The day before Other’s sister died, she left a message on our answering machine. Other listened to it and erased it. After her death, he remembered the voicemail and wanted to listen to it again, just to hear her voice. But it was gone. Ever since then, I’ve felt reluctant to erase the chip after I’ve listened to my messages. It could be the last time.
For a long time after my father-in-law died, my mother-in-law kept his greeting on her answering machine. Partly it was to ward off any would-be predators with the suggestion of a male presence. Partly it was to hang on to his voice, to hang on to him.
On our answering machine, it is Other’s voice on the greeting, although he invites callers to leave a message for me, our daughter C and our son J. My mother, who has had a stroke, always gets confused by hearing Other’s voice when she’s calling me. She says, “Oh, Other, I must have the wrong number” or “Oh, Other, could you tell Mia I called?” or “Oh, Other, how nice to hear your voice. I’ll hang up and call Mia.”
It’s funny, her confusion, because my mother was one of the early adopters of the answering machine. Back then, it was I who was confused. I’d call home in an emergency and hear her voice and start to talk to her and get enraged when I realized it was only a recording. Just another of her mean tricks, I thought.
My parents are almost always home these days, but on the rare occasions when I call and get the answering machine, it is my older brother’s voice on the greeting. He must have set up the answering machine for them and completed the task by recording the greeting. Still, it always catches me off guard. What’s he doing there? I wonder.