My Son was Waiting on my Doorstep

My son was waiting on my doorstep.

Where shall I start?

We knew Jamie was not like other children, from an early age.

As a child running water fixated him. He would stare for hours at a stream or a fountain.

Later I came to realise that he was picturing in his mind what was going on as the water flowed, the endless swirl of the molecules, the complexity of which he could never track…

He had a very good brain for science.  School science was a pushover.

His social life was non-existent, except for friends in the computer club.  He didn’t seem to mind. His sister was always there for him, very protective. She talked to him, asked him to explain things.

He was lucky really. This was about the time when autism was identified and Lonnie and Elsa were very aware of it. They felt Jamie was on the mild end of the autism spectrum and wanted to protect him from special schools and being identified as handicapped or disabled.

Julie was very ready to take their advice on this in the early years of his life but she died when he was just six.

When I got the children together to tell them the news of her death – Mikey already knew of course – Hadley cried uncontrollably but Jamie just stared into space for long time and wandered off. Then, later, I found him drawing a picture of his Mom falling from the spire in Bryce Canyon.

What he always found hard was other people not understanding him or asking him the wrong questions. He would go into a rage: “Stupid, stupid, stupid”, he would shout.

On the other hand if they ignored him or just walked away, he did not seem to mind.

He stayed interested in water and when he was 18 he said he wanted to design a fountain even better than the one at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.

So Jamie went to Purdue University in Illinois because that seemed to be one of the best schools for hydraulic engineering.

Half way through graduate school he lost interest and started getting part-time work doing what is called search engine optimisation. This is all about making sure that client websites come up high on the search lists when people key a search term into a browser. Many businesses depend on search prominence, as it is called, and will spend heavily to protect it.

This required exactly his sort of brain. Those doing this work are up against the super-clever people at Google who are always trying to stay one step ahead of the players trying to game the system. The people who think up these clever ruses are sometimes called “black hats”.

I think Jamie was just completely neutral about this. He used any technique that could achieve the objective. It’s as if he has this huge, intricate, mental model of all the various connections and networks and actions that will lead people to the target site and he has to ensure that every one of them is going to take people there.

A giant snare in cyberspace!

I know he is paid a lot of money, which he invests. He has also got interested in managing his investments, and I think he has got very good at it.

But he still gets very angry at the stupidity of others.

He’s even angry about the site he was working on today. “Full of unreadable Java script, non-indexable pages. Complete shit. Keywords a total mess…”

I wondered why Jamie had come all the way down here. After all I was going to see him next week for a family reunion in Klamath Falls.

I guess that somewhere in his mind is a rule that says: When your Dad comes back, you should go see him.