Dad’s Answering Machine Speech

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.


dad (left) and his brother Clancy (right) on a boat during one of Matagorda, Texas infamous “river rises.” Matagorda now has a levee and the rises are stuff of legend. Could that be a mailbox or a street sign between the boat and house in the distance?

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.


dad (left) and his brother Clancy (“uncle Bo” to me) outside their home in Matagorda. I’m guessing they were hitting or near the teen years in this pic.

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.”


dad (left) with “Smitty,” his brother-in-law. I believe that is my cousin Nancy, Smitty’s first child, he is holding. Two fishing buddies. Keep in mind, fishing wasn’t their hobby, it was their occupation. They lived off of Matagorda Bay until that was shut down by law.

“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.

matagorda fishing shrimping boat

dad (left) and an unknown deckhand on a shrimp boat. I’m going to guess this was in the early 1970’s shortly before or right after mom/dad divorced. I’m thinking that is a grouper, feedback? That might make enough fish for one or two meals! 

Want to hear dad’s answering machine speech?


dad (left) and his brother-in-law Smitty a few years later. Not sure the location or date, but going to guess the later 1970’s? 

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.


dad with my step mom Terry and their second son together, Burt. This was taken at a family reunion on June 6th, 1992 in Matagorda, Texas. 

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.


dad with Eric Scott (I think), in his natural habitat: the kitchen. Eric is my first adopted foster brother. Although I do remember one other foster child who might be the one in the picture. My brain is chemo fried, what can I say? Notice the sea shells hanging around? Always something water related in our lives.


dad carrying out the trash. I’m thinking this was mid 1990s. You can’t see it in this picture, but there is an anchor or two that adorn the yard. 


family Christmas photo. I was going to try to go through and systematically label and name and explain each person. Oh my, not sure I have enough time between now and eternity. Suffice it to say, dad and step mom in the back to the left, I’m in the blue scrubs on the right front, and the rest are a wonderful mixture of brothers, sisters, my wife and daughters, and nieces/nephews. Just for fun, the little squirt up front near me with the HUGE grin with his legs crossed is one of my younger brothers who I spoke with two nights ago, he is about to enter nursing school. The cute little girl to the left of my right shoulder (and behind the HUGE grinner) is entering the second semester of nursing school. Both are going to be RNs like me. 


dad and I March 4th, 2008. I was almost three weeks into my first round of chemo and had just lost my hair. Dad had lymphoma also, diagnosed in 1993 if memory serves correctly. His lymphoma was very different from mine, though, his was very slow growing.

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?


dad on the back deck of his shrimp boat, the Ida B., named after his mother who died when he was 12, I think. I was balancing on the “bridle cables” over the water, holding onto a rail with one hand and the camera in other hand. Oh to hear the sailor speech he was giving me at that moment…”hot dammit boy, you and that camera are going to wind up in the water, get down from there!” He wasn’t happy with me at that moment. I’m glad I took this pic! 

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.

About Robert I Baxter

Greatest Commandment is #1. Follower of Jesus, husband, father, RN, love photography, cancer survivor of Burkitt's twice (2008 & 2014). Stem Cell transplant November 2014. Work in a neonatal ICU.
This entry was posted in cancer, Child, family, Fathers, food, happy, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Dad’s Answering Machine Speech

  1. Liz watkins says:

    THANK you sooooo much! So precious to me…your dad was so handsome and I loved his voice ! I loved my Aunt Ida and Uncle Ingie dearly! Sue and I cried so much when we (her little Pooster andTooter) had to leave her house! She dearly loved all children! I have so many precious memories…….how they linger….


  2. Beth Hearlihy says:

    Robert–What a joy to read this. You are so lucky to have this and in a format you can listen to. My dad died in 1968, at the age of 43, of a massive heart attack. I was 15. I have NO memory of how he sounded. I do remember that whenever he talked (he was a teacher and a coach) that his left shoulder had a tick. In February it will be 49 years that he died.


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