trying to help your kid with physics

Like Riding a Bike on the Interstate

I had so much to say earlier, but I’m not sure where all the stories went. It seems too hard to write. I’m not well yet. I’m still low on oxygen. My whole life is gathered around how dizzy I feel, trying to remember the right words, trying to spell, trying to drive after work this morning even though I felt like I had one too many drinks and didn’t want to give up my keys.

Yesterday, I got my hair cut. I could tell by my hair dresser’s face and tone of voice that she didn’t want me to drive home, that she didn’t want to be on the road with someone like me.

I know I’m that driver who’s just a little bit impaired who drives just at the speed limit, who stops at a stop sign for an exaggerated moment, who looks both ways and both ways again. I am that moderately drunk designated driver who doesn’t want to let anybody down at the end of the night, the one who suddenly starts driving like his grandmother does in her 1987 Ford Taurus with the pink crocheted seat cover on the driver’s seat and country music set low on the radio.

Today, when I didn’t feel outright nauseated, the recliner spinning me and alternately feeling like I was drowning in a sea of air, I felt a little bit drunk. That was when I felt better.

Am I repeating myself?

Sorry.

Mike and Nick are on the couch watching ‘Goosebumps’ with Jack Black while Nick works on his physics. Earlier, Nick asked me to help him and I totally had the answer wrong, doing simple algebra and showing him what I thought it would be. But then, I gave up and went to take a nap, a long nap, the kind that gets so disorienting in the afternoon.

When I woke up after three hours, I knew the answer to that problem. Isn’t that weird when that happens? You go to sleep with a question and by the time you wake up, you know the answer. With Nick’s problem he needed to take the integral of the acceleration to get the speed.

In some deep recess of my brain, I still do physics and calculus, but it’s fucking thirty-seven years old and the neural pathways aren’t strengthened with repetition or even flush with oxygen. I’m only at 95 percent oxygen. That’s not all that low, but that still makes me see stars when I bend over to put dog food in Teddy’s bowl. How the hell did I remember that calculus shit? How?

Now, they’re talking about significant figures, how many digits you write out in your answers, and somehow I understood and could talk lucidly about it.

Can I be impressed by my own brain? Can I brag?

I never thought that physics would be a little like riding a bike. I never had that much confidence in what I learned in engineering school before the semester was over. I kept breathing and madly studying until the class was over, then slept for three weeks. Then, I didn’t think about what I’d learned until the next class laid more details on top of what I’d been uncertain about the previous semester. That school kept me off balance the whole four years even though I had a B average and worked my butt off.

I believe in slowing things down enough that my mind can settle into a topic. I like when my mind wakes up one morning and says, “Hey, I know this shit.”

Yeah, that didn’t happen in college. It was intentional. Professors kept telling us that a third of us would flunk out. They worked toward that. And afterward, I worked in digital logic, electronics, so I never used those physics equations again.

Until now.

There’s a tiny part of my brain that whispered while I was sleeping, “Hey, I know this shit, sort of.”

Thank you for listening, jules