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.