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Oct 12 2012

Greta’s father

As you may know, Greta’s father just died. She has a wonderful post about him – a daughter’s biography, I would call it, rather than an obituary.

A small excerpt.

My father used to read to us — me and my brother — from fun, brainy books for kids: The Phantom Tollbooth, Alice in Wonderland. His copy of Alice, the Annotated Alice with annotations by Martin Gardner, is the version I fell in love with, the version I still think of as the classic. I learned the poem “Jabberwocky” by heart when I was in third grade. I got the Jabberwock tattooed on my arm when Ingrid gave me a tattoo for my wedding present. And I didn’t just get my dad’s love of Alice. I got his love of ideas. Not a refined, high-falutin’ version of the “life of the mind,” but a delighted, silly, deeply joyful life of the mind: a sense of the playfulness in ideas, a sense of ideas as toys or puzzles or games, a sense of the deep pleasure and straight-up goofy fun that could be found in just tossing ideas around and seeing where they landed.

My father was a math teacher. He never taught me, not in school anyway — he was always careful to never have me in one of his classes — but I knew other kids who had him as a teacher. And the word I got was that he was one of the fun teachers. He was one of the teachers that kids were glad they got. His love of math, his love of the puzzle-and-game aspect of it… it was infectious. There are people in the world now who enjoy math, and aren’t scared of it, because they had my dad as a teacher. And my dad had a love, not just of math, but of the act of teaching itself. He understood that unique pleasure of conveying ideas to other people, the unique pleasure of sharing not only the ideas but the love and the fun of them, the unique pleasure of watching other people not only catch your ideas but run with them in their own direction. I’m not a teacher… but that pleasure is a big part of what motivates me as a writer. And it comes from my dad.

Read it all. There’s a part about being a union organizer at his school, and how risky that was. Read it all.

5 comments

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  1. 1
    nedchamplain

    I am sorry to hear of your loss, Greta. I still yearn for my father’s advice at times. Continue to remember the fond memories with him.

  2. 2
    Justin Griffith

    In my distracted busy-ness, I missed the post. Thank you for posting this breathtaking excerpt. I would have missed the whole thing altogether.

    Greta… you’re an amazing person and writer. Thank you for sharing with us.

  3. 3
    Ophelia Benson

    Hey, you’re welcome, Justin; I’m glad you didn’t miss it (and that I didn’t).

  4. 4
    Rieux

    Indeed, Richard Hermann Muelder fathered an extraordinary woman, one we’re all lucky to have around.

  5. 5
    rq

    Agreed. So sorry for the loss. I’ve been quietly following Greta’s grief diary, but I just don’t know what to say. But every time I read I think good thoughts – for what it’s worth. :)

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