By Ted Gargiulo – Another installment in the incredible saga of Dr. Garjekyll and Teddy Hyde.
When you think everything that can go kaflooey in a person’s brain, my tics and mental glitches are hardly remarkable. Nor are they so debilitating that I can’t lead a reasonably normal life, seeing how the spectrum of normality is broad enough to cover a multitude of dysfunctions. They affect only those areas I happen to care about: reading, concentration, sense of direction. Nothing serious. Heck, I’m so healthy, I make myself sick!
Time was when I could ignore these cracks in my woodwork. I thought if I focused really hard, I could retrain my mind to function more efficiently. Thought I could command myself to stop fidgeting, undo the all self-defeating habits I’d taught myself when I wasn’t looking. Now I’m older, the cracks have gotten wider, and I’m running out of putty.
Doctors have plumbed the lexicon for explanations—TS, ADD, OCD, BBC, ETC—but nothing in this alphabet soup embraces the uniquity of my disorder. (Is uniquity a word?) Could be prenatal trauma. Could be a cosmic virus I contracted while scratching for fleas. Who knows? Maybe if I had a more conspicuous complaint, like an ax buried in my skull, they’d have gotten a firmer handle on the problem.
Having observed my relatives, my wife is convinced the condition is genetic. Call it FATS—Familial Aggravated Tic Syndrome. It does bear a striking resemblance to a dementia prevalent in 17th century Holland. Disoriented explorers (the original Flying Dutchmen), while searching for the Tappan Zee Bridge, wound up spreading the disease to Italy, which they mistook for New Amsterdam. There they intermarried with my ancestors, polluting the pure Gargiulo line.??
The first member of my family to exhibit symptoms of hyperactivity and inattentiveness was my 23rd great-grand cousin, Carmine Bonifacio Vanderbrot Gargiulo (1702-1750), AKA the Godfather of Distraction and the Twitch of Turin. People claimed he could walk ten miles without ever leaving his seat. His propensity for compulsive, repetitive functions was surpassed only by his convoluted digressions, ludicrous analogies and self-deprecating humor. His jaw muscles were so highly developed from years of nervous gnashing and clenching that he could chatter his teeth in time with the William Tell Overture—an accomplishment no one of his generation could appreciate since the music wasn’t composed for another century.
Rumor has it that Carmine Bonifacio drove himself mad plucking his whiskers, trying to finish projects he wished he hadn’t started, in order to begin new ones that he couldn’t finish. A man of diminishing potential, he spent his teen years writing the Great Italian Novel, and the remainder of his life cramming for his final exams. His wife found him at his desk one night, slumped over a ninth grade literature book, one half of his lip plucked bald from nervousness and exasperation.
Family history notwithstanding, the proverbial car at least runs. So my timing is off, my plugs misfire, my clutch sticks, my gears slip and my electrical circuits are haywire. My engine sometimes races, sometimes stalls. As for my exhaust, that depends on what I’ve eaten that day. (You don’t want to tailgate!) The lemon I’ve been assigned isn’t for everybody. Yet it’s taken this Foolish writer where he needs to go. And I figure as long as I’m passing your way, you Foolish readers may as well hop onboard and enjoy the ride.