My Undivided Attention

by Manuel Gonzales

A friend of mine recently diagnosed himself as having ADHD. He decided I must also have ADHD and told me so and then sent me a book to read on the subject, which I keep next to the bed because I think it’s funny to send a person you think has attention problems a book to read about attention problems.

I’m not saying he is wrong. I’m only saying I would be more interested in finding out if he was right if he had sent me a YouTube video to watch instead.

Still, the book, which I haven’t read yet, has made me wonder if I am ADHD, and so I’ve begun collecting informal data sets in hopes of making some kind of more formal determination, which is how I approach all personal medical issues.

For example, a month ago I found a check that had been paid to me over a year before but that I had forgotten to deposit, perhaps because I had seen something shiny out of the corner of my eye or remembered I hadn’t yet finished watching the second part of the two-part “Knight Rider” pilot, which is, in and of itself, may not be so damning because depositing a check normally requires driving to the bank, filling out a form, waiting in line, and so forth, except that our bank has long allowed us to deposit checks using our phones.

Still, I found the check at the bottom of a box of what I had labeled in my head as “trash,” and that I was quickly shuffling through to make sure I could throw everything in it away. Maybe you are saying to yourself right now, That is a sign, sir, a clear sign that if you have ADHD it is of the Executive Functioning type, which, for those not familiar with the categories, is akin to being an alcoholic but of the functioning sort, and maybe you are right, but I needed exactly that much money, almost down to the very last dollar, then and right then for something I had planned for my wife, and so I like to think of it as lucky, instead, that I hadn’t deposited it earlier.

I’m not very good at math but I’m pretty sure that I would have had less money than I needed had I deposited it earlier.

The other day I took my daughter to a birthday party and sat next to another parent who told me about her own son’s ADHD diagnosis, a diagnosis she then used to unofficially diagnosis her husband, who listened to her rattle off the symptoms of Executive Function ADHD only to say, That’s not ADHD, that’s how I am, and I like to picture her pointing to her nose and giving him the old “ding ding ding ding, you just won our prize” routine, though she claimed that that is not what she did. But the fact that it is hereditary and that I might also have it and have passed it on to one or both of our children upsets me. Already, our daughter’s teachers have told us that when she can focus, she’s smart and engaged and grasps complex ideas, but that half the time she lives in what they referred to as “unicorn land.”

The problem is, she has a unicorn that she calls Uni. It’s a Beanie Baby toy she obtained in Tennessee, at a McDonald’s in the middle of the Appalachians, and that came with the name Fable, which is a horrible name for a small stuffed unicorn with a purple horn and purple hooves, and my daughter felt the same way, and she renamed her Fable Heart, which is better, but still isn’t as good as Sabre Bitch, which is what I would have named her.

According to my daughter, who later renamed the unicorn again, Uni was on a train with her parents on her way to Colorado, but then she fell off the train somewhere in Texas and she tried to run and catch up to the train to get back to her family but the train just wouldn’t stop, and so now she has to live with us, which is a problem because I think that unicorn is distracting my daughter from her schoolwork.

I owe the IRS a tax-form — the one about dependent care — that I just remembered I owed them as I started writing about it here, which, remembering, just now took me to the internet, where I found the form and filled out half of it before I remembered I had been in the middle of an essay referencing this tax form, and now here I am again.

I have a warrant out for my arrest. It’s been so long, I have a hard time remembering why. But maybe you should know that about me, too.

I don’t know if that’s ADHD or if that simply means that I have difficulty remembering to do things I’m supposed to do, or that I’m bad at finishing one task before starting a new

I find myself going to the grocery store a lot. I am in charge of most of the cooking and baking in our house because I once owned a pie company, though it took me some time to convince my wife that I had once owned a pie company. I burnt the first pie I tried to bake her, early into our courtship. It had been a pecan pie. She loves pecan pie and I make a really good pecan pie except for when I make a mistake and burn it and then it’s not so good because burned pecans don’t smell or taste that appealing. It burned because I forgot I’d put it in the oven. And then I tried to make her a second pie, right after burning the first, and set apples to cook on the stove because I was trying a new technique, but then I forgot about the apples — she claims she had nothing to do with it but I imagine she was distracting me with her feminine wiles — and made apple sauce instead.

I go to the grocery store a lot, back and forth, back and forth, because I make lists but forget to put all of the things I need on the list, or I won’t make a list because I will need two things, only two things, but will come home with two things that aren’t necessarily the two things I went looking for.

A week ago, I pulled down the ice-cream maker from the top shelf of our pantry because we hadn’t used it in over a year and to pack it away because we are moving, and I found ice cream still in it. Well. Whatever ice cream becomes after being left inside an ice-cream maker for a year. I can remember doing this. We had people coming over and I didn’t want to clean the ice-cream maker because it’s a pain to clean because it’s frozen and my hand sticks to it, and so I hid it back in its place to be cleaned later that night.

It’s clean now.

But that, if that’s ADHD, if that’s a thing I can blame for how I am, if I can lay myself at the feet of ADHD and thus be absolved, then, sure, ADHD is what I am. I am exactly that.

Manuel Gonzales is the author of The Miniature Wife and Other Stories, which will be published in January 2013 by Riverhead Books. He is the director of Austin Bat Cave, a non-profit writing & tutoring center for kids in Austin, Texas. You can follow him on twitter, and on tumblr at and Photo by Patrick Ashley.