Why I Save Dad’s Voicemails

Dyane Oct. 2014


I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, but I kept putting it off.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to write about the topic, but more and more I found myself easily distracted.

(Thank you social media!  I’m blaming you!) 😉

I realized that the most inspiring time to reminisce would fall close to Halloween, my favorite day of the year.  I’ve loved Halloween ever since I was a little girl, and I’ve dressed up every year without fail – even during the bipolar depression years.

I’ve also been fascinated with books about the afterlife and near-death studies for decades.  I’ve read all of psychiatrist Dr. Raymond Moody’s works along with more contemporary authors such as Dr. Eben Alexander’s “Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife”.  I’ve never had any problem discussing thanatology (the study of death, made famous by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross) as well as paranormal issues with anyone.  My Dad, however, was the total opposite.  Despite our being very close, Dad couldn’t stand talking about death, especially as he grew older and more infirm.  (That was completely understandable!)  He made it clear that he was terrified to die, and there was no way I wanted to push the issue with him.

Despite Dad’s aversion to death, he did have fun at Halloween!  One year he bought dry ice, set up a spooky cauldron, and with my enthusiastic help we good-naturedly scared our many trick or treaters.   It was a wonderful evening that I’ll never forget. 

When I reached my mid-thirties, my father started having serious health problems aside from his bipolar disorder.  He and I spoke almost daily by phone since I lived several hundreds of miles away from him.  Of course I wasn’t always able to answer my cell phone, so Dad would leave long, often funny messages.  Instinct told me not to erase them all, and I saved a few of my favorite ones.  I knew someday I would be glad I saved them, and I was right.  

My Dad, who I considered one of my best friends, died six years ago at an assisted living facility without any family members at his side.  It is the biggest regret of my life that I was not there with him when he died.  Because of my reaction to his death, I had to be hospitalized and I missed his memorial service.  At the hospital, in utter desperation, I requested electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).  Ironically ECT never helped my Dad, but I credit it with saving my life.  

Perhaps he watched over me during the procedures.  

My mother thoughtfully videotaped Dad’s beautiful memorial service, complete with a string quartet of his colleagues and numerous eloquent, often humorous speakers.  Once I was strong enough, I was able to watch his service.  I’m still amazed by my mother’s strength during that time in particular, and I’ll always be grateful to her for recording his memorial.

Although it has been years since my father’s death, I still hold fast to his voicemail messages and I listen to them virtually anywhere.  The sounds are bittersweet.  I’d rather have Dad here in person so I could hear his resonant, loving voice once again call me “Little Dyane”, although I’m anything but little – I’m almost forty-five years old!  

I don’t listen to Dad as often as I used to, but when I do hear his messages they bring a smile to my face. I’m also lucky enough to have cassette tapes of his concerts that I can listen to on my old Suburu cassette player. (My father was a violinist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for thirty-nine years.)  While growing up, my bedroom was next to Dad’s practice room and I heard him practice for hours at a time almost every single day.  That’s what world-class violinists did and the discipline was ingrained into his soul.  The sound of his violin playing is almost as if he were speaking to me – it’s the next best thing to his messages.

It sounds macabre to save voicemails while a loved one is still alive. But knowing that someday life will change and these messages will become precious is worth any misgivings. The few years before Dad died I was depressed for the most part.  I was medicated, zombified and in constant despair, but at least I had the foresight to save Dad’s voicemails, and I always will be proud of myself for doing that.


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How friends & humor saved the day


It’s over, I realized last Friday morning with a sinking feeling in my stomach.

I couldn’t blame anyone else but myself.  I hadn’t listened to my intuition which had implored me to distance myself from an unhealthy situation.  

What happened was this: I developed an internet friendship with “X”.  Some people think that internet friendships are bogus, but in many cases they aren’t.   I genuinely cared about X, and as the months passed and our live Facebook chats grew more frequent, I grew closer to X.  I exposed my not-so-pretty side.  X wrote that I could vent to her as much as I wanted to, so I did.  In return X vented to me, and we sought support and advice from one another, sometimes on a daily basis for weeks at a time.  As we both lived with bipolar disorder, we commiserated with one another about what it was like to live with medication side effects, parenting challenges, mood swings, and much more.  

