SECO

You can flip back through the pagеs
And you won’t find I was making any promises
You’re the dеsert, I’m the rain
And we both know I never stay
But still you wanted it

– “Slow Song” by The Knocks and Dragonette

Explosive bolts keep firing in my mind, decoupling the thing I tried to be from the thing I am – in spasms of emotional and physical joy and pain. This is the craziest time I’ve ever experienced in my life. Part of the explosive decoupling is admitting things that I never could believe about myself before. Things I hoped for, things I dreamed to be, but was certain were reserved for people braver than me, or who were lucky enough to be born as cisgender women. I can’t claim that my experience is representative of any other trans experience but my own. It’s important to listen to other types of trans voices, but here’s mine, and I’m going to shout a lot.

Many powerful people in the United States have decided that the most powerless, smallest segment of society – trans kids – are a nice easy target to beat up on and make money off of their victimization. I can’t bear to look at the news these days. Every day, there’s something about state-sponsored violence against trans kids. Why do these a-holes go after kids? I am so fucking mad that society made me *absolutely terrified* to ask my doctor for hormone blockers when I was twelve, in 1990. I would have done it. I almost did. But my brain said, “If you ask, they’ll know. They’ll know that *you’re gay*. And you’re making a permanent change, and are you really a girl? You don’t know! Don’t fuck up your life.” (In 1990, the prospect of being a gay adolescent in the middle of the country was absolutely terrifying. In fact, I had no idea that gay women even existed, and I knew I wasn’t a gay man.)

The violent, homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic things that society made me tell myself are exactly the arguments these so-called “representatives” use to destroy the lives of kids and force them to experience the wrong puberty in front of their peers. If I could have stopped my puberty, if someone had grabbed me by the shoulders and said, “Nicole, you can stop this. You *don’t* have to have facial hair, you *don’t* have to have your skull distorted by testosterone, you can *keep* your voice, you can *have boobs*!!!” I would have burst into tears and immediately said “PLEASE do it.”

So, some day, I will write a book about my experience. And I will talk about my experience. And I will try, desperately, for the rest of my life, to convince just one parent at a time that *It’s OK* to let your trans son or trans daughter live their life the way they know that they should. Please stop telling kids that they’re not really trans. Please believe them. Please stop this violence against kids.

I’ll tell you how an RBMK reactor explodes

“Sex” by Cheat Codes
Do it on the counter, we’ll fuck for hours (let’s talk about sex)
Any way you want it, you can have it
Talk about sex, baby
Do it in the shower, pussy power

“This Woman’s Work” by Kate Bush
I should be crying, but I just can’t let it show
I should be hoping, but I can’t stop thinking
Of all the things I should’ve said
That I never said
All the things we should’ve done
That we never did
All the things I should’ve given
But I didn’t
Oh, darling, make it go
Make it go away

I was holding my breath for a week.

I still acted like I had a dick. I wouldn’t let myself look at my vagina. The packing felt like it was just tucked, I was just in “too long of a tuck” and I was sure the instant the packing was gone, my dick would be back.

The packing came out. Oh my god it was like a clown-car. Just kept going and going and going. And then it was out. And then the catheter was out. And then I peed, with my junk in the configuration it should have been in for 43 years. And it was amazing. I didn’t cry yet. Then the PT person came in, and we dilated. I had a mirror to hold up to my vagina. Seeing it, that was intense.

In the car on the way home from the hospital, I drove. I felt so good. I felt like me, a new me, in a way I had never imagined. Mental barriers that I didn’t know existed came crashing down left and right. Certain behaviors that were “wrong” when I was a boy, I started to realize that they were right, they were default, they were “just how it is for a girl.” Wearing a bikini. Wanting to be seen, wanting guys to want me, wanting to be a mom. I don’t want to be essentialist, but girl let me tell you.

To have these mental loops in your head playing for your entire life, suppressing things, even when you have transitioned, still suppressing things and behaviors. I couldn’t talk like me before. All of a sudden, without effort, I started to be able to talk like me, how I knew I always should have talked. To have that mental bandwidth suddenly freed up by this situation. My mind grasped for an analogy.

