What Can I Tell You About Yvonne Manasse?
My brother, Mark, and I appreciate your attendance this afternoon, January 18th, 2018, to help us say farewell to our mother, Yvonne Manasse. She lived to the age of 74, as her birthday was on January 2nd, 1944. My name is Catherine, but my mother always called my Cathy.
So, what can I tell you about our mother?
When I was a child, most of the things my mother did made little sense to me. I was often confused and frustrated by her decisions; and her classic explanation was: Because I said so. Never an elaboration for rationale given. As I matured, her later explanation was, “Cathy, one day you will have children of your own, and then, you will understand.” That answer was equally unsatisfying. However, I eventually DID have children of my own. Still, the things my mother did confounded me. BUT, now I understood WHY she did them. She made her choices because she loved us and she wanted us to be safe, successful people.
Yvonne, my mother, was the youngest of four children. She was a hard person to know. Certainly, she could be kind. She could speak sweetly, and could make a quick friend with any stranger. To go deeper with her, though, was a challenge. In retrospect, she was not one to give advice or make demands. She accepted situations as they were. She NEVER demanded to know when I planned on getting married. And, likewise, never pushed for an expected date for grandchildren. In that way, I thought she was unusual, as far as parents go- especially since our father passed away when Mark and I were teenagers.
I can tell you that she was a dedicated mother, serious about her duties. Our house was always clean, she cooked dinner every night, she handled all the laundry herself- all tasks any maid could do; but what I think made her motherly was, for example, the times when I was sick. She would wheel the tv into my bedroom, bring me a cup of hot tea with honey, and once I was feeling better, she would sit beside me on my bed and talk or play games. And, she made a hot breakfast for me every morning before school. During the summertime, she would play board games and card games with us-and she could be VERY SILLY! She could make us laugh until we’d cry and beg her to stop. She could make us laugh like that with her storytelling, too.
When I state that my mother was a hard person to know, that doesn’t mean she was a difficult person to like. She could be compassionate, patient, and downright hilarious. But, I can’t say that I really knew her. The stories she told me were rarely about herself, and when they were, I cannot attest to the quality or quantity of their validity. For example, more than once she told me that, as a child, she and a friend used to run across the rooftops of houses in the neighborhood. I doubt it. She also shared with me she was runner-up in a beauty pageant, perhaps; that she was a surfer, she really meant “body surfing”; and that she was a dancer. I did observe her dance at my wedding with my father-in-law, and, therefore, I think that one is probably true.
Factual information I can share with you is that she was born in Brooklyn, grew up in Redondo Beach, she loved music, and she loved babies. Also, she was a secret, mathematical accounting genius. She listened to Elvis and The Beach Boys. I remember riding in the Ford Pinto and hearing a lot of Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, and The Bee Gee’s. She was one to sing and hum and make up nonsense songs while doing her housework. And I remember that she was a substantial John Travolta fan. I got to see Saturday Night Fever in the movie theater when I was probably only 7 or 8 years old. When it came to babies, every one of them was special, but none more so than her own. She took countless pictures of us and made detailed baby books-before that type of thing was considered a hobby. She even ran a home daycare business until I was in second grade. But her cloaked surprise was discovered when we moved her to assisted living just a few years ago. When I asked my mom if there was anything special I should bring to her new home, she asked for her “records”. My sister-in-law, Tauni, and I turned her home upside-down looking for The Beach Boys, Neil Diamond, and Barry Manilow. There were no records. What she meant, was boxes and boxes and boxes of her very organized and careful documentation of every purchase of every penny ever spent, and their calculated consequences going back for decades! Each one scripted in her own delicate hand, and in its appropriate column. Receipts included. So in her head, there was a desire for massive organization. After years of, “Because I said so,” this level of complex thinking is hard for me to reconcile. This is just one type of example demonstrating that she could be a hard person to know.
I can tell you that my mother was nothing if not independent. Alzheimer’s disease robbed her of that. I feel compelled to thank Dora and Tony from Glenwood Care and Nurse David from Eden Hospice for providing exceptional care for her- and communication with me- throughout her decline. I am humbled by the daily care, comfort, and dignity they gave not only my mother, but their other patients as well. When I would visit my mom, never once did she complain. She was not upset. She made no demands. She never said out loud, “Why me?” And I do not recall a time when she began a sentence with, “I wish…”, “I want…”, or “ I need…”
In closing, what I can tell you about Yvonne Manasse is that she did not put herself first. I did not know her very well, but she raised us right and she kept us safe. She set us up to be successful people, as evidenced by all of you here who took time out of your lives to support us today. By my definition, that is a successful mother. My brother and I are grateful. Thank you.