Thursday, September 28, 2006


EyleenLast week my mother, Orrie Eyleen Gill Edwards Brent, gently passed away at home. She was 87. She never liked her given first name, so she never used it. She was a bit spunky; she was Eyleen.

My sister and I were looking for a photo of her for her obituary and ran across this one. We had never seen it before but thought it perfect.

An obit can be found at the Richmond Times-Dispatch or here.

Below is a slightly improved version of the eulogy I managed to get through last Sunday.
Almost 60 years ago our family moved to Chase City. We did not know anyone; we had no relatives closer than Richmond. We were dreaded "come here's." But the people here - and especially in this church - embraced our family and Chase City became our home. We thank you.

After our father died, which was 25 years ago but seems sometimes like the-day-before-yesterday, Chase City welcomed our new step-father John Harper Brent. Some of you know that he was mother's high school sweetheart before she met our father. You welcomed him also, making their years together here truly Golden. We thank you.

Over the past year we were blessed to have wonderful ladies who looked after mother as her health declined. They entered our home as employees; they left as family. We thank you.

Most of us embody a set of contradictions. These contradictions are often the foundation of personality. Some of mother's contradictions you may know... and others you may not.

Mother's first priority was always her family. She did her best to spoil her children & grandchildren, with some success I might add. But while her family knew her as a sweet, loving mother and grandmother, we now understand that she had a secret life after we left home - a substitute teacher in the public schools. At least some of her students remember her to this day as Sergeant Edwards. Others have described her as "tough but fair." She would have liked that.

My sister and I never needed to subscribe to the local paper to learn what was going on in town. We had our mother. Mother was our connection to the Chase City Grapevine. I am sure you have heard of it. You may be part of it. But as much as she valued her role passing on the local news, when her hearing began to fail she refused to wear her hearing aid. We know how much she enjoyed conversation and her participation in the "talk of the town." Why she didn't want to use her hearing aid remains a contradiction - a mystery - to us.

Hair. Our mother seemed to have an abiding interest in hair. She was always getting her hair "done" or "fixed." I never had the courage to ask what that really meant. But it seemed to make her happy. Back in the 1960's she developed an interest in my hair, specifically its length. That interest continued into the 1970's. And the 80's. And the 90's. I have fond memories on my visits home of her trailing around behind me with scissors, just to give me a little trim.

Once you got her out of the house, mother loved to travel. She and Harper instilled the love of foreign places in my daughter, for which I am truly grateful. But mother's best trips were those that brought her back home. Malindi learned that lesson also.

Mother collected cookbooks and read them like novels. She warned my sister and me of dire consequences if her collection were to ever end up in a yard sale. And we believe her. She occasionally tried new recipes. But no matter how much they were praised we never saw them again. Like many good restaurants, and some not-so-good, mother had a menu that seldom changed. I still dream of lime congealed salad, with mixed fruit.

For some reason mother married not one but two electrical engineers. Dad graduated from UVA and Harper from Virginia Tech, both in 1940. It is good that mother was not much of a sports fan. She must have influenced my sister more than she knew. Sue married a Virginia Tech engineer, class of 1973.

Mother was a child of the depression and the privations of World War Two. She squeezed every dime and seems to have never thrown anything away. If you would open any closet in our house, look under any bed, or visit our basement you would understand. Our father and Harper were the same way. But unlike them mother was also a World-Class Shopper. Our father would talk of driving mother to Heaven - his term for Miller & Rhodes and Thalheimers. Mother's prize possessions then were her charge plates - for those who don't remember, the forerunner of credit cards. And how many people do you know that could recite their Sears credit card number by heart?

Shopper she was, she enjoyed most shopping for others. If there was one trait she had that I will always remember it was her desire to do for others. She seemed especially concerned that we were all well fed, very well-fed. And after the blood thinner she was taking often made her feel cold, she was concerned that those around her were cold also.

My sister remembers the time last winter when mother was in the hospital quite ill, flat on her back and hooked up to all sorts of machines. She asked Sue, "What can I get you?"

My nephew Kevin and his wife Heather remember the last time they saw Mother. She asked if they had eaten breakfast.

I remember the last thing Mother said to me two weeks ago. As she was being helped to bed she stopped to ask if I was OK. Knowing she would not hear, I just nodded, smiled, and gave her a thumbs-up sign.

So mother, this is for you. (Thumbs up)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Aunt Jean

Edwardses1947Jean McCallen Edwards, my aunt by marriage to my father's brother Pickett, died last week. She was 93. Pickett passed away this June. Wednesday I will help carry her to rest beside him. Jean was a remarkable woman, worthy of more than a short blog post. If you are interested here is a link to a more complete obit.

I remember the outsider from up north who fit in with the Edwardses of Cohoke better than she knew. I remember the active, optimistic woman who was always fun to be around. I remember her toleration and amusement at my childhood misadventures when my parents reacted (as befitted their role) with sterner stuff. She and Pickett formed a solid cornerstone to my extended family. They were good people who were fortunate to live long, good lives. I will not let myself feel sad when I think of them. But I'll be damned if I won't miss them.

In the photo, taken I believe Christmas 1947 at Riverview, Jean is standing behind my grandmother's right shoulder, next to my mother. I am the little bugger on my grandfather's (the Bossman) lap, as ever just a few degrees short of vertical. Aunt Sallie, my father's only sister, and her husband Charlie are on the far left. That's Sallie's son, Cousin Bill, on grandmother's lap. Uncle Winston, daddy's oldest brother and wife Zady are on the right. Pickett is peeking out behind Jean; my father smiles beside mother.

What I would give now for a few hours of conversation with each of them, as I recently had for the first time in about 50 years with Cousin Bill. Time, it seems, is really about all we have.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Have You Had Enough?

RLJsilkscreenI received this email today, thought I would pass it on...
Rickie Lee and two members of the Squirrel Nut Zippers (Tom Maxwell and Ken Mosher) have written a witty, incisive and extremely relevant song called "Have You Had Enough?", in response to these troubled times. Addressing the crookedness of the Bush Administration, and the tremendous and lasting damage they have wrought on our civil liberties, our environment, our foreign relations, our quality of life and on and on, "Have You Had Enough?" is a song that means a great deal to Rickie and is one that she wants to share with anyone who it speaks to.

To that end, this song is available for FREE, downloadable from Rickie's MySpace page. Please feel free to share it with everyone and anyone you know...

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Jane & Fang

Fang & Jane2Our dog and cat get along well. They both seem to realise that the other belongs in the household too. Aside for becoming a bit snippy when one shows interest in the other's food, they seem to enjoy each other's company.

Fang & Jane1But I am still a bit stranged out when Jane lays on the floor and lets Fang lick the inside of her ears. Sometimes Fang will be laying on her face. And Jane just lies there. Maybe they should get a room.