My Mother’s Voice

Alzheimer’s being the conniving thieving bitch that  it is, my mother wasn’t herself in the final years of her life. The  woman I visited in the Alzheimer’s special care unit was a stranger wearing my mother’s skin but not much else, like the invasion of the body snatchers had taken place, month after month beneath the surface, until one day we looked and the woman we knew was gone, replaced by some alien being. An imposter. Intruder alert. Intruder alert. She died back in 2012. Don’t worry; I won’t be getting maudlin on you.  My real mother–not that stranger in a wheel chair, head nodding on her shoulder–is who I want to think about today.  My real mother —Enid Maude Good nee Hayden, a prim, old-fashioned name, perhaps the only thing about her I didn’t love— was British-born and had a lovely London lilt to her voice her whole life even though she left England in the mid-1950’s. I suppose at thirty, her vocal patterns were already frozen in place.  Sounding like a cross between

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Happy Birthday Daddy-o


Happy Birthday Dad!


Gosh, you're looking as handsome as ever. I always did think you looked like a movie star and here you are in this sepia tint print as suave and debonair as David Niven. An officer and a gentleman, immortalized at age 26. Twenty six! Don't be offended if I say you looked older, that's the way it was back then. It's only these days, with fewer responsibilities on our shoulders, that we try to look like kids for as long as possible. 

You left home in England at seventeen, lived in Egypt, danced the night away in Alexandria and told us you tried 'hashish' in an Egyptian bath but didn't feel a thing. We didn't believe you, by the way, you know that right? By the time you enlisted to fight for England in World War II you spoke Arabic, French and Italian fluently. Imagine! A boy from Preston in the North of England teaching himself to speak Arabic. No wonder you served in the North African campaign. 

You'd be 102 today, if you'd lived. A ridiculous thing to say because of course, you didn't. You've been gone twenty five years, as long as I've been married. I'm not going to get all soppy, dad. I just wanted you to know I still have that old cherrywood desk of yours, the one you and mum picked up at the used furniture store in Santa Monica. I can still see you sitting at the desk in that pale blue button up sweater that you used to wear at home, a shirt and tie under it, even when you were just working on your pools. I write at the desk sometimes, overlooking our grassy courtyard. Your son-in-law is sitting at it right this minute doing some work on his Mac, or playing a computer game, I'm not sure which. One day we'll pass it down to your grandson who'll double check for the tenth time to see if it has any secret compartments. We've got the ID card from your days with British Intelligence; to us that means spy. And any spy worth his salt would have a secret compartment hidden somewhere.

Nancy has that old button up sweater now, that and the cool black raincoat straight out of the 1960's. I don't know what Russell has. There's the Turkish rug you and mum picked up in Turkey but I'm not sure what else. As the eldest, he must have had first pick. He was always Mum's favorite, she would have seen to that.

Anyway, I won't keep you. I don't believe in heaven but on the off chance there is one I expect you and mum might be getting ready to go out dancing. Give her a hug for me. 

Posted for Joy's British Isles Friday meme

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Comments

  1. What a wonderful tribute. I know he'd love your post. Good looking man and so many wonderful accomplishments and good times in his life.

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  2. Lovely tribute. A fun way to honor the man and the passage of time.

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  3. So sweet. I can't imagine how much you miss him, but sounds like he left you some amazing memories.

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