Celebratio Mathematica

Thomas Milton Liggett

Tom Liggett: a daughter’s memories

by Amy Liggett

My hus­band likes to say I was raised in a Nor­man Rock­well paint­ing. This was in con­trast to the Andy War­hol paint­ing he felt he was raised in be­ing from rur­al Texas. In­stead, I view my fam­ily as neither a pos­it­ive or neg­at­ive num­ber but rather some­where in the middle of the vast num­ber-line. My fath­er was a multisided geo­met­ric shape math­em­atician, mu­si­cian, nature lov­er, mor­al to a fault, food­ie and ter­rible at joke telling. I loved this com­plic­ated man that was my fath­er.

My fa­vor­ite char­ac­ter in the sci-fi show “Star Trek: The Next Gen­er­a­tion” is the an­droid Data. He was al­ways want­ing to be more than his pro­gram. He, like Dad, could run many com­pu­ta­tions a second, pos­sessed great strength and had an af­fin­ity for bab­bling where you’d just have to nod and say you un­der­stood when most of the time you didn’t. It took awhile but both of these men be­came more than the sum of their parts.

It has taken me 42 years to un­der­stand why Dad and I got un­der each oth­er’s skin so of­ten. I was more like him than I wanted to ad­mit. He didn’t know what I would do with my life be­cause of the phys­ic­al dis­ab­il­it­ies I was dealt, but he was al­ways there to sup­port me. He used his mor­al code for num­bers, while I fol­lowed his par­ents and used this trait with­in re­li­gion and in start­ing my own busi­ness. I know it frus­trated him to wit­ness my struggle with ba­sic arith­met­ic prob­lems, which he could solve without blink­ing. He took it in stride though, writ­ing notes to my teach­ers ex­plain­ing the reas­on for my un­fin­ished home­work. As I was grow­ing up, my friend­ships were few and far between. In high school Dad wanted me to have a “neut­ral ex­per­i­ence” with math. In hir­ing a tu­tor he didn’t just achieve that; more im­port­antly, I was gif­ted a friend­ship that lasts to this day.

To­ward the end of gradu­ate school an ad­visor said “the in­ter­net will be your con­nec­tion to the world”. Little did I know how pro­found this state­ment would be. Flash back to 1999 when I was search­ing for a mu­sic camp for adults: Quickly I found one on the web in Sonoma County. I didn’t know where that was but figured it was in the Bay Area. Then came the tough part selling my par­ents on the idea. They were con­cerned be­cause this would only be the second time I’d traveled alone, the vo­cal classes were not in the clas­sic­al style and the loc­a­tion was rus­tic so not ex­actly dis­ab­il­ity-friendly. Dad had many con­ver­sa­tions with the staff on my be­half. Be­fore I knew it, we were driv­ing to San Fran­cisco for my first of twelve sum­mers at camp. While I learned about per­form­ance and 1960s folk mu­sic, my par­ents went to vari­ous na­tion­al parks. Later on, it would make Dad smile walk­ing past my bed­room telling me “I re­mem­ber that song.” The time I heard him laugh the most was at a con­cert with Judy Collins and Tom and Dick Smoth­ers. It’s something I’ll al­ways re­mem­ber.

A fa­vor­ite movie of mine is the ‘90s com­edy “Fath­er of the Bride”. Dad re­minds me of Steve Mar­tin’s char­ac­ter. Both men loved their daugh­ters so much they didn’t know if they could let them go. This pro­cess began for Dad in Decem­ber of 2010. One day he answered my call to the news that my neigh­bor was tak­ing me shop­ping for a date I had that night. Dad wished me well with a healthy dose of re­serve. Look­ing back now, what I saw as dis­in­terest was his way of keep­ing the world at arm’s length so I wouldn’t get hurt. He loved his girl so much and this was his way to pro­tect her.

Al­most be­fore Dad knew it, Dar­ren be­came part of our fam­ily. I was con­cerned how they would get along be­cause of their dif­fer­ent in­terests and mind­sets. Dad could see the two of us were be­gin­ning to fall in love and he wanted me to be happy. I be­lieve we are shaped by those around us. For nine years Dad saw the blend­ing of two dif­fer­ent artists and how they could be­come one paint­ing. I’m grate­ful for the wis­dom he shared with me. His memory will al­ways live in my heart.