of time through which I could see them passing like clouds in the sky.

There was a window of time when I could have reached for them and made them real, and no obligations or responsibilities were pulling at me from behind.

But I couldn’t open that window.

I didn’t know how and I didn’t know why.

Now I know why.

I got that window open a bit.

But the clouds have passed beyond where I can see them from that window.

The dreams have passed beyond where I can reach them from that window, or even see them to realize what they were then or might be now.

So, now it’s time to close the window.

Now it’s time to close the shades, turn away, and finally stop looking through that window.

Now it’s time to turn around face my life, and the responsibilities, and the obligations, and the walls that contain it.

Now it’s time for the part of me that wants to do or be anything else beyond that to die, or at least go numb.

Now it’s time for the part of me that feels anything about that — anger, sadness, frustration — to die, or at least go numb.

My mother didn’t have ADD, but she tried to tell me.

When I spoke of my dreams, what I wanted to achieve, and where I wanted to go, she told me “wait.”

Other things, many things, had to come first.

She told me it was OK to have dreams, but when I asked if how long they must wait, and if would ever get to reach for them, she didn’t answer.

The question upset her.

My father may have had ADD and didn’t know it, but he tried to tell me.

He may not have known that I had it, but I think he saw something of himself in me.

In our most passionate conversation, he said I had to “stop dreaming” and that it was his job to get me to “come down to reality.”

It’s time for me to be a grown up.

Until I fall into my grave.

And my sons?

They’re too young right now to know if I’m happy or not, if I’m quiet about it and do what I’m supposed to do.

They may sense it when he gets older, and wonder why.

But right now they’re young enough to still believe that it matters what they want, it matters what they feel, and it matters if they’re happy.

Maybe when they’re adults it will still matter for them.

Maybe that window will be open for them.

And they won’t ever, ever, have to become their father.

That, now, is all I can hope for.

And it isn’t even a hope for me.

Beyond that, I have nothing else to say.

That matters.

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