icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle


From Paris. Given the scrawny dollar and the robust European prices, moving to Europe now is like moving to the jungle. I arrive in Europe, where we have been living one semester a year lately, plus taking many short trips, with suitcases half full with rice, nuts, raisins, oatmeal, beans, toothpaste, Vaseline…  Read More 
Post a comment


For a chicken like me it’s not easy to deal with taxi drivers–-usually young--who chat on their cell phones while driving with one hand, obviously not totally focused on getting me to my destination as fast and safely as possible. They  Read More 
Be the first to comment

On Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD

Spaniards in general see themselves as nervous, physically active, excitable people, with a heightened capacity to feel emotions, great joy, great compassion, great indignation, great admiration, great sorrow and so on. Spanish has a term for those who lack this passion, “sangre de orchata,” having bland orchata juice in their veins instead of blood.
My father’s side of the family embraced with gusto their hyperactivity, creativity, athletic abilities and histrionics. From an early age, I took this as a way to be that was neither an asset nor a handicap. I was fidgety, energetic, zestful, impatient, enthusiastic, easily distracted, had a hard time focusing, but did intensely when something fascinated me. What really frustrated me was my total geographical-spatial disorientation, which caused me to get lost all the time, though eventually I always managed to get where I needed to be. My mother told me constantly to “calm down,” and her mother complained, “she’s a clown like her father,” but most teachers accepted me as I was, and gave me enough positive feedback to make me want to excel academically and to be accepted socially.
I was determined to listen in class and to lectures outside of school that interested me. I sat with a pencil and pad, focused on the teacher’s words, determined to follow to the end. Within five minutes, my mind was wondering elsewhere for the duration. I went all through school, and on to a Harvard PhD without once having been able to listen to a single lecture.
It greatly surprised me, therefore, by a flurry of publications and media reports during the 1970s in the U.S. that described me, and many extremely accomplished people I knew, as suffering from “a disorder” that had to be medicated. In my estimation, this view got down right hysterical in the 80s, and was established as gospel truth in the 90s. In my experience, private schools and those in affluent neighborhoods have been particularly prone to label some of their students as sufferers from this “disorder,” causing their parents to send them to doctors who suggest medication.
No doubt there are children who are too hyperactive and are aggressive, and need treatment, and scores of psychologists are going an excellent job treating them. But many children I know, who are like me, can perfectly well manage, unless they are told they have some sort of medical or psychological “disorder” that has to be medicated, which causes them to feel they are handicapped. It’s even worse when allowances are made for them due to their “condition.”
Since my arrival in the US, many decades ago, I have seen medical fads come and go. Among them are “thyroid dysfunction;” when there was none; “Recovered Memory Syndrome;” unnecessary bypass operations, hysterectomies and Cesareans. Some of these fads go away, come back and go away again, some disappear.
I suppose the excesses regarding ADHD shall pass too, I hope without having done too much damage to children who are simply full of zip, restless and creative and need to, one, be accepted as they are, and two, get the same limits and demands that are imposed on everyone else.
For interesting views on this subject see, Tara Parker-Pope “Can attention deficit be framed as a gift?” The Global Edition of The New York Times, Thursday, November 27, 2008.
 Read More 
Be the first to comment


I will not send you this letter. To be in tune with your mood and “the American way,” I should find something positive to say about your leaving for college; look at the bright side; rejoice in what a fine young man you grew up to be; what a great future you have ahead of you; how proud I am of you, better yet, `how proud your dad and I are of you, son,' and how lucky I was to have had you at home until now. All of that happens to be very true in your case, however, “the American way” gets repeated whether it’s true or not, because of the terror about life's separations, and the inevitability of life's passing. The Hispanic way is to “mull and adjust." “The American way” is "smile, keep busy, DO something." If I were honest, what would I say?
Though every hour of the day I figure what time is it in Illinois, and what you must now be doing, since you left, Friday, you have been here every second, as always. When I take a break for a cup of tea and the paper, astonished at the world's political changes, I'm readying to discuss some with you, and tell you some of the ironies I have lived to witness, and listen to your particularly rational analysis. I expect noises in your room; water going trough the pipes, your steps up the stairs; you filling the kitchen, probably ready to go somewhere, maybe saying you had a weird dream, or talking about one of your projects, or commenting on something that somebody did or said. But there's nothing but a still silence downstairs, a still silence up the stairs, a still silence in the kitchen. Hour after hour, your room has no computer buzz, no music, no phone conversation, no laughter with friends; only a soundless image in my mind of you somewhere in the mid-west, with people I don't know, with mysterious new directions in your life.

When the doorbell rings I don't hear you welcoming some friend; when a car starts it's not you going somewhere; a clicking noise downstairs is not your key opening the door; a creaking in the corridor is not from your feet. No booming voice comes from your room saying, "Mom, it's for you,", or "Mom, come look at this." At night, noises are not you coming back from an outing with Michelle or Joe or some other friend. When I prepare dinner, I don't put huge portions of fish, I don't try to sneak in watercress in the salad. Nothing I prepare will be shared with you. When I make the shopping list I don't think of something nutritious that you might be willing to eat, I don't mark “deli, goodies, big carton of orange juice.”

Telling myself that I'll see you in seven weeks, that you'll be visiting in twelve weeks, that you'll be here in three and a half months for a long vacation, that you'll be coming back until you form a family of you own, and then I'll see you often, as I do your brother and sister, doesn’t help that this enormous silence is the true break of the umbilical cord that divides my life in two. On this side, now closed, are our two lives; all of yours, and mine since you were born, (it seems strange that there was a time when you didn't exist), 17 years, 9 months and 14 days, roughly one fourth a Western human being's life expectancy. Since Friday, the details of a million scenes from those years have flooded my mind and crushed my heart. They happened so fast, and will never happen again. They are gone forever, most of it lost in the crevices of hidden memories. On the other side of this break is your bright new life, and my new life with you not being the most important part of it.

Evidently I hadn’t grasped the finality of this imminent division. When you came back from trips this summer, it didn't augur that you'd soon depart irrevocably. When we talked about the campus, about the dorm, about your roommate, about the trip, about what to take; when I kept asking if you needed help in packing or anything else; even at the last minute, when I packed some food for your trip, I was doing it from an outer level, as if you would be leaving for a week-end of camping. Then I stood in the driveway seeing the blue Toyota turn the corner at the end of the street and disappear. And that’s when the reality of your departure to the other side of the divide hit me like a tornado. From that moment, day or night, a noxious stillness creeps out from the house and from the street, filling my life. This silence carries a torrent of meaning running so strongly and so deep that only a mother who has experienced it could understand it.

No doubt in time, (a week? a month? a year? ten years?) I won't be crushed by this new real and metaphorical silence. I'll keep repeating over and over, how lucky I am that you are well and healthy and happy in your wonderful new adventure, and that I will see you again, maybe often.
 Read More 
Post a comment