I confess - I've been running a covert money-laundering operation in my basement for years.
I've laundered many, many dollar bills, the occasional five spot, and a bunch of loose change. I laundered a check once, and my debit card a few times.
. . .Then there were the Chapsticks, a handful of cigarrette lighters, several packs of gum, and countless important receipts. Yep, it's true. For years, if there was something that I absent-mindedly jammed into my pocket, it probably got laundered.
Luckily, I never laundered lipstick. Red schmears all over my husband's white gym socks would have been tough to explain away. My cover would have been completely blown.
Despite my best efforts to operate clandestinely, my tendency to throw currency and financial records into the machine with my delicates is one of those dirty little ADHD secrets that apparently wasn't much of a secret to The All-Knowing-All-Seeing Eyes-In-The-Back-Of-Her-Head One. Yes, my mother.
The other day, my 81-year-old mom was visiting me and the kids. My mom has never used a computer in her life. Whenever anyone points her to something available on the Internet, my mother - in her best English-As-A-Second-Language - defiantly announces, like a recovering cocaine addict, that she is "NOT on lines." So when my mom wanted some information about one of her credit accounts, I - like the good daughter that I am - dutifully offered to look it up for her. All I would need is her credit card. The look of horror that came across her face was unmistakable. "You need the card?" she asked. "Yep, just give me the card so I can get the number off of it."
My mom thought for a moment, then slowly produced the credit card from her purse. She handed it to me languidly, not taking her eyes off of the card during the transfer. She looked sad - as though she believed she might never see that piece of plastic again.
I took the card from her and cheerfully turned to the computer. However, as always happens when I try to do. . .anything, my kids started screaming at me. The little one needed chocolate milk, a new Spongebob episode, and a left sock with no holes in it. . .all at the same time. Meanwhile, the 10-year-old had launched into a loud soapbox rant about how mean I am because we won't buy him an iPhone. My mother, never one to turn down an opportunity to argue passionately with small children, joined the ruckus, contending vehemently on my behalf, that I am "not mean."
As mayhem erupted, it became clear that I would not be able to go online right then to look anything up. I would not have known how to Google my own name in that chaos. I would have to do this later. But I had this credit card that I didn't want to lose track of. So I - you guessed it - shoved it into my pants pocket.
In the midst of the melee between the elderly and the prepubescent, I was startled when my mother let out a blood-curdling shriek. "Noooooooo!!!"
You would have thought that I was just about to toss a baby out of a window. Annoyed, I responded, "What, no!"
"Don't put dat een your pocket!" Mom cried. "You'll vaaawwsh it!!!"
I'll vaaawwsh it? No, I won't! Why do you think that? That's ridiculous? Who would do that?! How do you know? Who told you?? I need names!
"Mom, mom," I chuckled condescendingly. "Mom, I'm not going to wash it. I know that it's in my pocket; I'm just putting it here so that I won't lose it until I can get back to business." Then I laughed, "Y'know, if you folks weren't always yelling and ordering me around, I might actually be able to hear myself think for a minute and keep track of what I'm doing."
And there it is. I may as well have announced, "I thought I had ADHD, but as it turns out, YOU PEOPLE ARE JUST ANNOYING!!!"
Mom laughed and agreed. "Okay, okay. I trust you."
The truth is, I do have ADHD. And my mom was right to be concerned. But it's also true that my mom and my kids - as lovable as they are - are horribly annoying and stressful; and when we are in a group, my brain's CEO hangs out the "Gone Fishin'" sign, and I am often reduced to being a discombobulated idiot.
Which highlights something very, very important. I need time to think. I've never made it a priority to demand time and space to think about what I need and what others need from me. While I've idled away hundreds - maybe thousands - of hours over many years anxiously perseverating, that is not the same thing as constructive thought. The kind of thought that allows you to actually remember you have a credit card in your pocket before you throw the whole mess in the wash. That's one of the pitfalls of ADHD - it's hard to decelerate, turn down the head noise, and just think.
But that is what I did after I calmed my mother down. In an unusual move, I grabbed a notebook and escaped my noisy children and went out to the garage. I stood there for 5 minutes or so, thinking about what I had to do. I took some notes and jotted down a short shopping list. I breathed deeply. Then I returned to the livingroom (which had now become a boxing ring). I got on the computer and looked up the information my mom needed, and proudly handed back her card. And then we laughed.
As I recalled these events later in the day, I wondered why it was that my mom was so worried that I would wash her card, of all things. After all, there are so many ways to lose a credit card. I know from experience. I don't think Mom has ever seen me launder non-clothing items. We've never talked about it.
And then it hit me. I was a chatty, annoying, demanding kid. My dad was a chatty, annoying, demanding husband. When we were around, my 40-something-year-old mom was running around in seventeen different directions at once. And I'm guessing, she was running her own money-laundering operation.
She was trying to save me from myself. I'm grateful. I just wish she'd be quieter about it.
My mom probably doesn't launder money any more, now that she's 81 and my dad is gone, and her kids are grown. She's got plenty of time and space to think about what's in her pockets, and anything else she might want to think about. So, I suppose if she wants to follow me around and help me remember to check my pockets, I'll let her; and I'll be grateful for the blessing of having my mom still in my life, and for her still having the clarity of mind to help me not wash her credit card. Maybe when I'm 81, I'll be able to return the favor for my little inattentive/hyperactive Josh.
Meanwhile, I'll make it a point to take time out for some contemplation and hide in the garage once in awhile. The feds will never find me there.