In Honor of My Mother-in-Law
This will be the first Mother’s Day without my mother-in-law Lynda Allen. She went home to be with the Lord on Black Friday last year, a truly black day for our family. In honor of my mother-in-law I thought I would share my eulogy with you.
December 6, 2013 - Over the past week, preparing for this funeral I have learned a lot about the woman that raised my husband. Part of me is sad because I didn’t learn about these things while she was alive, but another part of me knows it’s because in many ways Lynda was a very private person and didn’t share much of her past with us. So, let me tell you a little bit of what I learned about the woman I called Mom A.
Lynda was born in Chicago, Illinois on Jan. 20, 1925 she was one of 5 children. Her mother Susan was born in Poland and came to America when she was 17. Her father Jim, was American born, of polish descent. Lynda grew up in the Chicago area and had a happy childhood. When she was 16 she quit school to go to work in a factory because she wanted to have nice clothing. At the age of 19 she enlisted in the Women’s Army Air Corp but later transferred to the Women in the Air Force where she achieved the rank of sergeant. She served as a cryptographer and teletype operator in communications in San Francisco and later volunteered for overseas duty in the European theatre of war, working in Paris, France and later at the Schweinfurt Air Force Base, in Germany. While she was in the military she also finished high school.
From the time she was eight, Lynda dreamed of becoming a glamorous and wealthy movie star. She studied drama at DePaul University of Chicago for two years. She continued her drama education and in 1954 she graduated from Pasadena Playhouse Association College of Theatre Arts in Pasadena California. Over a four year period Lynda enjoyed performing in 35 school and semi-professional plays. After not breaking into show business she returned to the Chicago area where she worked as a secretary. She met and fell in love with her husband Doug when the companies they both worked at underwent a merger and she was employed as his secretary, they married in 1958.
Lynda relocated to New Jersey with her husband and had two children my brother-in-law in 1960 and The Director in 1964. In 1972 she moved to Orlando because as she says “I had always like Florida on the many visits I made when I was a single gal.” It was around this time that she entered a new phase of her life, she became a divorced, working woman. To her dismay, the salaries for secretaries in 1972 were very low. It also didn’t help that she had been out of the work force for 14 years. She fought an uphill financial battle from that point on. She worked two jobs in order to meet her financial obligations and maintain her home. For about seven years she worked as a secretary, then she became a claims analyst servicing large accounts in the area of unemployment claims and continued to do this until she was let go due to down-sizing, she was 77 then. (As a side note, while cleaning out paperwork, we found employment applications dated 2002, so she was looking for work after she was let go.) Her “moonlighting” job was a sales associate for a large department store. She worked in the woman’s dress department and outlasted the store itself as it changed hands numerous times during her employment.
When asked how she could work two jobs she hesitated before answering, because she thought it was no big deal when working two jobs was a necessity. She said it helped that the two jobs were diverse. The thing she hated most about moonlighting was that she felt she hadn’t lived a normal life in years. She didn’t get very many Saturday’s and Sunday’s off together, and she didn’t have much of a social life. In addition, she was concerned about the state of her home, in her words, “My home would not pass a white glove inspection as it would have when I was married and a homemaker.”
From 1972 to 1988 she also managed to return to school and get her real estate license, but because she didn’t have the capitol reserve to get started, she was unable to do anything with it. Then she became licensed with a large insurance company and began selling insurance on a part-time basis on the evenings she wasn’t working at the department store. Yes she worked three jobs at one time in order to support her household. She also became a notary, anything to bring in some extra money.
She was very active in several church ministries (I don’t know how she did it or where she found the time!) Until a few years ago she had been a member of one of the local Catholic Churches for years. It was there that she was a catechist, a lecture, and served in the Ministry to the Sick. In 1983 even though she and her husband were divorced, after he suffered a stroke, was hospitalized and later confined to a nursing home, she acted as his representative. She visited him regularly and saw to his needs over a four year period before he passed away in 1987.
As Lynda got older her values changed considerably. In 1988, she wrote that her interests now lie in the miseries of humanity. “Working through the trauma and adjustments of my divorce, visiting the forgotten in hospitals, and witnessing the negligence in care of the sick and elderly in a nursing home has filled my heart with compassion and concern for people in this world who need help. I am most interested in the homeless population of the country. Since I love my home and have always lived in a home I believe every person should have a place to live.” Her love for her home was evident even up to the end of her life, days before her death she told us she just wanted to be home. She also had a great concern for the drug situation in the country and felt that if we could solve the drug problem, the crime rate at the local and national level would drop. Additionally, she was also concerned with the illiterate, she was trained and began teaching illiterate adults how to read.
