It is no accident of nature that happiness is the byproduct of being comprehended by another person. This is the emotion that I always feel on the sparingly few occasions that I can converse with my uncle James.

I am twelve years old, and I ascend the elevator of my aunt and uncle’s studio apartment in Tribeca. I am greeted first by the downdraft of fumes from my aunt Lilian’s oil paints, and second by the wet noses of two spry spaniels that protrude from under the elevator door. I will spend the duration of the hours excitedly divulging my every rumination to this most interesting man, my uncle.

James and I connected early in my life. All of my stream of conscious utterances about aerodynamics and mechanics he was able to interpret. He indulged me by patiently listening to every detail of my thinking. James is a loving and adoring man, and is gifted with an intelligence and a personality that warms up when he is listening to you.

My brother and I sleep on the fold-out bed in the studio as the hot summer air drifts through the window above our heads. The the noises and lights of lower Manhattan enter too, and reverberate and reflect around the large empty room and hardwood floors. We lie awake and absorbed in a kind of metropolitan chrysalism.

I have an deep affection for my uncle because early in my life he recognized who I was. He had the avuncular instinct to give me both the fuel, and the mechanism for my imagination.

The fuel that James gave me was his affirmation of my ideas; an external validation from someone that I respected. The mechanism was Computer Aided Design (CAD) software. A few short weeks after returning to my home in Colorado a package arrived in the mail containing a CD ROM. On the cover was a rendering of a duck holding a surfboard: Ray Dream 3D. I tore into the software with ferocity. My creativity had an outlet that had only been partially satiated by pencil and paper. The skills that stemmed from learning the software at an early age led me to a bountiful variety of educational and career opportunities.

My path to now is inextricably connected back through a sequence of events to that significant moment in my life when someone recognized and comprehended me in a way that nobody else had done before. James gave me a foundation and opened a door.

I am ever grateful.

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