I usually wake up before my alarm goes off. I was so tired the other day I slept until ‘the alarm’ went off. Let me share with you about my alarm. I have an ultra-cool alarm to awaken me. How many people can claim to have a cool alarm to wake up to?
There was a day and age before all this modern digital technology. In those days, the typical home had one phone and one answering machine. We didn’t have “voicemail,” we had messages on our answering machine.
Media and storage capabilities have changed over the years. These older answering machines used something that has nearly died out now, “tape.” It wasn’t a sticky kind of tape, but a type of physical medium that sound could be stored on. I still have some of these micro cassette tapes lying around with various recordings.
So many memories of the old style answering machines. Come home, walk down the hall, look at this beige box, and see if a red light was blinking. If it was, that meant there were messages!
It was always fun to get messages in those days. Answering machines became popular in the later 1970s. I recall a time that if you weren’t home and could hear the phone ring, you didn’t get any communication outside the home. Email, personal cell phones, the internet, those things didn’t exist. We had the family phone and it cost a lot of money to make a phone call, unless the distance was considered local. Just calling six miles away from one small town to another in 1996 would have been around 10 cents a minute, give or take, depending on your plan. Out of state phone calls were more expensive, so those were kept short.
One day I got an answering machine message that has been really special to me. We were living in Bishop, TX at the time and the red light was blinking. Dad did something he rarely did, which was to leave a message on my answering machine. I recall chuckling at the message. As a matter of fact, I was so happy with his message that I found a way to get that micro cassette out and I transferred the audio over to my new little pc computer I had just purchased. I have managed to keep that (now) digital audio file all these years.
Along comes the iPhone and all the modern features it offers. I found out how to import that phone message from dad into iTunes. I then learned how to assign the answering machine message to my alarm.
I get to wake up to dad’s voice, something I treasure more now than ever.
Here’s the transcript of what he said:
“I was just calling to check up on ya, sure hate to talk to a darn machine! It don’t answer any questions whatsoever. What I just wanted to find out is what is happening as far as the family reunion and all that, how’s the babies doing, how’s Janice doing, and if you got supper read? But I know if you ain’t home you don’t got supper ready. But I guess I’ll have to call you back later on tonight, tomorrow, or the next day. Alright, goodbye.”
“If you got supper ready”. I love that phrase!
It conjures so many memories of dad. Oh my, if you only knew dad! He was a professional food pusher. When you came to his home, you were going to get a mess of shrimp, or a pot of beans with corn bread, or even the gold standard: white bread with butter and “bunny rabbit” (Brer Rabbit Brand) molasses. The food might change depending on the season of his life, but food was expected and central to any visit with dad.
Want to hear dad’s answering machine speech?
Today, January 15th, 2017, is a special day. It is dad’s 83rd birthday! I wish he were still here with us to hug, call, and hear his voice. Yet that isn’t the case. He died to the day, 3 years exactly, that I was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma.
Want to know what day that was? Valentines day, 2008. I was diagnosed on Valentines day 2008 and I received a phone call Valentines day 2011 to inform me dad had passed unexpectedly. It is indeed a bittersweet day for me.
I suppose I could go down memory lane for a long time. Suffice it to say, dad was a normal good man like most dads. He was a man of few words in his younger years and grew to be a bit more talkative as time went on. Like myself and many dads, he softened with age as he could focus more on life and relationships and not focus so much on working so hard to provide for family. He never did stop working to the day he died. Dad was a very, very hard worker and instilled in me a solid work habit. While I hated working on the back deck of the shrimp boat in summers, what would I ever give to do that these days?
What would I give to hear one more answering machine message from dad?
The last three weeks of his life, he called me several times and started talking, just chatting, about anything and everything. I learned more about him in that 3 week period than most of the previous years combined. He shared about family, his recent work activities, memories of early life, and I ate every bit of it up. I was actually surprised at how chatty he was. Little did I know that was about to end. I am grateful for our relationship and how close we became by the end of his natural life.
Love you dad. Happy birthday and I look forward to you waking me up next time.