MOM

20 March 1920 - 25 May, 2008

I have a lot of photos of mother.  I will call her simply Janie.  That is the name she lived and died with.  She was born Catherine Jane, but she never used the first name..  You will see from the photographs, that mother was quite a dish.  The boys buzzed around her like flies at a barbecue.  Her second husband, who will always be Dad to me, was the greatest gift she ever gave me.

Mom was born 20 March 1920 and grew up in Omaha, Nebraska.  She was always active in her music and in fact, enjoyed a brief period wherein she had her own radio show after school.  It was only 15 minutes long, but most people never even get their 15 minutes of fame.  

Mom moved to California when she reached high school age and her mother ran a boarding school in the upstairs two floors of one of the old houses facing a park.  It was down the street from a Danish Old folks home and grandma rented out the upper of the two floors.  Her boarders were college boys and I believe they called themselves the "garret house boys".  

Dinner time was an experience all by itself.  You were allowed to use your boarding house reach so long as you kept both feet on the floor.  These lovely young men learned why not to send your wool socks to the Chinese laundry---they shrink to doll socks.  They had a good natured camaraderie and above all, they learned the importance of just being friends.

After Mom graduated from high school, she married Doug.  They eloped to Las Vegas and she soon learned that Cinderella lied.  Life did not turn out happily ever after and so, shortly after I was born, Doug left us on my grandparents doorstep.  Unfortunately, I didn't fit in a basket so they had to carry me.  My sister was about three or four at the time.  

You must understand that mother never wanted either Carol or me.  I came to terms with that long ago.  I'm not sure that Carol ever did, although we did discuss it at length over the years.  I state this not to fault mother, but because it is simply the way it was.  As you read her journals, you will understand more clearly how my interpretation of our lives and mother's final breakdown with reality  evolved.  I will take our lives back to my earliest memories of our relationships and relate how her actions effected our lives as indeed all things evolve from cause and effect.

Carol and I went beyond sibling rivalry as we grew to adulthood and beyond.  I believe a friend at my church pegged it best.  He said we had a love/hate relationship and that, indeed, describes Carol and I right on point.  We could beat each other up, but the minute someone else attacked one of us, the other was right there in the middle of the fight defending them.  You could not leave us in the same room together without a knock down, drag out battle ensuing, but when we had distance between us, we got along just fine and in fact, had long and friendly discussions together.  After Carol graduated from high school, she went her way and I went mine.  Our lives were so totally different that we no longer had anything in common except for our love of music.

Mother was forced to keep us after her marriage ended in divorce.  She originally left home and married Charlie (or Doug, as she called him) to spite her mother.  She was barely 21 and wanted to be on her own, so she eloped with the first man who would have her, that man being Doug.  I am going to refer him to Doug, rather than Charlie, because that is the name she always called him and it is the name I am more familiar with.  I only met him a year or two before his death and then only for about four weeks.  I was, you see, around him for only the first year or so of my life, so I had no memory of him at all except for what I was told.  But I digress.  Mother discovered, shortly after she married Doug, that she didn't even like him, but she became pregnant almost immediately into the marriage and felt trapped.  To her credit, she tried her best to make the marriage work and stayed with him for five years, but then the war came along and it came to a final blow up.

After Doug left us on my grandparents' doorstep, literally, mother was alone, penniless and with two small children.  My grandmother's edict had been, upon learning of the divorce, was that mother could come back and live with them, but only if she kept her children.  Grandma Lutes had been raised to believe that divorce was something nice women did not do and that it was the mother's fault if something went wrong and it was therefore the mother's responsibility to care for the children she brought into the world.  Grandma's mother was raised in the Catholic tradition as my great great grandmother grew up in the strict Irish Catholic traditions and  although Grandma Carr became a protestant upon her arrival to America, she never left her traditions behind.  Grandma Carr raised Grandma Reisman ( who was then Grace Keebler, but later remarried) in the strict Catholic traditions and some of these traditions continued down the generations as those traditions meshed with the vogue of the times.  Because she had no place else to go, mother agreed with Grandma Lutes and brought us with her to Omaha.  So here she was, a young woman, who desperately wanted a life of her own, with two small daughters and no way out.  In her way, she loved us both, but we were her burden to bear and it showed in her later reactions towards us.  

