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A scientist discloses the truth about Santa Claus


My father, R. Edward Nather, passed away on August 13, 2014. He was one of McDonald Observatory's most illustrious astronomers. Would you believe that when he passed at age 87, he still kept his observing suit?

All of you have "Ed Stories," so here is one of mine. In 1976, I was 6 years old and the youngest of Dad's children. That Christmas, Dad told my siblings and me that we had to spend the holiday at "the observatory," which to my child's ears simply meant "someplace foreign and unfamiliar."

One afternoon, I recall being kept away from my parents for what seemed like a nefarious reason, and this only lit my natural inclination toward investigation. So I snuck out of wherever I was banished and found my parents sitting in a living room, on the floor, buried under mounds of wrapping paper. Dad handed me a hollow plastic candy cane filled with M&Ms and said very matter-of-factly — as you do — "Santa Claus does not exist. We've been giving you presents every Christmas."

I took it in stride - being handed chocolate always helps bad news go down easier — and within minutes, I had wandered off to go look at the deer through the window. And that is how I learned the truth about Santa Claus.

This was not the last hard truth that Dad would bestow upon me, but it is by far the most memorable in its insouciance and scientific delivery. If you knew Ed Nather, you are nodding right about now.