Early this morning, while it was still dark outside, I was awakened by my father’s voice calling my name. Coming suddenly full awake I was disoriented. What had just happened? What had I just heard?
It was definitely his voice and definitely my name — just the single word — nothing more.
Dad got us up in the morning. Mom kept us awake at night. That was just the way it was. The older I got, the more resistant I was to the whole morning process. I’d answer and go back to sleep.
So the process evolved. By high school days, when Dad called my name, it wasn’t enough to just acknowledge that I’d heard. No, he insisted that I get out of bed and look down our stairwell. He, on the first floor, needed to see me on the third floor, peering sleepily down on him. That reassured him that I was actually up and awake. I hated it.
Then he’d leave for work.
And as I thought about this just now, I wondered what it felt like for him to complete this daily ritual. What worries prompted his calling out. Clearly, he saw it as his responsibility to make sure that we were starting our day before he left.
And he cared.
Oh, and just as clearly, he knew that Mom wasn’t up to that task. Anyway, his voice, back in the day, became like the buzz of an alarm clock. It was irritating as hell.
And now I see that the sound offered some normalcy as the new day started. No matter what had happened the night before, you could count on it.
Last night before going to bed, I watched a bit of MSNBC. There was Amy Klobuchar endorsing Joe Biden. Then came Beto O’Rourke. Joe spoke and then I went to bed.
Next thing I remember is Dad’s voice waking me in the dark.
These last three years have been a stressful and chaotic hell. And I don’t use that word lightly. I long ago made the connection between the crazed Trump presidency and the dysfunction that I grew up with. There’s a straight line from the orange miasma to sleep disturbance and elevated blood pressure. And I’m sure that’s true for lots and lots of folks in this country and around the world.
The personal is political, yes, AND the political is personal.
And then there was my father’s voice this morning. Another straight line, I’m thinking. This one runs directly from Joe Biden to the small spark of steadiness and normalcy that kept us all afloat through the 1950’s and ’60’s.
I’m not talking about promises or policies or values or electability. And I’m definitely not talking about nostalgia for ‘simpler times.’ Nothing MAGA here. No, it’s something more elemental and personal than that.
My father’s voice offered a toehold in a new day. That’s really all. And on an emotional level, that’s where Joe comes in for me.
Nothing big and nothing magical.
Back on Park Road in the 1960’s I climbed out of whatever craziness the night had held and did what I needed to do. It was often grudging and seldom very pretty. And no matter what happened during the day, there was still and always a lot of chaos to contend with back at home.
But there was also Dad’s voice, calling me. An annoying-and-ultimately-appreciated constant in my life, insisting that I get up and peer over the banister so he’d know I was awake.