EC Editor, Zandra Wolfgram. Photo by Allison Yii
A Theory of Relative-ity
By Zandra Wolfgram
I have a tendency to gravitate to father figures. When I was in my early 20s I was a theater publicist. I worked on a production of “King Lear” in which Hal Holbrook starred. By the end of the production, I had morphed into Cordelia, the King’s one loyal daughter. One evening, as per usual, I went backstage after the show to meet with Mr. Holbrook about his upcoming media interviews. His performance was staggering every night. But for some reason on this night, when I looked into the kind, blue eyes on his well-lined face, I simply couldn’t restrain my emotions.
Maybe I was crying for the powerful King Lear who is completely devastated by the mistaken thought that his daughter betrayed him. Maybe I was crying for my father, taken too soon. Probably both. Mr. Holbrook was very kind about the whole thing and simply held my hand. Suffice it to say, unsuspecting kind-hearted men upward of 60 should be forewarned of my attachment tendencies.
Perhaps, in part, this is why when I had the privilege of meeting George Einstein, at an event held in his honor this past winter, I nearly blew it. The name alone is at once fascinating and intimidating. Yes, he’s an Einstein. His “second cousin” is Albert Einstein, the “father of physics,” whose genius birthed the Theory of Relativity, unlocking many secrets to the universe.
My husband is a scientist. My stepson is studying physics. My youngest son is a budding scientist whose one request for Christmas was to convert his bedroom into a science lab. In my house, Einstein is a superhero. To learn that his relative, George Einstein, a successful science devotee for more than 40 years, was basically a neighbor, was an exciting discovery for us.
I anticipated An Evening with Einstein, as the event was called. Despite the fact that my husband injected me full of probing questions sure to reveal the secrets to the spry 90-year-old’s success, when the big moment approached and I was finally shaking his hand and looking into his kind blue eyes, I was lucky to eek out a meek hello. Yes, I was star struck by this living legacy.
He graciously granted an interview. I looked forward to meeting again. But before we had that chance, he passed away on Feb. 22, 2011.
Though I didn’t get to learn of his “secrets” first hand, I have learned from his family and friends that he was an accomplished engineer, cellist and skier. He was a risk taker, who as recently as last year tried parasailing. He could be mischievous, and, truth be told, a bit of a flirt. He loved living on the Emerald Coast. And though he did not have children of his own, he was certainly a father figure to many.
Good night, Mr. Einstein. It was a sincere pleasure to meet you. I will never forget my Evening with Einstein.
On this Father’s Day, I encourage everyone to remember their “fathers” kindly this year without delay. Remember, it’s all “relative.”