My Dad got throat cancer in his mid-fifties and as a consequence, lost his vocal chords and a great deal of his esophagus. Luckily, he was able to use a device that, when he held it to his throat and silently mouthed the words, replaced the vibration of his vocal chords. The result was a perfectly audible voice that sounded a bit like a robot or a computer voice.
When I was growing up, Dad, born in the thirties, was never all that comfortable with homosexuality. His daughters, however, had no issues at all in this regard and we both refused to accept any signs of homophobia from him or our mother. Over the years, as he met many of our gay friends and found that he liked them just fine, anyway, his viewpoint gradually softened. I knew he had come to a place of complete acceptance when he told me the following story:
He and my Mom were on a trip and had stopped at a rest area to go for a pee. Standing at the urinal, he had stuffed his speaking device into his pocket; I assume to ensure for a better aim as he went about his business.
Suddenly, a man sidled up gently behind him, put his arms around my Dad’s waist and asked in a sexy, affectionate voice, “Need some help?”.
It is hard to imagine who was more horrified – my father – who couldn’t utter a word seeing as his ‘voice’ was stowed away in his pocket – or the poor man who had mistaken my Dad for his partner. When Dad silently whipped his head around in surprised consternation, the poor fellow took a very embarrassed step back and threw both hands up in the air blurting “Oh I’m so sorry! I thought you were someone else!”
My favourite part of the story was always Dad’s eyes – warm with compassionate understanding for how the other man must have felt, even as the tears of mirth ran from his eyes at the hilarity of the situation.
Whenever I encounter homophobia, or racism or misogyny, I always think on that story and how much one person can change if they only open their eyes (and their hearts) a little wider…
Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com