Alice Anna Disse, My Mother July 26,1921- July 18, 2012

Painting by Alice Anna Disse

July 26, 2012
This past week I’ve been thinking about mom non-stop. So many images and memories flashing through my head from the past.

And then writing this eulogy…how can a few paragraphs portray this wonderful woman and all the love we had for her?

Imagine this: Raising six children: Patty, Steph, Me, Clare, Greg and Bill – some of us just one year apart – living in a two bedroom, one bath house – many times with something malfunctioning: the clothes dryer, the shower, the car – and all the while mostly keeping your sanity and sense of humor.

That was mom.

My dad was busy working and had an aversion to hiring help, so my mom in her usual way, would take things into her own hands, literally. She fixed leaks, plastered and painted walls, refinished floors, reupholstered furniture – whatever it took. The day she moved out of 414 Rivera in 2005 was a sad day, not only because she had lived there for 46 years, but because she had put so much into that house emotionally and physically!

I see her standing on the doorstep on summer nights calling out our names one after the other at the top of her lungs to corral us in for dinner.

I see her sitting at the piano playing her favorite tunes — anything from Chopin to a polka.

I see her loading us up in our 50’s pale green Plymouth for a drive to Marin or San Bruno to get out of the fog of San Francisco.

My mother loved music, playing the piano, art, painting, flowers and gardening, laughter, parties, swimming, traveling and being around her family. She was disciplined and strived to instill her sense of discipline in us…especially when it came to the piano…I can still hear her insisting, “You have to practice…it’s the only way to improve and get good at anything.” When she wanted to learn something new, she would take classes. She finally got her college degree at San Francisco State when she was 63 years old – a life-long dream.

When my brother Bill was sick, she learned everything she could about mental illness to try and help him.

She gave up a lot to raise six kids, something I didn’t realize until I was much older. With her talents, personality and energy she could have had many opportunities. But she didn’t complain. She never made us feel like we got in the way in her life. On the contrary she was our champion. She encouraged us when we needed it, was there when we were sick or sad. And I know we tried her patience. We all laugh at the image of our mom chasing us around the house with her broom, knowing she would never catch us, but so frustrated she didn’t know what else to do!

I’m glad that my mom had many years of relative freedom after we grew up. She taught young children in the public schools in San Francisco. Besides being an accomplished pianist, she was an artist. She took classes and studied on her own and produced a huge amount of work in oil, watercolor, acrylic and other mediums. She took trips and spent time with friends. She approached all of these things like a kid – with great enthusiasm.

When I asked my sisters and brother to express their thoughts about mom, the words they used were: strength, commitment, positive outlook, inspiring, strong faith, supportive, enjoying life, adventure and unconditional love for her family. Our friends remember her as being a sweet and classy woman. And I might add, she had a killer figure and great sense of style.

What I’m going to miss the most, and I’m sure my siblings will agree, is the way her face would light up and she would smile her big beautiful smile whenever we showed up…anywhere, anytime. She was so proud of us.

The only time I saw my mom cry was when her mother died. I remember she was sweeping the floor, quietly weeping. It scared me because that wasn’t like mom. Now I understand her grief and how hard it is to lose someone that means so much to you.

My mom’s strength and energy carried her through up until the end. She did her level best to refuse every possible limitation that her age and state of health imposed. She loved her independence and kept it until she couldn’t any longer. She died with dignity and grace and with loving care from the staff at Sunrise and from Hospice of Petaluma.

We were all able to say good-bye and tell her how much we loved her.

We know she is watching over us now. May she rest in peace.

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