I’m sorry we missed talking on your birthday this year. Oh, I know, I was always bad about remembering which day was the big day anyway. I suppose we can laugh now about the years when I called, all full of birthday songs and well-wishes, a day early or late. I always knew it was either December 16th, or 17th, or 18th. Mom’s is the 17th of June, right? So yours was the 16th. I think. December birthdays are tough anyway; with the other holidays and celebrations stretching from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, sometimes things get lost in the shuffle.
I do remember the day you died, quite vividly – even if, ridiculously enough, I’m not entirely sure of the date. I can perhaps be excused for that slip of memory, because by the time I found out you had passed away, it was the next day, and I was on the other side of the planet, sitting on a bus stuck in traffic in Shanghai, China. Did I find out the same day, or was it technically the next day? Whatever, dates are just dates. Experiences are probably more important to recall, or so I tell myself.
That was seven months ago now. A lot has changed in your absence. Your grandson Julian learned to walk during the week we spent in Texas for your funeral. We have funny pictures of him proudly wearing one of your bowties, which we found while trying to sort through your clothes. Jules has words now: “doggie” and “apple” and “phone” and a lot of animal sounds – “moo” and “meow” are his favorites.
The other day he was carrying around a handful of dimes. I’m not sure where he even found them. “Moin,” he kept saying over and over, seeming rather concerned and trying to hand them to me. I finally realized he was saying “money.” I didn’t teach him that word; in fact, nobody has owned up to explaining to him what coins are.
I blame you. It’s in the Nickell blood to keep a worried eye on the money in hand.
I miss you terribly. But on your birthday I was thinking: If ever there was a time you wouldn’t have enjoyed living, it might have been these past seven months. In your 63 years on this planet, this country never saw the kind of economic crisis we’ve suffered through since last summer. The whole banking system nearly failed, and several did. As a banker, this wouldn’t have pleased you one bit.
You were already worried about your retirement savings, ever since the big hit of the dot-com bubble-burst. If you hadn’t passed away, I suspect you would have kept that money where it was, in the stock market, hoping it would continue growing at a fast clip. After you died, DaLynn and I helped mom sort through your finances. In that process, I suggested to mom that at this point in her life she should have most of her money in low-risk cash-equivalents and such. That’s something I read in a book, a couple of years ago. Mom thought I was crazy, until a financial advisor she knows from your church told her the same thing.
So in August she took all her investments out of the stock market. She even cashed out your old bank stock, which had grown to a healthy value.
The last thing she cashed out was a mutual fund managed by AIG. A week later, AIG essentially failed, and the government was forced to pretty much take over the company. That’s when this whole mess really turned into an avalanche of bad news.
It’s the only silver lining I can think of in this first holiday season without you. Mom is secure, even as many others around this country are watching their life-savings disappear into thin air.
You don’t have to worry about her, dad. You did good, and she’s doing fine as a result. I hope that’s a birthday and Christmas gift you can treasure. We miss you. Happy holidays.