Sunday, Sep 15th:
We got to First Church (UU) and we found out that George, who we recently met at church, died yesterday. I am sad. George welcomed us (my husband, son, and me) into the UU church about a year ago. In fact, George was the first person to welcome us into the UU church.
Now, there were a lot of things special about George: he was a very kind, caring, friendly (though a shy and somewhat reserved) man. He had a warm smile. He had a way of striking up a conversation. He had a twinkle in his eye. He was probably close in age to my parents and in-laws so I felt an affinity with him.
What made George special, for me personally and my son Malcolm, was the fact that he was the Bowditch man. In the spring, my son Malcolm (2e/pg) read Carry On, Mr. Bowditch with me. He loved it. I loved it. I felt relieved to read about a kid like my son. I felt relieved that there have been others who were very bright, self-taught, and had made a difference in the world without going to Harvard or acing the SATs. It's a really remarkable story if you're not familiar with it. With reading about Nathaniel Bowditch, I could see the similarities between my son Malcolm -- the eagerness and intensity to learn jumps out -- and Bowditch's insatiable appetite to learn for the sake of his own enjoyment and pleasure.
Now I don't normally tell people what books we're reading or what my son is doing. It can sound like I'm boasting, bragging, or like I'm telling a bunch of porkies. So I normally don't say anything to anyone. That's part of the unwritten social rules I've mastered with having a 2e/pg kid. We don't normally disclose what our kids are doing.
I can't remember exactly when or why I felt comfortable telling George that Malcolm and I were reading Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, but at some point I did. I had mentioned that we're un/homeschooling and he didn't raise an eye. Of course, I was completely relieved when he didn't question why Malcolm and me were reading it. When he actually wanted to talk to Malcolm about Bowditch, I was delighted. George told Malcolm and me that he found Nathaniel Bowditch really interesting and fascinating. He studied him. He looked at Bowditch's personal papers and had digitized some of his works to make them more accessible and available to those who were interested in learning about Bowditch, his life, and story.
When the Friendship (a replica of a East Indiaman sailing vessel) was free for a day in the spring, we went and visited the ship to find George onboard as the Bowditch man. George told us that he volunteered on the Friendship. He loved it. He loved showing visitors and Malcolm how to use the sextant like Bowditch did. He loved talking about Bowditch and his remarkable life.
I didn't know this information until today (Sunday), but George was the director emeritus of the Laboratory for Particle Physics and Cosmology (High Energy Lab) at Harvard. He never told us. George was very likely gifted and not too different from Malcolm as a child, though he never said. Unfortunately, he probably did not feel comfortable telling us about his giftedness, his prior academic life and position, or knowledge because it isn't always valued or welcomed by others, though it would have been by me and my son. While this was someone we knew for year or so, in a strange way we felt like we had always knew him. And I can't help thinking about Larry Dossey's work on the the concept of the "nonlocal mind" and how this mind is not confined to the brain and body but how minds spread infinity throughout space and time -- because there's another connection between place, space, time and Bowditch, George, and Malcolm, and me that's here.
Now I know why George had a special place in our heart. My son could relate to George and vice versa. They were kindred spirits and thinkers. Without another adult gifted role model at my doorstep or on the horizon, this makes the passing of George tough. And without any grandparents around, this makes the passing of George all the more sadder.
Carry On George, the Bowditch Man, we will miss you.
former director of the High Energy Physics Lab at Harvard.