Monday, March 2, 2009

The last great voice fades into the night....

As I lay in bed next to my lovely wife last night, we engaged in our usual late night discussion, which usually includes a recap of the days events, thoughts on what tomorrow brings, and more often than not lately lengthy commentary by my wife with a few "Hmmph," "Hmmmm" and "Uh huhs" thrown in by me (she likes to talk while I am trying to sleep - this is usually after @10:30pm, and I have to be up by 5:30 am, so my answers and comments are limited to any gutteral noises I can make that will convey meaning without actually having to open my mouth and speak - it is very Quest for Fire-esque). Last night, as I lay trying to fade off into dreamland, she hit me with something that made me turn over and comment, albeit sadly.

"Did you hear that Paul Harvey died?" she said.

It took a second for it to register. Paul Harvey - my first thought was the child molesting Choir teacher we had in High School (he liked to prey on the 17 and 18 year old girls in Choir; we once had to have a chaperon just for him just so someone could keep an eye on him), but that didn't make sense, she wouldn't know him. Then it hit me - Paul Harvey. The Paul Harvey. Dead. I felt my heart sink. This was one of those "you knew it was going to happen but hoped it never would" situations.

For those of you who never make it to the AM side of the radio you may not know Paul Harvey. He wasn't a shock jock, or drive time superstar. Paul Harvey was the voice of America. If you never heard his voice, listened to his News and Commentary, or wondered what The Rest of the Story would bring, then I feel sorry for you. You have missed out on one of life's great pleasures.

Like Walter Cronkite on the evening news, or Harry Carry and Vin Sculley in baseball, or Harry Kalas and NFL films, Paul Harvey's voice and personality defined his genre. He was the voice of middle America, reaching out every day like a trusted friend, telling you what was happening in the world. At times he would inject his own opinions, at times he would take a stand, but you always knew that he had our best interest at heart.

I remember listening to Paul Harvey when I was young. As long as I can remember I have had a radio by my bedside. I spent many, many nights listening to Sonics, Mariners, and Seahawks games, Sportsline with Wayne Cody, CBS Mystery Theater, or old time radio rebroadcasts on KVI 570. Somewhere along the line I stumbled onto Paul Harvey. How incredibly fortunate for me. From that day until this weekend, Paul Harvey had always been there.

Growing up his broadcasts let a young kid know that there was more going on in the world besides what I could see out my back door. I can fondly remember being outside one summer, sitting up in a tree in the woods, listening to my portable radio. I had two red lines drawn on the plastic face of the tuner. Once was for the daily broadcast, I wish I could remember the station, of the stories of CS Lewis, the other was for ABC radio and Paul Harvey. I would sit up there in the afternoons, the sun shining, the warm summer breeze blowing through the leaves, listening to another chapter of Prince Caspian, or The Silver Chair, and as soon as it was over, I would spin the dial over to Paul Harvey. He was like a friend, a mentor, touching base with me every day, telling me what was new, and what I should know about the world.

When I shipped off to Japan I could catch Paul on Armed Forces Radio. His voice always warmed my heart, but always brought a tear to my eye. I missed those summer days in the tree; I missed being home.

When I was stationed in Monterey I would take my lunch break during class and drive my car to an overlook on the Presidio. I would roll down the window and let in the warm, salty air, put my seat back, and turn on the radio, waiting for Paul to come on the air. After all these years, my friend and mentor was still there.

Even when I was stationed in Edzell, Scotland Paul was never too far away. We didn't have Armed Forces Radio, but my mother, bless her heart, would record Paul Harvey on cassette and send it to me to listen to. Once I had listened to the tape and dried my eyes I would pass it on to others so they could listen as well. I wasn't the only one who missed the voice from home.

Now his voice is gone, but it will never be forgotten. If someday I make it to Heaven I hope that there is a tree for me to climb, and a radio I can carry. If there are, then that is where you can find me, in the afternoons, lying between a couple of branches, listening to my good friend. If you are looking for me just follow Paul Harvey's voice. You'll find me, up a tree, smiling, with an inevitable tear in my eye.

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