Saturday, May 16, 2020

Remembering Mom: If Her Services Had Been About Her

Mom was entombed yesterday. Her service was a lovely sermon that she would likely have despised. It isn't that the minister wasn't eloquent. It was that he talked too much about religion, and got too many things about her incorrect.

To be fair, the job of speaking at her service was offered to me before the minister was hired. I declined. I had the experience speaking at Dad's service. Besides not having practiced public speaking for almost two decades, Mom never asked me to do her service. Dad did. There were points during his service that, if I had broken down, I probably could not have recovered. I was practiced in those days. To that end, it is as much my fault as anyone else's that Mom's services turned into a sermon like at a church service.

If you are a devout Christian, and you believe the only path to Heaven is to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your savior, to love the Bible, and to offer others comfort in the Lord's words, I hate to be the one to break the news that Mom went to hell. If, however, you think Heaven is for good and honest people who love and help others with a joyous spirit and a happy heart, you can rest contented that she just spent her first Mother's Day with David in Heaven. She did not, as the minister said, "rejoice in the Lord," and she avoided situations in which there were public displays of crap like that.

However, forgiving him for telling everyone that she's bound for hell based on his, not her, beliefs, he also got several things incorrect about her and her life.

Mom was not part of The Greatest Generation.

The Greatest Generation are the people who were old enough to fight in World War II. The last of The Greatest Generation were ten years old by the time she was born. 

She was not in the generation of Rosie the Riveter and Lawrence Welk. That was her mother's generation. By the time World War II rolled around, there were already child labor laws that prevented six to ten year-old children from working in arms and munitions factories. That was her age range during the war. Not only was she a child during WWII, the Korean War was over before she was an adult. 

She was about five months younger than Elvis Presley. She was only five years older than John Lennon. The generation between The Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers is sometimes called the Beatnik Generation. It is also called the Silent Generation. She didn't live through the stock market crash; she was born at the tail end of The Great Depression. The crash was more than five years before she was born. FDR's New Deal was already going, and people were starting to find living wage work through conservation and works programs. 

From my conversations with Mom, her favorite singer was Jim Reeves. She talked about crying when the news broke that he was killed in a plane crash. She also liked the big bands with singers, but Dad didn't. If we heard Sinatra playing on the stereo, Dad was probably at work. However, she usually wouldn't miss her soap operas to listen to Sinatra.

She got to see Marty Robbins with May Anderson back in the '70s. The Statler Brothers opened for him. I don't remember her going to many other concerts. She did not like loud music or crowds. Of the more modern artists, she like Barry Manilow and The Carpenters. We listened to a lot of Jimmy Buffett, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, and a bunch of her CDs on our road trip to see Bugg graduate from basic military training.

Mom did not think those premonitions were God sent.

She didn't hate God. She hated those damned premonitions, though. She did not brag about those as if it were a talent she enjoyed; it was something she confided with those she trusted to talk about things she hated.

She had a fear of people with serious mental health issues, and she also had a fear of drowning. Both of those were due to experiences, though. 

She did not embrace these premonitions any more than she would have embraced swimming lessons at the state mental hospital. When the minister said I had written about this gift from God, he totally misrepresented what I said about her premonitions. They were all about death, including one about the death of her child. She did not praise God for letting her see it. If anything, she might have asked God by name to damn those dreams.

If you imagine those premonitions as a gift that Mom enjoyed, you never talked to her about those premonitions. She felt helpless in them. They were nightmares before they were premonitions, not sweet dreams. The minister's account of those was so far off base that he actually represented them backwards. She thought of them as a curse from hell, and not in any way as a blessing.

Also, she only knew of two of them. Take as long as you need to think about it.

Mom did not like business; she liked working.

A couple of months before Dad and Mom officially bought the office, Mom began the transformation of the files from Jim Scott's system to Dad's. She put in many hours as Dad would go down there after work at CCCS to help get things ready for the next day. Sometimes their days would last twelve hours.

(Perhaps coincidentally, Maureen got married in May and gave Mom her first grandchild seven months later. Also, that was the year that I took up smoking pot and experimenting with other drugs. Anyway, back to the business.)

Mom took a supporting role in the office. She not only did not like conducting business, she didn't like supervising employees or projects. This worked great for both Dad and Mom. They never had a power struggle within the office. If the employees needed guidance, they went to Dad. If the employees needed assistance or support, they went to Mom.

As the office evolved after Dad's death, I assumed the supervisory role while Mom retained her support role. We never had a power struggle, either. She never tried to exert authority over me because she didn't have to. As the manager, my duty was to the owner, and that was her. She not only didn't have Dad's business savvy, she also did not have the same reasons to keep the office going that he did. 

