The Talk Box
Growing up in the ’80s and early ’90s in southwest Oklahoma, I had conflicting ideas about the greater world. Television taught me that, everywhere besides my hometown, houses were built with two stories and shaker shingles, with four upstairs windows – each with its own little A roof – facing the street. It also taught me that retirement is a time of leisure and travel.
Television is a super unreliable narrator.
Real life taught me that houses might look like a big red barn (a classmate’s house), have a lopsided tin roof (my house), or be built mostly underground. In my experience, too, retirement existed to prompt folks into a career change. It marked the end of one section of life and the beginning of another.
Life can also be somewhat unreliable in its narration.
When I was eleven, my dad retired for the first time. His classroom, where I had visited him on doctor appointment days, captivated me. The idea that classrooms were integral to work – AWESOME! Beyond ID cards and fatigues and a lot of blue clothing, I might have been the least military kid ever. We never lived on base. My dad was never transferred. Ever. I mean, I lived in the same house for 17 years! Not the point.
The point is that my dad’s military retirement was the first time I began to understand camaraderie. There are two things I remember the most about his retirement. One is the cake. I freaking love cake. The other is something called the Talk Box.
In reality, I’m uncertain whether the Talk Box was given on the day of his actual retirement or if it was given to him at some other time. But I remember it was entertaining. I remember it held props. Something about the teacher who talks. A lot.
The thing is, my dad does teach and does talk a lot. He tells stories. He can spin a yarn that sounds both grounded in truth and too fantastic to be possible. You have no idea how much I wish I had listened harder, written more, remembered better.
I believe I mentioned my Swiss cheese memory once or twice upon a time. Well, I don’t think I could recite one of his stories and do it justice. Hence the writing it down in real time. What I remember most: the feeling of transportive amazement.
Physician, heal thyself! I know. I know. But his stories are like lightning in a bottle. They are here and enrapturing and sweeping and then…complete. And he’s out the door and I can’t for the life of me remember how to write. Like, anything.
Because he’s my dad. I take for granted that he belongs to me.
Even though his second career was in mortuary sciences, giving me a front row seat to mortality.
One day, those stories, my dad – they will be gone from my sight. That is what I own, what belongs to me. Memory. And that only if my own brain allows it.
I may not have sold you on ghostwriting your memories…but…I need to go call my dad.