Gosh Numbers

I believe the term “gosh numbers” was made up by Frederik Pohl in his novel “Beyond The Blue Horizon,” although I could be wrong. It was a reference to numerical symmetry, I guess, like -40 degrees being the same on the Fahrenheit and Celsius scales. Numbers that made you say, “gosh,” if that’s the sort of thing you say.

It doesn’t matter. I took the phrase, kept it, stripped it of any mathematical usefulness and use it now for funny coincidences that involve numbers.

Like: This year, my daughter is the same age that I was when she was born. In fact, in the first week of May she will be exactly the same age.

I just now realized that it was in May of the year she was born that we realized she was coming, too, and even though with some minor research I could pinpoint the exact day (it was Mother’s Day 1984, easy) I think that’s too goshy for me, too much stretching of an arbitrary calendar. It would feel like astrology.

Mostly I think we should have fun terms for little number reunions like this. I would think the energy released from the birth of a baby must be immense in some psychic way, and maybe I’ll think of it as bouncing around until it returns like a boomerang with range. This is an Echo Year for a parent, something. See? Just messing around.

And we realized yesterday, all three of us here in this household (John only tolerated this), that we have another coinky-dink.

Statistics are full of gosh numbers, if you don’t mind closing one eye. We’ve all heard the statistic, for example, that half of all marriages end in divorce, which sounds like a convenient path to risk assessment and falls apart when you take a moment. I also have a certain statistical risk of being struck by lightning today; that risk is actually zero, though. There will be no lightning anywhere I am, I guaran-freaking-tee it.

But before I get over my head here in talking about things I know nothing about, I’ll add that people who got married in the early to mid-1980s have, for some reason, a much, much lower divorce rate than the statistical average. Again, this is irrelevant in the real world of actual human beings, but anecdotally? I believe it. I know lots of people who got married then and are still married now. Go figure.

My wife and I met in the late spring of 1982, when we were both old enough to know better, to have some sense of risk and odds, and still we did what people do, which is fall in love and stay that way. It took us six months to get there, although for half of that time we only wandered on the periphery of each other’s life. That will happen to people, too.

I was almost 24 and she was a couple of months into being 27, which I only note because it feels like a tweak I can get away with; if you look at us standing next to each other, you would probably assume the reverse and then some. She remains youthful and I remain in awe of this.

By the time February 27 rolled around, we were solidly into couplehood. On her 28th birthday, I gave her a pair of cowboy boots, and then we drove through snowy mountains to spend the afternoon with my parents. My mom baked her a cake. This is all in the history books; you can look it up. A familiar story.

It snowed most of the day here yesterday, light snow that caused nobody problems, just nice to watch, but it reminded us of that February in northern Arizona. We reminisced a little and that’s when we said gosh. More or less.

It’s been 28 years since my wife’s 28th birthday. A birthday we remember well, apparently, since we bored our son with the details until he left the room. Details are what we have left, wrong or not, fuzzy or clear. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue, I remember.

Another echo, then, returning from long ago and, as it turns out, sort of far away. I’m pretty sure we weren’t imagining the Pacific Northwest back then, but it was early.

And I could be wrong, but I wonder now if that was the last birthday she could just celebrate in leisure. It seems every February 27th since 1983 she’s been busy, in rehearsals or in class or teaching or working, something. Today she gives a sermon, a couple of private lessons, and a performance. I mean. I just goof off on my birthdays, but we are different people.

We are, too. And if you think 28 years are full of bliss and babies, well. Maybe you haven’t been married, or married that long, or married to just one person.

The snow is lingering but not falling. Tomorrow we head south for a quick trip to see my daughter and her husband sing. Who knows what we’ll do the day after that. I have no clue about life, just lightning, and that just sometimes.

But I’m all about echoes today. We both hear it, we both smile at it, we both remember, we should.

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