Your Dad has always had a certain affinity with the number “32”. When we started going out, I noticed his license plate had the number “32” in it. His email address had the number “32” in it. Even his nickname in every chatroom (you’ll never know what this is and I really don’t want to get into that right now) has the number “32” in it. Ask him what his lucky number is and he’ll say – yep, you guessed it – 32! So, here’s the bottom line, as long as I have known your father, “32” was “his number”.
I asked him in the early days when we first began to get to know each other about what that number actually meant. He said that it was the jersey number of Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz. “I’m sorry, who?” I asked him one evening over dinner.
“Karl Malone. You know, the NBA player. He plays for the Utah Jazz,” he explained, looking puzzled, probably in response to my blank face.
“Oh, a basketball player. Wow, so you’re a fan, huh?” I tried to be interested, I really did. Even though, deep inside, I was contemplating whether I wanted to continue with the date at all. I mean, hello? A fanatic? Really?
“I wouldn’t say that I’m a fan. I’ve been collecting his trading cards since 1994. And I collect him because I admire the guy. I mean, I really think that he lives up to his values and it’s something that I’d like to apply to my own family one day.”
Hmmmmkay. So, this guy was certainly next level.
“I’m going to meet him one day. And not like a fan thing, you know. It’s going to be more like a friend thing.”
Alright. Let’s just say that this point, we were beyond eye-rolling. I was already thinking of calling a cab, because “errrr, dude, you cray.” But you know what? I didn’t call a cab and he drove me home that night.
For years after that day, I watched him meticulously collect every Karl Malone trading card there is in the world. He would catalog each one by number and file them carefully in his albums. I watched him stare at an atomic refractor card of Karl Malone on his bedside table before he went to sleep or take a card out of his shirt pocket as he stood in line for something to stare at Karl Malone.
I must say, your father is a committed person when it comes to something he loves. Sometime in 2011, he was featured in Beckett Magazine (which apparently was the “it” magazine for trading cards) as a Karl Malone Super Collector who had more than 3,000 unique trading cards of the basketball player.
Are you shocked? I’m pretty sure that you are not as shocked as I was when I found out.
He was so proud of his achievement and so was I. And I believe that this was the time when I finally came to make peace with the fact that I might have to share my husband’s affection with this particular basketball player for a long time.
“And you say you’re not a fan, huh, babe?” I teased him.
“Nope. Not a fan. I’m still going to meet the man. And it’s not going to be like a meet and greet with fans kind of thing. I’m going to sit and talk with him, probably over coffee or something.” And at this point, I have learned never to brush off any of his dreams involving Karl Malone or to take it lightly.
8 years ago, on his 32nd birthday, during our church’s small group gathering, he asked everyone to pray for him that he’d be able to meet Karl Malone one day. A lot of us giggled, but we prayed for him anyway. You can read about what the memorable parking lot miracle that happened afterward here.
He didn’t get to meet Karl Malone that year. But he thought that a phone call was as awesome as it was. He was grateful. We were grateful. And that was enough. Or so, we thought.
To be continued…