Forty Four

I don’t remember my grandfather, but from what I’ve heard, my semblance to him is uncanny. Both in terms of my appearance, and my personality. In family photos, I was always the only one with naturally blonde hair and light eyes. “Where did you get that from?!” someone would invariably ask. From my grandfather, along with his desire to always be learning and an appreciation for bitingly sarcastic humor.

He was diagnosed with leukemia when I was less than two years old. The night he passed away, my mother tells me that I woke up in hysterics around the same moment he went into the coma he wouldn’t wake up from.

He wanted to nickname me “Ricky,” since Erica doesn’t come pre-packaged with any cute nickname. It didn’t catch on, but I’m told we used to have adorable interactions where I’d walk past him and he’d greet me with “Hey Rick.” To which I’d respond, “Hi Bob.” Because I was less than two years old and for some reason had decided that I would call all of my grandparents and grandparents by their first names. (Except for my maternal grandmother — she insisted.)

On the field.

He was an athlete, a coach, and a gym teacher. He played football in high school, got a scholarship to college, was injured, and ended up joining the Navy instead. His football number was 44 and it’s a number I’ve always regarded as lucky and meaningful whenever it shows up in my life.

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Over the summer, I mentioned I kept seeing sunflowers everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. Not just growing, but on tote bags, tattoos (and not my own!), graffiti, storefront windows, movies, advertisements, and so on.

At a certain point, I started seeing 44’s everywhere, too. In telephone numbers, receipts, confirmation numbers, zip codes, likes, comments, and shares. I don’t know if there’s some programming rule I don’t know about, but it seems like every time I go on Facebook or Twitter, something was shared 44 minutes ago.

Worse yet, in revisiting one of my favorite books, The Little Prince, there’s a small bit that I never noticed before.

“One day,” you said to me, “I saw the sunset forty-four times!”
And a little later you added:
“You know — one loves the sunset, when one is so sad . . .”
“Were you so sad, then?” I asked, “on the day of the forty-four sunsets?”
But the little prince made no reply.

From what I’ve read, the reason that the number 44 was chosen is related to the number of days it took for Nazi forces to occupy France during World War II. The 44th day would have been the last day of a free France, and the author, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, disappeared before the end of the war.

For me, however, seeing 44 in one of my favorite books which I happened to pick up, yet again, at this time was mind-blowing. As I read the dialogue between the Little Prince and the pilot, I kept smiling. Of course I would run into this number, here, out of all the books in the world.

Yes, I like tarot cards, and astrology, and signs. Not because I believe there’s a science behind them (I know, I know, logicians — there’s not), but because I think we can take these real life symbols and interpret them much in the same way we would interpret motifs in our favorite stories. If I keep seeing this number, it’s because I’m aware of it, because I’m looking for it. So what am I looking for?

The way I view it, it’s my own internal marker of everything is okay. The more my eye catches these symbols, the more often I take a moment to pause, reflect, and give a little smile. I’m pretty sure life is completely absurd about 95% of the time. Having those added reminders, in whatever form they may come, to not take everything so seriously is a gift — random or not.


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