I’m hearing voices, but don’t worry about me. I’ve only been home three weekends since Dad died on January 12, and only this week has life begun to coalesce around a new normal. I’m back to my usual exercise schedule, working on a consulting project, and reconnecting with friends and colleagues.
But it’s quiet enough for me to recognize who’s missing. About a week ago, I learned of the unexpected death of a dear family friend, a woman I first met in 1981.
The first thing that came to mind was her voice: her rapid-fire, nearly breathless way of embracing one with her exclamations of appreciation. No one talked like Char.
Now, as I sit quietly in my living room – Todd’s out, Maddie’s on her own in her apartment, and Thom is almost 5,500 miles away as he begins his study abroad – it’s the voices of loved ones that echo in my head.
In the morning, I still half expect Dad to holler from his room, “Hey Bets, I’m up!” Gravelly and damaged by time, his speech was still arresting when he could summon the breath to support his vocalizations. Much farther back, I remember how badly he startled nearly-five-year-old Maddie when she tried to cut her newborn brothers’ spiky hair. In his best parade ground command voice, he exploded, “PUT. THE. SCISSORS. DOWN!”
And my other mother, Ann. I can still hear the remnants of her Floridian childhood in her soft, kind voice as she asked, “How is my other daughter Betsy?”
Farther back, I hear the bubbling-up belly laugh of our old family friend Patsy. She was so tickled when, for a summer job, I went door-to-door in Seattle explaining the merits of the city’s pilot recycling program. “You’re in gar-BAGE,” she would say in an intentionally affected accent, before unleashing a laugh that started as a chuckle, rumbled up and grew exponentially in volume until her whole body shook. It was infectious.
Certainly I remember their faces: Mom, Dad, my “other father” Terry, my “other mother” Ann, Patsy, and now Char. But what keeps them present in my mind and heart are their voices: their wonderful, distinct way of expressing their affection as only they could.