Lynda has always been an unselfish person; even when she had very little money, she donated to many charities and Catholic missions including the Lasallettes. She was a very generous gift giver, I found note after note after note of thanks for the gifts she had sent to family and friends for various different occasions. She helped both her sons while they were in college. She allowed them to live at home with her and financially she helped when she was able to. Once she even purchased her younger sister Dee Dee a bicycle when their parents could not.
In her later life when she retired Lynda had dreams of selling real estate and felt that she would be really good at it. She always wanted to visit Mary’s house in Turkey. She wanted to get more involved in the local literacy groups and teach adults how to read. She wanted to play with her grandkids and help out with their schooling. She wanted to get more involved at church, swim, garden, and read.
While I felt like her daughter-in-law long before, in 1991 Lynda officially welcomed me into her family when The Director and I were married. In 1994 Lynda became a grandmother for the first time, she would go on to fill that role for four additional kids. Until she was afflicted with shingles she worked very hard at being the best grandmother she could be. Her home was filled with all kinds of toys (even obnoxious noise making toys that you would NEVER find in my house!), books, VCR tapes, play-doh and treats for kids. When my older two kids would go over to her house to play she would put a big sheet on the floor, pull out the play-doh and toys plop down on the floor with them and play for hours. Even though she hated it, because my kids wanted to watch it every time they went to her house, it was their favorite movie, she would always put on The Little Engine that could for them and then watch it with them again. When The Organized Child was about six, Lynda took her out shopping and to lunch. Lynda bought her a whole new wardrobe. In fact from the time they were born she bought my older two kids just about all of their clothes. At Christmas she asked for a list because she wanted to get the kids what they really wanted. When Oldest was about four she bought the kids a motorized Jeep. Over the years she bought them bikes and other large ticket items for their birthdays and Christmas’. I never realized she didn’t have a lot of money and probably really couldn’t afford to buy this stuff for my kids. She always had a huge smile on her face when they opened their presents, I know she really enjoyed giving to them.
For the past ten years or so, because of the shingles, her health and her demeanor had deteriorated. She struggled with debilitating pain, lymphoma, which did go into remission, and I what believe, depression. All she wanted was to be able to drive again and live out her dreams, when that didn’t seem to be what her fate was going to be, she seem to give up. It was very hard for me to watch her choose to essentially stop living. I feel very sad that my younger three kids didn’t get to fully experience the grandma that my older two kids did. I was also unhappy to hear recently, that Oldest realized several years ago that grandma wasn’t going to be like she once was, had already mourned that loss. Preparing for her funeral, learning new things about her, like her dreams and aspirations has made me even sadder because I realize how much I have missed the Lynda prior to 2002.
I think I will miss Christmas time with her the most! One year a few years back despite her not being able to drive, she managed to order everyone a Christmas present from a catalog. She ordered The Director and me t-shirts that were personalized with our kid’s names on them. I will cherish that t-shirt even though my two youngest kid’s names aren’t on it. She also ordered The Director these massive, overstuffed, fluffy green and white Irish slippers that are made to look like sneakers, they are hilarious! I know I’m going to miss the box of citrus fruit, with the jelly and candy delivered to my house, even though I live in Florida and only twenty minutes from her house and the box of Whitman’s chocolates she got us each year. And, I’m going to hate not buying Fiddle Faddle, citrus fruit, a box of Russell Stover’s nuts and chews, Hickory Farms cheese, cracker and beef stick and Winn Dixie gift card for her each year. I’m really going to hate not seeing her smile as she opened each of the same gifts year in and year out.
Like every parent I believe she did the best she could with what she had at the time. She raised two very good men, she loved them deeply and did the best she could for them. The man with kids, the one I claim as my husband, is a great dad. She fought hard for what she thought was right. She was feisty and stubborn. She worked hard to make a life for herself and her kids. She played hard with her first two grandkids. She was a generous and loving woman, one that I am proud to have known, I am truly honored to have been her daughter-in-law and will miss her very much.
I pray this mother’s day Lynda is resting in the arms of her savior and spending time with Our Lady whom she loved dearly.
All names have been changed for anonymity.