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January 28, 2008

The Answering Machine

I wasn't looking for it when I found it.  It was in a place I did not intend to look.

I had just printed out a couple of pictures of Dave from my computer and needed a frame.  It was late...and cold...and spitting snow...and I was too lazy to leave the comfort of my warm house on a January night.  I searched all the closets...under beds...in the basement hoping to find something that would work but to no avail.  I saw a couple of pictures lying un-used on the floor under a bookcase; knelt down and began to feel around under case and a nearby couch...perhaps there were more out of sight long forgotten. I groped blindly and that's when I found it, under the couch, out of sight and...yes...long forgotten. 

It was an old answering machine, long discarded from a time before digital phones and voice-mail...the kind with micro-cassette tapes, one for the greeting and one for the messages... but only the message tape remained.  The power cord was missing and I almost slid it back underneath the couch when I stopped and wondered whose voices might be on this tape.  I wondered because this answering machine was for our second line, the boys line, back when the only way for Mom and Dad to ever make or receive a call in a timely manner was to get the boys their own phone line a sort parental self defense mechanism often employed during the teen years. 

After Dave died from addiction and Josh our older had returned to college the second phone line seemed an unnecessarily painful reminder of how our world had changed forever and we had it disconnected.  However the answering machine was left behind and becoming an appliance without a purpose. And it remained so eventually being shoved under a piece of furniture...untouched for more than six years...silently keeping its messages and words to itself with no one to play them... waiting for me to find it and want to hear them again.

I dug through a seldom used drawer and finally uncovered an old dictation recorder that used the same micro cassettes, found some batteries, headphones and a quiet place to listen.  I closed my eyes and was Instantly catapulted back in time to the days just before Dave died when hope and fear were our constant companions as we worried whether Dave would stay in recovery or relapse; never suspecting that death and tragedy would soon eclispe our worrying making it seem a trifle. 

What unfolded to my thirsty ears were dozens of calls...one right after another all David's friends...girlfriends...using friends...treatment friends and recovery friends.  A cavalcade of voices in scores of emotions; giggling young ladies, gangsta sounding guys and the occaional adult voice all combining to create an enduring audio canvas each becoming a short vingnette adding a different shade to color of this memory.

Hey hon its me...page me or call me at my home when you get home?

Hey dog this is Jake...hit me up when ever you get this.

Hey David its me, I'm calling from class we're not doing anything right now?

Wassup dog...where you been?

Hey David...I am sooo bored right now....hit me back when you get home.

Hey Dave its Mom...just wanted to see if you are up, call when when you get this.

And then...buried in the middle of the messages is the voice I had longed to hear for what seemed an age...prayed to hear...ached to hear...and yet terrified to hear.  Terrified at how it might make me feel...how I might react...where it might take me. 

It was Dave's voice and I hung on every syllable with wonder, fear and heartache.

Mom... Dad if you hear this and are there pick up...pick up....Mom..Dad

Sixteen short words which took barely ten seconds for him to say....ten seconds in which I was swept along on a wave that then crashed me upon the shore of reality leaving me dazed in anguish and yet joy. 

Sixteen words among many on an old answering machine...answering a prayer that once again allowed me to hold my son in my conciousness.   

January 28, 2008 at 04:42 PM in The Odyssey | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 01, 2008

A Powerful Memory

David got a tattoo about a month before he died.  It was two Chinese characters that Dave claimed the tattoo artist said represented his name.  He was so proud of that tattoo and while his mother had a long standing objection to tattoos generally in the end we were both so glad that we allowed him to get it.


May 2001

About a year ago I asked a colleague Rick Ward at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis where I worked if he knew someone familiar with the Chinese language who could verify the meaning of the characters.  He was kind enough to put me in touch with Shiaofen Feng an Associate Professor of Computer and Information Sciences who verified that the characters were indeed the Chinese equivalent of David.

I must admit that I was more than a little relieved to know that they did indeed mean what they were supposed to since they could easliy have been misrepresented to a midwestern boy who had not clue about the Chinese language.  But having the confirmation of its meaning I began to look for ways to  honor this memory.  It came finally in the work of the spouse of one of my wife's cousins Linda Li Dorado.  Linda is second generation Taiwanese and an accomplished artist who with great care and skill created two identical works of art that she framed and then inscribed the words of Robert G. Ingersoll


Download DSCF1611.JPG

In the night of death, hope sees a star, and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing."

What had once been our young son's dream, that was in many ways onerous to his parents at the time...has now become a lovingly crafted work of art that contains a powerful memory for us.

January 1, 2008 at 08:22 PM in The Odyssey | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack