Me, Sher, and Ad

Me, Sher, and Ad
Bro Adam and sis Sher, my rocks!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Remembering Past Voices

This blogpost is a bit sad and melancholy. As the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, arrives at sundown, so begins the 10 days of Atonement, culminated by the most sacred of Jewish holidays, Yom Kippur. After a day of fasting, we ask for forgiveness from G-d of our sins. We also say prayers to honor the departed in our lives, the Yizkor or the Kaddish. I guess that is one of the reasons I began to think about those that have passed on in my life.

I was listening to CNN awhile back in which reporter Anderson Cooper was speaking about sadly losing the memory of people's voices as time moves on. I have been lucky enough to remember most of the voices of those that I was close with. His report got me thinking that we often remember people's faces and experiences with them, but how often do we actually try to remember our conversations with them and what they sounded like?

One of negative aspects of growing older is that you start experiencing forgetfulness sometimes referred to as "tip of the tongue" phenomenon. Forgetting voices is another example. I remember the voices of those who have just recently passed on much better. Those from years, or rather decades past, tend to be now snippets of conversation, various words a person said, or just feelings associated with a loved one's vocal sounds.

I guess you also tend to remember "how" someone spoke to you:  hard, soft, with an accent, mellifluous, words perfectly accentuated, positively, negatively, just to name a few examples.

I remember my Mother's voice very well. She had a pleasant medium-pitched voice. It wasn't highly pitched or overtly feminine. Unfortunately, towards the end of her life it became wheezy due to her emphysema and asthma but it was still a lovingly nagging mom-voice. I hear it in my dreams just as clear as the last day we spoke. I can still hear my Mom yelling my name, "MARC!" for me to come downstairs to do my chores or come to dinner.

I remember my Aunt Janet Newman as being soft spoken. Her husband, my Uncle Julian, had a very very deep voice. Almost scarily so. My Aunt Emmy had a gravely voice and her husband, my Uncle Chic, spoke in a very intellectual way, clearly thinking out his thoughts before speaking. Their daughter-in-law, my cousin Jean, had a motherly nudging air about her voice, with a strong North Jersey accent.

John's father, Joe's voice was haltingly gruff tinged with years of proud hard work in a blue collar job at Bethlehem Steel. If Joe was pissed off, he sometimes interspersed his conversations with the more colorful Italian words. I learned a lot of old school wisdom from that man.

I remember my father's close friend Tia's voice as soft, breathily and endlessly romantic. Mellifluous and poetic. I love how she spoke, like a walking Harlequin romance novel.

Close family friend Debbie Clement spoke lovingly with a soft Southern Jersey twang. Her voice reflected a kindness that so many who knew her remember to this day.

With some people you only remember their laughs. I lost four friends when I worked during my years waiting tables in Philly. My friend Mel, who was friends with the City Tavern gang, had a deep laugh that went on forever. I loved to get  him started laughing because he just couldn't stop. The manager James, whom I became good friends with, had this sing songy Southern twang and the most delightful cackle when he laughed. I worked with a gal named Kim Haynes at Houlihan's. She and I used to joke we were husband and wife working together. Her voice was deep and raspy from years of smoking and her hearty laugh reflected that. My good friend Don's voice, my manager at the Westbury, was rather halting but in an instructing, matter of fact tone. It was a kind voice though, almost fatherly.

Unfortunately, I just have snippets of certain voices that I play back in my mind. My grandparents, Leslie and Lavina Haynes come to mind. They passed away in the 80's. Her's was a soft Midwestern accent. Grandpa Haynes' was the rather flat but folksy monotone reflecting his years in education and teaching. My Mom's parents passed in the 70's. They are harder to remember, with Nanny's being slightly gravely from age but nevertheless soft spoken and Grandpop's voice remembered as booming, deep, and commandeering to my young ears.

I don't remember the voice of my Dad's dear friend Wayne Ackerman, a big grizzly bear of a man who was dear to us. Not quite yet an uncle, but much more than a family friend. I remember just more emotions associated with him, such as kindness and trust.

Think back and remember those voices of your family and friends who have passed on. In a quiet space, or before bed, try to remember what they sounded like in conversation. You may find yourself dreaming of them, and wouldn't that actually be wonderful?


  1. I found this very interesting. I can't seem to recall voices... or faces for that matter. My memories of people, living or dead. seem to be more of a composite of personality and behavior. The details of life just seem to pass me by. How different we all are, and isn't that wonderful?

  2. Well said Marc. You've made me go back and remember some voices in my life. Thank you.

  3. Thanks guys, for your comments. I particularly enjoyed writing this piece. I agree, Lou, that with some people, such as our family friend Wayne, has become more memories of an emotional connection and his personality.

  4. Thank you Marc. I remember some voices and will work on recalling more. Thank you.Morag