Saturday, June 18, 2016

My Father's Voice

High on a shelf in the darkest corner of the basement, an obsolete audio playing device rests beneath a light blanket of dust. It exists, instead of being dismantled or buried in a landfill, because there is another box on another shelf in the same basement that holds an assortment of 8-track tapes, most of which are collections from forgotten music artists but a couple are homemade recordings. 

One, in particular, is the keeper of my father’s voice. 

My dad delighted in making tapes with his recorder. One day he decided to introduce his five year old granddaughter and two year old grandson to the joys of hearing their own voices. He interviewed them and coaxed each to perform songs of their choice. They tried out knock knock jokes on each other as the magnetic tape captured the silliness and giggles. He reenacted a joke from his favorite TV show - ‘Doc, it hurts when I do that! Well then don’t do that!’ Heeeee Haw! 

Sometimes I think about that tape. I wonder if I were to make the effort to clean the player, hook it to speakers and electricity - would it work? Would I be able to hear again my dad’s voice?  Or would it be too damaged by the ravages of time? The not knowing keeps the dust undisturbed on the 8-track player. If it didn’t work, I think the disappointment would be too high a price. 
And so I choose to simply remember. My brain, at least the long term memory part, recalls that moment even better than a strip of plastic. I can still hear his voice quite clearly in my head. 

I also can hear him reading the Sunday funnies to me. I can hear him teaching me how to drive a nail straight and true, or soap a screw to make it sink into wood easier. I can hear him teaching me the Lord’s Prayer and unlocking the mysteries of fractions and seeing creativity as something without staid and static boundaries.

When I can’t hear him I can see him, in my mind’s eye, doing right. I can remember he was honest, hard-working and honorable. He provided for his family, he took pride in his home. I’m sure life wasn’t always easy and sometimes a challenge but I never heard him complain. He taught me more by simply doing it, not saying it. 

I didn't realize, until I took this memory trip, that, in ways difficult to explain, it has been my father’s voice that has always held me accountable. All these years. Locked on the continuous playing synapse in my brain is the reverberation of a standard, a non-expiring, never vintage, holds-true-always, fundamental truth. Everything that is determinedly decent begins with the voice of reason and obedience to a higher authority. 

When you respect and admire your Father you hope to hear, “Well done, good and faithful...”

For Him,


  1. Oh.
    There are so many layers of goodness here that I hardly know where to begin commenting, but I will simply say that I am deeply happy that you had the gift of that kind of dad -- AND that you realize the preciousness of it.
    Your last sentence reveals the source of the deep rift in our world between sin and guilt, bad behavior and the acceptance of just consequences.
    You are always a blessing.

  2. Amen to that!
    Thank you so much, dear heart. I was so touched and amazed by your Father’s Day tribute I wrote a comment but I must not have hit the post button. It never showed up and then life grabbed me and took me on some rabbit trails so I got seriously distracted and didn't repost.

    But, what I said was, that you should know, is that you are a master chef with words. You cook up gourmet feasts and I adore your style. When you are ready I will gladly help you get the book that’s been patiently waiting in your soul (you know what I am talking about) into something you can hold in your hand. I’m retired mostly but that gives me more time to mentor book creating as a hobby that helps keep my skills from atrophying.

  3. "Into my heart's treasury
    I slipped a coin
    That time cannot take
    Nor a thief purloin
    Oh, better than the minting
    Of a gold-crowned king
    Is the safe-kept memory
    Of a lovely thing"
    The Coin, by Sara Teasdale, 1884-1933
    from Flame and Shadow, 1920

    1. That's lovely, Nann! :-)

    2. My 6th grade teacher introduced me to poetry. I never looked back. Guess I have always been a closet poet though. For many years I wrote poetry that I never shared. More than 50 years ago I memorized a poem by A E Housman that in spite of my declining memory I can still recite:

      Into my heart an aire that kills
      from yon far country blows
      What are those blue remembered hills
      what farms what spires are those?
      This is the land of lost content
      I see it shining plain
      The happy highways where I went
      and cannot go again.

    3. About 35 years ago I started collecting short poems and sayings - I have no talent in that area but do so appreciate others that do. My sister said, "here's one for you" and gave me The Coin. A few years later she died of cancer (at 35) so that is near and dear to my heart.

    4. And so that’s the thing about poems such as this, they touch the deepest most tender spots in our souls, like a sweet familiar sound or fragrance that stirs up a precious memory, a treasure that moth and rust cannot corrupt. Your sister gave you the best gift.

  4. Beautiful Meema!