The only thing I could see was technicians trying to avert some crisis. Desperately flipping switches to try to save the situation. And they can’t, because some of the switches are too small for their fingers to flip, little dip switches. So they get out the tweezers, but it’s not fast enough. And then in walks the doctor, with a giant flat piece of plastic, and just flips all those switches from “off” to “on” with one motion. And then the day is saved. More than that. A day that has never existed before in the history of the earth now exists for me.

This torture loop of “this thing I’m doing right now is not what a woman would be doing” is gone. I don’t have to think that any more. I don’t have to metathink about the thing that I have to hide any more. This is the biggest gift anyone could ever receive. Is this what it feels like to be a human being? Oh my god. I have been missing out.

I cried so much. This could have happened years ago and I would have been pain-free. Girl, let me tell you that it couldn’t. It took the length of time it needed to take and not a second more or less.

Innie

If you’ve read this blog, you probably know that I put a lot of personal details out here. There are three reasons for this: One, I think adults probably are used to dealing with pretty tough topics. Two, I hope that by putting a bunch of this out here, it will start to be de-stigmatized. This is normal stuff, human being stuff that all of us go through. Just different stuff for different people. Three, I really do appreciate and need your help, kind of now more than ever.

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That said, if extreme realness isn’t your bag (and I don’t blame you) probably best to stop reading here.

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OK.

If you are still with me, here’s what’s up. On February 8, 2022, I am having “bottom surgery” or “genital reconstruction surgery” or “gender confirmation surgery” or “gender reassignment surgery” the last two names are pretty problematic for a number of reasons. In any case, I am getting my “outie” turned into an “innie”. It turns out that women’s and men’s sex organs are mostly embryologically very similar and/or develop out of the same tissues. So… they are just going to put things back to how they used to be.
The thought of this surgery used to horrify me. I thought they “cut off your penis” or something. It turns out it is quite delicate and they are able to preserve sexual function. You can have the same level of fun afterwards that you had before. Usually more so because you’re not ashamed of your junk.
For my entire life, I have felt ashamed of my body, and this is a significant part of that shame. I am so excited for this to happen, and also quite scared. There are serious complications that can happen, many of them quite gross and painful, and in some very rare cases, death can happen. I hope that I have little to no complication, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take, in order to be me.
I know that not every trans person wants or needs this kind of surgery, and that is completely valid and they should be accepted absolutely as the gender they present as. In my case, this is a life-saving surgery. My mom is coming to Denver for six weeks in order to help me recover. In some ways, this is sort of like a second birth, and I’m so grateful that she can be here.
If I could go back in time to December, 2019 and talk with my pre-pandemic, pre-transition self, and tell that person that this was going to happen, I wouldn’t. They would not be able to deal with it, they were still firmly in the closet. On the other hand, if I could go back in time and tell 8 year old me that I would be able to grow up to be a woman, I think that person would probably break down crying tears of joy, because that is all they wanted. They wouldn’t believe how it could happen, they’d be very sad about how long it would take, and the emotional and physical pain involved.

Threshold

The first time I injected myself with estrogen, a wave of calm washed over me within 20 minutes. I was driving to the UPS store to drop off a package, and I had to pull over into a parking lot half way there, because I thought I was going to pass out from the feeling of joy. For my entire adult life, my brain had been flooded with a hormone that made it think and feel in ways it was not built to. It was immersed in what, for me, is a poison. Estrogen broke upon the shore of my consciousness like an orgasmic tsunami of encapsulated patience and joy. There is no way to describe the feeling other than being able to drink a cold glass of water after crossing the hottest desert you can imagine surviving – for four decades. The person who injected herself with estrogen that day had no idea what the future held, but she was no longer afraid.

