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I have a secret. It involves numbers. It mostly involves the number 5.

In a couple of days I’ll be returning to my job in a rural Catholic school. This will be my 25th year of teaching at this school and it will also be my last. Yes, this baby boomer is retiring in June 2015. I turn sixty-five on 5/15/15. That’s a great set of fives for this 5/15/50 baby.

The numbers 5 and 15 have played a big part in my life. I left college in NC to travel west on 2/15/71. On 5/15/71 I had my first official drink with my future husband in a low lit bar in northern CA. On 2/15/74 we arrived in Carmel to spend our one honeymoon night looking out a window at the 18th hole of the Pebble Beach Golf course. On 5/15/80 I traveled east on a plane to surprise my twin sister on our thirtieth birthday. On 5/15/95 I didn’t feel like celebrating my forty-fifth birthday. My daughter, Caroline Elizabeth had died on 2/15/95. I have a photo of her holding umpteen blue ribbons at the conclusion of her eighth grade field day. Over her right shoulder the number 15 is displayed on the back of a coach’s T-shirt.

If you think about numbers too much, logic and perhaps reality get a little twisted. For example, here’s a question upon which to ponder: If both my daughter and a close cousin were born on the 23rd and died on the 15th, does that mean I’ll die on the 23rd if I was born on the 15th?

Since my daughter died, a new number has been added to the mix. Number 23 keeps cropping up when I least expect it. It’s a sign to me that Caroline E. is with me. Fifteen is good, but twenty-three is better.

Grieving mothers are a little crazy, well, maybe a lot crazy, but these numbers bring me comfort. I’ve never been good with numbers, but there’s nothing more solid or concrete than a number. I’ve always admired people who are good at math. They always seem so steady, so reliable. You can count on a math person to tell you the truth, whether it hurts or not.

That’s why I would never tell a math person my number secret. But you understand, don’t you?

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