Monday, June 28, 2010


Tonight I'm finally getting around to something I've been wanting to do for ages. I have several cassette tapes here with interviews I did with both of my grandmothers and my great-aunt Helen 10-12 years ago. Every so often I think about them and think that I've got to get them digitized and saved on my computer against the day when the tapes fall apart. Todd got me set up tonight and I'm playing them through and recording them right now.

I'm listening to an interview that I did with my grandma Clark over the phone in May 1998. It gives me a little lump in my throat to hear her voice with the Missouri twang in it. And I sound ridiculously young--I was 27.

You always wish you had done more, don't you? I have 45 minutes of Grandma Martin, about 90 minutes of Aunt Helen, maybe two hours of Grandma Clark. It's not enough.

I remember interviewing Grandma Martin, and some of the memories of her parents made her a little emotional, and I felt intrusive. So I didn't interview her again. Now I wish I had talked to her about her life as a young mother and about her kids and about how she managed to make ends meet. Grandma is still alive but at age 90, her memory is very patchy.

Remembering the face-to-face interview I did with Grandma Clark in 2001 never fails to make my blood boil--we talked for an entire side of a tape, she told me about meeting and marrying my grandpa--and at the end of the tape I took it out and it had not recorded any of it. I've never forgiven Radio Shack for their shoddy merchandise!

When I interviewed Aunt Helen, she sat in her rocking chair and rocked like a little girl, just as hard as she could. Six weeks later, she passed away. I was so glad I had gone to see her.

It is odd to fumble with cassette tapes and stick them in the little player. You realize how obsolete a technology is when you can't remember which way it goes into the player!

Now I'm sitting here thinking about all the other people I should get on tape while I can. I understood, logically, that my grandparents would not be around forever. Now they're gone into death and dementia and I'm looking around in surprise thinking "How did that happen?"

So if I give you a call and ask you to talk into my obsolete technology, you'll understand why, right?