Another Slim Christmas


David Neil Miltenberger

One month ago today, my dad slipped away for his tee time in heaven, surrounded by nearly all of his family (we’re talking 4 kids plus spouses, nine grandkids plus spouses, ten great grands, and one devoted wife). We’ve now celebrated his life with a room overflowing with people he’d touched — and teased! — along the way. Dad was never happier than when the family was all gathered around and he especially loved the commotion that is Christmas in the Miltenberger household. After looking at the tree surrounded by presents, he would always joke, “Looks like another slim Christmas.”

A friend emailed after she learned of Dad’s passing. “If you’ve written anything about your dad,” she wrote,  “I’d love to read it.” I suspect the friend was thinking along the lines of an obituary. (If you’re curious what we said about Dad, you can read that here; my mom came up with the terrific line about the kids being the main course, the grandkids the cupcakes and the great-grands the sprinkles on the cupcakes.)

I was thinking about my friend’s request while I was walking on the beach the other morning and it occurred to me that every book I’ve written contains something about my father.

There’s a bit of him in the “scoundrel” Uncle Chester in Hattie Big Sky (Dad loved to gamble!); and there’s a lot of him in Hattie herself, a young person leading a knock-around life, looking for a place to truly belong. Seattle Times paper routes, baseball games and dogs appear in my stories because those are all part of my dad’s life.  As a ten-year-old, during WWII, he managed three paper routes, because so many of the teenage paper boys had gone off to fight. He loved baseball and was proud of once pitching a no-hitter; and in recent years my parents had dogs that, truly, only my father could love. Naughty dogs. Barky dogs. Chewy dogs. No matter what mischief one of his four-legged buddies got up to, Dad would offer yet another treat.

I can’t tell you the number of times Dad gave money to someone in need. When he coached Little League, every kid played. Every. Kid. And, with Mom, he made our home a safe haven, not just for us four kids, but for our friends, some of whom took up residence at 522 Fern Road for varying lengths of time. Scenes I’ve written where a character shows kindness or compassion  — say, Mrs. Bowker in Dash, or Erich in Liberty, or Madame Volta in Audacity Jones to the Rescue – are all scenes about Dad.

And when one of my characters breaks a rule, I am definitely writing about him. (You cannot imagine the consternation my rule-avoiding father caused me, a type A, firstborn, i-dotter and t-crosser.)

He thought no parking signs were meant for others (that doesn’t mean his car didn’t get towed from time to time) and fussy Club rules about where golf carts could and could not be driven? Surely, they didn’t apply to him.

My dad not only loved us, he liked us. And he loved Mom with his whole heart and being.

Best friends for 69 years

And while he wasn’t right about everything, he was right about one thing:

It’s going to be a very slim Christmas without him.

No Responses to “Another Slim Christmas”


    Having known him all my life, with all my happy memories of him, every one is a present under my tree…..;>)

  2. Kathryn

    Thanks for posting this Kirby. He was a very funny man with spontaneous wit and a delightful sense of humor. I loved your family and the time spent with all of you. I hope your mom is doing okay. They had a very long and love-filled life together.

  3. MaryAnn Pshock

    That was lovely, Kirby…He left a rich legacy….My first Christmas without my dad as well – he passed away on September 17th, 2017…Our dads will always be with us.

  4. Rona

    Thanks for sharing this Kirby. Your dad was a wonderful guy. After reflecting on all that you kids and the grandkids had to say about uncle Dave I could only think that he inspired me to strive to be a better mom and someday a fabulous grandma. I want to make my kids and grand kids feel like the favoraite. What a gift! He will be missed.

  5. Jean Fowler

    A beautiful tribute to your Dad, Kirby. Our loved ones give us much to carry with us after they have left this earthly plane. We are woven with gifts that live within us forever.

    By Heather K Janules

    They once dwelled among us, the people of memory.
    They who knew us, they who taught us,
    They who hurt us, they who loved us.
    They touch our lives time and again,
    through their presence and their absence.
    Through familiar scents and favorite songs,
    Through old stories and renewed sorrow.
    As the earth turns and leaves fall,
    We reach back to renew the bonds between us.
    With hearts and hands open
    We hold onto to love,
    Ever-stronger than death.
    We reach back in gratitude and understanding –
    Without our time together,
    The pain and the joy,
    We would never be who we are today;
    We would have little to pass on ourselves.
    Without fear, with thanksgiving
    and with hope for all that awaits,
    We remember those who have gone before,
    We honor the circle of life and death,
    And our place within this sacred thread.

  6. Sylvia Lesser

    Oh Kirby, how delightful your Dad must have been. Your examples and descriptions of how he lived his life tell why you all loved him so, and the positive impact he had on all of your lives. He was a balance of lively fun and generous caring for all. That picture of him and your mom is priceless.

    Loving sympathy,

  7. Leslie

    Thanks for sharing, Kirby. I can tell that your Dad lives on in you!❤️