I was reading Moby Dick for the second time. Actually I was starting it for the second time. I had trouble with it and I donít know if that really matters, but when I was young I was easily distracted and that might be a part of the problem. Itís not an easy book and you have to pay attention. That evening I wasnít paying attention and I didnít get very far with the story. When I heard the TV go off and I knew he was finished with the news, I went to find my Dad again. I had formed a question for him that I figured heíd let me ask. I was ready for him and I hoped heíd have the answer, the real answer, and that heíd share it with me.
I had just realized that weird thing about Dad and her, about their game of declaration and acceptance. I wanted to know how it started, how it felt and how much longer theyíd be playing this game.
My Dad was sitting on the johnny, the door to the bathroom only partially closed, so I pushed it slightly ajar.
"Hey, there, kiddo," he laughed as he said it, "what do you think youíre doing?"
"I have a real question for you," I said at once. "It canít wait."
"It canít wait?" He looked chagrined. "Okay, if it canít wait, then I guess neither can I. Whatís the question?"
I took a deep breath before I began because I hadnít finalized the form of the question. I only knew that the word Ďwhyí couldnít be a part of it. I blinked twice. Then I asked him.
"This game you play, you and her..."
"Your mother, yes..?"
"It always goes the same way, most of the time. She tells you something is going to happen and you just agree with her. How did that start, Dad?" I took a breath, and he was about to speak, but I held up my hand, and continued. "How does it feel to never disagree with her when she makes these decitions? And how come, when you make a decision and just tell her it she never fights with you about it, even when she doesnít like it?"
"She always like my decisions, kiddo."
"Not always, she doesnít," my sister Jackie said. She was standing directly behind me and I hadnít even been aware of her there before she spoke.
"Oh ho," my Dad said, "so thereís two of you in on this question."
"No there isnít..." I began, but he continued right over me.
"Iím outnumbered by my offspring, my kiddos. And youíve got me on the crapper so I am at a disadvantage here. Would you folks like to let the old man clean himself up, please. Then we can talk about all this. Okay?"
"No," Jackie said. "If we let you up we let you off. Thatís the way it always works around here."
"Jackie..." I implored, but she ignored me too.
"We want an answer now. Are you a wuss? Donít you have an opinion of your own? Must she always have her way?" Jackie wasnít fond of her either, you can tell.
"Kiddos, your mother and I have a perfect relationship. She would never do anything that doesnít please me, so thereís no reason to disagree with her. Likewise she always knows what pleases me and so when I want something done my way she always goes along with it. Itís as simple as that."
"No, it isnít," Jackie said emphatically. "Youíre avoiding the truth."
"Young lady, Iím not avoiding anything. Thatís enough now."
"I think I could hate you," Jackie said, as she turned bruskly away from Dad and stomped back to the living room. I felt perfectly awful. I had started this and now Jackie and my Dad were angry. It was my fault. I started it. I said that to him and he scowled in my direction.
"Donít be silly, kiddo," he said. "Sheís a headstrong girl with lots of opinions. I just donít happen to agree with them, thatís all."
I gave him a smile and turned away so he could finish doing his business in private. I really did feel terrible about this. I knew I shouldnít have bothered him about this whole declaration and acceptance thing. It seemed stupid now and I was all prepared to leave it alone forever. It hadnít occurred to me that just putting it carefully into this question form could have such consequences. Iíd never thought that my big sister would get so into it all.