I’ve got ten voicemails from my dad saved onto my phone. They nearly all say the same thing,
“Hey, Megs. It’s Dad. Give me a call back. Love you.”
One is a three minute long peek into a discussion he had with Riley about work. Minutes of grace from a misdialed phone. I love to hear him have a conversation again. The cadence of his voice and the image of his hands moving with his words.
My favorite is from last year on February 27th. He’s wishing me a happy 28th birthday. It feels like my birthday every time I listen to it.
I’ve listened to most of them since he died. Easing myself into the seconds that hold his voice. It both excruciates and alleviates.
On friday, I was doing laundry and breathing through the loneliness that still hits with closed fists. Freshly dried towels spilled across the concrete. I bent down to pick them up and decided I was done standing for awhile. When I sat down I let my weight rest on the warm the towels and the cold floor.
Maybe it would help to hear his voice again.
Phone out, I couldn’t bring myself to press his name through the cracked screen. So I found a voicemail from my mom from December 4, 2012, thirteen days before his initial diagnosis. I save some of her voicemails but this one had never been played. A message that slipped through the cracks of my technological neglect. Maybe there’s a meaning behind these things. Perhaps, I thought as I leaned my head against the wall and closed my eyes, perhaps I had been unconsciously saving this message for this moment. Maybe, I thought, it was the two of them. Calling from the car. Inviting me to lunch or checking in. My mom pretend yelling about my dad and my dad laughing in the background. Maybe.
I pressed play.
And there was silence.
It was the kind of silence that can be recorded - cracks and clicks, the sense of air moving. I sat and listened to the quiet on cooled towels and cold concrete. I cried for the beauty of the thing. As the seconds picked up and slowed down across the voicemail, I felt the awe of a time traveler. For a moment I could almost touch the space it had carried to me - a time before we knew the change that waited, a place with thirty more christmases and the weight of his hand on my shoulder. I held the past against my head. It rang against my eardrums and vibrated across the spaces of my brain. It seemed like it was only my misunderstanding of time and space that kept me from being enveloped and carried back to it completely.
At the advent of the hot air balloon, men and women of science took to the skies risking breath and limb. They were equipped with barometers and ballast and journals to record the shape of the clouds. There is a story of an intrepid seeker that climbed to the highest heights and attempted to take samples of air at altitudes never before breached by man. He thought, that maybe, the air was different there. So he went up and brought down jars of the stuff and sought to compare it to the air he breathed six feet above heather and holly. I’ve always wondered how he thought he’d keep it all from flowing out from under his fingers when he opened that jar for his first experiments.
He, of course, would have discovered the same thing about air that I discovered about time on that laundry room floor. There isn’t anything much that differentiates the time we course through now and the time we coursed through then. One is simply harder to reach.
The recording with its cracks and gaps ended. I hadn’t really been carried anywhere that would keep me.
My little girls laughed and called from upstairs. So, I pushed myself up off the floor and into the hall to the moments that are ahead. There seemed to be no other choice, all the ones that lay behind keep flowing out from under my fingers.