We talked about the debt-ceiling lunacy (Dad: “I think we’re entering a period in this country where it’s going to be everyone looking out for themselves”), the Seahawks options at quarterback (“Tarvaris Jackson is probably not a long-term solution”), and whether it was a good idea to try and buy an apartment in New York City (“It may go down a little more in value, but in the end you’ll have a place to live at least”).
After fifty-two minutes on the phone, we’d covered our subjects, so we said goodbye. Nine days later, on the evening of August 10th, he got up from the couch to go to the refrigerator in his home in Seattle. When he reached the kitchen, he collapsed. My stepmother, Lynn, rushed in and called 911. The paramedics arrived within minutes but there was nothing they could do – his aorta had ruptured and he was likely dead before he hit the floor. He was sixty-four years old.
It was a total shock. My dad had been very active. In the summer 1987, the two of us rode our bicycles from Seattle to Maine. Since then, he’d also tackled the East and West Coasts, and also rode from Los Angeles to Florida, meaning that he had circumnavigated the United States. He’d just finished a bike tour with Lynn through the Midwest. He went skiing more times a year than you’d want to count and was still running American Meter & Appliance, his coin-operated laundry business in Washington and Alaska. In October, he and Lynn were going to Portugal. They were going to visit my wife and me in New York on the way back (my dad, as much a fan of a good South Park episode as anyone, had already bought tickets for The Book of Mormon).
In recent years I’d started to be concerned about the weight he’d put on around his middle, but overall he seemed in excellent health. As it was, his weakened heart wasn’t something that would have shown up in a regular exam – he would have needed a CAT scan or an MRI, and there seemed to be no reason for him to have one. Recently, we’d begun to haltingly speak about things like mortality and legacy, but his sudden death drives home the reality that we don’t control when our time is up.
His death has resulted in a torrent of thoughts, memories and emotions. I know I’ve only begun to sort through them. In the wake of his death, though, there a few simple things I felt I needed to say at his funeral. The eulogy I gave is below. His obituary is here.