The Thing About The Voice
I had been missing his voice.
It has been a little over 6 months since I’ve heard the sound of Eric. The image of him in my mind is softer also, and I forget, just a little, how it was to have him in my life.
What did he look like when he woke up in the morning? How did he walk on the golf course, how did he swing? What about the twinkle of his eyes, how did that look exactly, and when did he twinkle most?
I wasn’t completely certain if I wanted to hear Eric’s voice again. Would that make things worse? Or would hearing his voice be a good thing?
(No need to wonder long…)
A friend sent a video of a song she wrote and performed. I was in bed on my phone. After listening to it, I noticed other viewing options along the sidebar where Eric was in a small singing group.
I touched the screen to say “play this for me.”
It’s one thing to look at a photo of someone who has passed. It’s quite another to see that person in action.
I could hear his voice in the choir. I studied his face, how he stood, and how he sang. In one song he played a recorder, the instrument we all played in elementary school, and it made me laugh.
In one of the videos, Eric and I were in a quartet. “Snow” from Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. We had silly fun singing about the wonders of snow while riding on a train. My favorite line: “I want to wash my face, my hands, and hair with snow.”
The four of us (with Lyte Henrickson and John Dellamanna) had quite a time practicing that song because John kept making up his lines. The rehearsal outtakes would have been a hoot.
Anyway, I loved hearing the sound of Eric again. I went to sleep with his voice in my mind.
THE THING ABOUT FEAR
His 1995 Honda work van is for sale but not sold yet and I drive it every once in a while to keep it running smoothly. Coming back from errands, I was distracted by guests who had just arrived and I didn’t finish turning the key all the way off.
(That was weird. I’ve never done that.)
When I couldn’t find my keys the next day I traced my steps back to the van, and there they were, dangling in the ignition, along with a battery with no signs of life.
I sighed. Fear came up, which is silly, because it’s just a car battery, but fear comes up every time something happens that I don’t know how to do that Eric once did.
Roof leak? Too much water? Oh, Eric will know what to do. Pantry lights no longer working? Wait a minute, I’ll be right back with Eric, the electrician. Internet problems? It’s OK. Eric will know what to do.
Now a dead car battery? No problem. Go get Eric.
But of course, there’s no Eric to go get.
I sat in the van and felt my fear feelings for a while. No matter what I think about my fear (how big or small, how important or insignificant), I’m dedicated to welcoming it and sitting with it.
This is how I’m moving forward: I feel what I’m feeling.
As I got out of the van, I thought of a few people I could call for help. But first, to prove my self-sufficiency, I got out my phone and googled how to charge a car battery with jumper cables.
Well, I must tell you the instructions made it sound scary and complicated (and I knew it wasn’t). Nevertheless, I decided not to do it myself.
Yes, I’ll call someone.
I texted my neighbor, Steve, who has generously offered to help me with “man stuff” as he put it. After eating lunch with his young son, he came over.
The trusty van started up right away, and Steve went on his way after advising me to take it out on the interstate for a little while to give the battery a good charge.
WHAT’S THAT YOU SAY?
I headed out with the van. A few minutes into the drive, I noticed a strange, unidentifiable sound in the car, something buzzing — vibrating — or was it vocal? I couldn’t quite tell. Not an engine part, but something alien sounding in the dash.
It can’t possibly be the old tape player or the radio, I thought, because it doesn’t work.
Not being able to locate the source of the buzzing while driving, I considered pulling over to investigate. But the sound stopped, so I kept going.
Glancing down at the speedometer, I noticed it was working today, which (for my emotional convenience) I have declared a sign that Eric is with me in the car. It’s a point of view that makes me happy, so I keep it.
“Hello, Eric,” I said aloud as I always do in response to the working speedometer, and kept driving.
A few minutes later, the odd sound came back, but it had moved. Instead of vibrating down and to the left, it was now more central. Eric was with me, so I thought I’d ask him for help.
“What is that, Eric? What’s that funny sound?”
His reply made the weird sound louder, but it was still impossible to figure out what it was. It seemed like someone was in the dash of the car messing around and making noise.
And maybe that was true!
Then, suddenly and clearly, coming out of the walls of this old van, there was Eric’s voice, having a voice lesson with our teacher in California.
What the frig?!?!?!?
I listened. It was muffled, but fun to hear.
Eric was doing vocal exercises with William Hanrahan. They sang up a storm. William demonstrated exercises, and Eric repeated them.
At one point, though, I shifted. I fell in the hole of recalling the past and remembering how things used to be. I considered the crushing idea that Eric was no longer here, I would never get to hear his voice in person again and it got the better of me.
It reminded me of a moment while doing a firewalk in California, thinking it was a good idea to check in with my feet while strolling across glowing coals. (Nope, not a good idea. But no, I didn’t get burned.)
I decided to take a break and turn off the voice lesson. It was difficult to sob and drive.
MAKE IT STOP
Simple, right? Push the power button, the sound stops.
But no, it would not turn off.
The first opportunity to get off the road and take a look at the radio happened to be the parking lot of Dr. Scott Donaldson, Eric’s doctor. (Yet another blaring coincidence.) It was Saturday, the office was closed and the parking lot was empty. ‘
I pulled in, and parked sprawled sideways across a couple of spaces.
Even after fumbling with the radio, I couldn’t find a way to eject the tape. I looked everywhere, pushed every button. I’m sure there’s an eject button, it’s got to be there, but I couldn’t see it.
After messing with the sticky, slow controls, the unit returned fully to its non-working status. No music, no sound.
I guess Eric’s voice is still in there, and there it is going to stay.
What a nice visit, Eric. You’ve really gone out of your way to speak to me lately. Even better, you sang…
P.S. And now the flat tire on the van? Really, Eric? Talk to me another way, please! :–)
I love having celestial visitors just when we need it. Letting us know that they are always with us
“…and with a spade of snow I’ll build a man that’s made of snow…”
I remember my dad’s laugh, the way it sounded. Best of all, I remember the sound of his voice saying my name. During a particularly hard time, he used to say, “Keep it together.” before we signed off. If heard that it’s the sound of the voice that leaves us first but I think we can set an intention to cling to that if desired.
Ah my sweet friend,
So touching to hear you go on sharing so transparently. And, yes, sounds just like Eric to sing to you and “teach” you through doable car challenges.
Long, deep hugs.
I love you.
Wonderful. I cried for the memories of the voices I can no longer hear.
I can hear my Mom’s voice clearly within, the particular intonation that is hers. I have on my voice mail the last call she made to me back in 2010. It still makes me smile to listen.
And the Van adventures continue…