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The right number

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It’s hard to believe I’ll be celebrating my 11th Father’s Day — as a dad — this year. My baby girl Jessie, now 10, stands 5 feet tall. It doesn’t seem possible, but the numbers don’t lie.

We live in a world filled with numbers — dates, times, measurements, bank accounts, thermostat settings, weights, ages, house numbers, bills, paychecks, ball scores, and many more.

Of course, some numbers are more important than others. I prefer Jessie’s grades to be in the 90s or 100. Being a college football fan, I hope my teams score more points than their opponents each Saturday. I don’t count the number of hairs on my head, but I’d rather have a bigger number. It doesn’t take an auditor to know that some of them have gone missing in recent years.

Sunday afternoon, Jessie provided my wife Mattie, and me with an interesting numbers challenge. About two weeks earlier, Mattie had a business trip. Rather than leave her home office unused while she was gone, I set up Jessie’s tent and tunnels.

Long ago, my tall girl outgrew the tent, a gift for her second birthday, but she still loves to play in it. The square tent measures just four feet long by four feet wide. It is 42 inches tall at the highest point, and connects to one of the four tunnels that came with the set.

Jessie had a blast playing with her dog Sadie in the tent and tunnels. She even slept in the tent during Mattie’s absence. Well, part of her slept in the tent. About half of the sleeping bag containing Jessie’s legs stretched outside the opening. The small tent held quite a bit — a girl, a dog, 14 stuffed animals, one pet pillow, three small pillows, three regular pillows, and several blankets for padding. Each night, I’d place a battery-operated lantern in one of the tunnels, which made a great night light.

When Mattie came home from her trip, Jessie asked to have one final party in the tent before we took it down. She planned the entire event from food to attire, so all her mom and I had to do was show up. Jessie handed me one of her headbands to wear, while Mattie lucked out with a tiara. Sadie looked cute in the feather boa Jessie wrapped around her neck. The people menu consisted of peanut butter cookies and Kool-Aid. Sadie’s plate held a spoonful of peanut butter, Rice Krispies, and a few pieces of leftover chicken.

Now, here is where the numbers problem began. Jessie not only invited Mattie, Sadie, and me to the party, but also 14 stuffed animals. When Jessie throws a party, she throws a party!

I’ve heard about cramming people into things, such as a Volkswagen, phone booth, photo booth, even an outhouse. Mattie, Sadie, Jessie, 14 stuffed animals, and I were about to take the “tent stuffing” challenge. At 6-foot-5, I knew I would take up my fair share of the space. With the 14 animals already arranged, Queen Mattie and Showgirl Sadie went in next. Jessie and I squeezed in last, with our cookie plates and Sadie’s snacks. We opted to leave the drinks outside the tent (smart thinking by Dad).

“Dad, don’t sit on Eeyore!” Luckily, I didn’t sit on Sadie’s spoonful of peanut butter.

We all made it in, but after getting kicked, twice, within the first minute; I opted to enjoy my cookies and Kool-Aid from the outside looking in. I like it when blood flows to all my extremities, while not being chided for smashing a stuffed donkey. Prior to the conclusion of the party, we all crammed into the tent a second time for a “famie” photo (a selfie of our family).

Each day, we’re surrounded by numbers, some within our control, others not. Sometimes we’re happy when the number is big, like a sunny winter day in the 70s. Other times, such as when looking down at the bathroom scale, small numbers are better. Some numbers speed by too quickly, like Jessie’s age, a number that will end in “-teen” before I know it.

Is there such a thing as “the perfect number?” For a few minutes on a Sunday afternoon, we sure found a good one. I have a “famie” to prove it.

Until next month, remember to cherish the moments. I wish all dads a happy Father’s Day.

Patrick Hempfing had a 20-year professional career in banking, accounting, and auditing before he became a father at age 44. He is now a full-time husband, stay-at-home dad, and writer. Follow him at www.facebook.com/patricklhempfing and on Twitter @PatrickHempfing.

Updated 4:56 pm, July 9, 2018
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