Sunday, November 9, 2008

P4E.092 For Davey: Physics Meets Romance

My middle son, Davey, has asked Donia to marry him. As parents, we're very happy for them. For me, it brings so many emotions and thoughts. Here's one of my streams of thought / emotion:

Wait, didn't Davey just graduate from high school and weren't we just sending him off to Biola University?
Wasn't it just yesterday that he was the all-star Pony League baseball player?
It wasn't too many Thanksgivings ago that he was born at the hospital in Laguna Beach, was it?
Didn't I just ask Gwen to marry me?

It's 1977. Jake Feldman is my Statics professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He's not very tall, but he comes across big. Big personality, big voice, big gestures, big hands, big eyes, big nose, big smile. He wears baggy, khaki-colored clothes, Earth shoes and has a penchant for suspenders. Long, tousled, brown, curly hair sits above perfectly round eye-glasses. He brings passion (and humor) to what might otherwise be a deadly-dull class.

"Your friends, will let you down," says Jake. "Your parents will let you down. Your brothers and sisters will let you down. Your girlfriend will let you down. Your wife will let you down. But, Statics ...Statics will never let you down. It's a friend for life."

We buy white baseball shirts, with long red sleeves and piping, and silk screen them with a red heart and, in big cursive letters, "Statics...a friend for life." We wear them proudly around campus.

So, what did Jake mean about Statics never letting you down? About it being a "friend for life"? Statics is a branch of mechanics that analyses how forces keep a body at rest or at constant velocity. It communicates rules and mathematical equations that hold true. There is a consistency about Statics. If you ask probing questions and seek answers, Statics leads you to equilibrium and structural integrity. Statics gave us foundational knowledge that we used later in our strength of materials and structural engineering classes. Somehow our understanding of the physical universe and how it works gave us a sense of its unyielding honesty and its solid reality. Statics is a friend for life and it has taught me some valuable character qualities that I will strive to always keep in mind.

Our Statics class treks out to Poly Canyon, where students have erected all sorts of experimental structures in the pursuit of understanding the design and building process. Near dusk, we end up sitting and talking on one of many rolling hills of rock outcroppings, wheat-like grass and oak trees that surround the campus. Jake perches on a rock, arms hanging over his crossed legs, completely at ease. As the sun begins to set, the discussion turns to my recent engagement to be married. The whole landscape around us is bathed in the dusky sunset. The air moves the grass like sea-waves and literally seems to be infused with gold and yellow and orange hues. Just as the sun is dipping below the horizon, I use the word "fiancee." Jake turns slowly and narrows his eyes at me with a wistful grin. His face is bathed in a golden orange glow. The sun glints off his round glasses and the breeze rustles his curly brown locks. He closes his eyes and repeats the word, "Fiancee," letting the end of the word linger under his breath. "Now there's a word a haven't heard in a long time..." He opens his eyes. His grin broadens and he gives me a look that lets me know that he understands exactly where I'm at and wishes he could be there again.

Even now my spirit thrills to think of that moment. A moment to relish the romance of being engaged and having a "fiancee." To have my whole life before me and the thought of sharing it with the woman I love. I really thought of nothing else. There was nothing else.

Carpe' Diem, Davey, Carpe' Diem.

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