I miss his voice.

My dad ventures down from the mountains every couple of weeks to visit. He never stays very long, as he wants to make the rounds to see as many of his friends and family as possible while he’s here. He almost always comes bearing some small gift, and this time it’s a little bag of fresh salad from his garden.

When he arrives, we sit inside a while. Kathryn shows him the knitting project she’s working on, and Lindsey tells him about her new job. We sit until we’ve said all the things we can think of to talk about, and since it’s a pretty day, I tell him I want to show him how my garden is doing.

Knowing that he knows the answer, I ask how I can keep the bugs off my peach tree. He gestures, and quickly gets aggravated that I can’t figure it all out through his charades. I switch to an easier question about the potatoes I’m trying to grow, and I understand his answer that time. I talk to fill in the gaps where he can’t. I talk about the weather, about my garden, about my plans to expand it next year. I talk about the birds, and how much seed they eat every week. I tell him how I want to clear out around our wild blackberries so they’ll be easier to get to. I talk, and he listens, and I know there is so much he wants to say. Sometimes he’ll write something down on a notepad he carries in his pocket, but it’s only an abbreviated version of his thoughts or his answer. It’s simply too hard to write everything he wants to say.

I wonder aloud how to tell when a green apple is ripe, and he motions for me to pick it and try it. I do, and it’s still very sour and too firm — but he is longing to take a bite. For his sake, I savor it as much as possible. Although he cannot eat, it gives him satisfaction to know he has taught me to appreciate things like a fresh apple off a tree in my own back yard. I offer Ken and the girls a bite, and they all try it, too.

Our dog decides it’s time to play. Her favorite game is chase, which means we chase her. Of course we can never keep up with her greyhound speed, and we usually only run a few steps after her, but it gives her a good excuse to run. And she loves to run. When she is playing, she zeroes in on one person, and pays no attention to anyone else. My dad is her favorite play buddy. She sets her stare on him and assumes the play position with rump in the air and front paws spread in front of her. Dad runs, then she runs laps around the yard in pure, contagious, joy. We all watch her, and she comes back to my dad to do it all again. And again. He forgets himself and has fun and laughs. It startles me because I forget he can still laugh; his vocal chords work fine but it’s the nerves in his tongue and lips and throat that betray him.

For a moment, hearing his laugh, I remember his voice.

Dad giving me a hard time ~ 2009
Dad laughing and giving me a hard time (2009)

I remember the big foot stories. Pretending to speak Spanish. Calling me Squirrel. Making those ridiculously silly noises. Learning from him as he talked — about cars and trees and gardens and bears and hiking and motorcycle rides and old friends and dreams.

I miss his voice.

{For those new to my blog, my Dad was diagnosed last year with ALS.}