My father had been having, as he put it, some "trouble with the post office." You see, back in December, we sent him his Christmas box, and a month or so later it came back, having never been picked up from his local post office. He asked us to re-send it, noting "Please leave at door," and so we did. Then it came back again, marked "no such person at this address." So I called him, and he said, in a rueful tone, "yeah, I need to get in touch with them. I'll fix it, don't send it just yet, I'll fix it." I joked that maybe I should deliver it personally, drive up to Connecticut and hand it to him, y'know? He laughed.
That was several weeks ago, and the package, still in its Priority Mail box, was sitting by our desk. We had chatted several times since--he had recently found Rooster Spice and would occasionally call to tell me what he thought of an entry (using the Comments box never crossed his mind, I guess). We last spoke on Saturday--a week ago yesterday--and he seemed in good spirits. We compared notes on being Presidents of cooperative nursery schools--coincidentally enough, he was a President, just like me, when his first kids were in preschool. K was also chatting with him occasionally about his family, for her genealogical research, and he was very interested.
This morning, around 11, my older sister D. called me. Dad died sitting in his chair in his apartment in Woodbury. He may well have just fallen asleep there--there was no sign of a struggle. We're not sure exactly when it happened, or why.
I'm someone with a theatrical imagination and a melodramatic bent. There have been a few times recently when I hadn't been able to get in touch with Dad for several days, and I "rehearsed" my reaction, as it were, if I found out he died. When it happened for real, it was a bolt from the blue, an utter shock. I was thinking to myself that I should call him--today is Easter, after all--but I figured I would do so in the afternoon. An hour later, D. called.
Now, I'm still processing. I suppose I'll rent a car tomorrow and drive to Connecticut, but I don't know what will happen next.
In the meantime, I opened the package. There I found the presents I expected: a photo album featuring our kids over the past year, and a copy of Thomas E. Ricks' Fiasco. And also, a Christmas stocking. We had expected him to come down this Christmas, so we bought it for him. When it turned out he couldn't, we decided to send it. I had forgotten.
I think he would have gotten a kick out of the stocking. And I know he would have enjoyed the book. But I really wish he had been able to see the pictures. Even more, I wish he had gotten on the train and visited us for Christmas, like we were planning. Failing that, I wish I had hand-delivered the presents.
He was 68 years old. Goodbye, Dad...