Yesterday marked two months since dad's passing. Coincidentally I received a parcel in the mail that I didn't open until today. I hadn't received dad's death certificate as yet, and so last Friday I contacted the Funeral services I had used to chase it up for me. They let me know on Monday that Births, Deaths and Marriages said they would post it out within 7 days. So, I assumed that the parcel (which arrived on Tuesday) contained the certificate. I was surprised at how quickly it arrived, but I didn't want to open it.
Today I found the courage to peel open the envelope and was given yet another surprise. It wasn't the death certificate at all of course. It was a piece of writing my dad had written in January 2011 titled 'Dunce - The Story of My Life at School'. His partner had promised to send this to me a couple of weeks ago.
You see, my dad had a brilliant mind and had dedicated most of his life to working on difficult mathematical theories. The Saturday before he passed away he wrote an email to me explaining that he wanted to put together a book containing his final works. Unfortunately he didn't complete this. At his bedside the day before he passed I promised him that I would do all I could do have his work published.
On the day of his burial dad's Professor (from University going back 40 odd years) gave a speech. He said that dad was 'the most original thinker he had come across in a life time of teaching'. He added that he was now headed for his 80's and so had been teaching for a very long time. In dad's undergraduate year he solved a problem that Alan Turing had proposed just before he died in 1954. You may know of Alan Turing from the recent film 'The Imitation Game' about his life and how he along with his team cracked the Enigma Code that essentially ended WWII two years earlier than it could have gone on for (saving an estimated 14-20 million lives). He was a mathematical genius. However dad wouldn't allow his Professor to publish this work as he feared that someone would steal his ideas. He didn't seem to trust anyone.
I opened the parcel this morning and read through dad's school experiences. No wonder he didn't trust anyone with his work.
Dad regaled the time he handed in an English essay that he had worked so hard on in highschool one year. When it came time for the teacher to hand back the papers with red ink written across the front displaying the results dad felt so excited. He just knew that he had achieved something great. However, the teacher threw the paper down on dad's desk and to his horror a big red ZERO was splashed across the front.
"Excuse me, brother. You've given me zero," he said.
"That's right," replied the teacher, "You copied it."
Dad went home and told his parents, hoping they'd be just as upset as he was, but his mother responded with 'Well, you must have copied it." You could imagine how he must have felt. Betrayed I'm sure. Hopeless!
I read on to also find that dad was no good at maths. He just couldn't understand it. He remembers in primary school a nun becoming angry with him for not knowing what a circle was. She took him outside of the class room and poked him in the stomach, shouting "Draw a circle!" For some reason dad thought a dot was a circle. He drew a little dot on the page with his pencil. "Stupid boy!" screamed the nun and once again prodded his stomach with her finger, again demanding he draw a circle. To think that she believed this would teach him!
Throughout high school he really struggled to understand maths. One day a teacher gave the class homework and made some extra threats about anyone who did not complete their homework. Dad just couldn't do it and didn't have any help at home that night. The next morning instead of taking the bus to school he continued walking and headed for the bush to hide. He was so frightened about going to school and facing his teacher's wrath.
Years before he remembered a similar experience where he just could not understand his maths homework. He was sent around to the Headmaster's Quadrangle after school. The Headmaster looked up at dad with a scowl and yelled 'Get over to your desk and do your homework!" When dad got to the long desks in the quadrangle he saw another boy from his class was there.
"So you can't do long divisions either?" dad asked.
"Oh, I can do them alright. I just couldn't be bothered," was the boy's response.
Then and there this boy explained to dad how to do it. He learned in a matter of minutes.
I'm working with dad's Professor to get this book together and published within the next few months. The professor asked me to write a short profile bio for dad. I have been struggling. I still haven't had dad's headstone inscripted because I don't know what to write, I couldn't form a eulogy for dad's funeral as I just found it impossible to put pen to paper, and ended up improvising on the day. This is so unusual for me, someone who loves to write and never has trouble with words flowing from my fingertips. So, I'm grateful that this piece of writing arrived. I now feel inspired. I'd like to thank dad for that.
A friend of mine from highschool, who I am friends with on Facebook lost his dad to a tragic motorcycle accident some months ago. He has offered his undying support to me throughout my grief. One thing he suggested to me was that it felt good to take on a project you could work toward for your dad. He has been piecing back together his dad's motorcycle (which was his dad's pride and joy). I've been watching the process as he shares pictures on Facebook from time to time. My project is dad's book, getting dad's work published, but I've feared that once it is all done and dusted I will have nothing to continue on with. I'm not sure if this will be enough.
My dad was a passionate man and deep thinker (much like myself). He never cared to speak on subjects that he didn't feel full heartedly about. One thing he would speak about was our education system. After reading about my dad's horrible experiences I can understand why. I'm sure things have changed significantly since the 60's, however through conversation dad I pinpointed many issues that kids are facing in today's schools. I think I will take this on as well.