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It's all in your head

My brother is four years younger then I am. We had dinner recently and as the conversation drifted to Vietnam as a vacation spot, he said no man his age will ever forget their draft number. That got me thinking. Not about the war or a trip to Asia but about other numbers we imbed in our psyche. While it doesn't have the heft of a draft number, no woman of any age draws a blank when it comes to the number that was on the scale minutes before her first pregnancy. Most of us have been trying to recapture that number ever since.

When a friend of mine started working at the library 38 years ago, she was a trim 102 pounds. A number she'll always cherish. People ask when she'll retire; she says when she weighs what she did the first day on the job. Then, laughs. We met as first-graders in Sister Helen Marie's classroom and made our First Communion together. May 8, 1955. A photo shows us standing on the sidewalk next to the school. We're wearing frothy white dresses with puffy short sleeves. Hers was hand-made of fancy white organdy and lace her aunt sent from France. Every year, when the date comes around, I think of my friend. Occasionally, I've called to make sure she hasn't forgotten. She never has. Once, I stopped at the library on the anniversary. The children's librarian, she walked me over to a child-sized frog in the reading area that wore her Communion dress.

I know people who were addicted to alcohol or drugs. They may forget their wedding anniversary or the day they graduated from high school but they'll never forget the numbers that make up the first day of their sobriety. In fact, we have a friend who got sober on his birthday and later, married on that date, too. I insured my husband never forgets the day we said "I do." Seeing people decked out in green with shamrocks pinned to their lapels should trigger his memory of a 3-17 ceremony 20 years ago.

My husband, an Air Force veteran, says if you were in the military, you never forget your serial number. Really? This man goes grocery shopping and comes home without bananas, the reason he went there in the first place.

"Tell me your serial number," I dared, putting him on the spot. Sure enough, he rattled off a string of numbers, even adding the date he landed on base in San Antonio.

When I asked my neighbor what number she'll never forget, she said it would be her Social Security number. My husband agreed. Now, that's a number I have trouble recalling. But I can still picture the phone number my mother had written on a circle of paper in the middle of the telephone dial in our childhood home. The phone sat on a table that was side-by-side with a chair in the hall. 926-7895. The nine and two stood for Walnut.

For some reason, I easily remember phone numbers. And dates -- happy numbers associated with birthdays and sorrowful ones linked to my parents' passings. Like a draft number during the Vietnam era, there are some things you might like to forget but you just can't.

Like the date of my mother's passing. Or my first communion,