I lost my grandfather just over four months ago. He had an unbounded, unparalleled love he gave to so many people – deserving or not. He appreciated nature, he appreciated art, and he appreciated a good bowl of chili hot enough to knock your sweaty socks off. I miss him more than anybody understands. Looking at pictures helps to resurface his memory, but nothing can compare to hearing the sound of his voice. I still can’t get through a single second of any recording I have left without it tearing my heart out, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything in this world. His voice makes me feel angry yet calm, terrified yet safe, and helpless yet thankful. How one voice that used to inspire feelings of love and peace can now create such a storm of emotions is a mystery.
I have two voicemails from my grandfather, the first of which is from my birthday last year. My first thought when I listen to it is always, “I’m a terrible granddaughter. How could I miss a call from my favorite man in the world when he calls to sing happy birthday to me.” But my second thought is always, “I’m so thankful that I couldn’t answer this phone call because now I will always have my grandfather’s voice to wish me a happy birthday.” I will probably never be able to listen to that message with dry eyes.
The second voicemail is a longer one, three minutes, from an ordinary Tuesday, and it is my favorite. He tells me about his day, about a phone call he had earlier, and how he was optimistic about the future. At the time, the topic of talk seemed important (though my vagueness makes it seem otherwise), but now it seems so trivial, so light. He had no idea this message he was leaving would be one of the few things I would cling to after he was gone, one of the most vital remaining ties and a large part of how I will continue to remember him five, 10, 30 years from now. I will play this message to my children who will never get the chance to know his amazing love. I will play it to the grandchildren I hope to love as much as I was loved by him. I will listen to this message for as long as iPhone voicemail recordings are still viable (I fear I will look much like Star-Lord with his cassette tape). This message will live on for as long as I am alive, and hopefully much longer than that.
I have three other recordings of my grandfather’s voice. These three are different from the voicemails because they include both of our voices and rather than making me cry, they make me smile. You see, my grandpa was the king of all storytellers. I feel cliché saying so, because most grandpas have great stories, but his were Hollywood movie caliber. Let’s go with Western movie caliber instead, which could still be a Hollywood production I suppose. A couple Christmases ago I bought him a voice recorder so he could make all of his great stories immortal (we knew how important this would be one day!). Needless to say, he never quite got the hang of the recorder, and only managed to record three tracks – the same three I had helped him with in the very beginning. I was originally disappointed when I realized he had never made any progress, but there’s something endearing about the fact the only three tracks ever to be recorded were the goofy test recordings we had done together.
I miss that man with all I have and I am so thankful for the pieces I have left to remind me of the most amazing love I will ever know. For all the loved ones still in your life, save all their voicemail’s, and any other recordings, because one day they could be your saving grace when they no longer can.