Toast The Man

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Dear Dado,

I wanted to tell you that I’m not as good a Santa Claus as you. I never will be. But don’t fault my effort. For the past two years, I’ve crawled into the velvet red pants and black plastic boot covers and tried to be Santa. Everyone in the living room laughs and cheers, but I know it isn’t the same. The suit doesn’t quite fit; the beard is a little too long; but most of all I don’t captivate the familiar audience of Gaga, Cousin Ed, Jim, Nell, Emily, Robin, Sara, Lizzie, Nick, and everyone else who gathers in your living room on Christmas Eve the way you did.

I’ve been told many times of one of my first encounters with your Santa. I believe I was only five when you entered the living room and to everyone’s surprise and horror I kicked you in the leg. I’m not sure what inspired my reaction to the sight of Santa Claus and apologize incessantly for my behavior that night. I’ve also been told though, that you carried on with entertaining the room and did not allow my adolescent shenanigans to spoil the evening. It is something that I’ve always admired about you. Quiet cheer and steadfast confidence that permeate everything you do and always fill everyone around you with a similarly sublime happiness. You make it seem so easy. It doesn’t take a booming voice, a cackling laugh, or an overly eager nature to both command the attention of a room and put everyone in a state of ease. In fact you seem to do it in opposite fashion, with a calming voice, a clever wit, a subtle presence. Whether at Truffles in Hilton Head, on the driving range at Sea Pines Country Club, walking around the inner harbor in Annapolis, or simply visiting in Bellefonte it is as if in the heads of everyone you are with a little voice whispers, “Dado is here, everything is going be fine.” An intangible sense of security infects the people you care about and interact with.

One lazy summer in Bellefonte, you helped Lizzie and Nell build a fantastic tree fort in front of the house and helped me put together a clever, spring-loaded catapult. Your vision in planning these projects and sophisticated dexterity in which you constructed them amazed my eager mind and eyes. Sawdust caked the floor as hammers slammed, saws sawed, and nails penetrated wood. I have an everlasting image in my head of what I believe to be a “classic workshop”: you with tape-measure in hand surrounded by a sea of wrenches and screwdrivers, happily checking the length of a plank of wood that would eventually become my catapult. Looking back in this summer, it is not only your woodshop cunning that impresses me but your undying commitment to making the lives of others joyful. Lizzie and Nell spent hours and hours in that tree fort. Talking about their ideal futures, their friendship, and everything else young girls gossip about. It was the centerpiece of their great bond and it would not have been possible without your hard work and desire to help. My catapult led to many entertained afternoons thanks to your imagination. The list of your selfless acts goes on and on, which brings me back to Christmas Eve.

All those nights, in those precious, exciting pre-Christmas morning hours, you weren’t just bringing the joy of the fictional Claus into the living room for the younger kids to enjoy, you were flooding the room with your brilliant, powerful, compassionate character. Though we all saw Santa Claus, behind the beard and under the red cap we stood in awe of someone even greater: Dado. I promise that will continue the tradition as long as I can. And while each year the red jacket and pants and the snowy white beard will make me an imitation of Santa, all I want to do is try to be like you: to affect people in the dynamic, admirable way you always have. I hope that I can.

Love,

Tim

Tim Devane