"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china." Charles Dickens

November 11, 2011

11:11 on 11-11-11

Veterans' Day is, of course, weighted with its own importance and meaning but 11:11 is a time, and number, of great numeric and spiritual significance for me.

Since early in 2001 I started seeing 11:11 almost daily as I was doing things about our former home. Sometimes I would see it in the car. I'm one of these people who often knows what time it is, give or take a few minutes, just by my internal clock. And, I also don't really look at clocks much unless they happen to catch my eye. And, I suppose the digital clock on the stove or in the car can catch the eye in more of a way than a clockface.

So the persistence of seeing 11:11 started to intrigue me. What did it mean? Why 11:11 and not a daily dose of 2:23 or any other number pattern? This number kept haunting me for the next eighteen months or so.

On the night of October 27, 2002, just a few days short of my fortieth birthday, I realized its significance. My father, who had been in failing health, was pronounced dead (such a cold term) at 2am on Sunday morning, October 27, exactly when the hospital clocks automatically turned back for Daylight Savings. This was its own time irony, as this was a time of year that he loved as it helped justify his inner cave bear. [He also liked Halloween and the excitement of the October playoffs and World Series. He loved astronomy and mathematics, but he especially loved playing the organ, and his devotion to his family. He was also a merry prankster and liked a good practical joke.]

As his three children we had the difficult and weighted prospect of having to let our father go. He knew what was happening and what the alternatives were as his system slowly started to shut down in his last week of earthly life. Late in the night of October 26 we gathered around him one last time and said our goodbyes. He nodded and squeezed our hands. He had accepted what was and although he could not speak he could nod vigorously and even try to write. This is so intensely personal and there is more to say, but not now.

When they took him off of what had been his life support for his last few days, I noticed the time. It was 11:11pm. I didn't really appreciate the significance of that until I returned home a week later, to New Hampshire. The old Art Deco electric clock that he had given me, which had sat on his bedside table as a child, had been playing peculiar games that week. My husband, who was in New Hampshire with our daughter and young boys, had awoken on the morning of October 27, around 2am, and saw that the red, glowing night light portion of the clock was illuminated. The well-worn nightlight feature, with its original small bulb, hadn't worked for many months. He thought it strange and didn't tell me about it. A week later we compared notes and realized what had happened.

This clock was something my father was going "to pitch," as he'd say. And he was good at throwing things out! Not one for sentiment, except in memory or in special objects–or musical works–he kept very little. I was always attached to that clock. I liked its Deco look, its pewter finish, and the red glowing warmth from its clock face. I had spent the night in his old room in the house where he grew up, many times as a child, and for an entire summer before I went to college. My father's bedroom was right next to my grandparents' room, with a shared door. The reassurance of their presence through the wall and the door next to me, and the glowing clock face, were reminders that I was not alone in their big old post-Victorian house that smelled of rosewood and cool plaster.

My father had given me this clock while I was visiting him in his Akron apartment when my daughter was much younger. "You want that old thing? It's wiring is probably shot but, OK, if you want it, take it home with you." He didn't really see the sense in it. The clock was older than he was and probably from the 1920s or early 1930s, still with its original cord.

I couldn't resist this once in a lifetime opportunity. Before it was 11:12am,
I called my traveling husband to say "Happy 11:11, 11-11-11!"
There is more to this story but this is a blog, after all. I couldn't let this day pass by without commenting on 11:11. I've since discovered that this is not a singular phenomenon. There are entire websites about 11:11. Maybe it means something else greater than my own story.

But every time any of my immediate family sees 11:11 we call out from wherever we are and to whomever is listening, "Hi, Grandpa!"

You come back when you're ready!


Postscript. I forgot to mention that approximately six months after my father died, in April 2003, the glowing red light bulb from the clock's night light extinguished again. This happened on the night we set our clocks forward an hour. My father was always the merry prankster. I haven't used the clock since it was packed in a box for our Kentucky move in August 2008. But it's in a box and when I find it, I will plug it in again.


  1. On the day my dad was buried (we were not there/whole other story) our doorbell rang and our phone rang within minutes of each other....there was no one there....Dad liked a good joke too. Us girls and our daddies!

  2. I also am a huge fan of 11:11. I sent e-mails today at 1:11 am and 11:11 am to my family and friends. I'm from Ky and love your site.

  3. Oh my-my-my! A few years ago, I started seeing 11:11. It was back before Facebook, when I went to bed earlier and got up earlier...giggle. Anyway, I would wake up and look at the digital clock on the nightstand at exactly 11:11 every night. This went on for over a month and I seriously thought I was going crazy. Like you, I actually Googled 11:11 and found out I was not alone. I'm still not sure the significance of mine, but it started a few months after my own dear grandfather passed away.


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