“Do you know how many ribs you have?” My great-grandfather Papa Reed asked me as I stood by his recliner in the den.

“No.” I said, suspiciously. Papa Reed was a mischievous old Cherokee. I knew he had something up his sleeve but he looked surprisingly serious for once.

“Probably 13,” he said. “But you never know. You might be missing a few. Yep. That side looks a little skinnier than the other. I bet you're missing a few.”

“I am not!” I raise my arm and felt for my ribs. Papa Reed looked skeptical and put out a gnarly old hand to check as well. His other hand shot out to hold my arm up and suddenly I realized I'd been duped once again.

Papa Reed counted 13 ribs and then counted again to make sure. I laughed until I cried and then tried to count his ribs in revenge. Mama Reed came in to see what all the ruckus was about and sent us both outdoors to do our scrapping. To this day, when I think of the number 13, I think of my ribs and Papa Reed.

Nowadays it's my own kids that crawl in my lap, pull up their shirt, and demand that I count their ribs again. Or their toes… fingers… bumps on their backbone…

Just last night I grabbed Seric and kissed his left ear. “I have two ears,” he told me grinning, and then darted out of reach, only to come back a minute later with a sly grin on his face, leaning against me with his right ear tilted up toward my face.