Five minutes after I jumped

Who I am is deeply connected to September 11, 2001. The image of those people jumping out of that building. They were trapped between something so terrifying they had to jump, and the terror of the hopeless jump itself. I lost 140 pounds not very long after that, because I realized that I had been given a gift, and I couldn’t waste it hating myself. After I lost the weight, I remember a very specific time, on the corner of two streets in my trailer park, standing there thinking, “if you can do that, you can be a woman.” Then, the terror of the two places I was trapped between forced a decision. I stayed in the burning building for fear of the jump. I stayed there for 20 more years.

Last week, when I saw those people at the Kabul airport, so terrified of something that they would cling to the side of a C17, knowing it would go to 40,000 feet and there was no way they could survive, still desperate to escape the terror. And then falling to their death, I thought again about September 11, and of jumping off that building. I’ve jumped, and I’m still in mid-air. I’m sure the ground is rapidly approaching. The terror of free-fall trapped me in a reality where I was forced to lie to myself and others, or risk losing everything. I chose to lie. Now that I’m being honest, no one believes me, I can see it in their eyes as they pity this confused soul and strain to… deign to, call it ‘her’.

Requiem For My Former Self

I need to honor Nicholas Spencer Roy. Although I’ve said I don’t like or believe in the othering of the self that happens a lot with trans people when they talk about their lives before transition, I think there is a degree of truth to this. I still feel like me, and you can still see a lot of what I used to look like in my face and body, but it’s rapidly fading. I definitely look like a woman version of myself now. After FFS, that will only become more pronounced. So, I want to say that the man named Nicholas Roy, Nick, was a good, kind, strong, compassionate person. He loved deeply, cared greatly for those he loved. His strength to endure through a world that didn’t know he carried me inside was impressive. Although I caused him pain, I think I also brought him kindness, sweetness, glimmers of beauty. Nick and I needed each other. He’s still here, but now he gets to rest. I love him, I will always love him.

(Originally posted on social media May 16, 2021)

Letter to My Dad

Dear Dad,

I think of you every day and miss you so much. So many people have told me how much you meant to them. You made an enormous difference in so many people’s journeys. This week, in particular, as I thought about what would have been your 73rd birthday, I thought a lot about how badly I wish I could tell you about my own journey. I’ve thought about how to tell you this, and if you were still here, I would probably just call you on the phone and tell you, but I can’t do that now. So, I will just say:

I am transgender.

During your lifetime, I had thoughts that this might be the case, but I could not connect them to any kind of reality that made any sense. I remember daydreaming of being a girl as early as age seven. As I got older, I became angry at myself and the unfairness of a universe that had doomed me to be a boy and to become a man. These thoughts were not frequent or all-consuming, but rather, background noise that was easily dismissed as impulsive and not real or realistic.

When I lost a lot of weight in 2004, that was about being transgender. The thing that caused me to gain all that weight in the first place was a hatred of my own body, and a desire to hide from the world and keep people at arms’ length. When I finally rejected that attitude as unsustainable and lost the weight, I struggled with rationalizing why I was doing it. I told myself it was because I wanted to live – not to die at a young age from complications from obesity. However, once I had lost the weight, I remember thinking, “You lost all that weight, you can do anything you set your mind to. You can become a woman.” Immediately, I labeled that goal as unrealistic and that thought as dangerous and transient and dismissed them. I did not give another thought to these things until a couple years ago.

In mid-2018, I was out on a run. Running seems to be when I let my guard down and ideas are free to present themselves to me seemingly out of nowhere. On that particular day, as with so many others here in Colorado, the sun was shining, the weather was beautiful and warm. I remember seeing a woman out on her run, and she sort of resembled me. I thought, “You can look like that. Wouldn’t it be nice to be the person you haven’t allowed yourself to imagine?” Again, I dismissed this almost immediately as a spurious notion.

Then, you got sick and I forgot all about the box of puzzle pieces my brain kept trying to assemble for me. For eighteen months, I became more and more depressed. Then, the pandemic hit. Thank goodness you didn’t have to experience the pandemic. While your extensive experience with and passion for online teaching would have served you well in this environment (your online lecture material is still being used to teach your courses, still with record enrollments!) I think you probably would have been driven mad by not being able to go to restaurants, movies, the bookstore, etc.

