The World’s Smartest Man

My girls, ‘back then’

Remember when you thought your father was the smartest man in the world? I do. And I remember how I felt the day I found out he wasn’t. I just came right out and asked him if he knew everything. He laughed and said no. I was let down, but somehow I had begun to sense it and was somewhat prepared to accept a slightly more realistic image of the big guy. He was still the best dad in the world, and he held that title for the rest of his life.

The way my daughter found out that I didn’t know everything was more abrupt, and my wife was more shocked that day than my little girl was, but not because she suddenly realized I wasn’t the smartest man in the world. She had known it from Day One.

This happened in Kendallville, Indiana–a great little Midwestern town. My wife got called in as a substitute teacher that day, so it fell to me to get Katie dressed and off to school. It so happened that Carol was teaching the first grade class that Kate attended. When she walked into the classroom, my wife was horrified. Katie had her dress on backwards. Carol took our little first-grader into the restroom and put the dress on right. She said, “Katie, you know how this dress goes.”

“Well, I figured if daddy put it on that way, you must be able to wear it either way.” All I could say was I thought the buttons went in front.

I’m pretty sure that was the day that Katie figured it out, but there was an incident about 15 years later that might have made her rethink my mental prowess, if only for a moment.

Mobile had recently obtained a Class AA baseball team in the San Diego Padres minor league system, and the big club came to town for an exhibition game after breaking camp at spring training. Katie was home for spring break, so I took her to the game, mainly to give her a look at the city’s new stadium. The moment occurred right after I had the audacity to criticize the major league third baseman’s defensive posture before each pitch.

I said something like, “Look at him. He’s an error waiting to happen. He needs to get that glove down on the ground and be ready. You can bring it up a lot faster than you can jam it down.” On the very next pitch, a sharp ground ball was hit directly at him and went right through his legs. By the expression on Katie’s face when she turned to me, I could tell that she had a flash of that old magical trust in her dad’s omniscient powers, at least where baseball was concerned.

Everything I knew about playing the infield came from her grandfather, but that was a story for another time. Happy Father’s Day.

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