Jun. 17th, 2012

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When I was a kid I used to joke that my dad was a spy. I mean, I knew it was a joke, but I would sometimes say it with exact seriousness, because often people would ask me what my dad did for a living and I would have to answer with something that wouldn't provoke more intrusive questions - "spy" usually fit the bill. I wonder sometimes how many people actually believed me - it may have been more than I thought, because they never reacted as if they thought I was lying, you know, saying, spy? A SPY? YEAH RIGHT LARA, WHAT DOES HE REALLY DO? And I think it could have been believable - it would explain why my dad was never around much but my mom was not a single parent, either. I don't really remember where I initially got that idea - I think it's linked to the fact that my dad speaks Russian. He can also read and write in Russian and would often write in Russian to keep other people from being able to read his stuff, since Russian uses a different alphabet. I think I remember him once telling me that he wasn't writing Russian in Russian, he was writing in Spanish but using Russian letters.

Guys, children are at least partially a product of their environments, okay? Clearly I was RAISED to be paranoid as shit. Not only is it in my blood, but I've had lessons in it for my entire childhood!

I was a little girl at the very tail end of the Cold War and I guess for a while after people generally did associate "speaks Russian" with "spy." The truth is entirely less glamorous - my dad learned Russian because he enjoyed Russian literature and wanted to be able to read classics like "Crime and Punishment" in the original language. Yes really. That is what super geniuses do. When the Cold War ended, there was a massive wave of Russian immigrants to the U.S. and many of the initial arrivals were science and technology people - I knew my dad wasn't a spy. I just told people that because I didn't know the name of his job. I am pretty sure it was actually "mad scientist." He did a lot of work with Russian scientists when I was very very little. That's why he had Russian stuff all over his lab. You know, his lab in our basement. That my sister and I (and my mom!) were not allowed in. Because he was a mad scientist.

Or because it was his darkroom, because, being a super genius, he also decided he was a photographer and had a photo lab in our basement, which of course is light sensitive so you can't just go randomly opening the door or everything is destroyed. There were robots in there also. He made them. They assisted him with developing photographs - or whatever else he did in there. He talked to them, so clearly they operated on voice control, which he clearly invented himself, because he is a super genius after all. They also talked to each other, even when he wasn't in there, so obviously they were also some form of AI. They were named Joan and Jackie - after Joan Benoit and Jackie Joyner - women's track stars. Yes really!

My favorite memory of my dad and I together is something that I re-remembered fairly recently. I was telling someone about how my parents were crazy and always disturbing my sleep as a kid, but they were two different kinds of crazy. My mom would get me out of bed, in the middle of the night, because the floor was dirty and I needed to clean it immediately. My dad... my dad would get me out of bed and take me outside with the big telescope, and show me stuff in the sky, like a meteor shower or a lunar eclipse or even traces of the very edge of the Northern Lights, or just a very very bright planet or the surface of the moon. I was never allowed to touch the telescope because every time I did I always managed to move it slightly. I thought it was amazing how he could find things in the sky, I mean, I could stare up at it and never find anything, but he could pinpoint all kinds of things and get them in the telescope to show me.

I don't remember the significance of all the stuff in the sky really. I am pretty good at finding planets and constellations now, but I also had planetarium class in school, so I didn't learn EVERYTHING I knew from my dad. I was probably too young to retain much of the information he was bombarding me with at the time, but by the time I was old enough for school I was AWESOME at absorbing interesting stuff. One thing I definitely remember, though, was the comet. You know, Haley's Comet. I don't remember what the comet looked like AT ALL. I might not have even been able to really see it. Sometimes my dad would get frustrated trying to show me things and I was just way too little to even know what I was supposed to be looking at in the first place. Haley's Comet, though, I remember because my dad explained to me how exciting this was, how it could only be seen once every 76 years, and how special it was for me because I'd be alive when it came back, too, and I'd get to see it twice in my lifetime. I asked him how old he'd be when it came back, and he told me he wouldn't be alive by then, that nobody lives to be that old, and that I was lucky to have been born when I was because not every generation could see the comet twice in their lifetimes.

I just recently remembered this (Haley's Comet was entirely unspectacular - I CLEARLY remember the Hale-Bop comet several years later, visible for months and with the naked eye and THAT was pretty freakin awesome) and it kind of just occurred to me that someday I'll have NO parents. That someday, if I live to be 78 and if I care at all to go looking for comets... I will be very, very alone. I won't even have my own kids or grandkids to share this with.

I think today I should call my dad and tell him that even though I was very little, I remember him showing me the comet. He's not very sentimental like that, but, I don't know. I think he would appreciate knowing that I DO remember the stuff he did with me when I was so so young and that, you know, it was great that he did all that.

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Lara I.

October 2012

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