I looked at my cell phone yesterday and found in my contacts list the first phone number I ever memorized. As with most people, this number was connected to the home I grew up in as a child, then as a teenager, and then various bouts of time as an adult.
For thirty-seven years this number has been one of the few constants in my life – a combination I’ve never forgotten, something I could always dial no matter where I was in the world, no matter how lost or found I’d become. It remains so ingrained into the fabric of my being that I am certain that should my brain completely fail me in my twilight years -- I would still be able to recall this number with absolute precision.
It was with a profound sadness that I then realized I should delete this particular series of digits off my phone.
Two days ago my parents turned over the keys to the home this number has been associated with for decades. Today, a young family will move in and make it theirs, as my parents move off to retire to the farm where my father grew up -- the homestead connected to the first phone number he likely ever memorized.
I wish them all the best.
I rarely memorize any phone numbers anymore. I’m dependent on my cell to remember it for me. I employ the common trick to have people call me or text me so that I have a record of it, which I can then use as a contact later. I would challenge anyone to remember more than five of their own. And to be fair, I can’t be certain as to when the last time I actually called my childhood home’s number was. Last week? The week before?
It doesn’t really matter.
This number literally has lost any and all purpose, other than to remind me of times long past and perhaps of the great impermanence we all must face. Sooner or later, your number turns up. The question will then linger – what did it all add up to?
For me this one will equate to four decades of sometimes hard but often wonderful memories, many of which have led me to become the man I am today.
Maybe the number still has some use after all...