Today, 20 May, is a pretty special day for me. Today would have been my father’s 100th birthday.
My father was, and still is, a huge force in my life. He was big on learning, and whilst he never received extensive formal education, he wanted both my brother and myself to learn as much as we could, and in anyway we could. In most cases, this meant by exploring what we didn’t know, as opposed to just the formal educational system that we were raised in (I am sure he would be pretty mystified as to why I felt compelled to earn a Ph.D.)
He could be tough. I remember at one point whilst in high school, my grades for several classes were…well, the fact is that they were pretty abysmal. After an evening of being properly bollocked for my most recent grade reports, he told me that if my grades did not improve dramatically and immediately, I would be chucked off to a Military Academy to teach me some discipline. At the time, I was near panic-stricken. However, he could also be pretty sympathetic, as evidenced by the fact when my next grade reports arrived showing a less-than-energetic response to the threat on my part, I never did get sent away.
I worked with my father for quite a few years, which was like the first lines of A Tale of Two Cities. These were the best of times and the worst of times, but never dull. He taught me about Leonardo de Pisa, a mathematician whom we know as Fibonacci. Fibonacci believed that there are sequences of numbers that are ‘natural.’ To drive the point home, my father once sent me out to pick dandelions so we could count the number of petals on the flowers, proving out the Fibonacci theory. The numerical sequence as identfied in the theory is, “1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, ... defined by F(1) = 1, F(2) = 1, and F(n) = F(n-1) + F(n-2) for n = 3, 4, 5, ...” But you probably already knew that. Can you imagine me, counting petals on a dandelion to prove out the theory? Not exactly a pretty sight.
When I was faced with a problem or serious life challenge, he never provided me with a solution or gave me ‘the answer,’ but instead told me to go figure it out for myself. At times, this can be a pretty depressing response, but he taught me to be self-reliant and use my head to figure out how to avoid problems. By the time he passed away in 1974, I had realised that this was the best thing for a father to do for a son.
At times, he was pretty hard to live and work with, but he was, and always will be my father, and he is missed.
The number 100 is significant in other ways as well, just in case someone asks you....
Don't worry, there won't be a test.
teaching me the theories of momemtum and balance
my father and my brother
when things we all different
me, looking for something to paint
copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, James B. Rieley