Shortly after the start of the pandemic, I had decided that this thing was going to be with us for a long time, and I needed to get outside and get exercise, or I would also go nuts. I started running on the trails near our house, with a mask on. Something about the “social distancing” (a terrible Newspeak term) environment – masks, standing at least six feet apart in line, staying inside much of the time, felt liberating to me. It was liberating in the ways I imagine it is for many introverts like me. But, beyond that, there was something else. On the run, with a mask over my face, no one could tell I wasn’t a woman. Obviously that’s not true, but for some reason, this was the first sign to me that I had facial dysphoria. I decided that running was a safe place to start to come out as trans. I bought some women’s running clothes. Nothing too obvious or over the top. Nothing too colorful. It was still cold out in March, so I bought insulated leggings. I loved running in them- they kept my thighs from rubbing together and chafing, and were nice and warm.

Things progressed from there. I had to tell people. In May, I told Jill, Mom and Megan that I was non-binary, and they all took that quite well. And, it was the truth. I am not totally a woman and not totally a man. That’s what being non-binary is. I was emboldened by their support at that point, and continued to explore my gender more freely. I started buying more kinds of women’s clothes, trying them on when Jill wasn’t around, because I didn’t want to shock her. I had the biggest smile on my face the day I tried on a women’s button-down flannel shirt and jeans. I looked much more how I wanted to look. I bought makeup at Target. I clumsily applied that makeup and I kind of looked cartoonish, but it was so much closer to how I wanted to be, I smiled so much!

Eventually, I came out to Jill, Mom and Megan as transgender. I’m still non-binary, but I am clearly very transfeminine – want to be much more feminine in appearance and action than I have ever been.

This may be shocking. It was certainly shocking to me to learn this about myself. When my brain finally assembled all the puzzle pieces in July, I was distraught. How would I ever do this? Could I tell Jill? What would it do to my relationship with her? I love her so very much, and I don’t want to lose her. So, now she and I both have to figure out how to work through this. I hope we can, and I have to believe we can.

I am so sorry that I could not understand this earlier. In many ways, I wish I had listened to myself years ago, and not been afraid to see what the assembled puzzle looked like – mostly, because I feel like I’ve been hiding something from very important people. It hurts when this is suggested, probably because I feel like it’s true, as much as I know it’s not. What hurts the most is that I could not ever tell you about this while you were here with us. For that, I will be sorry for the rest of my life.

I love you, Dad. I hope you understand.

Nic

You Can Call Me Al

I have heard that some people who follow me on Twitter or other places may be confused about my pronouns, my name, the state of my transition, etc.

When last we met, dear reader, I had acknowledged to myself and to many others that I’m nonbinary with significant parts of my personality that are feminine. Since that time, I’ve continued to learn more about parts of myself that I had been keeping locked away on a shelf. The brain is very good at boxing up stuff it thinks will harm you and isolating it from you and others. I quite literally did not know a bunch of this stuff or connect the dots until I made a conscious effort to dig into “why am I like that?” in a couple places. Then it was like pulling on a thread on a sweater and it totally unravelled. Mixed metaphors enough?

It’s hard finding out this stuff about oneself so late in life. I haven’t had time or been given societal permission to be acculturated as a woman, and there is no room in our society’s image of men for even the slightest display of femininity. To add to that, our culture is tailored to binary gender settings, so even things like what name I use with my email address cause shock when I change them. People are confused when I show up at a store in women’s clothes with makeup on, but then speak with a masculine voice and show my ID or credit card and it’s a man’s name. People are confused when I tell them I prefer “they” pronouns but I still look like a dude when I’m camping, and I dress like a girl when I’m out running or at work.

