• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Math Geek Mom: A Change in Colors

In awe of nature.

October 13, 2016

It is not often that people bearing the description “Geek” attain a status that has others comparing them to “rock stars.” Yet that is exactly what has happened to statistician Nate Silver, who writes a blog about the statistics behind current events, including politics. It is called “five thirty eight”, and, because of his past success in predicting elections, many of us who closely follow politics sat up and paid attention when he recently changed the colors of several states, including my state of Ohio, from “leaning red” to “leaning blue” (or was it in reverse - these things change so much, it is hard to keep track!) Although not directly related to his column, I found myself thinking of color changes as I drove to work recently and noticed that the leaves around me are starting to put on their yearly show.

One need only look outside my office window to see the start of a change in colors not at all related to the current political race. For, across the pond from my office are trees that are starting to turn from deep green to spectacular colors of red and orange. I often pause to marvel at their wonder.

Years ago, when I thought that my days left could be counted on my fingers (perhaps those on only one hand,) I had many regrets. I regretted that I thought I would never finish my dissertation, and that I had spent so much of my time worrying about the progress of my graduate school studies. I was sad that I would never get to marry or raise children. But most of all, I was sad that I had neglected to notice the wonder around me every day. I had memories of driving along the Massachusetts Turnpike in autumn, with a blaze of fall foliage on either side of me, focused on the signs indicating which exit I was approaching, and how long it would be until I reached the following exit. I promised myself that, if I was to live, I would spend the rest of my days noticing the beauty around me, and savoring the moments I was given.

Noticing such things is not something that my father has always been able to do. Born with a severe case of color blindness, he has never been able to appreciate the change in the leaves that surrounded him, even though he has lived more than eighty years in the Northeast corner of the United States. He has never been able to truly observe the difference between the red and orange leaves on the trees around him, and those that remain green or turn brown. He has also struggled with seeing the difference between red and green lights at stop signs, and distinguishes between them based on which light is illuminated, the first, second or third. Last spring, I decided that he had lived long enough in a muted world, and so began surfing the web for something to help him. I was surprised to find a company that sells glasses that it claims will help those with color blindness see colors. With a testimonial from a local girl who was amazed at the effectiveness of their glasses, I ordered him a pair.

I can’t be sure that they will always help him distinguish among colors that have previously all appeared identical to him, but he seems to think they do now, and appreciates the effort I made to help him do this. I know that he is sad that he has never been able to truly appreciate autumn in New England, and so, I hope, that after eighty one years on Earth, this will be the year that he will be able to finally see what everyone else is talking about.

I hope that now he will spend his time in awe of the trees and not watching for the exit signs along the highway.

                                                   Wishing our Cleveland baseball team good luck as it seeks a spot in the World Series!


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