Monday, November 10, 2008

Edna Irene Lowrey Scott Capen

April 15, 1923 - Oct. 24, 2008

Mom was a leg model. c. 1949

Who knew my mother liked dogs?? Undated photo.

She did like to party though. Also, undated, but I'm taking a wild guess from the furniture (all Colonial, all the time), that this was in the '70s, when she finally got her own apartment.

"That's not the woman I knew," was my main thought as my eldest half-brother began sharing his memories of my mother at her funeral.

My brother spoke of my mother finally finding happiness with her third husband, after two failed marriages, with whom she lived in the Bay Area for many years, before moving to the wilds of West Virginia only seven or so years ago. He remembered her for her sense of humor (I do concede that she had one), and for a lightness that she had about her that he said he inherited (this is where he started losing me), and that she never held a grudge (OK, now we're talking about two different people).

Of course, she didn't raise him. He and my half-sister were raised by their father and step-mother in California, while my mother and father lived in New Haven, raising me and my brother.

(It's like that Facebook relationship status: It's complicated.)

It was a tough funeral—even as I write I realize how ridiculous a statement that is. Are there easy funerals? Where everyone has had a chance to, you know, make up and laugh and remember good times and there's no pain ... you know, like the Hallmark cards of funerals?

One week after Mom's funeral, I went on my church's yearly silent retreat here.

It's about a five-hour ride from D.C., so I rode up with three woman I had never met before, and none knew my mother had just died. One woman started talking about Whidbey Island, and about a relative's funeral she attended there. How the entire family helped dig the grave, how the mother's ashes were sprinkled in, how the grandchildren placed mementos in the grave, and how everyone then covered the ashes back up.

And I found myself feeling jealous—of a funeral.

Well, Mom's funeral wasn't like that. But then her life wasn't like that either, so what did I expect?

She was a Depression baby, the first high school graduate in her family of six, and determined to have the nicer things in life. And that led to a life of "creative financing," as she liked to call it. She worked at Yale Law School, first as an at-home typist, then as a legal secretary, when women didn't work. After her death I found a three-page letter from her bosses to Yale's human resource office commending her work, saying she was the "best secretary" they had ever had, did the work of "three people," often worked weekends and nights, and asking for a big raise for her.

I also found a handwritten note from President Gerald Ford, thanking my mother for all her help during some visit he made to Yale.

So many things I could write about her, but I won't.

The woman I knew as a child was desperately unhappy. DESPERATELY. She tried leaving once, when I was in 6th grade, but took me and my brother with her.

That didn't work.

She finally left for good—by herself—when I was in eighth grade. I found out when I saw her dresser had been cleaned out.

The innocent years. 1962. Me and my older brother T.

I saw her regularly throughout adolescence. She'd meet me and my brother at a local diner for breakfast every now and then.

Reconnecting with siblings: My one-year-older brother T., me, and my nine-year older brother, B.

There was a long drawn out divorce. Long, contested, bitter, bitter divorce.

But I'm straying.

My mother was a strong person. No question she followed her dreams. She loaded up her car and moved cross country to Oakland, Calif., (when she was in her late 50s) with her husband-to-be, while I was in college, and started a new career at Clorox, rising to executive secretary to the president, where she worked until she retired at age 75.

She had moxie, that one.

So when I was asked to speak, I was at a loss. So much to say that was better left unsaid. So much hurt.

Instead, I read this:

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the mourning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
--William Butler Yeats

Rest in peace, Mommy.


21stCenturyMom said...

Oh my... what a hard, hard, thing you went through. I think the funerals of loving families are more joyful and more genuinely painful - the pain of love lost. Your pain is more of things never owned. So sorry. I hope your retreat helped.

eileen said...

...and after all those years, you, thank God, are a wonderful daughter and a wonderful mother to another wonderful daughter. Peace, my sweet sister in law.

BettyBetty said...

Very touching post. Your mom had moxie alright. I like the pictures. The couch looks too familiar. Family dynamics are strange aren't they? My Mom always questioned how my Father's family could have such a good time at funerals. He was 1 of 10. They would bury a brother at a very solemn catholic mass and then go have a good time at a restaurant like it was any other day. Anyway, I hope you are doing alright.

LBTEPA said...

oh Jeanne
you are a credit to yourself

Runner Susan said...

Jeanne, I've missed you. I'm not good at saying things about dying or death, but you, obviously, were a very good daughter and you are a fantastic mother.

I hope the retreat was good for you.

Susan said...


I've never been to a "good" funeral, either.

Thomas said...

Very frank, very honest, and very moving.

ShirleyPerly said...

Interesting that there was so much about your mom you didn't know. The same is true of my mom, even though she did raise me and my parents were never divorced. I'm glad you were able find some fitting words to say at her funeral. Indeed, some things are best left unsaid.

peter said...

Aw Jeanne, you made me cry.

Laufenweg said...

heartfelt condolences for the loss of your mother. it's wonderful that you've shared her with us. we will all carry along her memory.

Anne said...

I bet there wasn't a dry eye in the house after you read that poem. It's wonderful that you came to terms with your mother and how she chose to live; many daughters would not.

David said...

I feel for you. How difficult. The poem was so Jeanne and most fitting.

Live in peace, Jeanne.

Jade Lady said...

Thank you for sharing your mother's life with us. I've only been to one memorial service, and it was hard (my dad's). It as a lovely poem you selected. Take care...

Vickie said...

Very touching and sad. I hope you can get over your pain soon and be in a better place. Its never easy losing a parent, but especially when you obviously were at odds with her lifestyle choices. I'm sure you felt abandoned to some degree. My mother also worked her whole life, my whole childhood, and I was basically raised by my grandmother. My memories of her and the lessons I learned from her are more clear than those of my mom, although my mom was remarkable in her own right. I know she wasn't happy either and probably would have left if she didn't have 6 kids who depended on her. But still, even when she died, I felt slightly betrayed by her life choices. I hope my kids don't feel that way about mine!

Zinazinabobina said...

Hugs for you.

Judi said...

well i am in tears. i am sorry for the loss of your mom, jeanne. i don't know what else to say but i am glad to see you back to blogging. hugs to you jeanne.

Mark said...

Oh Jeanne,

I'm so sorry to hear about your mom.

Take very good care of yourself.

Love ya,

Jon (was) in Michigan said...

So sorry for your loss, Jeanne. :(

Dori said...

You resemble your mom. And she had great legs!

That was a beautiful poem; I wonder how you were able to read it without choking on tears. You were wise to read a poem instead of portraying her in a realistic light and (probably) pissing off family members. This post was a nice tribute, though.

My childhood had a lot of negatives, too. It took a long time before I could accept the past and realize I didn't have to suffer from its effects any more.

Phil said...

Thanks for sharing the pics and comments on your mother. You had me sniffling by the end. Relationships with our mothers are never simple and rarely fit into the prepackaged societal expectations. I'd like to tell you that the pain of loosing a parent goes away with time, but it really only morphs into your inner being.

Thanks again for sharing.

Curly Su said...

god, our relationships with our parents are really hard, aren't they? i admire your strength at dealing with speaking at the funeral, and your courage at going to the retreat. hope the grieving and healing process is one that passes quickly for you.