We all know the Verizon tagline: Can You Hear Me Now? It's right on; they have the best coverage, the best customer service, and some good deals. I use them myself. I'm just bummed my Mom is switching to them. Her old phone still has my Dad's voice on the outgoing message; it's so him, kind of irreverent, quick and funny. We all agreed after he died that my mom shouldn't feel rushed to change the message; after all, we joked, it was nice to hear him every now and again.
Fast forward to tonight where I found myself weeping uncontrollably when my Mom told me that her phone was being turned off in favor of her new plan with Verizon. I know I sounded like a total 9 year-old when I said, "Does that mean we won't have Dad's voice mail anymore?" She paused and said, "E, it's one of those things; it has to go but you'll be okay." I managed to hold it together until we got off the phone, but then I couldn't stop crying, and truth be told, I'm crying as I write this.
When her phone gets turned off tonight, his voice will be gone. That pseudo sarcastic "oh--and a phone number would be nice too" line delivered with just the right "what me?! snarky!?" 'tude and a genuine dose of "glad you called!" It's stupid, I know. But the truth is that I feel like he's slipping away in little tiny pieces, and I can't stop it. I don't want to feel grief for my father forever, but I also don't want him to slip away. He's no less gone than he was on February 21st, but I didn't realize how much I liked hearing his voice on my mom's phone until she told me she was switching companies. This sounds so stupid, but I want him to live forever, if not physically, then at least in our hearts, and for some reason, having his voice erased feels like losing a huge part of him, even though I know academically and rationally that it's not that important.
I know that even 50 years ago, when someone was gone they were just gone, so I keep trying to talk myself out of my grief by saying how lucky I am to have photos and videos of him. But there's something about a voice, isn't there? It captures a person's nature, their playfulness, their eccentricity, their...personhood..that a still photo or a silent movie can't provide, and I just can't bear the thought of the day coming when I no longer remember what his voice sounded like or when I can't put my finger on just the exact inflection he'd have used to say something witty or embarrassing.
I know he's gone. I just don't want him to be GONE. And I know I'm crying about the voice mail but I'm not really crying about the voice mail. If that makes any sense. It's just the really terrible reality of grief: that in order to keep your life moving forward, in order to truly move past the pain of losing someone you love so much, you have to give up the comforting buddyhood of the heartache, the 24-hour vigil of awareness of his presence, and the need to think of him all the time in order to prove that you think of him all the time...
In short, you need to find a way to believe that no matter when you stop hearing his voice in your ears, that you will always hear it in your head and in your heart. So tonight, his voice will be gone, but I cling to the hope that this is just one step in the journey of not needing voice mails to serve as surrogates for his gigantic presence in my life.
Yeah. I can hear you now.