My grandfather received his teaching degree in the forties, but it was radio, and later television, that he forged his career in. That was three generations ago, and it’s now sort of the family business.
He passed away ten years ago but I can still remember his deep, warm speaking voice, and perfect diction (“It’s not ‘wat.’ It’s ‘hwat.’ Pronounce the ‘H.'”) He would tell me stories of cutting audio tape – a simple digital process now that once required canisters, razor blades and a special kind of Scotch tape to piece it back together again.
He had a love for reading and language he passed down to me, and I took to heart all the advice he gave me. He was the wise, sage Morgan Freeman character in my young life.
I’ve missed his voice over the years, as he’s pulled further in time away from me. I now have a few gray hairs of my own and can see the past and the future on either side of me. He’s not here anymore to help me through the decisions I need to make.
It only came as a small surprise to me when my father said recently that there’s still a radio station playing his old tapes. Pop’s last gig was a volunteer job at one of the oldest radio stations in the area – run out of a church, and kind of a ‘by seniors, for seniors’ station. In my teenaged opinion, they played old people music, so I didn’t tune in. But I loved that he did it. He said to me once, “I recorded the first set of tapes about twenty years ago, and some people are starting to catch on that they’re taped. So I’m recording a new set.”
We still have boxes of his tapes, somewhere. I never listen to them – I don’t have a cassette player. I’ve heard his voice on recordings over the last ten years, but never on the radio. You know how it’s different? When you turn on the radio and someone you like is on, announcing a song, or a band you love comes on, it’s a happy turn of chance. It’s the universe saying it’s thinking of you, in a way. When you pull into your driveway at the exact moment a song ends, you know someone is out there composing your life’s soundtrack. It feels good to be connected in that way. Radio feels very immediate. It’s cozy.
Now I tune in to the church station. He’s on at six in the evening, according to my father. Every now and then, when I’m driving home, I turn on the station and I wait. I haven’t heard him yet – I work a lot of nights. But when I can, I listen to The Platters or whoever happens to be playing, enjoying the quiet lilt of the music and waiting for the announcer to come on.
I know he’s still out there, light waves bouncing around in the dark, coming back to us through the decades. I know someday soon I’ll turn on the radio and he’ll be there, and no time will have passed at all.