Since my grandmother's birthday is coming up, I'm trying to digitize a bunch of cassette interviews that my grandfather gave to the local historical society in the late '80s. The sound quality is terrible and the content largely mundane, but what does come through is the strangeness of hearing him speak almost fifteen years after his death.
I didn't begin to care for my grandfather until it was too late. Before his illness he seemed to me to be a conservative, maddeningly slow old man who ate pigtails right out of the carton. During his protracted and painful death I began to realize who we were all losing, but by then he was too far gone to really "have a chat" with. When he actually died I was at work.
So maybe it's easier to love somebody who isn't around anymore; I can think about his strength and his friendly sensibility, instead of fighting with him about my future, and I can also admit that his lectures about my goals in life were sensible, and that I've now actually done some of the things he wanted me to.
Then...there he is on the cassette tapes, talking about his father's factory and the manufacturing process for felt. His slow, ponderous voice which took forever but always arrived at its destination. His sentence introductions which never meant anything but served to explain his own thought processes ("That is...", "You might say..."). Him just sitting in the back kitchen, chatting with an interviewer, while the clock chimes two, three, four.