We have a number of number people in our family. Sadly, I can’t tell you exactly how many because I’m not one of them. As nonnumber people are prone to do, let’s just round up and say it is a lot.
Number people often obsess with remembering historic dates, record-breaking high and low temperatures, anniversary dates, what the water bill was this month compared to the same month last year and what a haircut cost in 1994. For a number person, a really good time is approximating how many shingles are on the roof.
My father-in-law was a number guy. He worked as an estimator for General Motors, estimating the time various stages of manufacturing would take to complete. He often did computations in his head and was wary of people who used calculators for simple things like figuring compound interest to the fourth decimal point.
He was also vocal about his frustration with younger co-workers who didn’t know what pi was. Hint: It’s not apple, cherry or blueberry.
Sometimes, just for fun, the kids would throw out math problems for him to solve. Occasionally, he picked up a pencil and did a little scratching on the edge of the newspaper. Others thought he was doing the computation, but I’m certain he was writing down names of those who couldn’t keep up with him.
The husband shares a common denominator with his father in that he, also, has excellent recall for numbers. It’s a convenient trait for a spouse to have, although at times it is like being married to an almanac. He can (and will) tell you the anniversary dates of major historical events, birthday anniversaries in the family (both living and deceased), the last time we both went to the dentist and how many days we have been without rain.
We recently discovered the number gene growing exponentially in one of the grands who is 9. She fastidiously tracks the birthdays of all 10 of her cousins, paying keen attention to the youngest in the brood, who is 20 months old. She fixates on the youngest because she suspects this tot will be the last addition to the extended family.
So, she marks the date of the month that little one was born on each page of a monthly calendar. When the date arrives, she takes a few moments to lament that the family is one month closer to being completely out of babies. The rest of us lament that the babies in the family are getting older too, but not with such precision or flair for drama.
I only hope that my birthday isn’t on the radar of our number-loving grandchild. I don’t need anyone tracking my age, as though counting down days to the apocalypse. More importantly, if there’s any crying to be done, I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself.
Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.