THE year after my father's death, on Christmas Day of 1927, was the saddest and loneliest of my life to date. Up to that day life had been a great deal of fun, owing mainly to my father's lively good humor (despite his long illness), his keen intelligence, and his loving attention to me. On the afternoon of Christmas Day, 1927, when I learned that my father was dead, life abruptly ceased to be fun. Fun did not return for more than a year, and then it came back only slowly.
The disaster began midmorning, when I went to my father's bedroom -- to which he was confined by illness -- to receive his present, a bow and arrow. He greeted me with his usual cheerfulness, and sat up to bend the bow. As he bent it, he suddenly turned deathly pale and fell back on the pillow. My mother must have known that he was dying, but I didn't. She sent me to fetch my aunt Mary, who lived about a mile and a half away. I ran all the way and found Mary at her door, about to leave for mass. I asked her to come at once, because my father was seriously ill. She was worried about missing mass, but when I pressed her, she came. We walked in silence, and she seemed preoccupied. When we arrived at the house, I learned that my father was dead. I also became aware that my mother and my aunt were consumed with what to do next. They sent me away while they talked. They talked for about fifteen minutes. Then my aunt Mary left, in an aura of strong disapproval, and without taking leave of me.