Need to Know

I was excited to get into accelerated math. It meant I started high school math a year early in the eighth grade, which meant I could either take less math in high school or take one or two math courses for college credit. I was pretty sure I’d just take less math. There were so many other courses available that I wanted to take way more than math.

My dad was less than thrilled when I told him. Both my sisters had taken the same path, and he and Mom had learned some lessons through their experiences. Dad’s number one complaint: I would miss an entire unit on percentages.

“Ugh. Percentages. Why do I even need to know percentages? When will I ever use that in everyday life?”

Hasn’t every kid said that about at least one subject at some point? And it usually has something to do with not liking or not doing well in that subject.

Math wasn’t my favorite.

Mom reminded me I needed to know percentages to compare prices and figure out how much sale items would cost me. Dad started spewing all sorts of farming applications for which percentages are paramount.

He lost me. I loved living on the farm, but I wasn’t going to do all that figuring to plant and harvest.

“Can’t I just use a calculator for all that?”

Wrong answer. Dad insisted I needed to know how to find a percentage. I showed him how I could set up an equation to find it. Not good enough. He wanted me to figure it in my head.

I don’t know how we settled it. All I know is I got to take accelerated math, I still stink at percentages in my head, and anytime the topic came up, Dad acted exasperated with me, and I egged it on.

To Dad, math was practical, and he wanted me to be able to do practical things. It’s why he taught me basic tips on cars, household fixes, animal care, and so on. He called those everyday skills common sense. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized those skills are much less common than I thought.

I still try to keep my gas tank above half, because “it’s just as easy to keep it in the top half as the bottom half.”

I still carry extra gloves, hat, extra socks, and a blanket in the van during the winter, “just in case you need to stand outside or get help.”

I still go through a mental checklist of storm preparation, including making sure flashlights work, phones are charged, and any supplies I might need in an emergency are in a central location, so I don’t have to gather them later.

There are enough times when we get caught off guard. Many times, if we’re paying attention, we get some warning signs. At the very least, we can use common sense to be as prepared as possible.

It’s great advice, Dad, and it usually helps, even through this grief process. I was as prepared as I could be when you died, but it still catches me off guard at times. It’s not an easy fix, like filling up a tank of gas or changing the batteries in my flashlight. I can’t tell you the percentage of heartache I have today compared to yesterday. But I can see the possibilities of tomorrow. I can use what sense and skills I have to get through today.

Thanks for the preparation and the reminder, Dad.

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