I’m finally starting a project I’ve thought about for years. Since the project involves my mother,who turns 98 years old this week, it’s wise to stop procrastinating. In defense of my lazy streak, I didn’t have the right equipment to do the project and now I do…no more excuses.
There’s sadness and tears involved and unfortunately most of the tears will be my mom’s. They will be happy tears. She hasn’t heard my dad’s voice for 12 years and four months. When I arrive “back home again in Indiana” (did you all sing that in tune?) in May, I’ll be bringing her about 45 hours of mom and dad talking to me via cassette. The 45 hours are spaced out over 45 tapes made between 1982 and 1997.
My dad always started the conversation with, “Good morning, good afternoon, good evening. Whatever time it is out there in California, we’re sending you our love.”
This was our intimate form of communication for 15 years from Indiana to California and back in the “pre-cell unlimited calls”, etc. era.
No I wasn’t in prison, all though driving 55-60,000 miles per year could feel a little lonely at times. My van had a custom-made console beside me and I had a cassette recorder in a special holder. I ran the power cord down under the carpet and into the cigarette lighter. I had a good microphone hooked up over my sun-visor so it was about as safe as chatting via Bluetooth wireless today; probably safer because I wasn’t concentrating on listening…one way conversation.
I would spend a little bit each day recording my descriptions of the scenery around me. Cruising up “101” I would describe the details of the white water breaking and splashing high off the rocks, as I made those long winding turns out of Ventura. I would read off the businesses as I sat at each stoplight in Hollywood. They heard about the huge aircraft carriers docked in San Diego. I described every light on every sign of every casino in Vegas. I talked about the incredible wildflowers blooming on the grapevine, and told them all the typical SoCal jokes about Bakersfield. (20 years before I even considered living here)
They made two long vacation stays here in California and I made sure they saw everything they had envisioned. It was even more realistic when they were back home and I resumed recording more new cassettes. Between two yearly visits to them in Indiana, I would send about 3 or 4 cassette tapes yearly. They would do the same in return.
They, like me, would work on the tape over a week or so, always giving me the weather updates, the local gossip and they passed along “hi, how are you” from friends and neighbors back in my home-town.
There will be many teary segments for my mom to get through but she will love it, and probably play a new segment every day. What she has never heard were the hours and hours of just dad talking to me when mom would be at the store or neighboring. Dad liked to spend those “alone” times talking to me about sports. But, he also spent countless hours talking about what an incredible-great-saintly-caring-kind-loving woman my mom is. (She still is)
So, since my pop passed away in January, 2001, I have moved a couple of times and the boxes seemed to get bigger and hold more stuff packed tightly. I have over 200 cassette tapes, including every band I ever played with. It was mostly one band in the ‘70s and one in the ’60s; I would tape us a couple times a year. These tapes were all mixed together with the audio tapes of my mom and dad.
I’ll probably have some brittle old tape that wants to break so I’ll be busy trying to patch and transfer what I can to CD.
As I dig through the tapes, which thankfully are all marked with a date, I now realize I haven’t heard my father’s voice for over 12 years also. I guess I’ll beat mom to the happy tears.