Several years ago, mother was feeling vulnerable about her old age and gave me some journals that she had been writing in which she expressed her loneliness and regrets about her life.  She gave them to me right before Christmas that year and when you read their contents, you can imagine how depressed it made me feel.  Mother was obsessed with her final love affair to the point she spoke of wanting to die and simply not taking her medications so she could accomplish this.  She buried herself in trips to the casinos where she gambled away thousands of dollars of  income that her second husband had painstakingly provided,  as she wrote in her journal that she  wanted  to die and she was just filling in the time.  So obsessed was she with her ultimate need to gamble, she spoke of little else in her telephone calls other than where she had gone to gamble and whether or not she had won.  She never spoke of her losses, which were staggering given her limited income and resources.  Mother  needed the help of a trained grief therapist to deal with the deaths of those closest to her, my dad, grandma and then her lover, Merritt, but unfortunately, I was not in a position to help her in the way she needed it.  She refused to go to counseling and her well-meaning friends didn't see how badly she was hurting because she hid it from them the same as an alcoholic hides his drinking, and therefore, they encouraged her in her actions.    When I finally tried to help her, she resented the help, denied she had a problem and accused me of being a liar for telling her the truth and of stealing her things.  This was not mother.  It the woman she had become.  

I write not to malign her memory, but to make those who knew her, understand how she viewed life and her place in it.  It was her wish that people understand what she was going through and mother gave me her journals as her final message to all,  along with instructions regarding disposition of certain items in her household.  Her instructions were that I publish them after she was gone as it explained a good deal of what later happened.  Being a dutiful daughter, I promised her I would do exactly as she requested.  I have done as instructed and distributed the belongings she wished to have distributed to Carol at the appropriate time and in publishing her last words have discharged all duties as she required me to do.  She had already been pushing both Carol and I out of her life from the time we left high school.  I now share her thoughts with you to interpret as you will.  Each of the links below will cover a period in our lives.  I ask that you read them in comparison with mother's journals and her final letter to me as her own words tend to support much of what ultimately occurred and explains some of how her life progressed from one milestone to the next and to her ultimate end.

To those who saw her only as happy-go-lucky Jane, she led a long life, but that luck cost her dearly.  As stated in her journal, in five short years, she had gambled  so heavily in suppressing her loneliness that she went through over $40,000 in gambling debts and more.  None of her winnings ever saw her bank accounts.  She reinvested them as fast as she won them.  I cannot excuse her sickness but I can explain it.  I cannot, however, explain away her loneliness as both Carol and I went out of our way to invite her to visit and/or live with us and she declined to do so.  The reason she gave was that California reminded her too much of those unhappy years of her first marriage and she indicated that she had signed something at the close of that marriage that could cause her to be arrested if she were to return to California.  We have never discovered what it was that she signed and were therefore unable to validate her statements or refute them and she never disclosed exactly what happened.  All we know is that it occurred in the attorney's office at the time she signed away her rights to the house.  We have no further knowledge of either the accusations or the innuendoes or satisfactions that were ultimately attained, but the outcome appears to be consistent with the period.

For years, she told her children she could not come to visit because it was too expensive to travel, she was too busy, she didn't like to travel, yet she had time to do the things she wanted, had the money to throw away in gambling and traveled half-way across America to visit a man she hardly knew and who used her and threw her away like a faded bouquet.  In the forty years my family lived in Los Angeles, she visited me exactly five times. These were:

  1. The first time was Grandpa and Grandma's Golden Wedding Anniversary.  She came not to se us, but because of this event.  I just happened to be present.

