Sunday, June 08, 2008

I'm your dad (picture enclosed)

Dear Baby,

I'm your dad (picture enclosed).



My father was not an eloquent man, nor was he dependable, both illustrated well by this letter received by my mother four weeks after my birth. He was not altogether useless to me though. He was a genius. Specifically he was a mathmatical genius. So the nature variable of the equation was much stronger than the nuture.

I did not meet him in person until I was in late elementary school, middle school in some places. He had heard from my mother, she gave him monthly updates in response to his checks, that I had started learning algebra. At this, he immediately took sabatical and came to meet me. He stayed with us for the next three months doing nothing but, in his words, "properly introducing you to the numerical". My mother pulled me out of school for the duration. She did this without hesitation which at the time I did not notice, but now that I'm older with grown children, I marvel at her. How did she know?

I remember those three months as intense and exciting. I met my dad for the first time. He spent every day with me, and never bored or tired of it. We talked about numbers all the time. Not always directly, but in some way my father used every moment we had to awaken me to the numerical. We took field trips. We camped out during rush hour on the side of the road with hot dogs and Dr. Pepper, counting traffic and patterns, then went home and analyized our findings. Everything felt like discovery and the world around me seemed understandable for the first time. I came out of that three month visit a different person. I loved having a father even for just three months.

He left as suddenly as he had come. One day his mind seemed to wonder and he spent an unusual amount of time by himself. The next day he shook my hand, hugged me, and quickly walked to the waiting car. He had a breakthrough idea and had called the University. They sent a car. I didn't see him again until I presented my doctoral thesis.

After his visit, I went back to school and found everything to be suddenly slow and obvious. The math teacher made me a tutor for the other children. This is how I remember math classes in school, teaching the other kids for four years what my father had shown me in three months.


domboy said...

I often feel sorry for the mothers - the necessary, yet inconsequential characters.

ds said...

there's a lot to be said for public education.

Mariposa said...

good stuff mainard!