Friday, August 26, 2011

Karen Planson Mundy, 1943 - 2011

Karen at age 22, about a month
after she was married
My mother, Karen Planson Mundy, passed away last Friday night, 19 August, 2011, at about 6:30 pm local Hawaii time. She succumbed to cancer that she had been fighting for nearly six years.

I loved my mom, but I didn't always get along with her very well. She used to say we were too much alike, but I think it's more that we were alike in one significant way that colored all our other interactions. She and I both have the stubbornness of a recalcitrant mule. Look up hard-headed in the dictionary, and you'll see both our pictures there, side-by-side.

She raised my sister and me as a single mom from when I was about three on. We saw my Dad during summer vacations and holidays, and he helped out financially, but she managed the day-to-day tasks of caring for two young girls while holding down various jobs and then attending Virginia Tech as a graduate student. One of my early memories is being prepped for school at the gawd-awful early hour of 3:30 am and then wrapped in blankets to sleep in the car while she worked at a local dairy farmer with the morning milking. She got fresh, raw milk as a side perk.

Sister Linda, brother Steven, and Karen
growing up on Long Island, NY, 1947
We had a chicken coop at the first house we lived in after my parents split, in Buchanan, Virginia. With chickens that lived in it so we could have fresh eggs. We always had a clothes line outside of every house we lived in, and we used it. She made her own bread (which I *hated* as a kid because it was dense and weird, and wasn't store-bought like all the other kids' sandwiches). She mowed her own yard. I always liked taking a cold beer out to her on a hot summer day while she cut the grass, mostly because she'd let me take a sip from the top like her own father had let her.

Mom was fiercely independent, never wanted to ask for help. One Christmas, when I was probably about eight or nine, we really didn't have enough money for a Christmas tree. We always put our presents around the "Christmas Castle," a wonderous structure made of empty boxes covered in wrapping paper and stacked together to make a castle. But Mom's friends at church knew her situation, and all pitched in to get us a tree, dropped anonymously on our front door on Christmas Eve. What a great Christmas that was! Oh, and she always played "Santa," handing out the presents one at a time from under the tree. The rule was, the next present could not be opened until the last present handed out was appropriately oohed and aahed over.

Another Christmas, when I was older, in college, I think, she and my sister played a funny little joke on me. They got me a two-part gift, and made me open the less obvious part of it first. I opened this package that was yards and yards of a very nice green plaid material, opened on one side, and backed with a white cotton backing. I had *no idea* what it was supposed to be. They howled with laughter as I tried to guess what it was. It all made much more sense when I opened the second half of the gift...the down comforter. The first part of the gift was the duvet cover.

Karen Mundy, photo taken for
Waialua Community Church, 2009
While we didn't always agree on many things (religion, how to drive a car, ear piercings and tattoos, appropriate friends, gawd, and boyfriends!), I never doubted that she loved me. And that she was (almost embarrassingly, sometimes) proud of my career. I could always ask her for whatever I needed, and as long as she was able, she would always, always, *always* give me what she could.

My sister and I found a box of memorabilia yesterday. She kept EVERY SINGLE letter and card we had ever sent her. And some of the very worst artwork any kids could ever make. I thought she had cleaned out most of that stuff when she moved from Virginia to Hawaii almost four years ago...but nope, there it was.

Thanks, Mom, for all the years of your love, generosity, strength of will and body, and independent spirit. Rest in Peace, as I know you are now.


CG said...

I'm so sorry. I don't know what else to say. One's mother dying is such a huge thing. Hugs.

Victoria said...

Amen, sister. Thanks for writing this tribute. Let me say it so the whole Coast Guard knows: I love you and you're the BEST ever sister.

Commandant said...

I lost my Dad, retired Chief Damage Controlman Bill Allen on 8 July. Our stories are much the same.

The best tribute to your Mom is you, and I suspect she knew that too.


Sassenach said...

From everything I've gathered in reading your blog over time, it's easy to tell your mother was a wonderful and unusual woman. These stories of your childhood convey so much about her grit and independence. I am so sorry for you loss.

Dan Taylor said...

I'm so sorry for your loss Charlotte. Your mom sounds like a wonderful woman.

Just a Girl said...

Thank you, everyone, for your kind words. My mother's death was easier to face because of support from friends and family.

Linda Skeens said...

I knew your mom when she lived in Blacksburg. I worked at the vet school at Virginia Tech, and she brought her cat, Blue there for treatment. I really enjoyed talking to her, and she mentioned once that she was going out of town and looking for a pet sitter. I offered to help since I also lived in McCoy. I pet sat Blue off and on for a couple of years. When Karen moved to Hawaii, she brought Blue to the vet school. I had Blue vaccinated and prepared her for the trip to Hawaii. A courier service picked her up, and Blue had some adventures along the way. I remember Karen's cozy little house. I spent many hours there hanging out with Blue. I still have a key to the house on a key chain you made. It has your name on the back. I would love to return it to you. My email address is Karen was a lovely lady, and you are right...she was fiercely proud of you. I am very, very sorry for your loss. Do you still have Blue?
Best wishes always, Charlotte.