What's your dad do?

When you’re a kid, there’s a nebulous sense of your father’s “important job.” He carries a briefcase, wears a suit and loafers with tassels. His grey-haired exhaustion a badge—from firing idiots all day, probably. You assume he’s the top-dog in business because that’s how you know him at home. My dad walked into the house everyday to my sister and I cheering from the top step: “Mikey’s home! Mikey’s home!” We’d spend some time (outside of Father-Daughter Day) at his office and admire him behind his enormous oak desk, cluttered with dot-matrix printouts, ledgers and Peanut M&Ms. His furrowed brow and quick-fingered calculations quietly entranced us. He was good at whatever it was he was doing, we were sure. Maybe the best.

Eventually, we figured out he was an accountant (when he told us). A CPA, according to his vanity plates. It still sounded important, and with a acronymized title, it was easy to brag about on the playground. “Your dad has to pay my dad to do… something for him.” Tax season was the time between December and April when we ate dinner late, but always together. He would disappear on Saturdays, except for the few mornings each spring he’d drive me and friends to our rec softball games. During which he’d try to explain to uninterested 10-year-olds the first accounting principle when asked why Mom wasn’t giving us a ride (he didn’t stop at QuikCheck first, like she did). It left enough of an impression for me to take an intro accounting course in college, but not enough to pursue it any further—we only needed one accountant in the family.

At 25, I comfortably understand what my father does for a living. The sheen of childhood adoration has lost its luster, though, now that I’m being audited.