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Half A Daddy For Christmas

Story ID:10792
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Manhattan KS USA
Year:1982
Person:Kennard Kopp
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Christmas Eve finally arrived. I’d finished baking, the gifts were under the tree, and we’d carried out our family tradition of driving around to look at homes ablaze with holiday lights on the way home from church. Our two children were out of the car as soon as Ken pulled into the garage. We followed close behind, reaching the kitchen just as the phone rang.

Ken answered, and after a short conversation he said, “Thank you for letting me know.” He turned to me. “That was the nursing home. One of my customers passed away tonight, and I’ve got to let the family know.”

Ken headed a trust department in a bank. He needed to inform family of the death of a customer as soon as possible. But it was Christmas Eve! The lady who died had only one relative that he knew of—a sister who lived far away from our state of Kansas. He needed to talk with her and find out if there were other living relatives.

The kids were in the family room shaking packages under the tree, but I didn’t bother to tell them to keep their hands off the gifts as I usually did. I waited, anxious to hear what he was going to do.

“I haven’t got the heart to call with news like this on Christmas Eve. I’ll wait til tomorrow. I’ve got the sister’s number in the file at the bank.”

Kirk and Karen abandoned the gaily wrapped presents when I offered them Christmas cookies for a bedtime snack. Their dad didn’t join in. In fact, he turned on the TV and said very little to anyone, unlike him on a festive evening like this one.

Ken spent a restless night and beat everyone out of bed. When the kids and I got downstairs, he had a fire blazing and Christmas music playing softly. Our children checked out what Santa had brought them and what he’d left in their stockings while I put the coffee on. Next, we opened gifts but it felt like there was only half a daddy in the room. His mind dwelled on an elderly lady in Seattle.

After I served a big breakfast, Ken left for the bank to make the phone call to Seattle. I hoped the light of Christmas Day made it easier for the woman to hear the news than the darkness of Christmas Eve.

The kids played with new toys while I made some preparations for our mid-day holiday dinner. We’d call our families back in Illinois later in the day. An hour went by and well into the second hour, I started to worry. The bank was locked, but Ken had his own key. He was there all alone, and what if the police saw a shadowy figure inside? What if they shot first and asked questions later? Just as panic grabbed a tight hold on me, he walked in the door. Even though I noted the concern on his face, relief washed over me.

“I called the sister,’ he said, “but I couldn’t get her to understand. I think she has dementia. I have to call again.”

Kirk wanted his dad to play a new game with him, but his request was met with, “Not now.” An unusual response from a caring dad.

I listened to Ken talking to the woman in Seattle while I peeled potatoes. His kindness and his patience seemed to never end as he tried to make sure the lady actually understood his message. After many repetitions, he finally gave up and ended the call. He paced the kitchen and passed right by a dish of fudge on the counter, something he’d never do under normal circumstances.

“All I can do is see if the Seattle police can get a social worker to go out and talk with this woman.” He needed information about any other family before funeral arrangements could be made, and he also felt a moral obligation.

He called the Seattle police department and spoke with an officer there who told him there were no social workers. “It’s Christmas Day!” The man’s voice was so loud I heard him across the room and that’s when my husband ran out of kindness and patience.

In a raised voice, he informed the officer that both of them were working even though it was Christmas Day and it’s a sure thing that there’s a social worker on call. Both our children listened with wide eyes. This was not the daddy they knew. The call ended with the policeman’s assurance that the task would be taken care of before day’s end.

Christmas Day went on with a special roast duck dinner eaten from the good china, phone calls to and from family and quieter than usual children. They were well aware they had only half a daddy this Christmas. His mind seemed to center on what was happening in Seattle in the apartment of an elderly woman who’d lost her sister.

The next day at work, he received a call from the social worker who’d made the visit. She assured him that the sister had finally understood the sad news she’d brought.

That Christmas, my husband’s kind, patient way with a stranger felt like another gift, one that did not come wrapped in shiny paper with a big bow, but one that I loved and treasured then, and still do. Our children may have only had half a daddy that Christmas, but over the years he’s made up for it.