It's Genetic


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By Bobby Neal Winters

I began the process of cleaning out my home office on New Year's Day. As faithful readers might recall, my not-yet-sixteen-year-old daughter has issues with her room, Mongol tribes wandering in and never being able to find their way out sorts of issues. There are boom boxes, CD-players, CDs, guitars, clarinet reeds, sheet music, yarn, knitting needles, beads, and the desiccated remains of unidentified domestic animals. My beloved spouse has said while looking at me,
"Well you can't blame her, it's genetic."

For my money, I think that my wife is being way too hard on herself, but I still thought perhaps I should try to set a good paternal example by putting my own house in order, and that means cleaning out my office. Having to be airlifted into the computer might have been a clue here.

The office is a relatively new addition to the house which boasts a cabinet on which my computer equipment rests and a set of shelves above the cabinet where I store software, manuals, and assorted media. I have had a computer of my own since the late eighties and have seen a quite a variety of media come and go. My shelves were filled with five-and-a-half inch floppies, three-and-a-quarter inch floppies, zip disks, CD-ROMs, DVDs, and lots of dust.

I began the process of taking down, sorting through, and throwing out. I suppose that a psychologist with training in archeology could have discerned a lot about me as a person at various stages of my life by looking at the different strata.

In going through the old floppy disks, I found the computer game Doom. I looked, paused, and threw. There were massive piles of unlabeled floppies, some which might have held programs, some of which might have contain data, but I followed the rubric, "If I don't know what's on it, then I might as well not have it." Into the trashcan they went.

I came upon some old software that I probably had spent a thousand dollars on between the original version and the seemingly endless updates, but that I can now, because of the Internet, obtain for free. I threw it away disk by disk, cursing at myself as I did so.
Among all of the debris were some objects I once considered sacred: CD-ROMs. I had once held each with the same reverence that a priest does the Host regardless of whether I had spent $100 on it or got it in a cereal box. Time and familiarity has rendered them profane so into the garbage.

Then came the hard decisions. I came upon a five-and-a-quarter inch floppy that held my doctoral thesis. There was a time when I had my several unbound copies of my thesis in boxes around the house and had given my wife detailed instructions on who should be my intellectual executor if I should face an untimely demise. I was eventually convinced to throw those away because, "You still have it on disk, Dear."

I no longer have a computer that the disk will even fit. I no longer have the program that I wrote it in, an arcane program that probably doesn't even exist any more. But this disk and I had once battled unsolved problems together and came out victorious. I looked at the disk to which I owed my title, my career, and my profession, clinched my teeth, and tossed it. I also tossed away the backup that I had made of it.

My cleaning became so intense that burst into a strata that contained paper and found a small box from an earlier era. Originally the box had held checks, but it now held only a single item. It was a match-sized doll that the not-yet-sixteen-year-old had made out of toothpicks and thread with she was seven.

I removed the doll from its secret hiding place and looked at it. It is a primitive self-portrait. I threw the box away and put the doll on my widow sill—being careful not to tangle it in the spider webs—where it can look at me now as I write.
It is genetic, I suppose.
Must have been good to find the doll. Even as my eldest approaches 5 years of age, I can already see how astonishingly transformed she is from the child she was before. The growing up seems too fast at times.