These are just some of the reasons it’s called “transition.” It’s a process. I, personally, could not bear to save up all the things that I’m doing as part of my transition, perfect them, and then let them loose on the world in a single day. I would never be happy enough with my “progress” to say “today’s the day,” and I’d never get good at these things without practicing them, in many cases, in public. I have to try bits of it, at different times, when it’s convenient for me, pretty much constantly. I think this is more the case with me than with a much more binary-gender-conforming trans person, because they can aim for the binary gender they know that they are inside. I have to figure out where I am on this spectrum and aim for that, and it keeps shifting around.

Even though where I need to be shifts and is in a gray area of the “male” <–> “female” spectrum, I know some things:

  1. Where I am going is much more feminine than I am today. At the end of this, I’m likely to appear to be a cisgender woman, but I will still be nonbinary. Because our culture doesn’t deal well with nonbinary gender, it’s simply much easier to conform to a binary gender presentation, and I’m much more comfortable being a woman than being a man.
  2. I have not had time to learn how to be a woman, so it’s going to take years of learning that and being awkward before I master it.
  3. Because I know these things, I will take actions that appear to be incongruent with how I present in day-to-day life today, things like changing my email address and email display name from “Nicholas Spencer Roy” to “Nicole Siobhán Roy”. There’s no such thing as a gray-area “I’m still transitioning and awkward” email address when my middle-ground name is super short: Nic Roy. My email address would be something dumb like nicroy12345@gmail.com instead of just my name@gmail.com. Because of that, I was forced to pick the long form name where I think I’m going to end up. Migrating all my accounts to a new email address is already painful once. I don’t want to do it again.

So I’m a biosex boy, who in her heart of hearts knows she’s a largely gender-presentation-conforming girl, and intends to get to that point, but will still be a pretty masculine-trait-having girl and will be somewhere on the gender identity spectrum about 3/4 of the way to the girl end of the spectrum.

To sum up:

Call me “Nic” which is easy because it sounds exactly the same as “Nick” and that’s why I chose that name.

To the State of Colorado and the US Government I’m still “Nicholas Spencer Roy” with a gender marker of “M” but I intend to change those things so that I will be “Nicole Siobhán Roy” with a gender marker of “F” and I will eventually both look and sound like that in a way such that someone who’s never met me before will not know I’m not biosex female.

My name is “Nicole” but I won’t get upset if you call me “Nicholas”, although that shouldn’t be a problem because nearly zero people in my life have ever known me as anything other than “Nic[k]”. My sister knows me as “Nicky” but that’s OK because I can also be “Nikki” see how clever and lucky I am?

I prefer “they” pronouns but that will probably change to “she” pronouns. Until I present as a woman full-time and am speaking like a woman (my god that’s hard to do) don’t worry about it, just call me “they” or “she” or “he” or “hey you”.

If you have any questions about any of this stuff, please DM me on Twitter, or email me at: n i c o l e s r o y [at] i c l o u d [dot] c o m.

Dreams

I woke at 3 a.m. a few nights ago, in terror. My mom was screaming to be let into the house. Pounding on the front door. I woke and sat bolt upright in bed, listening, my heart pounding furiously in the quiet dark. The AC had turned off, the house was completely silent. I reached for my phone. The security camera showed no one at the front door. I drank some water and went back to sleep. An hour later, I awoke in the same way. Same dream. A woman was screaming at the front door. Was she afraid and running from danger? Hoping to be let in to safety? I couldn’t tell. I almost woke my wife Jill up, but thought better of it. I got out of bed and went down to the front door. Unbolted the deadbolt, cracked the door. No one was there.

I stepped out into the warm darkness of a Colorado early morning, the birds starting to make noise, the sky an inky blue in the East. I breathed deeply – scent of pine and smoke carried on the air. I went back inside and went to bed.

At dawn, in the half-light, I rolled over in bed, facing away from Jill. There was a beautiful woman there, floating in mid-air, seemingly on an extension of the bed that wasn’t really there. I could swear I was awake. I felt awake. This woman was familiar, gorgeous, blonde, dark eyes, striking features. I was in love with her. She told me it was OK to love her. Again I awoke, and went about my day, ashamed to tell Jill about this dream. I thought it was a dream about infidelity.

