My Father’s Voice

When I used to call him Daddy

I always wanted to hear another

one of his stories. About the

fig preserves his mother used

to make from the fruit grown in

their backyard.

 

About listening to Jack Benny

and The Shadow on evening

radio. Or how he and his

brothers loved to go fishing in

the pond near Grandma Lucy’s

house.

 

When I started calling him Dad

he told me stories about men,

curfews, be kind to all, but

don’t spend your time with the

undesirables. Get good grades,

finish college, don’t date anyone

two years older than you, learn to

listen and one day you might have

something to say. When are you ever

going to learn? Do as I say and not

as I do. Don’t drink. Don’t smoke.

Don’t. Don’t.

 

In the Dad years, I stopped wanting to

hear what he had to say. Maybe that is

why his voice seemed to grow louder and

louder, as if I had become hard of

hearing. I used to lean against the

yellow kitchen wall, listening with a

polite blank stare on my face, while

squeezing the space between my ears

praying that this small act would

reduce the thunder of his voice.

 

Years have passed.

Now, when he speaks, I hear the

lines and creases in his voice

when he tells stories of betrayals,

missed opportunities, and the anger

of allowing others to steal his

dreams so they could have it all.

Have it all. Take, coerce him

into one scheme after another

until his frown was the only

voice he had left.

 

Whether you knew it or not Dad,

I heard every word you ever said.

And when I find myself in need

of some fatherly advice, I just

hang my skin in the wind to

drink your knowing of sadness,

courage, and all the words you

sometimes forgot to pour for

yourself.

 




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