On December 12, 2012 (12/12/12), I lost my father unexpectedly to a heart attack.
That day… it’s he day my dad was there when it started but gone when it ended.
It had seemed like so many before. After working together for 10 years at the end of his career, when my dad retired, he would come back to work about once a week, pick me up, and we’d go to lunch.
The day he died was a lunch day for us. Everything had seemed fine. We laughed, talked football and even got into some deeper conversation about raising kids and how impressed he was with the person my daughter was growing up to be.
Some 18 hours later, confused and heartbroken, I found myself with my mother in the basement of a funeral home picking out a coffin.
With today being the 4th anniversary of his death, I thought I would share the “My Favorite Christmas…EVER” story. While I began publishing books after the death of my dad (I could no longer “wait until later” to get started with writing seeing how quickly it all can end), I had started to get into writing by crafting stories about real life experiences my dad had the last five or six years of his life. I would recall these funny incidents and document them and I’d share them with friends and family, including Dad.
He was the ultimate character. Funny things always happened with him. I present to you, “My Favorite Christmas… EVER,” about the Christmas that stands out for me more than any other from the group of short stories I wrote about my dad’s adventures over the years.
My Favorite Christmas… EVER
Oddly, my favorite Christmas memory doesn’t come from any number of the blessed things I’ve experienced in my life, but more along the lines of the quirky, offbeat things which build the character of whom you are as a person.
In 1978, the 10-year old version of me only wanted one thing for Christmas: a tape recorder. Looking back now, I’m not exactly sure why that was, but at that moment in time, it was the only thing I cared about. I realize it’s laughable now, but in 1978, this was cutting edge “in-home” technology. No longer was the recording of voices limited to the celebrity likes of Lee Majors; a person could actually record his or her own voice without going to a studio.
Christmas morning came and I opened up the new jeans, socks, dress shirts and other things Mom would wrap to increase the volume of gifts. She was smart enough to strategically bury the good stuff deep under the tree, so you continue to mow through all of it as she took photos of the ever disappointed reactions to these motherly gems.
My last gift was my beloved tape recorder. I wasn’t allowed to simply take it off on my own and play with it. My dad had me run through the instruction book with him. To record, hit the record button. To play back your tape, hit play. Rewind involved pressing the rewind button. Pretty standard stuff. Dad and I were ready to proceed with our initial recording session.
My dad pressed the record button, picked up the recorder and spoke directly into the machine. Slowly and deliberately he dictated the inaugural recording. He said, “What are you doing?”… only he didn’t say it in his own voice. He used robot-like voice and paused after each word with his voice pitch rising on the last word so it became, “WHAT …. ARE … YOU … dooo-ING?” I’m not sure why he chose this robot-like voice; perhaps he felt you needed to speak in what he considered a futuristic sounding voice with such new age technology.
He rewound the tape, and we heard robot man speaking back to us: “WHAT …. ARE … YOU … dooo-ING?” He calls my mom and sister in, “Listen to this,” he told them: “WHAT …. ARE … YOU …doING?”
Collectively, we were simply amazed… that really was Dad’s voice!
Well, at least some version of his voice.
I got ready to grab the recorder and head off to my room to have some fun with my new gift. Dad stopped me and said, “Give me that tape, I want to save that.”
I was confused. Save that? It wasn’t even anything… just some pseudo-robot asking one question. Despite my hesitation, I turned it over. After all, I did get the two-pack of tapes.
Over the next few days, Dad kept borrowing the recorder whenever one of his friends would call. I would hear him tell them, “You’ve got to hear this.” Then he’d turn on the recorder, and I’d hear robot man asking, “WHAT …. ARE … YOU … dooo-ING?” This was followed by laughter and him swearing that was actually a recording, and it was him. He could prove it by replaying it again, which he would then do.
Seriously, who were these guys who thought this was good entertainment?
A month or so later, Dad walked by my room, and I had all of my Batman action figures out and was staging a Batman fight. I was recording, complete with me singing the Batman theme and punctuating it with the occasional “POW,” “BAM” or “ZAP” like they did in those campy fights on the show. When he asked what I was doing, I told him I was taping a Batman fight.
“These tapes are expensive” he told me, “you can’t simply waste them.” Since I was confused on how a Batman fight wasn’t as important as robot man, combined with the fact I didn’t need it to record minutes from any business meetings at age 10, I never used the tape recorder again.
Even though this wasn’t a “great holiday memory,” it certainly stands out. Every once in a while, I’ll come across that tape, find an old boom box, and play robot man for a good laugh.u
Shared in loving memory of Larry Akley (8/20/42 – 12/12/12)