  2. Her second visit occurred before my daughter was born, Dad and Mom came unexpectedly from Iowa and called to drop off a baby gift.  They stayed for exactly one hour.

  3. The next time she came was when my Aunt Ruth died.  We went to Long Beach to see her.  She was there only long enough to get what she wanted from Aunt Ruth's estate and then she left.

  4. She came a fourth time when she came to pick Grandma Lutes up in Long Beach and took Grandma back to Iowa.  She came up to our home in Reseda for a few days for a visit.

  5. Her final visit was a year later, when she brought Grandma Lutes back for one final visit.  After that Grandma Lutes died and mother never visited us again.  On that last visit, she stayed with us for one week.  This was before we bought our house.  We have lived in our current home for over thirty years and not once did she ever visit us here.

Mom and Dad were to visit us once we moved into our new home, but Dad died of cancer before they were to come.  Mother did not want to come, but Dad was eager to see our house and insisted he was well enough to make the visit.   A week before the scheduled visit, Dad, thinking he was clear of his cancer, went for the doctor's permission to go.  At that time, the doctor discovered his cancer had gone inward and hit all of is vital organs.  He was told he had one week left to live and to go home and put his affairs in order.  He died shortly thereafter.  We did not attend the funeral because mother ordered us not to come as she did not want us there.  Her instructions did not surprise me as she did the same thing when Grandpa and Grandma Lutes passed away and left the same identical instructions for her own funeral.  We did not learn of mother's death and burial until she was gone and in the ground.   

When I was first married, my husband contracted an illness and almost died.  I was pregnant with my first child and asked her to come and be with me.  Mother was too busy.  When my son was born and I asked her to come and be with my daughter while I was in the hospital...Mother was too busy.  When I contracted an allergenic reaction to a virus and needed to be hospitalized as the doctor thought I might die, I called mother and asked her to come and be with my children in case I didn't make it.  Mother was too busy.  I know my sister, had she lived, could share stories exactly like these.  Each and every time mother had an urgent need for my help, I put aside my family and my job and my life and came to be with her, only to be accused of being a liar and a thief for following her written instructions exactly.  When mother's final heart attack came, I knew nothing about it, but it mattered not.  I would not have come.  My life is now to where her life was when this journal began and life is too short to deal with the selfishness and self-centeredness that became my mother.   She died as lonely as she lived, but now she is at peace and so, at last, am I..

Although she expressed great love for her children, mother's actions did not show it.  Would that she had spent even a fraction of that amount  of money and the time involved to throw away that money anyway equal to what she wasted at the casinos to visit those children and grandchildren that she claimed to have loved, perhaps we all would not have shut her out in her final years.  I think that vexed me more than any of the other things mother did to us.  Mother may have forgotten her lifetime of  hurtful words and painful punishments.  Carol and I never did.  Mother's heart attack in 2000 destroyed what was left of our relationship.

In the links below, you will find mother's journals and her final letter to me.  The section regarding the casinos validates the amount of gambling losses claimed.  The Will and the Trust agreement validate that there was no attempt to defraud mother. The reader will find that the wording is almost identical to her proposed wishes and was witnessed both by myself and Carol's daughter, who assisted in drafting the document identified at the Trust Agreement and signed it as a witness.  After mother's heart surgery, I made one final attempt at reconciliation only to be told she wanted to be left alone, and so I complied..  In the Epilogue, I state the facts, as remembered, about why the family fell apart after her heart attack.  In the end, my son's marriage was destroyed, all famial relations with my sister and her family became strained and mother and I never spoke again.

Mother died on May 25, 2008 and was buried in the family plot at Lone Tree Cemetery in Sioux Rapids, Iowa.  I have no reason to return.. 

Life and times of Jane Journal 1 Journal 2 Final Letter
The Will in 2000   The Trust Agreement Settlement Epilogue