The Daddy Test

One Sunday my daughter and her boyfriend drove up from the valley to our house in the mountains. We were having a family affair of some kind and my step daughter was staying the weekend with her husband and two children as were my step son with wife and brood in tow.  If I remember I was roasting a nice bone in rib roast and fixing the trimmings.  You know how that goes, bake potatoes, green beans with almonds and what all that went with it.  Family get togethers are like that.  A lot of food, some good wines, all the good things in life.  Meanwhile my wife played with her grandchildren and traded gossip with the adult children.  We were close to sitting down to eat when Rebecca, my daughter, and her beau walked in.  Introductions all the way round and niceties of family behavior, the curiosity of children satisfied for the moment, and now we are ready to eat.  I carve the roast and the women serve the food.  Time for a good wine and a little supper talk.


Rob doesn’t have much to say and I don’t blame him, after all, this is a new experience.  He doesn’t know us and we don’t know him and my daughter caters to his needs.  Jeff, the step daughter’s husband, is talking about work and the latest management screw up and what a grind work is.  Hey, I’ve been there and can commiserate with him.  We talk about his prospects for a raise and a possible promotion.  Rob’s only comment is “Oh, you work for that company?”  Well that and the weather are safe subjects.  My step son, Bobby starts to talk about moving to Colorado, he thinks he can get a job there as an electrician.  His wife chimes in that the community is rural.  We have discussed this before after they came back from a trip there to scout the area.  Again, Rob is being polite, I guess, “Is that up in the mountains?”  Bobby answers his questions and Rob is silent once more.  I’m thinking this could be a nice boy for my daughter, I don’t know, he hasn’t said much.  My impression is still neutral at this point.  The food and wine are making my enjoyment of the day complete.  so the end of the meal is at hand and I am lending a hand clearing the table and cleaning up in the kitchen.  I have a tendency to clean as I cook but today the food prep got away from my usual efforts and so I load the dishwasher and do a few odds and ends in the sink while others are putting the left overs away.


Now the fire needs another log or two and a bit of stoking and ash removal.  Wood fires take some maintenance.  Rob has never lived in a house where such things are commonplace and I explain the basic process of using wood heat what the chores that must be done to keep that heat steady.  Rob has a blank face.  Well, not everyone knows this things and the younger generation is remarkably ignorant on the basics of living.  So I sit in my chair and immediately three cats are in my lap, they aren’t dumb.  Daddy’s lap is warm in the winter and he strokes our fur occasionally and gives us treats.  He is the good daddy.  The Saint Bernard is at my feet expecting a rub or two with my feet.  God is in his heaven and all’s right with the world.  Now the conversation begins.  Rebecca explains that she and Rob are attending the local junior college and she is getting good grades.  I ask her what she is taking and she answers, the usual second year fare and her GPA is 3.0.  “Ah, good, very good indeed.  Do you have any problem classes?”  “Yes, I’m having problems with college algebra.”  I answer that one way to overcome that problem is to write out all the formulas and laws on 3 by 5 cards and make sure you memorize them.  The other is to do all the questions in each chapter.  Yes, I know, it’s a pain but that usually works.  Certainly helped me out.”


Now I ask Rob what he is taking in JC.  Rob says he is taking English composition and Algebra I.  “Oh, is that all?”  “Well, I have to work and so I don’t have a great deal of time for more classes and studying.”  Yes, yes, yes, time is a common problem for the young.  So I innocently inquire, “What do you want to do with your life?”  Out of the corner of my eye I see that Jeff has perked up in anticipation.  Yes, I did ask that very question of him and he failed most miserably in his answer.  The young, as a rule, seldom know what they want to do in life.  I know this is true because I didn’t know at that age any more than the average teenager/young adult.  We often back into our careers under some rather unusual circumstances.  Well. rob had his answer ready for me.  “I want to teach literature in public secondary school.”  Ah, most commendable of him.  Ask a leading question and watch them step into it, deeply.  “So, who are your favorite authors?”  That would be an appropriate question of someone who wants the teach literature, wouldn’t you think?  Sensing that perhaps his memory was offline at the moment I ventured that I liked literature and found the early novelists to be interesting.  “Certainly Pilgrims progress excites the mind of the believers while Dante showed us the torture of religious conviction when taken to the limit.”  Stunned silence.  “Still, while I find Jane Austin and the Bronte sisters interesting I appreciate Hard all the more for that historic period.”  More silence, “But perhaps you favor John Galsworthy’s critique of English society and government at the turn of the century.  And certainly Somerset Maugham wrote critical novels and short stories.  Did you ever read The Moon And Sixpence?”  Poor boy, his eye were like a deer caught in the headlights.  Seems he has never bothered to read literature.  “I’ve never read those authors.”  “Ah, then who is your favorite author?”  There you go kid, you should be able to supply one name.  Well, that name escaped his memory.


Meanwhile my eldest granddaughter came down the stairs with a most impatient message.  “Grampa, the computer doesn’t work!”  “Oh, Heather, that’s too bad.  I’ll be right up.”  So I disengaged the cats from my lap and started up the stairs accompanied by Jeff, Bobby, and of all people, Rob.  I go into the bedroom where I have an old 286 machine I built myself and sit down in front of the screen.  I see the blue screen of death.  the computer has “locked up”  or more precisely, it has reached an endless loop state and program can’t recover.  Rob is the first to offer advice.  I need to use control, alt, and delete to break the loop.  “Rob, the operating system is BSD, a version of UNIX.  A simple break command will suffice.”  And it did.  Again, Rob was quick with another stock piece of advice.  “Maybe you need to run the Defrag program?”  Rob, this is UNIX.  One mounts and unmounts the files.  The utility to run is somewhat different from Microsoft.  The real problem is the MS-DOS operating system these game run on.  It’s a piece of horridly written crap.  So I simply take the simulator for MS-DOS and reset it and the programs will run again.  There are floppy disk programs the kids are playing on, very simple programming.  This is not like the Pentium 4 I have in the other room, different animal.  As I was finishing what I was doing, Bobby looked at Rob and said,”My dad knows a lot about computers, it’s his job.”  Another deer caught in the headlights.


After Rob and Rebecca left for the long drive back down the mountain I hear Jeff sniggering.  Karen, his wife asked what was so funny.  “You remember when your dad gave me the Daddy Test?  Well Rob just flunked it big time.”  Karen was giggling, “You mean that’s why he had that scowl on his face?”  Jeff was jubilant for Rob had flunked the Daddy Test far worse that he.  I mean, Jeff was almost in tears from the laughter.  Bobby was amused as was his wife, Sylvia.  I gave her that female version of the Daddy Test before they eloped.  As for Rob, rebecca told me that for the two hour trip home he was raging at me.  In fact, he kept it up for two days.  Hey, if you don’t know your shit why pretend that you do?  Two lessons in life everyone needs to learn: never bullshit a bullshitter; and never assume Daddy it dumb and stupid.  Rebecca told me that Rob’s failure merely moved up the timetable of moving out and moving on.  Rob, well I guess he is still working at 7-11 and telling all the tennyboppers how smart he is.


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