In some ways, my father was ahead of his time. An engineer, aviator, inventor, WWII vet, and medical doctor (Ok, he was an overachiever), Dad wanted all of his children, regardless of gender identity, to have a good science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education because he believed it would be essential for thriving in the future economic and political landscape. “Education is something that no one can take away from you,” he told me more than once.
Dad (and Mom too) fought school policy to make sure I was allowed to take science instead of being forced to take Home Economics with the other girls. Dad taught me how to use a slide rule, and when my math class did not cover essential concepts–like using π to calculate the area of a circle–he taught me himself (though at the time I would have much rather gone to bed). He advocated so that I and some other advanced students could take algebra and chemistry a year early, which allowed us to cram all the available STEM classes into four high school years. And he made sure that I could afford to attend my choice of colleges that focused on science and engineering.
In his sparse free time (he was a practicing family doctor while working as chief engineer at his father’s company on the side), he showed me how an oscilloscope could analyze an electronic circuit, taught me how to find the constellations using a telescope, took me and a classmate out in his boat to collect plankton for a science project, and talked to my physiology class about medicine.
True, he missed most every ball game, skipped a lot of music concerts, and often wasn’t home to read to me (thankfully Mom picked up the slack). True, I had issues with his insistence on perfection and lack of positive feedback. Still, I am the happy, inquisitive science geek I am today in large part because my father made sure my scientific curiosity and abilities were nurtured.
So, thanks, Dad, for believing in me. Despite your humanity and parenting missteps, you made a positive difference in my life. I wish 60-year-old me could talk to you face to face and make sure you knew how much I loved you–and love you still–and reassure you that I know how much you did for me.
To all who have been, will be, or wished they were fathers; who stand in as a loving father figure; or who had or wished they had a good father ….
may you spend Father’s Day remembering or making happy memories.