Wagner’s operas, Beethoven’s piano sonatas, Bach’s Goldberg Variations--these were among Dad’s favorites. And everything by Rob Rival. Dad played what he could, and what he couldn’t--like the Moonlight Presto--became unrecognizable. His latest discovery was Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, and his infinite inquisitiveness prompted him to not only enjoy and try his hand at the music, but also to study the theory behind equal temperament. And beyond the classics, Dad shared my mother’s love for Bob Dylan, and while she prefers Gilles Vigneault, he had a penchant for Felix Leclerc.
Dante’s Inferno, Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, Jacques Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence, James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake--these were among the books Dad was reading simultaneously. And let us not forget Marcel Proust. That anyone would dare touch a novel over 900 pages let alone finish it is beyond me. And why you were so passionate about Proust is now left to us to find out.
Music, literature...and wine. What a wonderful time you had with Mom visiting the vineyards on the Niagara Peninsula, swishing a Riesling or Pinot Noir in one hand while fingering a book on the history and methods of wine-making in the other. You really knew how to enjoy life to the fullest.
But you did not live a sedentary life. At a late age you became a marathoner and more than once clocked an impressive 2:50. And though you introduced me to competitive running at an early age, I wonder if I’ll ever better that achievement. You taught us how to play catch, football, hockey; but most of all, to enjoy the best that Canada’s winters have to offer--cross-country skiing in the Gatineaus, skating on the canal and hockey on the outdoor rinks. If we have a love for sports and nature, it is because of you. And most importantly, you taught us good sportsmanship.
In the last few years, the cottage became an important place of repose for you. We remember when you decided to learn how to windsurf just three years ago. For a long time, you bruised your shins badly as you repeatedly fell off the board. It seemed hopeless. But your determination was such that you eventually amazed the neighbours by regularly navigating the entire lake, on a windless day, for hours on end. And we’ll never forget how one day, while surfing, you came across your friend Drew who was leisurely sitting in his oversized rowboat in the middle of the lake, reading a book and sipping a beer, and how you nonchalantly dropped your sail, sat on your board, and how the two of you conversed like that, over a beer, in the middle of the lake.
While you carried on your own adventures at the cottage, you insisted on bringing your entire family, often with some protest, along with you on long sabbatical leaves around the world. And that is how at the age of six I came to live on a farm outside of Grenobles, France, where I had a teacher called Marie-Therese. How strange it was, when we moved to Paris, that my next teacher, too, was called Marie-Therese--until you realized that I had taken maitresse to be their names. The last such trip was a year-long journey that began in Darmstadt, Germany, in 1991, and continued, via the Trans-Siberian railway, to Moscow, Novosibirsk, Siberia, and eventually to Nanjing, China. Dad worked with mathematicians and we learned new languages, explored new places and got to know different cultures and meet new people. We played hockey with the Russians, soccer with the Germans and basketball with the Chinese.
And though we only have a rudimentary understanding of ordered sets, Dad had a way of making his colleagues and students feel part of the family. And so I remember, when I was not yet 10, playing hackey-sack with Nejib and Frisbee with Dwight while my brother David was temporarily abducted in his stroller by another mathematician at the Banff conference on ordered sets in 1984.
Dad imbued in us his ceaseless scientific curiosity about everything in life. I remember that fateful day at the dinner table, after reciting my "three highlights from school"--and recess didn’t count--that a simple observation on my part turned into a grade five science fair project on optics: I was absent-mindedly staring at my soup spoon and noticed that my reflection was right-side up on one side and upside-down on the other.
His devotion to our learning was tireless. More recently he took a more business-like approach with my sister, Katia: "Meet me in my office at 7:15pm," he would say. On the agenda would be math problems and how to write an essay. After the appointment, the two would sit at the dinner table silently slurping up an entire watermelon. My sister would then go downstairs to bed but no sooner had she fallen asleep than the sound of Beethoven would be heard upstairs--not the Beethoven, but the Beethoven who preferred unique tempos--Dad.
Dad, we have so many fond memories of you: how Mom met you at a mathematics conference in Holland and married you four months later; how Katia entertained you after dinner with her Rowan Atkinson skits; how over the holidays I went running with you for the first time in 10 years, trudging through the snow while debating political economy; and how David says you’re the wind on his back, the hand that gives him the extra push to do better than his best. Dad, your presence will forever be felt, and your vibrant spirit and all your best qualities are what we will forever keep within us and share with others.
Now please stand for a moment of silence in honour of my father, Dr. Ivan Rival.