I didn’t get to watch Star Trek much as a kid (mostly when we’d go over to my pastor’s house, because they would sit me down in the living room and turn the TV on while they chatted with my parents), but what I saw fascinated me and probably helped seal my life-long love of speculative fiction in science trappings. My two favorite characters were Scotty and Spock. Scott’s draw for me was obvious — he got to build and maintain those wonderful devices! but it would take me years to understand why I also identified with Spock.
Not too long after Treanna was born we started a process that ended up with her getting a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. I was suddenly forced to confront the implications. I already knew autism had its foothold in my family, and with my mom busily researching autism on behalf of my nephew and now my daughter, it wasn’t too long before I got to a place where I had to either deny that my struggles growing up grew out of something larger than just being “odd” or admit the truth, hard as it was to face being “broken”, and go back to re-examine my past through the lens of new understanding so that I could make life for my child better than it was for me.
That’s when I really started to understand my identification with Spock — not just as he was in TOS, but how his character grew and transformed over the course of the movies. He was the product of two worlds and never comfortable in either. Yet he finally came to peace with himself and how he stood out from everyone around him. In his choice to stop fighting the world around him, he found his unshakeable place in that world. He even helped mentor others who were between worlds, who did not have the comfortable illusions of normalcy to guide them.
Leonard Nimoy, from all I know, was nothing like the Spock he portrayed. Warm, caring, empathic and sensitive, he was one of those people who move through life with a grace that he put to good use in helping ease the way of those around him. My interactions with him are very few and limited, but even through those, I was always struck by the notion that he genuinely care about his legions of fans as well his many co-workers throughout the years. Despite not being Spock, he found a way to take that core of compassion and infuse it into his character.
Thank you, Mr. Nimoy. You did not know me, but you provided an inspiration and a signpost that has helped me walk a better path in life. I have been, and shall always be, proud to count you as a friend.