MAN OF THE HOUSE

Truly, it's a funny, knock-knock world

NEXT time you have a moment, ask yourself this: How much honesty does my life have? Is my work mostly truthful and rewarding? In my personal life, can I level with my friends? Do my kids think I'm a fraud?

The "Honesty Index," which I invented while watching some phony-baloney TV pundit, is a novel way to assess your life. What you do is ask yourself easy questions about the level of sincerity in your surroundings. If you find a lot of fairness and honesty, you win. If you don't, well, you'll probably lie about it anyway.

Me, I scored a 1.5 on the Honesty Index. That's on a scale of 0 to 1.5, which I weighted slightly in my favor, giving myself extra credit for not fibbing too much on my taxes and admitting recently to my buddy Irv that I now weigh 170, not 150 like my driver's license says. Apparently, I have so much honesty in my life it's ridiculous.

"I cannot tell a lie," I tell the kids.

"Everybody tells a lie," says the boy.

"Not me," I said.

"That's tight, Dad," said the little girl, fittingly impressed. Of all the kids, she goes to church the most. So far, it hasn't ruined her.

Anyway, I like this Honesty Index, for it is a way to measure your quality of life in ways that don't show up on a paycheck.

The census, for example, asks us how many homes, cars and kids we have. Is that any way to measure a life? For the record, I have one home, two mortgages and four kids, one of whom may be a grandchild, I'm not sure. He's almost 20 years younger than our eldest child. We nearly named him "Oops."

"We're having our own grandchildren," I told my wife one evening.

"Tonight?" she asked.

"No, him," I said of Oops. "He's like a grandkid."

He's turned out to be quite a little boy, this golden bonus baby, 30 pounds of dirt and smiles in one convenient package. He looks better in a Chicago Cubs cap than anyone since Sweetbreads Bailey, his ears sticking out at odd and lovely angles.

But there's more to this kid than great fashion sense. He's quick with a joke and a smile. He cracks himself up, smacking his leg as he bends slightly at the waist. He's particularly fond of knock-knock jokes.

"Knock, knock," he says.

"Come in," I say.

This makes him giggle. Everything makes him giggle. He is, suddenly, at age 4, the laugh track to our lives, the knock-knock joke that won't go to bed on time no matter how much I run him around the park all day. He is exhausting, exhilarating, maddening. But he tells a great knock-knock joke.

"Knock, knock," he says.

"Who's there?"

CHICAGO