No one in our family is a math whiz – we’re all literature folk with one black-sheep biologist mixed in. Quite frankly, I think the average student is taught way too much mathematics in school. If you don’t plan on becoming an engineer, physicist, or statistician, do you really need to have advanced calculus or trigonometry? I’m sure most would disagree, but I wonder if we aren’t taught too much high level math and not enough basic life skills. How did my girls graduate high school with honors yet have never been taught how to balance a checkbook, write a resume, or fill out basic government paperwork?
I’m not saying I can’t do math. I can function on a very basic level and I helped the kids with homework until they got to about the eighth grade. That’s where I went rusty and chewed pencils down to nubs before blaming teachers for their new math and its crazy calculation methods. Give me Markmatics, which is a math theorem based on very rudimentary understanding, a calculator, and Google.
The only class I failed in college was algebra. It wasn’t an intellectual problem; it was a question of priorities. The class directly conflicted with intermural football and forced me to make a choice. Being nineteen, I chose the glory of the field and its sorority cheerleaders over the classroom. When I retook it, I made sure to schedule it earlier in the day. I am content with the small amount of math I retained from school, although I do wish I had a better understanding of geometry. A functional grasp of angles, lines, shapes, and dimensional proportions would help immensely in my workshop. I’ve wasted many pieces of wood nibbling off degrees to get to the right angle.
There is, however, one mathematical problem that became increasingly obvious to me last weekend. I have yet to decide if I will call it: The Law of Diminishing Noise, The Principle of Relative Quiet, or perhaps something else. Here is its formula:
6 – (1p + 2c)/1d = g(1p * v) x 1000²
Since you aren’t well-versed in Markmatics, let me explain.
We spent the weekend settling two into their college dorms. Although, we have gotten used to taking our eldest since she is now a junior, it is still hard. She has a gregarious presence that fills our home with laughter and song that is missed when she is gone. And now she is gone for another year. Adding to that, we took our quiet, studious homebody to college for the first time. Her presence is a constant – a solid rock. She is always careful to monitor her mother for signs of sorrow and is by her side instantly when needed. Now she is freshman an hour away. Their doors are open but their rooms are empty.
Two cars are missing and even the driveway looks lonely.
Compounding the issue is that the one who remains is now driving. She is either at school, working, or dancing nearly all of the time. We’ve almost hit the empty nest. I know you would say that this is a normal progression of life and many others our age feel the same pain as their chicks leave the nest. That is true, I understand. However, the natural maturation of three magnifies the unnatural subtraction of one.
So I will land on the name The Principle of Relative Quiet in Grief Amplification for my theorem.
Let me break it down:
6 – (1p + 2c)/1d = g(1p * v) x 1000²
6 = Our natural family
1p = one removed permanently
2c = two gone to college
1d = one now driving
g = grief
v = the void left by the 1p (one removed permanently)
1000² = the multiplication factor of the now empty home (add as many zeroes as you want)
Removing the activity of the eldest three makes the loss of Kylie so poignant. We should be watching her blossom as a freshman. She should be excited about the next auditions. As the others leave, our little Kylie Bug should be slowly taking over the house with her glowing smile and ever-present joy. Her voice should be trilling in our halls as we settle in to a new experience and start high school over again. But we aren’t. We are filled with a void that shouldn’t exist. This quiet isn’t right. Every moment lacking sound is a startling reminder of what should remain.
Our home should still be loud and the quiet is painfully deafening.
I knew this weekend would be hard on my wife. I planned it out to make sure I was home as a buffer and told friends to be on the ready to fill some time in her now-empty schedule. I worried about her and completely discounted the toll that the quiet would take on me. After all, I’m old – I like peace and quiet now. I am the man!
I am the man – I watch out for the others.
I am the alpha male – I protect my pack.
I am the man – I push down inconvenient feelings that might well up.
I am the daddy… and this quiet hurts my ears.