Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I’ve always loved numbers. I remember as a little boy…laying in bed at night and silently counting as high as I could before I would fall asleep. Not counting sheep, just practicing my numbers. I did the same thing with the multiplication chart. Over and over, I would do them in my head. As the train would pass by on the Great Northern railroad tracks that ran behind our dairy farm in North Idaho, I’d try to count how many cars were in the trains as it whizzed past. Even as we would lay out on the front lawn in our sleeping bags in the summer at night, I’d look into the sky and count as many stars as I could. Counting cars on our Sunday drives provided a nice distraction to the bodies of three siblings squeezed into the backseat of the Rambler station wagon with me.

My wife Paula was always amazed that I could remember phone numbers…and dates. I knew (and still know) the date that we met, the date of our first date, the day I proposed and our wedding anniversary date. Sadly, I also know the date that our divorce was final. The birthdates of our children and our grandchildren and engraved forever in my memory. I guess sometimes, it’s a curse to remember too many numbers.

August is a month full of numbers for me and I have found them swirling in my mind a great deal this past week. It seems each one is associated with a memory…mostly painful. A grandson’s birthday. Release from prison. A date with Paula. Since I’m not getting any younger, I thought I’d put down a list of numbers that seem to have some significance.

6427 - Number of days Paula and I were married
2564 - Days since I last saw my grandson and grand daughter
2552 - Days since I kissed Paula
1463 - Days I've been out of prison
1086 - Days spent in prison
851 - Average number of days between seeing Paula in the past seven years
365 - More days of supervised release
341 - Number of days I've had my antique business
284 - Number of days that I've been selling antiques at the Tacoma Antique Center
260 - Miles round trip my sister Deb drives when she comes to auction with me
137 - Milepost number on I-5 that you take to go to my antique space
43 - Number of antique auctions I've attended in the past year
41 - Number of months I was sentenced to serve in prison
26 - Number of birthdays my grandchildren have had in the past seven years
26 - Number of birthdays I’ve missed for my grandchildren in the past seven years
23 - Hours spent on a bus from Seattle to Bakersfield, California
23 - Date in July of 2004 that my marriage ended
23 - Date in February of 2004 that my life changed forever (can you spell FBI?)
13 - Date in December of 1986 that we were married
13 - Date in August of 1999 that I had my first grandchild
6 - Thickness of a prison mattress…in inches (if you're lucky)
4 - Number of grandchildren
3 - Numbers of siblings that I've renewed a wonderful, loving relationship with
3 - Number of children
1 - Years until I can move freely…anywhere I want to without permission
0 - Number of parents still living

Not all numbers are bad. They are just real. And they serve as reminders to me. There’s one other thing about numbers that I like though…some of them change. Some get bigger, and some get smaller. As I reflect on the list, there are numbers to celebrate...and numbers that I'd like to just let slowly fade from my memory. Maybe....just maybe, time will allow that.

Photo from Bing Images


Deb Shucka said...

Oh, Mark. A story so powerfully told in numbers. This is such a beautiful and bittersweet piece, and it made me cry.

I learn something new about you every time I read here. I had no idea you were such a number guy with such an amazing memory.

I love you. I'm so very proud of you. One more year - that will be a time to celebrate, as will the many new opportunities that will come available to you in that new freedom.

Sandi said...

Hi Mark,
I couldn't resist reading what you had to say about numbers. These are the ones that struck me as significantly positive:

1463 - Days I've been out of prison
1086 - Days spent in prison

The days out are more than the days in. And these numbers will continue to grow.

Your honest appraisal of your life inspires me.

Hold my hand: a social worker's blog said...

I love your post. You make me look at number with more interest than ever. They have meaning. I am almost tempted to write a list like you did.

Thank you Mark for sharing and inspire us. Thanks for sharing from your soul.