|Roy Gerard, age 24, March 1944|
When I was a little girl, I loved to go to my dad’s office and watch him work on enormous adding machines. He entered the numbers and then pushed a big button. A huge noise ensued and then the answer appeared on the tape that came out of the machine. I thought that the adding machine was magical. Arithmetic came hard to me and the idea that a machine could come up with the answer so rapidly seemed absolutely fantastic. I just wanted to touch that machine and make it work.
My dad enjoyed his adding machines but what he really wanted was a calculator. A calculator did the same thing as an adding machine, but it was much smaller and less noisy. When calculators first came out, however, they were very expensive and kind of clunky.
Eventually, prices came down, the machines became more sophisticated, and my dad purchased his first calculator. Once he did, he was hooked on calculators. He made a calculator collection. He had calculators of all shapes and sizes. He had regular calculators and calculators with esoteric functions. He had fun playing with his calculators. He also had fun showing me how to play with calculators after I failed to absorb his lessons on how to add in my head.
My dad, however, had no trouble adding in his head. That was his special gift. He was an absolute whiz with numbers. He could add and subtract in his head almost as fast as the calculators that he loved so much. My dad, an economist who ran a business called Economic Consultants Organization, especially enjoyed doing statistical analyses and population projections.
My dad loved manipulating numbers. He worked with census data and he collected data in his own original research. He did a wide range of research for businesses, school districts, and communities. The effect of his work is still being felt in a variety of communities. For example, his research on agriculture in Western New York resulted in the farmers market being established in downtown Buffalo. That farmers market is still going strong after a number of years. My dad was so proud of that.
My dad also shared his love of numbers with me in ways that I was not taught in school. He shared with me the magic of numbers, especially the numbers three and nine. He pointed out that our birthdates, both his and mine, were perfect days because the dates added up to a number that could be divisible by three. His birthday was March 3rd, 1920, or 3-3-1920. My birthday is September 27th, 1956, or 9-27-1956. He let me know that, when you multiply any number by nine, the digits in the answer always add up to nine. I didn’t believe him. I played with his calculator, inputting bigger and bigger numbers. Sure enough, he was right. Nine is a magic number.
Because of the things that my dad taught me, I see much more in numbers than I ever believed possible when I was sitting in a classroom adding up columns of numbers on a worksheet. He showed me the majesty of numbers and the beauty of mathematics.
He also shared his stamp collection with me, showing me tiny pieces of art from countries around the world. In doing so, he awakened within me a love of geography.
And he went beyond sharing his own gifts with me. He appreciated and relished my own gifts. He encouraged my creativity. He was happy when I showed him a new essay or a new painting that I had made. He liked the handmade cards that I gave him to mark an occasion, such as a birthday or an anniversary. He read every article that I wrote for the Island Dispatch and other publications and he looked at all of the photographs that went with those articles. He went to hear me sing in recitals and in concerts. He liked looking at the garden that I planted in our tiny garden space in front of our house.
Thanks to my dad, I will always see numbers as exciting and as magical. When I wish upon a star, I will think of him and I will try to count the stars in a constellation. I will think of him whenever I touch a calculator. And he did what seemed impossible. He gave a love of numbers to a reluctant math student. He taught me that it was more than just the numbers. If I was able to do things that I didn’t believe myself capable of doing, then anything is possible.
My father, Roy Gerard, passed away on Tuesday, August 28th, at the age of 92. I love him and miss him. I read the above essay at my father's funeral yesterday (August 31st).