My Father's Voice

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Stephen Lavezzo had a problem. His father had a habit that really aggravated him. He spent years trying to cope with it, until he came to one, unavoidably vital realization.

My father tells stories. Not the kind of stories that necessarily have a point, just the uncomplicated stories of an uncomplicated man.

“The lights in the tunnel weren’t so good, and your mother and I couldn’t see nothing…”

I’ve listened to my father’s stories all of my life, and heard his voice -- a strong, soothing, warm, and confortable sort of voice-speaking words that were sometimes hard to understand because he was laughing, or because of the Italian accent he insists he doesn’t have.

There’s never been a way of speeding him up or coaxing him to the end before he was ready,


“You know, they really need more lights in that tunnel...”

I used to get impatient with my father’s voice, and cringe at every excruciatingly detailed story. I would look on in sympathy at every teacher, salesman, or cabdriver trapped by one of Dad’s endless stories, stories that my mother says could make a preacher swear.

“Anyway, we get through the tunnel, and I drive around for one hour looking for the parkin’ place...”

Recently though I realized something. I’m no longer impatient with my father’s stories, unnecessary details and all. Nowadays I find myself just enjoying the sound of his voice -- and I’m strangely content to let him go on for as long as he wants.

I’m in my 40s now, but sitting there listening, I get that feeling, that familiar feeling from childhood, that Dad’s here, and everything is all right. Maybe in the back of my mind is that nagging thought that those of us with aging parents have from time to time. That unavoidable reality that the day will come when I will want desperately to hear about the poorly lit tunnel and no place to park.

So now, although at 81 his voice is weaker and shakes a little, and he sometimes struggles to remember the words, now, perhaps for the first time in my life, I really listen to my father’s voice, and wish that his story might never end.

With a Perspective, I’m Stephen Lavezzo.

Stephen Lavezzo is a writer and swing dancer. He teaches 4th grade in San Francisco.