Fifty Years Later I Can Still Hear My Father’s Voice

This upcoming January 27th will mark the 50th anniversary of my father’s death.  That is a half a century ago when I was 14 years old.

Life’s not fair as we all know.  Some parents die early but others live long.  For example, director Steven Spielberg’s father died in 2020 at age 103.  That’s 43 more years than my Dad had.  How lucky Spielberg was to have had his father for 73 years.

His father lived long enough to see his children become senior citizens and all that goes with that age such as personal successes and to experience great-grandchildren.

My dad never lived long enough to see how us three children turned out.  He never knew any of our spouses or children; he didn’t even live long enough to see me leave junior high school.

At 11, the only grandparent I ever knew, my father’s mother, died.  That was the first time I attended a funeral.  And the first time I ever saw a dead body in a casket.

A major part of my childhood evaporated, the fantasy in one’s head that people live forever.

Ever since then, I haven’t been able to escape that dreadful thought of how short life is, so when my father died a few years later, it cemented that dreadfulness into my psyche.

If there was anything even remotely positive about going through this, it was the philosophy to not take life for granted.  Embrace each day as a gift.  One never knows when your eyes won’t open again.

As the years go by, the memories of my father fade just a little bit.  While we have several photos and home movies of Dad, there was no way to hear his voice again.  I recalled a recording he made on the large reel-to-reel tape recorder. 

Sometimes when he would not be home in the morning when us three kids woke up, he’d leave behind a handwritten note.  This one time instead of writing his message, he recorded it. 

Months ago, we got the broken machine fixed, and after scouring dozens of tapes, there was Dad speaking to us again.  It was the first time hearing his voice in decades.  The message only lasts a little over half a minute, but it is the most precious thing he left for us.

Now my children can finally put a voice to the old images I’ve shown them of their Grandpa Harvey.

Holiday Decor’s One-Month Lifespan

Oh, to be a Christmas decoration!

You come out of your 11-month hibernation after Thanksgiving and are proudly displayed in a special location in a home, only to return to the dark cavern of a garage or attic within 5 weeks, anxiously awaiting the turning of the months, then to come alive again!

It is always sad putting away Christmas decorations.  It seems that as soon as you take all the boxes down, remove the ornamental baubles and place them strategically around the house, then—blink—it is now time for all of them to be put back inside the boxes, never to come back down for another 11 months.

Christmas is my favorite time of the year, and, therefore, December my favorite month.  It is not fair that December feels like one week long whereas hot August feels like three months.

Traditions permeate the holiday season and so it goes with decorations.  I have old family decorations dating back before I was born.  I even have a cardboard snowman that I made in the second grade that has curvature of the spine yet must be hung on the tree.

When it comes to storing the decorations, I am meticulous to a fault.

Each tree ornament, each tchotchke needs to be put into its own container.  Sometime I have the original box with the price tag still on it; for others, I have repurposed a candy box or a tin can for that one delicate Santa figurine.

Then I label each box so that I’m not frantically opening all the boxes to locate that Frosty bubble light.

I organize items in a large storage bin labeled for a particular room such as den or living room. 

I even have photos of where certain items go on certain shelves in a cabinet so that I’m not starting from scratch next year in figuring out which item goes where.

Yet no matter how hard I try to put everything back in its proper box, in its proper bin, there are always a few items that, for some reason, don’t fit back into the bins and must remain in a place inside the house, a place which I need to recall in late November.

The taking down and the putting away processes are exhausting, taking days to complete.  No doubt, it is more fun decorating the house than it is to undecorate it. 

I know people who keep up Christmas decorations all year long.  If I did that, December would no longer be special.  Being displayed for a short part of the year makes the holiday magic magical—and worth waiting for.