Now, I realize that she was me, telling me it was OK to love myself, as a woman. She had been screaming to get in the house. Full of rage and anger. I let her in. I’m glad I did. When I finally figured out what these dreams meant, I wept.

DC82A40CD16773F13D9C085394B17FF856CB9574

When I was a child, I was enamored of the babysitter. I wanted to be the babysitter. Specifically, I wanted to be a girl. I felt a strong affinity for the feminine. As I grew older, I learned to suppress this feeling. There was no way to change who I was, and I thought “nature doesn’t make mistakes like that”, and “you’re a boy, be happy being a boy.”

As I got older, the girls started changing and I was jealous of them. I hated my body. I rejected my body, first dressing in baggy sweatpants and sweatshirts to hide it. I was depressed. I had no idea why. I saw a child psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with seasonal depression. I’m sure there’s a seasonal component to it, but I was depressed all the time to some extent. Now I realize it is because I hated who I was – physically. I started to over-eat as a self-medication for the depression, but also because I hated my body. I was punishing the body I hated.

After college, I decided I needed to stop being depressed and overweight, and I started eating better and exercising. I lost 140 pounds. I started dating girls for the first time in my life. I started really loving my life. I felt good.

Fast forward 15 years… I’m married, I love my wife, I love my job, I love where we live and our life together.

But.. I had fallen back into a severe depression after a particularly traumatic job experience, and the horrifying and soul-crushing experience of losing my dad to cancer. I started dressing all in black, every day. A uniform of grief. I gained a bunch of weight again. I started vaping. And then the fucking Coronavirus hit. I needed to do something to kick myself out of my funk and get healthy again, so I started running again in March, 2020. Colorado is such a great place to run, there is sun nearly every day. Even in the winter, it doesn’t stay cloudy or cold for very long. I started running along the trails in our neighborhood, and started to feel happy again. I stopped vaping.

And then one day in April, I was running along the High Line Canal trail and started to remember my wish to be a gender other than the one I became. I thought, “maybe my name is Lisa.” I started wearing women’s running clothes, and I felt good in them. Outstanding, actually. Confident. Feminine. I started to think about other appearance changes. I cut my hair in a specific way, with the intent to grow it out. I started dying it – first, gray. Then gray and blue. Then all sorts of fun color combinations. I started wearing brighter colored clothing. Running further and faster every day.

I came out to my wife as genderfluid and non-binary. I was terrified of doing this, but I had to. I am extremely thankful that she took it quite well. I am definitely still attracted to women. I also am at least partly a woman!

I started painting my nails – this was a big deal for me, because you can kind of explain away hair color, but there are certain gender signifiers that are less easy to explain away, and makeup is one of those things. Painting my nails felt liberating. I felt closer to who I actually am. I am slowly coming out to people at work, and they have also all been supportive. I love where I work, and I love my colleagues. I started wearing eyeliner and mascara. I am not sure where it goes from here. I feel like a tomboy. I am athletic, I like camping, knives, motorcycles, shooting guns, but also makeup, and I’m starting to care a bit about fashion. This is quite a change for me, I always rejected fashion, much as I rejected my body. Now I’m rejecting less of myself, and I’m only sorry that it took me 40 years to get there.

Today, I went to Costco with painted nails and eye makeup. I got compliments. I have gotten probably 20 compliments from random people over the course of this journey so far. I think this is because I’m confident, and people see that. I never, not once, got a compliment about my appearance from anyone other than my wife or family in the preceding 40+ years of my life. This is interesting, and maybe it’s because I’m letting the real me be seen.

Eulogy for My Dad

Who here thinks about how their life will end? I know I do. I remember thinking “is this how I die?” during a flying lesson, where my instructor got me into a spin to teach me how to recover. I have never imagined my dad dying. He has always been a larger than life figure, someone who could never die. When I saw him die, somehow the rest of the world became more real.

The day Dad died, I couldn’t really do anything except be numb. As the days passed, I discovered a feeling I had never encountered before: A longing to keep him alive by remembering things about him. This sounds pretty simple and logical. In reality, there is nothing logical about it.

