When my dad was a collegiate radio announcer, he was known to at least one of my mom’s admiring girlfriends as Heavenly Voice, and between his speech-major skills as an orator, his wacky sense of humor, and that mellifluous voice, it’s no wonder he was able to persuade the rest of the student body to elect him president, nor that later he became a successful preacher, board chair, bishop, and community advocate in various capacities over the years.
He did not, however, use his voice as a deliberate affectation like some people we have known do. There was one cleric in particular whom my family and friends knew to have a naturally light baritone voice but, whether he did it consciously or not in the beginning, he habitually intoned everything he said with what sounded to us like a very stagey, unnatural, and ultimately pompous and pontificating basso that we dubbed his Stained Glass Voice. Dad, thankfully, only ever did such a thing as a joke. His voice was, and is, naturally attractive and engaging enough, and I suppose more importantly, he wasn’t insecure enough to need to pretend he was anything other than his own fantastic self, so we found it highly amusing in our friend and a relief that Dad didn’t fall to such silliness himself. Heaven knows he has mastered numerous other forms of more palatable silliness over the years, so why waste the energy on cartoonish vocal contortions!
Dad is celebrating his 80th birthday today, and it’s every bit as good to hear his voice (his real one) now as it ever was. Maybe more so, given that I live farther away from my parents than I did for most of my life, and that we’re all getting older and a little more conscious of the aging process with each successive year. On the other hand, my father still has the same impish and impudent sense of humor that always made him slightly hard to control or predict but easy to love, so passing calendar years neither make him seem much more grownup nor much older, a few minor scuffles with his own Father Time notwithstanding (hello, knee replacement)!
Now, I can’t begin to imitate anything as impressive and imposing as a faux James Earl Jones voice in which to wish my dad a happy birthday, nor can I sing it to him like a choir of angels. But I do send my heartfelt birthday greetings and love to him, and no matter how scratchy or shallow, Spasmodic or silly I may sound, the sentiments are as real and as clear as any stained glass. I love you, Dad! May this birthday and the whole year that follows it be filled with delight and great adventures. And whatever your heart desires. [Within reason. Nothing that the Glen Brothers and I can’t provide between us, anyway.]