My Ninety-Two-Year-Old Mother Takes on Voice-to-Text Transcription

My ninety-two-year-old mom has been wanting to write her story.

“I remember things no one else knows,” she told me. “And I want to preserve these memories before they’re lost forever.”

But she’s been plagued with trouble. Her hands hurt when she writes with a pen. And when she types on a computer, her documents somehow disappear. So her daily story-writing sessions had been fraught—until she discovered voice-to-text transcription.

“All I have to do is talk to this microphone,” she said, pointing to an icon on her laptop. “And the computer does the rest.”

This reminded me of something I had never told my mother. Being a quirky kind of a kid, I had early-on developed a sense that it was best to hide some of my strangest ideas. So my parents didn’t know about my story-telling sessions in the fruit cellar every evening after supper dishes.

Impressed with the new television sets and Etch-a-Sketch toys and audio cassettes, I was convinced someone would soon invent a wall-reading machine, a device that could scan walls and retrieve every word the wall had ever “heard.”

And sure that I was living in unusual times, I thought I’d help future historians by documenting these times. So every evening, I sat on an upturned crate in the fruit cellar and talked to the wall—about war and assassinations and the space race and civil rights marches. I also explained what I missed from the mountains of Western Maryland and what I found strange in the city—the faded stars and sirens and rushing traffic and big schools and people who talked all sorts of ways.

Earlier this year I drove back to that childhood house in Flint, Michigan. I sat in my parked car and wished I had a newly-invented wall-reading machine to take down the cellar steps. And though I didn’t know what kind of nonsense I had spoken to those walls, I came to a better understanding of why I had spent so much time talking to them. I was doing then what my mom is doing now—trying to make sense of a life and then share that sense with others.

5 Replies to “My Ninety-Two-Year-Old Mother Takes on Voice-to-Text Transcription”

  1. I wish I had known you were coming to town. My mother goes to the little church building where your father used to teach Bible school. I wish we could’ve had a little reunion there!


    1. Brady,

      I have only one memory of you from the time we lived by the church in Flint. You visited my father and were in his study conversing about something that sounded philosophical and important. I know I had to have been under the age of 8 since our family moved from Flint to Rosedale, Ohio, when I was that age.

      When you left our house, my father talked about your vocabulary being something for your age. I and the other younger siblings (Phyllis is the oldest and I am sixth) were in awe of you. I remember we had a conversation about you being a genius and wondered if you would become president of the United States some day.

      I think it’s neat that your mother attend what used to be called South Flint Mennonite Church. That is where my love for the church and for acapella singing was formed. To this day I remember one older lady’s voice as she sang in a shrill but sincere voice the chorus for the hymn ‘Open the Wells of Grace and Salvation.”

      Some years ago I stopped the church, which was open because there were carpenters in there remodel parts of the building. I saw they still had a wood pulpit at the front that my father preached from and either my father or a person name Emery Helmuth had handcrafted. The building itself was actually moved to East Williamson Ave. from Au Grey, Mich., way back in 1928 (if I have my facts straight). Good memories.


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