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Back now from Family Reunion A, a good time at the Lake of the Ozarks. The B-Side Family Reunion (Becca’s side) is in ten days in the mountains of North Carolina. Between the two is a mountain of catching up. My word, I hadn’t even heard about Crackergate (my new all-time favorite entry in the category of unintentional self-parody) until just now.

I’ll start the week with a brief hymn to my wife Becca, who has once again accidentally reminded me that whenever a pollster asks how many adults live in our home, the correct answer is “one.”

It was late. We had stayed at the lake until after lunch on Sunday to give the kids one last chance to put an eye out with a SeaDoo. Now we’d driven 400 miles with 40 to go before not even home, but a one-star motel in Clarksville, Tennessee. And we were in the twentieth minute of a game of Initials on which Connor (shortly 13) had insisted.

The rules are simple. One person offers the initials of another person, famous or non. The others ask yes-or-no questions until they figure out who it is. Unlike Twenty Questions, this one has no mercifully pre-programmed end. You go until you stop. I like this game between 9am and 9pm. It was 10:15.

“RR!” the boy repeated for the nth time, exasperated. “Come on, you guys, jeez!”

We’d established in the opening minute that RR was a famous fictional male, dropping Ronald Reagan, Roy Rogers, and Ralph Reed off the table. Just ten minutes later, we had established that RR was a superhero.

“I can’t believe you guys! RR,” he whined, leaning on the second letter as if it helped. I desperately wanted silence, which only seemed likely if we guessed the damned identity of R frickin’ R.

“Do both Rs stand for regular names?” I asked.

“No, it isn’t!”

Aha. “Is the first one a title? Like ‘Reverend’?”

“That’s right, Dad. It’s the famous superhero, Reverend Rick.”

Smartass. “Is the first R an adjective?”

“Adjective…I always get those confused.”

“Descriptive word. Like red or round.

“Yes! It’s an adjective!”

Aha. “Is the first R red?”

“YES! Jeez, it’s about time. Now you’ll get it.”

Then ten more minutes passed, his frustration rising every time I offered Red Rover? or Red Roof-inn?

“Are you sure this guy is a superhero?” Becca asked.

“Holy buckets, you guys, I can’t believe it! Yes, he’s a superhero, now COME ON! Red R!!!”

At last we did the unthinkable and surrendered, hoping he’d accept.

“You’re gonna be so mad at yourselves,” he promised.

“I’ll flip the car to punish myself.”

“Okay, here it goes. Are you ready?”

“Yes.”

“Red Robin.”

Becca and I looked at each other.

“How could you not get that?!” he whined. “Red Robin, jeez!”

“I’m sorry, Con,” I said, holding my fire for the moment. “Who is Red Robin?”

“WHO IS RED ROBIN?!” He couldn’t believe it. “You’ve never heard of Batman and Red Robin??”

“…”

Twenty minutes of guessing, twenty minutes that could have been silent save the rhythmic thrum of the tires — twenty irretrievable minutes passed before my eyes. Gone forever. “Connor,” I said, “it isn’t…”

Becca’s hand came to rest lightly on my arm, and I stopped in mid-sentence.

“Red Robin,” she said. “I can’t believe we missed that.” She squeezed my arm affectionately.

“Jeez,” I said. “Red Robin. Of course.”

He settled back in his seat, victorious. Becca patted my arm, and a sign promised Clarksville in 23 miles.
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[For any DC Comics fans out there: I have since learned that, yes, there is apparently an obscure Red Robin in a 1996 comic book series called Kingdom Come. But Connor knows Robin only through the Batman films.]

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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.