Thanks are in order

So we’re gearing up for Thanksgiving around here, and I’ll no doubt post a slightly cheesy things-I’m-thankful-for essay later this month.

Escaping cheesiness by being less cliched, though, and more timely to me, I’ve got some thanking to do. As anybody who’s personally connected to me probably knows, my dad died four weeks ago, and in working both through the associated emotions there and on setting up this blog, I’ve come to realize there are a lot of connections to be recognized and appreciated.

My dad was a relatively early adopter of technology – some of my earliest memories are playing a computer game in ’93 or ’94 that involved manipulating animated rodents of some kind through a landscape of tree houses, and sneakily watching my parents puzzle their way through Myst and then Riven together. They had a car phone and then cell phones early, and I remember poking around with the text-based card games on their early cell phones, trying to think about how they must work.

More importantly, though, my dad taught me to use the internet, showed me how hotkeys worked, and gave me an introduction to algorithmic thinking by teaching me to beat the computer players in the Hearts game that came with Windows 98. He set up my first email, let me be part of my childhood church’s transition from slide projectors to PowerPoint, and bought the graphing calculator that gave me my first taste of writing code.

Eventually, I went to a STEM-focused charter school that was residential, a place among the 10% of American schools that teach computer science. It’s really only in the last little while that I’ve come to realize how hard that was on my dad – he wasn’t great at expressing feelings in words, but at the visitation a friend’s mom made a point of telling me about the time – shortly after I’d left – that she asked him how school was going for me, and he evidently told her, “I think she’s doing well…but I miss her.”

Both inside and out of the tech world, my dad was on my side: he’s the only member of my family who came to a high school swim meet, he went out of his way to see a truly dreadful school play I starred in, and he and my mom curtailed a conference and dashed down to my school to watch me give the talk I’ve been expanding on. I knew that no matter what I set my mind to, he’d have my back.

My dad made me feel like I could do anything, which was exactly what I needed to succeed as a woman in a male-dominated field. I am more grateful to him than I can say, and I only wish I’d taken the opportunity to let him know that while he was healthy. I miss him with every fiber of my being.