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Hola. Buenos días. ¿Cómo está usted?

March 15, 2012

At one point Mother considered hiding the phone from Daddy. Before the diagnosis Daddy called his financial advisor, Social Security, and his secretary over and over without realizing it. He apparently left the doctor six voicemails, too, fueled not by harassment but purely not remembering the five preceding messages.

Taking the phone away from Daddy would have broken my heart, not only because it signifies the seriousness of his condition but also because his humorous phone salutations have entertained me since childhood. Most often he answers with “Hola. Buenos días. ¿Cómo está usted?” in a heavy Southern accent.

Because Daddy worked in the carpet industry and so many Hispanics joined his staff, learning Spanish became critical. In order to better communicate with those employees, Daddy took Spanish classes provided by the company. However, Daddy talked some of his Hispanic employees into completing his homework and didn’t retain many phrases past the basics.

Per his field of carpet, learning “earplug” ranked high on the list of daily terminology. Daddy educated us on this topic after Timber’s undergraduate commencement ceremony at a Mexican restaurant surrounded by her closest friends.

“You gotta be real careful how you say ‘earplug’ in Spanish. It’s ‘tapón,’ which sounds a lot like ‘tampon.’ So when you’re tellin’ people to put in their tapóns, watch out.”

A Hispanic waiter emerged to take his drink order.

“Hola,” Daddy said, chip crumbs falling from his lips.

Daddy’s rich Spanish education explains his most frequent phone salutation. “Hola. Buenos días. ¿Cómo está usted?” he asks. Usually the person on the other end remains silent. “HOLA. BUENOS DÍAS. ¿¿¿CÓMO ESTÁ USTED???” he repeats with furrowed brows. The caller, we assume a telemarketer, often hangs up, and I wallow guffawing on the floor. (After all, the people who really know Daddy would respond with “Hey Robert…”)

Daddy inspired Timber and me to record unique voicemail messages on the phone in our shared college dorm room. In my favorite one, we played “Meltdown” from the Requiem for a Dream soundtrack in the background, violent violin strums providing the perfect backdrop.

“Hi, you have reached Hell,” Timber announces. *Then I scream loudly.* “Please leave a message,” she continues.

Daddy hated that voicemail greeting and would leave us this message until we changed it: “This is Heaven. CALL HEAVEN.”

Soon after Timber graduated, she modeled in a runway show for a friend who opened a lingerie store in Dalton, Georgia. The show took place at a bar, so Timber naturally donned a camouflage sequined bra and panty set. Somehow Daddy found out about it and left this voicemail on her cellphone: “Victoria’s Secret called. They said to go get yoself an education.” (I guess he wanted Timber to go to graduate school, which she has done…twice.)

The last time I visited home, the telephone rang and Daddy answered, “Hola. Buenos días. ¿Cómo está usted?”

The caller could never fathom how happy I felt to hear that.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 21, 2012 1:51 am

    Bobbin, I didn’t know about your Dad’s memory loss. I am sorry to hear about it. Thankfully, my Daddy never lost his memory before he died, but I am going through it with my mother now. She came over at Christmas and she couldn’t figure out how to unbuckle her seat belt to get out of the car or remember to turn the ignition off. Once I got her out of the car, I saw that she had wreck the car on the passenger side. I asked her what happened, and she just stared at it like she didn’t know what happened. When she came inside and sat down, she was just mumbling, not even finishing complete sentences. I kept my composure while she was visiting and continued to talk and ask her questions like I would normally do. She tells me that she isn’t supposed to be driving and I ask why. She says because the doctors have told her not to, but she doesn’t say why they don’t want her to. She gives the girls their Christmas money and says she has to go. I walk her back out to the car and she notices her car being wrecked on the passenger side now and asked me if I knew how that happened…. I sighed and told her no, that we would get it figured out though. I hug and kiss her goodbye after that and watch and make sure she puts her seatbelt on as she drives away. After she is gone out of sight, then and only then, do I break down crying…. That wasn’t how my mother was supposed to be and I didn’t know what to do. Thankfully, the next day, her husband calls me and lets me know that she got home safely and proceeds to tell me that she had ran over their mailbox on the way out to come see me the day before and that he took her to the ER when she got back home and they found out she was having mini-strokes and it was causing her memory loss. The mini-strokes have lessened thankfully and she is starting to remember more now. If there is ever a time you need someone to talk to about things, please don’t hesitate to send me a message on FB. I will gladly talk with you.

  2. March 21, 2012 7:27 am

    Pam, I am so sorry to hear that your mother is experiencing memory loss. Memory loss at all levels is heartbreaking and distressing, and affects so many people. I hope that your mother’s memory continues to stabilize. It is bittersweet to think that we are embarking on exciting chapters of our lives as our parents age and experience health problems. Please message me as well if I can do anything to help.

  3. Timber permalink
    March 25, 2012 12:21 pm

    I have to say, the Spanish telephone greeting happens to be one of my favorites, especially when the caller doesn’t respond! Maybe I should call the house phone and see if I can elicit some of that Latino flavor.

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