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Life by the numbers

Rick Ryckeley's picture

One was a very good number. Even though I was there, I don’t really remember much. It was day one, our first.

Twin Brother Mark and me were born in April many years ago. The doctors said that we were kicking each other to see who would be the one born first. He won.

Mark and me, we’ve been fighting ever since, and rightly so. Spend the first nine months and then the next 18 years with someone in the same cramped space, I bet you’d be fighting all the time too.

Three was an important number and a number many readers of this column are familiar with – year three of elementary school. At age 8, I entered Old Mrs. Crabtree’s third-grade classroom for the first time.

The year started with my arch-nemesis, Down the Street Bully Brad, introducing his fists to my eyes. The year ended with my first kiss from a girl – Candi Samples. Looking back, I guess, year three of school was rather good after all.

For my parents five turned out to be a perfect number. Three boys and one girl are how many children they had planned for. They said I was the extra one they hadn’t planned. Four plus one extra equals five kids. Five kids equaled a whole lot of fun growing up at 110 Flamingo Street.

Eighteen was both an exciting and scary number. I watched as my parents drove away for the last time. They’d just dropped Mark and me off at Auburn. The next four years were filled with learning, excitement, and eventually a stark reality. Soon I’d be out in the world on my own. When I left Auburn, I finally realized something very profound. I really didn’t understand all the security living with my parents had given me.

Twenty eight has been a very good number. That’s how long I’ve had the honor of being a firefighter in this small town. At 54, I’m thankful for the good health I’ve been fortunate to enjoy all my life. It will enable me to continue helping others for years to come.

Twenty-nine has been one of the best numbers of all. That’s how old I was when The Boy arrived. I’ve watched him grow and change as he goes through the numbers of his own life. He’s now 25, a firefighter and paramedic. Once every third day he rides in the back of an ambulance helping others so they can add more numbers to their lives.

Perhaps, one day soon, he’ll be married and enjoy day one of his son or daughter. He has no idea the joy and change that day will bring. But I do.

Eighty-five is a number I’m extremely thankful for. As of next month, that’s how many birthdays Dad has enjoyed. With his good health, his kids around him, and a new girlfriend, it looks like he will add many more numbers before he’s done.

One hundred and twenty – that’s how many minutes I’ve had to rewrite this column. You see, my editor rejected the first one I sent. It just wasn’t right. I had to start again.
She should know. We’ve been working together now through three books and since the very beginning of this column. I’m thankful to have an editor who is both honest and kind — and only slightly wounds me with her red pen.

Five hundred and fifty – as of next month that’s the number of stories I’ve penned. After almost 11 years, I’m humbled that this paper has continued to publish my stories and that you, Dear Reader, have continued to read about the adventures of life spent growing up at 110 Flamingo Street and my stories of The Wife and The Boy.

Thirteen – The Wife and me, we’ve been married now for 13 years. With good health we should spend many more anniversaries together. But one day, that will change and one of us will be left alone, but hopefully that’s many years from now.

And the end brings us back to the beginning – brings us back to the number one.

Enjoy every one of your days because each one brings with it something special. You are in it. And there’s someone out there happy because you still are.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, is in his third decade as a firefighter and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]

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