December 22, 2017
“Legendary sports broadcaster and former Padres play-by-play announcer Dick Enberg died Thursday morning at his La Jolla home, said his wife, Barbara. He was 82.”
-The San Diego Union-Tribune 12.21.17
I make note of this, not because I was a big fan of Mr. Enberg, whose career as a broadcaster lasted more than sixty years. I believe attention should be paid to Mr. Enberg’s passing because of the particulars of his death.
According to The San Diego Union-Tribune: “(Endberg’s wife) Barbara Enberg said the family found out (about the death) later in the day after Dick Enberg failed to catch a flight to Boston, where they were scheduled to meet. She said her husband appeared to be waiting for a car that was set to shuttle him to San Diego International Airport for a 6:30 a.m. flight. ‘He was dressed with his bags packed at the door,’ she said. ‘We think it was a heart attack.’”
You can’t really say there are good deaths and bad deaths; there is only death. But there are circumstances, there are situations, there are appropriate images.
The image from my earlier days was the death of writer, writing teacher, and pain-in-the-ass John Gardner, who died at the age of forty-nine. He lost control of his motorcycle on a country road that ran along the Susquehanna River and crashed. No one saw the accident. He was discovered in the road, dead. His saddle-bags had split open from the impact and people coming upon the scene found the body surrounded by manuscript pages.
I see those pages in my mind, mixed with the wet leaves on the road that led to the accident. Dryer than the leaves, the pages scuttle across the road in the imagined breeze, making faint scratching noises and disappearing into the woods.
But I am not the age I was when I heard how John Gardner died. I am considerably older, and I seem less interested in the Wagnerian death, than in the one that has less drama, less fear, less terror.
Without knowing it until it happened, Dick Enberg has checked all the new boxes for me: Retired, acknowledged, and going to meet family for the holidays, he got up, took a shower, put on clean traveling clothes, finished packing, probably had a cup of coffee, then sat down near his suitcases to wait for the car service. And while he waited for one kind of departure, he took off on a very different trip.
But he was freshly shaved, hair combed, pants pressed, wallet and money in his pocket, bags packed.
He was ready to go. And then, he went.
And I find this a not bad way to do it. Not as dramatic as John Gardner, but nowhere near as scary. And the older you get, the less you’re looking for scary in your life.
This isn’t cowardice, this is wisdom.
So, via con Dios, Dick Enberg. You left after rinsing that final coffee cup and setting it in the drainer. With toothbrush in your kit, with polished shoes and clean socks, you sat by your bags as the sun rose over La Jolla.
And then your ride came to pick you up.
Joseph Dougherty is a writer living in California.