October 5th, 2011


In memoriam

My father's father died yesterday.

For my grandfather's 90th birthday a few years back, my aunt put together a book in which family members recorded their favorite memories of my grandfather. I remember that I wrote about feeding the ducks with my grandfather when I was a little girl, and about the amazingly garish plaid trousers that he sometimes wore, that my grandmother referred to as his "tacky pants". I don't think I wrote about how for many years, I fearlessly sweetened my tea with saccharin, because my toxicologist grandfather assured me it would not give me cancer. (And if I avoid it now, it's more because I've come to think that it tastes pretty nasty than because I think it will poison me.) Nor did I write about the conversations we had about scientific writing, in which he instructed me in how not to do all the things that authors did that drove him nuts when he edited a toxicology journal. Which is odd, because the instinct never to take a scientific study at face value without looking carefully at the experimental design and the firm opinion on the serial comma that he helped foster are really a bigger part of who I am today than the ducks. Though the ducks were important, too.