I wanted to make this talk really visual, with photos of him as the focus, and I’d just tell stories about him based on those photos. As I thought about what to say about Dad, I started looking through photos, and realizing that I didn’t have many photos of him from recent times. Most of the photos of him I could find were from before I was born. Then I realized that the frustration I had felt for the last two months, trying to remember Dad, was because I didn’t know him for most of his life. I was a part of his life from the time he was about 30 years old. I really started to know him when he was about 40. So much of his life was spent doing work that he was passionate about, a field of study which requires deep knowledge, that I didn’t really know that much about that part of his life.

What I did know about him was that he was always interested in helping me and Megan learn about the things we were interested in. One of the things many of you have probably heard him say is that “Knowledge is like cow manure, it doesn’t do any good unless you spread it around.” He would go out of his way to find interesting things to bring home for us when we were in elementary school. He’d stop by Dick Blick and get foam core, rulers, exacto knives and cutting surfaces for Megan to use to make buildings. He’d go to university surplus and bring home an old DEC teletype terminal (the kind where there isn’t a video screen, there’s a printer that the computer types words on to, and you type words into it, all printed on the piece of chain-fed paper). He’d take me down to the basement of the university computer center, where his buddy Al was a technician in the computer support area. I remember being amazed at the huge computers whirring away behind glass walls, their tape drives spinning back and forth, lights blinking. Al had a brand new NeXT computer, a 1 foot black cube that I was fascinated by. I remember when Dad did the first iteration of what would end up becoming the art and life in africa web site. This was in about 1988, and the technology available involved taking photographs of different views of every piece of art in the Stanley collection, transporting them to 3M headquarters in Minneapolis, where they were scanned using a flying spot scanner on to individual frames of a Laserdisc which could be indexed by a computer. You’d type the piece of art you were looking for into a computer program, and it would control the Laserdisc player to bring up the art on a TV screen, and you could slide a slider around on the computer to rotate the art. Eventually, this became the art and life in africa CD-ROM program, and finally the web site. I learned about how computers work from these kinds of experiences that he made possible.

When I was in high school, Dad made a deal with me – he’d double any money that I saved up from a summer job, and we’d use it to buy me a computer. I spent all summer working at Hardee’s on the Coralville strip, and saved up about $800. $1600 was just enough to buy a brand new Macintosh and color monitor at the computer center.

I don’t have any photos of my Dad from this time – about the closest I have are a couple of pictures of him and my mom at Grand Teton National Park in 2003. I have fading memories of a very important part of my life, that really only he and I shared. Now he’s not here, and that part of me has lost the only other person who remembered some of those things.

I miss Dad’s laugh. I miss calling him on a Sunday and him saying “hi, buddy” to me, and us talking about his web site, model airplanes, the garden, or other things happening in his life. But there are things I will always remember – swimming in an ice cold lake, out to an island, with him in Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario. Packing what felt like tons of food and supplies over portages in the Boundary Waters. Sitting in our tent, reading in the evening. He was reading about Captain James Cook, I was reading about Captain James Kirk.

I’ve come to realize that it’s not important that I know or remember everything about Dad’s life, because one of the things that happens when you die, is that your life’s work – including the work of raising your kids and being a partner to your spouse – dissolves into the world. You lose any semblance of control over your own destiny and the destinies of the people you care about. In return, what you were is dissolved into the fabric of everything those people do, and the impacts they have on others. I know that Dad’s granddaughter, Sylvia, will get to do some really fun and interesting stuff, at least partly because Megan will remember how fun it was to go camping in the southwest with Mom and Dad, and how important it was that her intellectual interests were known and cared about by them from a very young age.

I’m grateful that Dad’s memory will continue on through everyone in this room, and through the thousands of students whose lives he changed imperceptibly, who will remember his stories about art and life.

If I can live to have a fraction of the kind of positive effect my dad had on the world, it will be a good life. If I can die surrounded by love, like he did, it will have been worth living.