A Need To Be Needed

by John C. Westervelt

If you are a parent with children at home, on some days you may wish you were not so needed. All of that changes during the senior years of life. Some years ago as a widower with preschool grandchildren, I needed their presence, and they needed mine. As the years passed, my grandchildren’s interest shifted to their friends at school and church, so I was needed less and less.

After retiring from Amoco Research Laboratories six years ago, I worked as a consultant three half-days a week in the same office. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, I volunteered in the three-year-old class at Asbury’s preschool. When the BP Amoco Laboratories were moved to Houston a year ago, my consulting slowed and finally stopped this summer. This fall I began volunteering at Asbury’s preschool four mornings a week. All of this activity through the years was to fill my need to be needed.

Late in October, Paul and Sandy, my son and daughter-in-law, invited Sandy’s mom, Nancy Parks, and me to visit them in Katy, Texas. On Saturday we went to the University of Texas to see my grandson Brett. On Sunday we watched Amy play soccer. On Sunday night the family gathered in the den to watch a movie and then the last part of the second game of the World Series. Amy was at her desk working algebra homework rather than watching TV with the rest of us.

After a while, Amy sat down on the couch next to her dad. She explained that she couldn’t solve the last group of more difficult factoring problems. The TV did not interfere with either mind as Paul worked the problems and explained the process to Amy. As Paul struggled with the last two problems, he said, "You are going to have get Grandpa to help you with these two. He always helped me. He can work any problem."

Amy showed me the algebraic expressions with complicated exponents that she must factor. I asked for paper, pencil, and a little time. I recalled the patterns of algebraic factoring. Reinforced in my mind through engineering courses was the fact that exponents are added when functions are multiplied.

I was now oblivious of the ball game. I took off my sweater and turned up my mind. The expectations were high. My reputation was on the line. Fortunately, I was able to solve the problems. Amy multiplied the factors together to get the original expression, which confirmed that my answers were correct. I explained the procedure to solve the problem to Amy. After she understood, she said, "Thanks Grandpa."

On Monday, I boarded the plane for Tulsa. During the hour and a half ride home, I thought about my four days with family. Each day was fun, but the highlight was definitely solving the algebra problems. As I contemplated the weekend events, I realized that the reason was – "I need to be needed."

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