Last Friday morning my nasty cold was at its tail end, but my coughing fits had kept me up most of the previous night.  I was exhausted, and as anyone with bipolar disorder knows, I was concerned about my sleep loss affecting me in serious ways.  I planned to get my girls off to school and have a calm morning, but it turned out to be anything but that.  

I hopped online to check my Facebook newsfeed for a few minutes.  X messaged me asking me to participate in a small online project, but I refused due to my feeling unwell.  This is the seemingly insignificant exchange that triggered X.

What happened next caught me totally off-guard.  X messaged me back and accused me of slandering her when I had done nothing of the sort.  X proceeded to call me a “fake friend”.  The fact that her bizarre accusations were completely groundless, they came out of the blue, and full of a strange hostility disturbed me at my core.  I knew had I been a very, very good friend to X – I certainly had not been a “fake” one.  When I brought these realities up with X, my concerns were ignored.

 I realized I couldn’t be friends, either virtual or in real life, with someone who threatened my recovery in any way.  It sounds selfish, but it’s self-preservation, and of course what I allow to enter my life affects my children and husband as well.  Some may think that I could have worked things out with X, but I’m leaving  out many details that further illustrate that to be friends with X would result in further toxic accusations.   I would never feel safe again with someone who called me a liar and a fake for absolutely no good reason.  A line had been crossed.  I’d rather be friendless than have a”friend” like this.

 I ended the friendship right away.  I selected the “block” function.  It took just thirty seconds.

I knew the fallout would be ugly and it was.  I received an email from X stating that she hoped I’d “get the help I needed.” After that occurred, I blocked X’s email address. I felt totally unnerved, upset, and angry the rest of Friday. 

Today my feelings about X are less intense, but I know it’ll take a while for them to fade.  

While this type of situation would be much harder if X lived in my town, it still has been awful.  Like many things in life, Facebook can be a blessing and a curse.  There’s no Facebook algorithm informing us that we need to end toxic friendships.  For a second I thought about closing my account.  However, Facebook has been much more of a blessing than a curse in my life, and I couldn’t let the X situation be the reason for leaving social media.

Ironically what helped me feel better was internet-related.  

After blocking X on Facebook, I posted a very brief status message about my ending a friendship and my anguished state of mind.  I then promptly deleted it, hesitant to air my dirty laundry.  On a whim I re-posted it, and I’m so glad that I did.  I received wonderful private messages from friends who had been through similar situations.  Friends also left kind comments that lifted my spirits.  An internet pal sent encouragement via Twitter direct messages.  

I was surprised at how much this virtual support helped me move through my pain.

While Facebook was the gateway to my friendship with X, I couldn’t blame Facebook for what happened.  It was me…me who ignored obvious signs X had repeatedly given me over the past year that one day I’d be the object of X’s wrath.

Apart from my friends, it was humor that helped alleviate some of my sorrow, guilt, and anger.   On Friday afternoon my daughter watched an episode of “The Pioneer Woman”, a television show starring Ree Drummond.  Drummond was initially a famous blogger who has developed a Martha Stewart-esque multimedia empire.  Out of curiosity, I did a Google image search for photos of the star before she got famous.  I spotted a weird-looking image connected with a blog titled “The Marlboro Woman”.  

Drummond always refers to her husband Ladd as the “Marlboro Man”.  “The Marlboro Woman” blog featured a picture of Drummond superimposed over  Ladd’s headshot that I found hilarious.  I started laughing and clicked my way over to the blog.  The blog pokes fun at Drummond’s cooking styles and elaborate lifestyle, to say the least.  (If you’re a huge Ree Drummond fan, I don’t advise you visit “The Marlboro Woman” as it might rub you the wrong way!  But it might not…)

The rest of the afternoon I treated myself to reading “The Marlboro Woman” blog.  Each post receives up to 500 hundred + comments!  The Marlboro Woman and her co-blogger Vera’s replies to some of the comments are just as funny as the blog itself.  Reading “The Marlboro Woman” kept me from ruminating non-stop over the horrible events of the day.  I still felt bad, but it helped to focus on something funny.

I worry that X will be the one to slander me.  It’s entirely possible and so easy to do in a virtual world.  But I can’t control X – I can only control myself.  I’m thankful that I was able to extricate myself from a harmful situation….it’s better late than never, I guess.  I’ve learned a powerful lesson from this perturbing experience, and the next time my intuition presents me with a bright red flag, I won’t turn my head the other way.  I’ll pay attention and act on it.

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