It Figures

Here's a photo of the Sinclair station I mentioned earlier. Dad is on the left. I'm not sure about the origins of the photo, but I do remember seeing it around the house in a black frame. In the photo it looks like Dad's left arm was amputated at the elbow, but it really wasn't.

Up to this point I've mainly talked about things my Dad said and thought. I suppose I've been a bit neglectful of Mom's lessons. That's probably because the one phrase from Mom that is burned in my brain was "I can't get five minutes peace to myself!" To my credit, I only made the mistake of saying, "It's not my fault you had seven kids!" once. She had her own way of teaching, which typically didn't involve a folksy turn of phrase like Dad.

This particular photo was one of her teaching tools, at least for me. I couldn't figure out how or why my Dad didn't have an arm in the photo. I was positive he had one, at least he had one any other time I saw him. I couldn't very well ask him. If he was missing an arm, and I had not noticed, I would feel embarrassed about bringing it up. If he wasn't missing an arm, I'd feel silly for asking. If he was missing an arm, the prosthetic was incredible! It was much more impressive than the hook/pincher thing the old man who lived over on Dwight St. had; it would be a must for show and tell.

And so, naturally, I asked Mom. I didn't get "He was waving when the shutter was open and either the shutter speed or the film speed was too slow to capture the motion." I didn't get "Oh you silly boy, of course your Dad isn't an amputee, it's just a bad photo!" And I didn't get "Here, look closely. See that blur?* That's because your Dad's arm was moving."

No, I got something along the lines of "You're so smart, figure it out yourself." And eventually, I did.

To some people that may sound a bit harsh, but I certainly didn't take it that way. I took it as a challenge. I suppose if I had never figured it out I might have developed some self esteem issues, though I'm not sure those existed for kids in the 1960's.

Instead, I did figure it out and I found there's satisfaction in solving a puzzlement. And I learned that if it seems there should be an obvious answer, there probably is and it's likely just a lack of knowledge that keeps you from seeing it. I learned that a first glance, even a cursory one, can alert you that something is out of place if you truly know what you're looking at, and that the little flag that pops up in your head when you notice the anomaly is a signal that something needs to be studied a little more closely.

Figuring things out for yourself is a good skill to have. I highly recommend it.

* The Sinclair logo on the other guys shirt (Bill's) was the key to me actually recognizing that there was a blur. The blur covered up the logo that should be there and then it was simply a matter of figuring out what causes blurs in photographs.

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