Thursday, September 19, 2013

Voices from the past

When I was a little girl I used to dream about hearing my father's voice. I dreamt of what it would sound like when he would pick up the phone and how happy he would sound to talk to me. I was a little girl. Innocent. Naive. Silly. Unknowing.
On my tenth birthday my mom asked me what I wanted and I told her that what I really, truly wanted was to talk to my daddy on the phone. I had never met him. Never seen his face. Never heard him say my name. And I longed so much to speak to him. So she took me in the kitchen, handed me the receiver and dialed the number. I remember being so nervous- in a happy, excited way. It played out in my head and all the possible endings were happy. I was wrong.
"Hello". It was him.
"Gene? Is this Gene?" I asked sheepishly. I was so nervous. So scared.
" Who is this?" There was something in his voice immediately. It was noticeable and it tied me in knots right away.
" Hi dad. This is your daughter. This is Jeanie."
Long pause.
" Who is this?" He demanded this time. His voice was even and very quiet now.
 I was nearly in tears when I answered again.
"Dad. Gene. This is your daughter. This is Jeanie."
Long pause.
"You have the wrong number. Don't ever call here again."
And then the line went dead.
I'm not really sure how long I stood there. How long I cried or if I really cried or just felt like crying. I just remember feeling more pain than a ten year old should feel or was equipped to process. I never heard my father's voice again after that day. He would never agree to speak to me or meet with me and even when the doctors told him several years later that he had only weeks to live, he wasn't brave enough to face me and allow me the chance to get to know him. He died when I was 17 and with him went any chance of my ever getting to hear my daddy's voice.
Or so I thought.
Last year after many years of searching family records and researching my biological father's history I "met" a wonderful lady named Katie. She lives in Ohio and her husband just happens to play and sing in a band with this incredible man named Kenny. Kenny, as it turns out was a bandmate and former best friend of my father. Katie put me in touch with Kenny and his lovely wife and through several hours of conversation I now "know" my father. Kenny's wife even dug up an old OLD promo shot of my father and allowed me to have it copied so I have a photograph of him.What an incredible gift these people have given this total stranger who just popped up into their lives one day!! And it gets even better.
During one of those conversations with Kenny and his wife they mentioned something about records. It turns out my father had recorded and released two 45's in 1960. Who knew?! Through months of research and digging I found two different eclectic record collectors who actually had copies of them and they sold them to me. So I became the proud owner of my father's records. Of course...without a record player-I STILL couldn't hear his voice!!!
In May we travelled home to Ohio for the weekend. In my mother's sunroom we sat with her record player and my father's records. And that room.....that sad, broken ten year old little girl got to hear her daddy's voice. And it was wonderful.
Today......that little girl is listening again. Katie sent me a message a couple days ago and asked if I would call her. It seems that she hasn't stopped looking for people who knew my dad. (I love that woman!) Seems there is a man named Sammy and his wife who knew my father and played music with him sometimes. Katie had talked to him and Sammy seemed to recall having an old cassette tape somewhere that they recorded sitting around the kitchen table one night. Well, turns out he dug it out....gave it to her and Katie's husband Perry made a CD and they needed my address so they could send it off to me.
So ...... here sits that little girl.......with tears rolling down her cheeks......listening to her daddy play his guitar as he sings 29 songs in such a beautiful voice. There's no anger in his voice. There's no secrecy. And there's no pain. And I don't think I can ever possibly thank Sammy, his wife, Katie, Perry, Kenny or his wife enough for the gift they have all given me. They gave me something that I thought died when I was 17. They gave me the chance to know and hear my daddy.