Unbreakable's Pearls of Wisdom...

...and Foolish Mutterings


Down the rabbit hole, Texas,
December 06


OCTOBER 9, 2012 10:47PM

The Voice

Rate: 14 Flag

It was buried in a carton of not-quite-ready to be discarded items – in a box full of once important souvenirs, knick-knacks, key chains, and tired, old refrigerator magnets. A tiny notebook of hurriedly scribbled thoughts, both profound and profane, lay atop a collection of what can only be described as junk. Not the kind of junk that gets consigned to the garbage, but the kind that gets shoved into a box for an indeterminate amount of time – “just in case.”

As I rifled through the box, bits of memories floated through my mind – a wry smile here, a grimace there. Some things finally found their way to the waiting trash bin, others got tossed back in the box – no, not yet; might need this; not sure; oh, look at this… sigh. A tiny cassette caught my eye. Puzzlement turned to recognition as I picked it up and realized it was a mini cassette from an old voicemail machine. Why in the world did I keep this?

As fate would have it, the grab-bag box of treasures also contained an ancient voice memo recorder. Curiosity won out, so I grabbed the tiny cassette and the voice recorder and went in search of the right size batteries. The “junk drawer” in the kitchen - a more current version of the “junk box” – held the batteries I needed.  That was lucky, I thought as I loaded the batteries, stabbed the cassette in, and pushed play.

I still don’t remember making a decision to save that mini cassette; don’t remember even knowing what was on it. I don’t remember ever listening to it before, but I must have. How else would the tape be wound to the precise spot where my father’s voice would leap out at me when I hit play?

“Hey, Kim, it’s your dad.” That voice – the one I hadn’t heard in years, the voice that was at once so foreign and so familiar, wrapped itself around my heart, pushed all the breath out of my lungs and dropped me to my knees. I don’t know how long I sat there on the floor, heart pounding out of my chest, awash in tears, pushing rewind and then play, over and over again. I fumbled to find the volume button as a strange keening filled my ears, drowning out my dad’s recorded voice.

Eventually, I removed the cassette from the machine and held it gingerly in my hand, examining it as if a treasure had fallen from above. And indeed it had. Carefully, I placed the treasured cassette back in the box it came from, covered it up and closed the lid. The contents of the entire box had miraculously increased in value, simply because of their proximity to the tape for all those years.

I replaced the box in the top of the closet where it had been stored for years. I couldn’t risk moving the tape to a “safe place.” How could it ever be in a place safer than that box – the box and its contents forever seared in my memory?

Today, the box sits in a new closet, in a new house, still untouched, still bearing all its treasures. I haven’t listened to the tape again. Not yet. But I know it’s there. I know he’s there. “Hey, Kim, it’s your dad.”

If I ever need him. He’s there.  

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Kim, I have been to the precipice -- and have more than once chickened out tossing what is not official garbage, yet it is cloying in that way that will nag you to the end. I heard that it's a great therapy to throw out that junk that holds us down. I'm all for this, as long as its someone's belongings, aka garbage. That's my treasure. We once had a huge argument, as my wife -- who'd thrown out dental work before -- went on a rampage and could not stop herself from throwing out my kid's toy car, which I have always loved. That was a brawl for the ages.
I completely understand your sentiments here. Thanks for sharing what is our real world.
What a find! What a treasure! What storytelling here! The way you set things up in tje beginning with the dismissive inventory of the box' s contents, the way yoi hold us in suspense by delaying the revelation of the tape's contents, and the vivid picture you paint of your reaction are all quite masterful. Then thre' s your ending ........
We all have those boxes, of course ( note the plural), but rarely do they contain such precious gems.
Lovely piece. I have those boxes too. No cassette tapes, but check registers where each check is recorded in his hand. The wallet that he carried in his back pocket, still filled with the tattered pictures that were transfered from wallet to wallet. His driver's license. No real reason to keep any of it. Except that I need to know it's there.
You've just explained, most poignantly, one of the primal reasons so many of us have what my dad called "the magpie complex". I hate to throw stuff out, not suspecting I'll inadvertently throw out some precious little baby with the truly junk, but because of some below-the-radar sense there must be something in the pile that will some day become a precious time capsule of priceless memory - a ticket stub from a consciousness-raising, maybe life-changing concert, a note from someone who at the time helped me make it thru a tuff time, a voice from a long lost loved one. You revealed this to us in the unmistakably delicious style of a seasoned mystery writer - I still await your next one, btw. ;-)
Oh my. So glad you found it. We have some tapes of my dad that he made about his life, I haven't heard them yet, but looking forward to hearing his deep voice again. He always said "this is your dad" too.
Thanks for this UB, so good to see an old friend here today.
Oh how I wish I had voices from the past, my mom's Hello, my son's laugh...you are so lucky to have that memory there for you when you are ready to hear it again. Your writing of this is so very beautiful too.
inthisdeepcalm - (I love your OS moniker, by the way) I doubt that I'll ever throw out anything in that particular box, tied as those things are now to that memory of hearing my dad's voice that day. It was heart-rending, but magical.

