Ed came back from a five-mile run and died. He left behind a plate and a cup and a bowl that had been clean for ten years and several thousand dollars in diminutive car models. His heart stopped before the cigars he’d smoked for fifty years could catch up to him. There were three tumors in his left lung. He was unmarried; his wife had left with a friend of his thirty years before and he’d divorced her quietly and uncomplainingly. He hadn’t seen his two children since. They’d gone with their mother. Ed hadn’t raised a fuss. It seemed better that way. What did he have to offer them?
They came to his funeral, Ed, Jr. and Carla, Ed, Jr. the figure of his father, same loose, lanky height, same high-domed balding head. Both had Ed’s chin. Ed, Jr. sold insurance, or maybe worked in a law office somewhere. I never found out what Carla did. I didn’t talk to them much. They were strangers, and besides that a generation older. They weren’t sad, particularly, but then I wasn’t either. We were all of us grave at the passing of a family member, but that was as far as it went. I was numb; death had pruned away that entire generation all at once, three deaths in as many months, three trips down the rainy highway into Aberdeen, and my capacity to grieve was gone. They didn’t know Ed. He was their father, and a stranger, and dead.