My Grandfather the Feminist

My grandfather was an aerospace engineer and a lover of innovative technology. As far back as I can remember, he could be found tinkering with a new gadget (purchased after hours spent pouring over consumer reports, of course) or building something on his own if he couldn’t find a product that suited his needs. He once built a ramp for getting his boat in the water with some plywood and cutting boards. He was an early adopter. He had the first computers, the first internet connections, the first digital-everything.

We called him Pop and he entertained his grandchildren’s innocent curiosities with great delight. Grandma and Pop had a water barometer in their kitchen. One day, my cousins and I inquired what would happen if you blew into it.

With a grin, he suggested we try it and find out:

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If you’re familiar with how barometric pressure works, you know this didn’t end well for us, but it’s remained a favorite tale among cousins for nearly 20 years.

Pop took me to science museums and aircraft carrier tours and taught me to sail and tie knots. He gave me math problems and riddles. He asked me hard questions. He let me navigate, even when I took him an hour out of the way (really, who trusts a 4-year-old with directions to the bagel shop?)

Pop died nearly 10 years ago, but my grandmother recently relayed a story to me that I had never heard before, and quickly came to cherish:

(To no one’s surprise), I was a bossy child and I was a ham. I liked to command a room’s attention with stories and jokes from a young age. During one such spectacle, when I was maybe 5 or 6 years old, a number of adults in the room commented amongst themselves that I was destined for a career in theater: maybe an actress, maybe a director.

Pop turned to my grandmother and whispered, “No. She’ll be a CEO.”

My grandfather was born in the 1930s and had a prominent career in engineering. It’s safe to say that there were few, if any, female CEOs in his ecosystem. Somehow, this didn’t stop him from imagining that future for his granddaughter. I wish he were here to see it become a reality. Pop’s Galileo thermometer sits on my bedroom shelf, a visual reminder to seek knowledge and pursue curiosity; try, and find out.

galileo.jpeg

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