AHP - your comments, your thoughts are always jewels to me - I was thrilled to find you'd read my piece when I checked comments this morning. Thank you, dear friend.

jlsathre - yes! I have a small notebook of my dad's that he wrote times and dates and other meaningless trivia in - oh, but it's not meaningless to me. Thank you for your lovely comment and for sharing your own treasures.

Matt, dear Matt - thank you, thank you. I love this... because of some below-the-radar sense there must be something in the pile that will some day become a precious time capsule of priceless memory Exactly!

rita - isn't it funny how that phrasing - "this is your dad" - somehow seems so much more intimate than "this is Dad". I've often thought about that and wondered what makes that so. After I wrote this last night, I considered fetching that tape and playing it... I didn't, but I know I can. That's what matters. So glad you have that precious treasure of your dad. I'd love to read about it when you do listen to those tapes.

Terri - I wish you had that, too, dear one. Just know that you will hear her voice, his laugh again someday. ((HUGS))
We have some old movie tapes of seasonal times: Halloween, one &1/2 dives off the high-dive, little-league, my three sisters dancing like ballerinas, etc.,

I use to have a farmer partner who loved to collect yard sale junk. Each years She's have a huge yard sale. One box had gold teeth, wigs, old Civil War spectacles, and one year I got a gift from her.

One pair of red long-johns. One pair of Cvil War white long underwear. Michele was lured by a poet with a hippo ponytail. He drinks gin. This is powerful to read and reflect back on Life. Life is:

I recall:
Some toss out a Life.
If cup breaks Ya Toss.
Your Breakable. Pearl
I Love Your Blog Title.
Wow, Kim...I was as curious as you wondering who was on that tape before you played it. What a moment that must have been for you.

The ancillary issue of the junk box, sigh. Who among us doesn't have such a box...or boxes...lying about with contents yet to be rediscovered.
The way you tell this is both striking and very moving.
reminds me of when i had to put all my stuff in STORAGE.
needless to say, i got careless with alot of it.
i threw all the family photos from 50 yrs of dad
snapping pictures at any opportunity
into one huge cardboard box.
then came time to move to another smaller storage bin.
i sat on the cold cement floor sifting through pictures.
i found a tape too. with dad's voice.
he was about 7 months away from death,
and i was egging him on. asking him many (inappropriate) questions.
his demented but oh so familiar germanic massachusetts
voice flew straight to my heart
and grabbed it hard.
oh and then i found the video tape he made once.
talking about his 40 yrs in the high school system.
made when he had his wits.
my treasures.
i know they are there,as you say, if i need them......
Oh, wonderful! Great finding little treasures like that, almost like opening a time capsule. You saved well.
Kim, I believe...rightly or not.....that the Big Guy has a lot to do with treasures like these. We find things from months and years back, and the meaning they may have had then is completely overshadowed by the joy in hearing a voice...or seeing a face........the sheer pleasure of a sacred memory.
You piece so well conveys that feeling, and applause to you for sharing it so well here.
Remarkable and heartwarming find.

I'm lucky: I know exactly where to go if I want to listen to my father's voice again (he died in February). I persuaded him five or six years ago to recount his wartime experiences on a cassette player I bought specifically for that purpose.

The tapes -- and the CD-ROMs I made of them -- are sitting four feet to my left as I write this. I'll take them out again soon.
Art - Life is indeed brief... and full of wonderment like red long johns and Civil War spectacles and long white underwear.
I'm glad you love my blog title. I, in turn, love your always delightful comments.

Smithery - It was such a powerful moment - like a blow to the solar plexis, tears immediately exploding from my eyes. I don't know that I've ever had such a visceral reaction to anything before or since. So unexpected. I was caught completely off-guard. And I'm so grateful for it.

sophie - thank you for your always sincere and elegant remarks.

James - that is what it feels like, I agree. Like a hand gripping your heart, reaching all the way down into your soul. Such a vivid picture - you, sitting on the cold cement floor sifting through pictures. Ah, life. She does twist us around, yes? I'm glad you have your treasures, too.

cheshyre - a time capsule - yes, exactly like that

JD - I believe the same way - you know I do. :)

Duane - so nice to see you! and thank you...
Boanerges - You were smart. Would that the rest of us had the same insight.
This is beautifully told, Unbreakable. I wish I had a tape with all the voices of my departed loved ones.

Lezlie - I know - what a treasure that would be. **sigh**
Sometimes, it's usually near 4 a.m. I can make myself hear the old voices. Like a song from a long time ago.