Do you know what it’s like being the son of an engineer and being crappy at math? My poor father would slog home to Queens from Manhattan, enduring a 90 minute or more commute by bus and subway after working a 10 or 11 hour day only to be greeted with those heartwarming words from my mother, “Mac! Edward needs help with his math homework!”
Let me put this into perspective. Helping me with my math homework was roughly as pleasant as receiving a massage with a backhoe.
But this is what fathers do. I’d patiently wait for him to eat his dinner at 8 p.m. knowing what was to come. Here was a man who could figure logarithms in his head while watching a ballgame and I couldn’t decipher those ghastly word problems that merely asked when the train and car would collide on the Long Island Railroad tracks.
Dog tired from his endless day, my father, at times, grew impatient with my total lack of quantitative abilities, while my mother apologized that I had apparently inherited her gene for that deficiency.
By the time 10 o’clock rolled around and we were both exhausted out of frustration, and in my case, total shame, my father somehow figured out what small phrase of instruction would light my dim bulb brain and allow me to find the solutions.
Oh sure, sometimes voices were raised, and there were tears, but my father never gave up. He wouldn’t let me hand in an incomplete assignment or one with wrong answers.
I’m sure I never had the chance to properly apologize for putting him through that ordeal, but much later in life, when I started producing newscasts and backtiming required the use of math, he would ask me how I could possibly manage. I’d joke, “math? Oh, that’s easy.!” He knew better. With a broad smile and that knowing look only a dad could have he’d ask, “who you bullshitting?” A dad knows. He deserved a medal.