Wednesday, November 05, 2008

my dad is a mathematician, by trade and by nature. though he retired this past spring, he continues to tackle everyday problems with the same systematic determination he would use to conduct a multivariate regression analysis.

he resumed piano lessons over the summer, following about a 45-year hiatus. every day he sits down at the piano and practices his scales, his hanon studies and his pieces, in that order, and with a level of precision and self-discipline that I never mastered. he plays for an hour or two, always. he uses the metronome and reads his teacher's instructions. when he starts to learn a piece, he spends hours figuring out the fingering and notating it. and it's the same with everything else he does. whenever he makes a sandwich, visits the bookstore, discourses on astrophysics at the dinner table, hands out tennis tips or fixes my computer, it's all accomplished in the same careful, organised manner.

and you know what I noticed today? he's even systematic in the way he picks up dog poop. we were out raking leaves this afternoon and dad went on self-assigned poo patrol. when I do it, it's haphazard and accompanied by a heavy dose of whinging. I make no attempt to find all or even most of the offerings and I take special care to leave the grossest ones for my mom to pick up later. but for dad, it's a task to be completed carefully, thoroughly, and with a perfectly serious demeanor.

the next time you need someone to pick up your dog's poop, find yourself someone with a PhD in math.

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