Controlled Data

Hi Darling Ones,

Before I begin I have to tell you that by sheer coincidence Paul Simon’s “Me & Julio Down by the Schoolyard” is coming in over the cans as I type. The song is part of an algorithmically-determined Happy Mix playlist. The Happy Mix is one of my standard go-tos when I got a lot of work to do and don’t want to put thought into what is flowing in my ears. The songs on this mix are shoulder-shaking, head-bopping songs. Perfect when you’re copy editing 849 pages of dry web copy.

This is a coincidence because I’m about to write about my biological father and the handful of facts I know about him that has now grown by one. One of the already-known facts is he loved Simon & Garfunkel.

If you are new to this history or need a refresher, I never met my biological father. He allowed my dad to adopt me when I was four or five, after I asked if I could have the last name Chromey like my parents and Sister #2. I learned my last name was different when I read it on the hospital bracelet I got when I had ear surgery in, probably, 1976.

Ten years ago, I stumbled on the 2010 obituary for my biological father. It was weird and sad, and I didn’t deal with it very well. Or at all. I had the news from my mom for like six weeks, until it slipped out one night at family dinner.

As a family we generally do not talk about my biological father. It makes my sisters uncomfortable because they don’t like to be reminded I’m a half sister. My mom has never liked to talk about him and half the time she forgets about him. Or she pretends to forget about him. I can never tell.

I mentioned once how my birth certificate is kind of a nightmare because and she asked me why. “Because of the adoption,” I said. “My last name is different.”
“Oh yeah,” she said. “I forget about that.”

If you ask my mom what I do for a living her usual answer is “something with computers.” This has is not true. It’s never been true. I do not have the patience to correct her so I let the lie ride. She also operates under the false notion that I love computers. Again, no. I do love the internet, and have since I first logged on in 1994. My mom thinks the internet is same thing as computers. Do not try to correct because she gets super cranky about it. Same with when you try to explain to her that Cheezos and Cheezies are not the name of actual products. “Oh, you know what I mean,” is always her reply. On that count she’s right.

My mom holds onto the notion that I love computers so tightly because she has always claimed my biological father loves computers too and she really enjoys pointing out the similarities between me and this man I never met. I look like him. I talk like him. I love music and computers like him. . . I’d say the list goes on and on, but it mostly stops there.

The “he loves computers” thing always puzzled me. I mean, how did a person get a lot of access to computers in the early 70s? I’ve asked her a bunch of times how she knew he loved computers and her answer was always, “I dated him for three years,” which explains nothing and everything, I guess.

She has literally never given any justification for this factoid for fifty years, until Sunday.

I cannot even remember the topic at hand or how it came up, but we were sitting here and she said, “Oh yeah, Skip worked at Control Data for years.” My mind was instantly wiped clean and I blinked at her as she moved on to some other topic.

He worked at Control Data? For years?

I had no idea. None at all. Until that very moment it had never even occurred to me to ask her what he did for a living. I knew he served in Vietnam, had kind of a drinking problem, loved Simon & Garfunkel and computers, and did not want children. I assumed that was all there was to know.

Did he work at Control Data for years because he loved computers or did he love computers because he worked at Control Data? I’ll never know. But now I know one more thing about him and that’s pretty cool.


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