punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Some odd notes

While I was basking in the sense of relief I passed the LPI 101, someone on a private LJ talked about problems she's been having with her father's previous abuse. I guess one of the things I have to deal with, although much less so lately, is my own father's abuse. Part of this healing is tracking him down, even though he doesn't really want to be found. But, ironically, he's got such a list of people who are mad at him, they find ME out.

Think about that for second. People, often people he hasn't seen or worked with for 20 years or more, take time from their day to complain about him. That's a pretty lasting impression to make on a person. In some cases, they are really pissed off.

I got an e-mail a few months ago from someone my dad worked with at SRI (Stanford Research Institute) back in the 1970s. Like many e-mails I get of this nature, it starts off with the usual, "I debated sending you this mail, but I read some of the things you had to say about your father, and you may find this info to be of some use." Many people feel a sense of guilt, which is then followed by a wave of pent-up anger. A lot of these people are older than I am, and we're talking in their 60s or 70s.

I already had been contacted some years ago by fellow alumni of Stanford, where my father got his PhD. None of them said anything I hadn't heard before. But this guy had some fairly detailed comments about my father's work at Stanford, including a copy of his thesis, "Cost-effective Processor Design with an Application to Fast Fourier Transform Computers." It's as boring as it sounds; my father is a very poor writer. This man also said he remembered me as a very small child, wandering around the computer labs. He said that I had an "implicit fascination with how things worked" and everyone agreed that I would someday be working with computers.

Funny. You know, everyone knew about my future with computers but me until 1995.

I barely remember those days as a kid. I must have been 4 or 5. I don't remember who I met, I only remember huge stacks of punch cards, paper tape, large machines with spinning tape reels, men with long hair and glasses, and some kind of huge metal green printer thing. Only sparse images and a sense of wonder and nervousness of being told not to touch anything. Later years, my afther worked in offices, and was surrounded by nervous employees. All I remember about those rare visits was the hot cocoa was free.

Most of these letters end the same way, too. "I am sorry you suffered as a child, your father was a brilliant man, but we didn't understand how he married such a wonderful woman, and I am glad you took the traits of your mother," and so on. Some feel regret and pity my mother was an alcoholic, but it's reassuring, in a dark sort of way, that they also understand why. Some offer advice to suck it up and move on (but in more friendly terms).

So as this private LJ spoke about things she remembered about her father, I wonder if in the future she'll be told the same things. If people will come to her and say, "I knew your dad, and he was an asshole. Thank goodness you turned out like your mother." If any legacy her father left her, any talent and skills, will be delayed because she identifies them with her memories of him. Only to end up in the same industry.

My advice to her would be, "Go with the flow. Talent doesn't fall far from the parent tree, but that doesn't mean you have to grow up the same way. You have another chance."
Tags: childhood, father
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