Once I found out about podcasting, I took to it pretty fast. My family has always been full of storytellers, and I obviously got the gene from my dad. More often than not, at any given time during the day, he is telling someone a story. Whether it was about “this one time in high school” or “that time on a fishing trip,” I’ve always listened and remembered as much as possible. I didn’t always know it, but telling these stories is a way of keeping the past alive, in a way that preserves our identity as a family.
One of the more prominent interests I share with my dad is cooking. If our family has one heirloom, it’s the handed-down knowledge of the culinary discipline. Recipes, practices, habits, from my grandmother to my dad, and from my dad to my brothers and me. So it only made sense that when I sat down to record a podcast on cooking, I’d have my dad as a guest.
What ended up happening, though, was pretty special, and it opened my eyes to a thing or two.
While we were preparing for the podcast, we started talking about our family’s history. Now that I’m a dad of a 17-month-old, I ask a lot more questions, wanting to fill in the blanks of family stories I’m hazy about. I want to know who my family members were, and where they came from. And my curiosity isn’t entirely self-serving. I want to share our legacy, so I can pass it on to my children and grandchildren. I want to make sure they have a tangible family identity, like the one I’m searching for.
As my dad and I were talking and laughing and discussing the past, I realized something amid my podcasting setup that I hadn’t taken advantage of.
I hadn’t yet pressed “record.”
I should have. Because this was the conversation I should have preserved.
I remember something my dad has told me a few times: He misses his parents, and wishes he could hear their voices again.
I’ve heard stories about my grandfather and great-grandfather from my parents, but how great would it be to hear from my long-gone ancestors in their own voices?
What I’m doing, in my shows and in my writing, is laying down a family history from my own viewpoint. Thanks to podcasting, however, if my kids ask about an average day for their grandfather, all they have to do is hit play, and listen.
I love my father and mother. They are more than my parents; they are among my best friends. I can’t imagine never being able to embrace them, or share new thoughts or memories with them again. I have a duty as a parent to give everything I possibly can to my children, and possibly the most powerful thing I can give them is my voice. If not for the lessons I can speak, than for the comfort I can give.
My daughter is calmed and comforted when my wife and I sing to her and read to her. Our voices are a defining pillar in our children’s youth, while they learn how to live and develop their own voices. And I want to make it last.
A long time from now, when I am old and frail, and I think back to my father’s stories, what will I remember? I’ll remember the setup, I’ll remember the characters, and I’ll remember how the story ends. But will I remember his voice? I hope so, I really do. But now I have the tools to make sure I never have to struggle with my memory.
We have the power to solidify the history of our families in a way that has been perfected over generations. Next time, the mic will never be off.
B.K. Mullen is a podcaster, blogger, and producer. He is the host of the Dad on the Mic show, co-host of the Poppin’ Bottles Dad-Cast, and producer of Reel Comics Podcast. He is an editorial assistant for The Good Men Project, and a contributor to Life of Dad, The National At-Home Dad Network, and Happy Family. Ben lives in the Philadelphia area with his wife, Carissa, and daughter, Emma.