Posted on an ADHD FB group

My mother has ADHD, and all four of her children inherited it in some form. I’m combined inattentive and hyperactive, and very hyperactive. I was easily diagnosed, even in 1990 as a girl. My mother got her diagnosis because the books she picked up to understand me and my diagnosis were so illuminating to her about her own life. My siblings and my mother were slowly all diagnosed inattentive type.
My father is not at all ADHD. Very organized, type A personality. I’m pretty sure he’s also autistic, like me. He doesn’t have clutter. He doesn’t have much in the way of stuff. It is useful, or it is beautiful, or it is gone. This drives us all affectionately crazy when he wants to purge things that are meaningful and, in his mind, useless.
Having a family of ADHD people was pretty hard on him and his deep need for organization. But he tried really hard. He read the books and talked to us, and at one point we all saw a family therapist together. My dad doesn’t understand this part of us, but he sees, logically, that certain things are true.
So when each of us was, at one point, forgotten at school or somewhere by our mother, we learned to laugh it off. When we forgot important things, and mislaid everything, we learned to laugh it off. He didn’t understand our coping mechanisms a lot of the time, and pushed back, but eventually learned that he should let us use our weird ways to remember things and tried to get out of our way, though with a lot of hemming and hawing.
It was not an easy learning process for anyone, and sometimes my dad was a real asshole about it.
I remember one time we all got together from our various residences across the city to watch a movie, and one of my brothers brought his new girlfriend. We showed up in casual clothes. She showed up in a tight dress, heels, done up like we were going to a fancy dinner. Which, if that’s her thing, that’s fine. It just stuck out like a sore thumb from a) my family and b) everyone else at the theatre.
We all arrived not only on time, but early, and my dad laughingly teased us about not forgetting. My brother and his girlfriend arrived separately (I think he headed over after work?), so my dad teased him that he had made an extra effort to be on time because of his new relationship with her, and how that was so nice, and she should enjoy it while it lasts. The forgetting would set in soon. His girlfriend replied in a rather snotty tone that my brother would never forget her because “He LOVES me!”
At which the rest of us all stared, my brother looked embarrassed, and my father guffawed.
“Honey,” he said (we live in Texas), “this doesn’t have anything to DO with LOVE. He could love you to the moon and back, and he’ll still forget what day it is and if time exists. If you think memory has anything to do with love, you’re about to get your head knocked by reality. You better figure it out fast or he’s going to dump your ass.”
At which we all shuffled our feet, a little appalled by the way my father had said it, but, well, he wasn’t wrong.
I never saw that woman or heard her name again. Evidently my father was a bit too much for her. Whether it was my brother’s ADHD or my father’s autistic, country bluntness, she was out. And we all breathed a sigh of relief that we weren’t going to have a bitchy in-law who tried to fix him. Or us.
He’s married now, my brother. She’s not perfect, no one is, but she never nags him about being ADHD. He’s an artist, and he hyperfocuses on his art often. When he doesn’t, he gets stressed. My favorite thing about her is that she is very happy that he lets her be around him when he gets lost in his art. And if he gets too stressed out with his job or life, she’ll make him take a day or two for his canvas and paints to regain his sanity.
My brother has had any number of previous girlfriends who liked the IDEA of dating an artist, but found the reality wasn’t so fun. A man forgetting you exist because paint exists is evidently a real turn off to a lot of people. But not my sister in law.
I wish I could find someone so accepting and sensible about my neurodivergence. I think once in a while about my brother’s former girlfriend, and my father’s bald amusement, and it feels me with warmth because it was the clearest moment of my father accepting us for who we are, and letting someone else know that not accepting us with our ADHD was just plain stupid. Which, for my father, is very emotional and heart warming. I know, it doesn’t sound heart warming. But… you’d have to know my father. Trust me on this. It was a big thing.