Thursday, July 27, 2006

Billions And Billions

The last serious conversation I had -- or attempted to have -- with my father was five years ago. It was my summer of Carl Sagan, a summer I spent sitting on the beach reading every book Sagan ever wrote (this is not a good way to pick up lifeguards, by the way). I started, of course, with Cosmos, and was completely enthralled. However, I didn't quite understand Chapter 8, which is about special relativity.

Special relativity is tricky and it boggled my mind, but in a way I enjoyed. I remember gazing at the stars and trying to wrap my mind around the possibility that a star I was looking at right then might very well no longer exist, that the light I was seeing had traveled years to get to me and that the star it left might have died in the meantime, yet I could still see it. I was fascinated by the thought that I might be looking at something that didn't exist. I loved this concept.

My dad is a nuclear engineer, so I knew he understood this far better than I did. I was excited -- excited that I knew someone who could help me understand relativity and excited that I had something to share with my dad. He’s a science-y person who I’ve always suspected was secretly disappointed he didn’t have science-y kids. I brought him my copy of Cosmos and asked him to read Chapter 8 and then discuss it with me.

My dad flipped through the book, glanced at me, and then said, "Stick to History, Megan" as he handed it back to me.

Maybe he was tired, maybe he’d had a bad day, maybe he’d long ago accepted me for the history type I was and not the science type he wanted. I don’t know. What I do know is that it was then that I stopped trying to be close to my father or to win his affection.


vikkitikkitavi said...

I'm the only non-science person where I work, and this sometimes gets me down and makes me feel stupid, but then I'll hear one of them say something totally bone-headed about literature or art and it makes me feel better.

lulu said...

oh God. This sounds so familiar. Not the science part, but the dad part. It's hard. :-(

Brian said...

Yeah, for me it was one of the times he took me down to the basement to 'knock me around' after having brought home an "unnacceptable" report card.

Megan said...

I know, little bro', I know.

wonderturtle said...

Ouch. From an English teacher perspective, it is pretty interesting that the concept at hand was "special relativity." Just saying.

Megan said...

To be fair, I should mention that my dad is not a horrible person. He just sometimes says fairly horrible things without thinking them through.