If there’s one thing I learned in Mr. Murphy’s Chemistry class—apart from using a bunsen burner to make peanut-brittle—it’s to always specify units with your measurements. Thirty what? Six-point-five what? Knowing this crucial information was the only thing keeping your test-tube from exploding, or your test from losing twenty percent of its grade.
For the past few weeks, Ian has been neglecting his units.
‘Know how much I love you, Daddy?’
‘No. How much?’
His eyes spread with his hands. ‘Forty-five seventy-two! That’s a lot!’
Cute and endearing, if only temporarily. Forty-five seventy-two what? It didn’t make sense. The Father in me was touched: a number so large that it was meaningless. The Editor in me was simply frustrated.
Why forty-five seventy-two? And what did it mean that yesterday it was twenty-six three? Or fifty-one eighty-two, the day before? Am I being graded? Is there a curve?
So I’ve tried to explain. ‘But, honey, that number doesn’t mean anything. I’m glad you love us so much! We love you too! But you can just say “a lot” or “tons” or “bunches”.’
Nothin’ doin’. He loves us twenty-eight forty-four, eighty-nine six, thirty-one thirty-three.
I looked into the review mirror this morning, on the way to school. ‘I love you, kiddo!’
‘I love you, too, Daddy.’
And, without thinking, I replied, ‘Well, I love you six!’
Oh. Ohh. Ohhhh!