The office was the source of Dad and Mom's income. Mom continued to derive her income from the office for a while after Dad died, but she also started drawing Social Security three years before we closed it. We had protected her personal assets through incorporation, so, despite that some stiff competition had entered the market again, there was absolutely no reason to risk her personal assets to try to survive it. As I recall, it took about a year to actually get it closed once the decision was made.

Another business venture she had was when I worked a deal with Mom's backing that resulted in part ownership of a car lot. She loaned the company some money and I put up some effort with planning and getting customers, and we each owned one-fourth of a repossession sales lot along with two managing partners. There were some issues with one of the managing partners that resulted in Mom and me visiting the state revenue agency. She did not enjoy conducting that business.

Mom did not like her integrity questioned. The revenue agent was doing that. She claimed to have knowledge of the full situation, including the fact that Mom had the most assets of the four of us. She got this information from the poor managing partner who we left to take the heat without any funds, or even any authority to write checks. After we negotiated how much we needed to put down, I called the office. That partner wasn't there, but the other one was. He checked the checkbook, and there were enough funds to write a check. I told him to bring it over with the last statement. When I showed her that the managing partner had written almost every check in the statement, she knew she had been duped.

The state agent told me she was sorry. I accepted her apology and told her she was to call me sir for the rest of the meeting. Our partner shared that what our other partner was doing made more sense after hearing what was going on. He had been holding cash at the office because he didn't trust us, and to prevent the state from grabbing it all. There was not enough to cover the obligation, but there was plenty to continue operations without finding a quick source for some funding.

If Mom didn't like that part of the business world, she really did not like the next job, which was for the three of us to confront the business partner who had set the situation up. With all of us there, his tactic of telling everyone something different fell apart. When we left that meeting, we had the paperwork needed for each of us to own one-third of the business. She absolutely hated that part of business. That experience really soured her on being a business owner.

Mom enjoyed riding out to the car lot. She loved our partner, Rich. He always had a few projects waiting for her to do when she visited. However, as competing auctions became more and more popular, Rich decided he would rather take a job he was offered than to keep running the lot. For five years, it provided me with a cell phone and Mom with medical insurance, but all it ever did for Rich was give him a good job in good months, and stress in other months. 

It was fun while it lasted, but it was not worth investing time or money just to keep it going. As with the office, Mom did not like the business side of business. I doubt she would ever claim the title of "businessperson," let alone consider herself a good one. However, she loved to work.

Again, it was as much my fault as the minister's fault.

There was tremendous stress on Maureen and Kathy to plan the funeral under the circumstances. There were limitations that families don't usually face when getting the final details together for Mom's service. When I declined the offer to speak, I told Maureen that Mom despised evangelism and religious ceremonies. Mom and I had attended enough funerals together that she had made it clear that she wanted her service to be about her, and short and sweet.

Even though I made the right choice for me, I think Mom would have been disappointed with the result of that decision. She would have liked the minister. She would have been gracious to the minister. She would have bowed her head in prayer once or twice. Then she would have found every excuse she could think of to never talk to him again. She didn't enjoy conversations with overly religiously people. For example, she loved waving at the Jehovah's Witnesses who lived across the street, but she didn't like talking to them past polite greetings and well wishes. 

When the minister talked about the women of her era who would get themselves made up to go to the store, he was talking about the women Mom thought were pretentious and fake. Mom wore no make up, and rarely wore even lipstick. She kept her hair short because she hated dealing with styling it. However, there was nothing she loved more than her grandkids, then her great-grandkids, and then her great-great-grandkids brushing her hair. It felt good to her, but what she loved best about it was bonding with the kids.

I don't know what options Kathy and Maureen had. I'm sure the minister is a nice man who is comforting to those who seek his comfort. I was not there to meet a nice minister or to seek the comfort of one. I was there out of a sense of obligation to Mom, and to no one else. It was not a day of reconciliations for me. It was a day for farewells for me, and that farewell was for Mom. 

I started listening to a service that, for the most part, wasn't about her. I would say I sat through it, but I stood and left during three of those damned prayers. I can imagine Mom sitting next to me and rolling her eyes about the third one, and wishing she had the nerve to yell at a state revenue agent or to walk out on a long and tedious sermon.

The minister was a nice man, and it's over. Mom might say "Thank God," and then smile about the irony of her comment!

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Here is a link the video tribute to Yvonne Koecke that was done by her grandson, Tony T. Tittlemouse Koecke.

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Other posts you might enjoy:

Yvonne Koecke (1935-2020): Third Eerie Premonition About Death Came True
Remembering Mom: She Knew Her Tomato Plants
The Family Finale
Pondering Death and Its Options
Remembering Dad: His System of Cycling Junk

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