For some reason, while I was sitting here watching Doodlebug take a nap, I decided to Google some of the friends I had in graduate school. Pretty soon I got a shock: My friend Kevin Blount, who graduated a year after me and who had been teaching at Boston College and Sacred Heart University, has died. He passed away on May 30th of this year following a stroke. He was 46. Here is the memorial page at SHU.
I also discovered that in 2000, Kevin married another friend of mine from graduate school, Xiaoyu Liu. It was Xiaoyu I was actually Googling, since it was my friendship with her and her Chinese friends that first introduced me to Chinese culture which eventually culminated in my wife’s and my decision to adopt Doodlebug, and now Peanut, from China.
Kevin was as close as I have ever come to being friends with a genius. He came to Vanderbilt having done some teaching gigs at other colleges without a PhD, so he was a little older than the rest of us. He was in my graph theory class and was taking five courses that semester — which would be an unheard-of course load, even if they were all math classes. But they were not all math classes. One of them was Mandarin Chinese! He and I shared a fondness for word games, and I remember fondly challenges made to each other where we tried to find words that ended in -ex whose plurals did not end in -ices (e.g. we say the plural of vertex is vertices, so why don’t we say the plural of Kleenex is Kleenices?), and finding words which we only use in the negative (like discombobulated) and use them in the positive; Kevin walked up to me and asked, "How were your calculus students today?" and I’d say, "I think they were quite combobulated." Thinking back, I find I really miss his gentle, dry humor and his intense, bright intellect.
Now Doodlebug is awake, and I think I will hug her a little harder than usual.