Harshan: The New Father


You guys have it easy: all you have to do is read these Bobo stories! But those of us who are ‘characters’ have to keep you entertained.

Sometimes that can be very exhausting.

Maybe I’m just saying that because Harshan and I have been very busy lately. We have a foster son! Now, you may be saying, ‘Melissa and Harshan just started to talk about the idea of adoption only two weeks ago!’ Well, that isn’t quite true, although it must seem that way to you! Now I can’t vouch for Bobo or John, but I do know it takes me a few days to write things down; then I have to send it to Ken; then we have to work over the story together until we both agree on it… and so on. Some of you have been ‘characters’ in the Bobo stories and know what I mean. Remember Joanne’s party? She’s still wondering what was harder—throwing the party or making it into a story!

More time has passed than it seems!

One of the readers came up with the idea for us to adopt a handicapped child, which meant that we didn’t have to wait as long. She was instrumental in providing us with information on organizations that place handicapped children into foster homes. I’m also lucky because we had help from someone here in my office. He’s done it before, so he could help us every gruesome step of the way.

In the end, we decided to try and adopt an older child rather than an infant.

Our new son is an nine-year-old boy named Darryl. He’s just another kid, except that he’s kind of wild. He has his own ideas about what clothes he’s going to wear and whether or not he’s going to school. He isn’t very amenable to discipline, but we do seem to get along okay. He is totally deaf in one ear, and partially deaf in the other. In Darryl’s case “partially deaf” means that he can hear perfectly well below middle C. He can hear most men’s voices, but women and children are generally above his range of hearing. He can talk, of course, and knows sign language.

Adoption is by no means an easy process; in fact, we have to be his foster parents for a while before the adoption can be finalized. We have had a long series of meetings with a social worker to convince the agency that we have a proper environment and would make good parents. They delved into every detail! Of course, the fact that Harshan is an alien from outer space posed no difficulty at all. All you need is a birth certificate, and you can prove anything! I was amazed, but Harshan said it was easy.

“You know how children build a clubhouse, usually in a tree, and start a secret club?” he asked me one day during a commercial break on television.

“Oh yes,” I said in not-so-fond memory, “When I was growing up, a bunch of little boys did that. They wouldn’t let me join because I didn’t know the secret word. Maybe they just didn’t want any girls,” I mused. “Anyway, I wonder what they did in their club.” We were snuggled on the sofa together, so I snuggled closer. Mother was sitting in an arm chair, absorbed in a floor wax commercial.

“Normally, all they do in their club is have a club,” Harshan explained, “but what I am getting at is the secret password. This whole blizzard of birth certificates, drivers licences, credit cards, and ID cards is just a more mature form of the same thing.”

“I see what you mean,” Mother interrupted dryly, “to a Homelander, Human societies are just child’s play!” With that she got out of the chair and headed for the kitchen.

“You don’t give yourselves enough credit!” Harshan shouted out, missing Mother’s humor. “It’s just an example.”

We heard Mother get a drinking glass from the cabinet, open the refrigerator and pour a beverage. There were some other noises; bowls against the counter, plastic bags being opened.

“What I mean is that Homelander sociologists can easily figure out all these ‘passwords’,” Harshan shouted over the television. “So it was a cinch to get a birth certificate and a social security card.”

Mother returned to the living room with refreshments for us all (I was a little embarrassed for not helping her).

“Did you have a fake resume to get a job?” She asked teasingly as she bit down on a pretzel.

“No,” Harshan said defensively, “I just had to use good salesmanship. And you know I earned the drivers’ license fair and square!”

I patted him on the leg reassuringly; the show was back on and none of us wanted to miss it. That show seemed so absorbing and important back then, but now I can’t even remember what it was about!

A few minutes later Darryl came into the room and stood directly in front of the television set. “I finished all that dumb homework, Mr. Lahtissimon,” he announced dourly. It’s his first week with us, and he’s still not quite at home.

Harshan put down his snack bowl to free his hands. The television was loud, and he wanted to make sure that Darryl understood him. “That’s fine,” he signed. “You can call me ‘Dad’ if you like, but you don’t have to. Now sit down and watch television with us!”

“That dumb old show?” Darryl whined. “I’ve seen that a million times before!”

“You’re exaggerating,” Harshan signed calmly, munching on a pretzel. “It’s a half-hour show, so a million times would be 500,000 hours, and you don’t look like you’re 58 years old.” He paused to swallow, and held out the bowl of pretzels to Darryl. “Would you like the rest of my pretzels?”

“Yeah, thanks,” came the response, and he snatched the bowl away. Darryl sat cross-legged on the carpet. Then he looked up at Harshan and asked, “Would it really take 58 years to watch this show a million times, or did you just make that up?”

Harshan reached over to the end table and grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil. The two of them were quickly engrossed in arithmetic, but they moved to the kitchen table after Mother protested. Let me give you a piece of advice: never ask anyone who has worked on a spaceship to tell you something about mathematics. You’ll never get out of it alive! Eventually, the show was over, the television was off, Mother was in bed, and I was cleaning up. And there were Harshan and Darryl at the kitchen table, still absorbed in their discussion, except that the topic had changed.

“So why isn’t the Moon a Moon?” Darryl asked in vexation.

“Because,” answered Harshan, “To be considered a Moon, by Homelander standards, it must orbit the Earth’s center over the earth’s equator, and its orbit must be driven primarily by the Earth’s gravitational field.”

“So?” Darryl was interested, but he didn’t seem to absorb all the technical talk.

“None of this is true for the Moon,” Harshan continued, as he drew little sketches to illustrate his points. “The Earth and the Moon orbit a common center which is not the center of either planet; the Moon moves in the plane of the Sun’s equator, not the Earth’s; and the Sun’s gravity has a stronger effect on the Moon than the Earth’s.”

“What does this mean?”

“The Earth and the Moon are two planets which share the same orbit around the Sun, and do a graceful waltz to avoid bumping into each other.”

“Oh,” Darryl said. He’s read enough science fiction to understand about orbits and gravity, but the implications didn’t sink in.

“So we live on one half of a double planet!” Harshan concluded triumphantly. “In fact,” Harshan added a bit imprudently, “Earth-Moon is the only known double planet to be inhabited!”

“We live on a double planet! Wow!” Darryl’s eyes lit up as if his favorite Saturday morning television show had come to life!

“Sorry to break this up, boys,” I said as I wiped of the table in front of them, “but it is long past everyone’s bedtime.” I let go of the dishcloth to restate what I had just said in sign language. Darryl can hear Harshan’s voice, but mine is too high.

“Aw, and we were just going outside to look at the sky!” Darryl groaned. I glared over at Harshan, who just grinned sheepishly.

“No time for that now,” I signed. “There’s school and work awaiting us tomorrow!” Boy, my fingers hurt! I hope I get used to this sign language pretty soon.

“I hate that dumb school,” he said, but his voice was beginning to lack conviction. We tried to hide our surprise, but it was the first night he kissed us good-night.

I wonder what else Harshan’s been teaching Darryl!