It was hard being raised by a former NASA rocket scientist. I could never say to my dad, “It's not rocket science,” because it just...was. Every aspect of our lives being dictated by logic, he once got out his T-square to hang curtain rods. No eyeballing it for us. This was also the reason we usually lived in homes without curtains. It was exhausting living with a perfectionist, the fear of imperfection often paralyzing.
I remember one time when my dad was helping me with math homework, I contemplated an alternate solution to the problem at hand. My dad's eyes lit up; maybe another engineering mind in his household.
“Hold that thought,” he said while running to get a pad of the graph paper he always had on hand. He sat furiously measuring and drawing and erasing and redrawing with the mechanical pencil usually housed in the front pocket of one of his short sleeve work shirts and then maniacally thrust the pad of graph paper toward me.
“Here. Draw this as if you are looking at it bisected.”
“Umm, what?” I asked beginning to question my sanity at attempting to speak mathese with my dad.
“Cut in half,” he explained.
“Oh, yeah. I knew that,” I nodded and frowned, looking down at the graph paper to find a complex multi-faceted pyramid-like structure. There were angles, little diamond and octagon shapes and shadows turning this 2-D drawing into a seemingly 3-D structure.
“Looks like a spaceship?” I questioned. My dad was nodding furiously a hopeful gleam in his eyes.
I was boggled by this challenge. My mind didn't work this way and I could not see beyond the penciled drawing in front of me. I tapped my forehead, come on think, think. Crickets chirped while the silence became deafening.
“I can't seem to…”
“Just try,” he pled.
“Okay,” I nodded.
Picking up the pencil, I tried to imagine being an astronaut inside of that tiny space shuttle and gasped as I felt a quick flash of claustrophobia. Haltingly, I began to study his drawing and then in the space below, penciled in how it might appear bisected. Little diamonds and octagons and a couple of weird angles, a shadow here and there and I might be close. I handed it back and saw the light dim a bit in his eyes. He chuckled, “It’s pretty good, but it's not rocket science. Now getting back to this math problem, how many times have I told you? You have to show your work.”
Lisa Owens writes a monthly column for the Empire-Tribune and Glen Rose Reporter. Her columns are inspired by true events. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.