I stand outside of the local church of the Mid-West City; a small personable church where the people in attendance are regulars. I see five dirty blood red steps that lead inside to the church; people still within the church talking up a storm. Brother Lyle exits from the church. His pale thin hand glides along the rail as he descends down the blood red steps. I notice two white flower pots with blue, purple, and yellow small flowers. Through the glass double doors I notice silent laughter, silent chats, and silent animation.
He finally reaches the pathway that leads to the parking lot. His grey and black receding hair slicked back against his head. His face has brightness to it; a glow that makes me smile. His pale blue eyes shine through from a pair of wire-rimmed glasses. His smile warm and welcoming draws me in. He wears a crisp blue and white long sleeved plaid shirt that is neatly tucked into his tan trousers. He wears his old brown loafers that look like they have years upon years of experience.
He sits on the short cement wall that extends from the railing to the beginning of the parking lot. I smile at him and he says, “I’m ready.” I stand beside the small cement wall, and ask him what he thinks of math, and he says, “Reasoning”-this is his one-word response. My head cocks to one side in confusion. Of all of the people I have spoken to, “reasoning” would be the last word I would expect anyone to say. “Why did you say reasoning?” I ask while I stare at him in amazement. ”To me, math is logical,” he says while he scratches the top of his head, then smoothes his hair back. I ask him if math is important in his life, and he says, “Well, it has to be for what I do.”
I shake my head, but say nothing. “I am a tax preparer,” he says. That makes perfect sense when he states that math is reasoning. I enquire about his ability to solve problems, and he chuckles. “Reasoning is logical. I can solve most problems if I think about them logically.” I pose the question about the changes in math from then to now. “Before the addin’ machine, all of the tax forms were hand-written,” he says as he nods his head. “It’s a lot easier with addin’ machines now.” All of a sudden, laughter breaks out between the two people behind us. We look at each other and laugh.
My questions take a turn to math education. I enquire about his math experience in school. “I was good in math, but not English,” he says while he laughs. “Everybody’s good at something and nobody is perfect at everything. I remember this was before you were born; back in the 40’s when I would help my mother in the grocery store. We had large brown bags, and when people finished their shopping, my mother would add up what they bought by writing it on the bags. See this was before we had these addin’ machines,” he says clearly reminiscing about the “good ole days”. “Yeah, I don’t know much, but I do know math. I took trigonometry and algebra and really enjoyed it,” he says and smiles; his eyes twinkle. He adjusts himself on the cement wall and then cocks his head to one side and smiles.
I ask him about his math teachers in school and he exclaims, “My teachers were real nice and taught me a lot. But, I’m afraid that these young people aren’t learnin’ from their teachers.” My eyes widen as he continues. “These kids today wouldn’t be able to do math if they didn’t have an addin’ machine. They can’t give you the right change if the addin’ machine breaks down, and they don’t know what to do if I give them an odd amount of change for a single bill back.
They can’t figure for some reason,” he says while he rubs the back of his neck with his think hand and shakes his head. I nod my head because I have too seen kids that can not add without a calculator.
I enquire about his math classes for retired adults and he says, “It’s not a good idea. You should get’em when their young. He adjusts himself on the wall again, this time with a groan. I can see that the wall is uncomfortable, and that is where I end the interview. I tell him that the interview is over with and that I appreciated his time. He slowly gets off the wall and smiles that warm smile. I ask for a quick picture and I get the exact same comforting smile. *SNAP* the picture is over with and he shakes my hand. He smiles again at me and I even get a big hug from it. His eyes sparkle while he takes his leave.