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.