I knew something was wrong with mum when she stopped putting her make up on.
This was the woman who would get up at 6am to put her Carmen Rollers in, and never left the house without lipstick.
But a couple of years after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s she just ‘forgot’ to put her make up on one day, and then stopped altogether.
I actually found it shocking to see her barefaced. My glamorous mum, who had used her physical blessings to charm and flirt her way through life, looked vulnerable without her war paint.
Feminism to her meant being able to dance alone rather than waiting for a boy to ask you, turning down the queues of suitors who waited outside her hotel in Italy simply because she was blond, paying your own way round the world and rising from post -war poverty through shear hard work to return to school in her 30’s and finally get her A-levels and go to university. And earning enough of her own money to buy herself the fancy clothes she had always wanted as a child.
In the swinging 60’s she worked as a tour guide on the Costa Brava (a very glamorous profession in the early days of international tourism) and would get her hair blow dried everyday before hitting the beach and covering herself in olive oil to tan quicker. In the 70’s she had poker straight waist length blond hair, drove a yellow open top sports car and had a boyfriend 10 years younger than her (my dad). A cougar before if was fashionable! In the 80's she wore boxy power suits with nautical trims to her high powered executive job, while still managing to beguile her clients with her looks and charm.
These are my memoires of my mum. Gorgeous, glamorous and strong.
Now after I help her shower, I look for her make up bag and offer to ‘do her face’. As I fill in her eyebrows and gently apply the blusher it feels like a poignant ritual. And after the lipstick is on she looks more like herself – or my image of her. She’s still an attractive woman. And she looks far to young to act this old.
So if, as the evidence suggests, Alzheimer’s may be hereditary (my granny had it too), and I get this awful disease, I only ask one thing – please, for the love of god, will someone put some slap on me?