December of 1983 my dad had a flight physical that he’d put off til the last possible day. While talking to the doctor, he had a heart attack. There was a quadruple bypass and two days later the doctors turned off life support. With today’s medicine, he may have survived, but in 1983 he didn’t and this man – photographer, pilot, motorcycle rider, my daddy – was gone without a goodbye.
A few days later, we were sitting in the living room when the doorbell rang. Our postman had a package for us. Eagerly my sister and I fought over opening it and quickly became quiet at its contents. Inside was a set of unpainted, wooden ornaments for the Christmas tree. My mother’s eyes became watery and she left the room. Daddy had secretly ordered tree ornaments before he died. Now he with us, but unable to share his gift. That’s the only thing I recall about that Christmas or any other Christmas for many, many years.
He was a quiet man, until he wasn’t, believing people had more interesting things to add when you gave them space to be heard.