Monday, September 27, 2004

Avogadro’s Number

My freshman year in college my older sister decided to make a career change. She had already obtained an undergrad degree and needed to go back and receive some Chemistry and Biology credits to fulfill the requirements for her new venture. She and I ended up in 2 classes together. For me it was a source of much comfort and lots of laughs. As a side note, it is of interest to know that my folks decided to have a child once every eight years. (Another post for another day)

Our Chemistry professor was too intelligent to teach general chemistry. I am not sure why he was assigned that task. Seriously, it was the universal opinion of most of the 400 students. To make matters worse my sister was not into the math side of chemistry. She excelled in the Biology classes; she is an intelligent woman. Some people just can't wrap their brain around math. In her case, specifically Avogadro's number. It is and might remain the bane of her existence.

I cannot count the number of hours we spent going over the use and significance of that number. We had innumerable tutoring sessions with our TA (teaching assistant). Basically, if the pressure was off then she had no trouble working the formula into an equation. However, throw her into quiz or exam mode and she lost all confidence.

I will never forget the first exam we had in the lecture hall. 400 plus students strategically seated to avoid the chance of cheating. The exam was 15 pages in length. Anyone else remember having a 15-page general chemistry exam? Everyone is furiously trying to complete the test. The only sounds heard in the lecture hall were the turning of the exam pages and the quiet shuffling of the Proctor's feet. Well until my sister gets to the ever-present Avogadro's number section. Every 10 seconds or so you would hear a deep, heavy sigh. At one point I thought she might be hyperventilating. I was doing my best to concentrate but the sighing was getting deeper and louder. She worked herself into frenzy. Out of the corner of my eye I watched as she tried to take a quick break by wiping her glasses. Then I heard an “OH NO!” Poor thing, there she was frustrated to the max and she now had one of the lenses of her glasses in her hand. In her frantic pace she knocked the lens right out of the frame. She was panicking. One of the Proctors rushed over to see what the problem was, luckily it was our TA. Each time my sister would try to put the lens back in the frame it would pop right out. I was afraid she was going to break the frame entirely. The TA asked if she could help and my sister pleaded with her to let me fix the spectacles. Since Chemistry class, I had become an expert in fixing them. I did pop the lens back into place and told her to stop fooling with her glasses.

I know that my sister had to repeat that class once maybe more, it has been a long time since then. Thankfully she eventually received enough credits to get into her graduate program. In the past 20 years, I have watched my sister attain most of the goals she set out for herself and maybe a few she didn't have mapped out. I am very impressed by her in so many ways. She is highly regarded in her profession. She should be, she has worked damn hard for it. She is the Mom of a fantastic 9-year-old girl. Well, truth be told if it weren't for the set of my genes my niece inherited she would have turned out differently. HA! None the less, my sister is a great Mom. She is probably one of the mentally strongest people I know. There have been many family crises she has been at the helm for, a couple due to my stupidity. I don't think she will ever be able to stay at another southern Day's Inn ever. (Sorry gang, don't think I will ever post about that one - never say never...) I am awed at the evolution of our relationship. I don't know what I'd do without it. I hope I don't have to find out.

I want to take this time to wish my sister a very happy 50th birthday!! Your furry nephew wants you to know that he doesn't sense that “old person” smell yet -I am sure you were worried about it. My wish for you is to never ever encounter another speed bump named Avo-freakin-gadro.


HotForSimon said...

Happy Birthday, Sis!!!

(((psssttt....I knew about the party but I was a good girl and didn't tell!!!! Go me!!!!)))

Anonymous said...

That was a wonderful post and a lovely happy birthday card. Your sister is a lucky woman to inspire such a great tribute.


Anonymous said...

Dear Wicked: Yes, I am usually late in everything....including having a child, getting married,and reading your post re Avagadro's Number.. .... I hope I will be late for my own funeral Yikes!!!I thank you and my husband for the lovely surprise birthday party you guys arranged. But the best present was the memory of Ava-freaking-gadro and his GD number. I laughed myself to tears as I read your post. Ah, those were some wild days.....Thanks for the tribute, I hope we will be together for many many more years to come. I am sure there will be other problems to deal with as we age....that's life. BUT, I HOPE I NEVER HAVE TO GO THROUGH WHAT I DID ON JANUARY 1997 AT THE SOUTHERN DAYS INN. Here's to happier times and old Avagadro (probably rolling over in his grave)(Come to think of it, I don't even use that stupid number in my career today!!!) I told you it was a worthless what was it????...........Nutcrackersweet 54