Presiliano Sandoval smiles. He is 67 years old and he is remembering. "When Anthony was little, maybe six or eight, we used to split wood with a wedge," he says. "We would go on cold winter mornings together into the mountains, bundle ourselves up, cover our ears, wear good gloves and proper shoes. We'd split wood and sometimes the snow would be falling."
Presiliano goes on to describe how the splitting of the frozen piñon would resound like a rifle pop through the mountains; how father, with his big sledgehammer and wedge, and son, with his smaller version of each, worked side by side in the high country above Truchas, N.Mex.; how the boy never complained and never quit; and how he would often shoulder his small hammer and wedge and go into the mountains alone to split wood.
"Some of the other boys, on the cold mornings they would fuss," says Presiliano, laughing. "But Anthony was always willing to go. He was always willing to work."
Anthony Sandoval can't bring a smile to everyone. This November morning Sandoval, now a cardiologist at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque, is making rounds. He walks into the room of a young woman. She is so thin. Dark circles ring her eyes. She is lying in a bed and looking out the window. She doesn't turn her head when Sandoval enters. Her husband sits on the edge of a chair. In the five minutes Sandoval spends in the room, the husband never stops wringing his hands.
Sandoval walks to the woman's bedside. He talks to her quietly, then asks for a smile. She continues to stare out the window.
"No smiles today," says Sandoval softly. "That's O.K."
The woman turns away from the window and looks at him.
"Not yet," she says.
Sandoval nods and leaves the room. Born with a congenital heart defect, the woman will die. She has been told. She will leave behind her handwringing husband and two infants.
"You gently try to work them through a little bit of information, a little bit of implication," says Sandoval, standing for a moment in the hallway. "It is never easy. The ones who die make a big impression on you."