Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Celebration of the Life of Dorothy Landeros

Some Thoughts about my Mother, by Rob Landeros

I would like to start with a story originally told by Toni on her blog. I retell it in my own voice, with apologies to the original author. It's called "The Rose Parade Story".

Dorothy often said, with a slight complaint in her voice, “I’ve always wanted to go to the Rose Parade, but never have.”

In 2006, the year she turned 82, her granddaughter Toni learned there was a trip planned through her church, wherein people would spend the night in a church on the parade route, get a pancake breakfast and go out into the morning for float watching. They knew all the families going. It sounded like the perfect setup.

So Toni signed up for herself, her two kids, Hunter and Carlisle, and of course, her grandmother, who she called Nana.

Everybody was excited. The evening before the parade everybody had a good time and then went to sleep in great anticipation.

The next morning, everything went to pot. It was cold, windy and raining. But Dorothy was undaunted. She piled blankets in her arms and said "Let’s go".

But they soon found they were not on or even near the route. In fact, it was more than a mile away. So they started walking and after a while it seemed it would never end. The rain was making their blankets heavy, and Dorothy couldn't walk far, so it was slow traveling. Their hats, scarves and sweatshirts were useless in the wet. Toni wanted to throw the blankets down on the ground and just leave them.

Finally they found their group on cold metal folding chairs in front of a bar, which was closed. Dorothy and Toni had to pee.

Someone pointed down the route. “Go about five blocks. There are port-a-potties.” Forget it, Toni thought. Her pants were already wet, she reasoned. What harm a little more? At least it would be warm. I doubt Dorothy shared that same attitude.

They sat to wait. There was no way to get warm. The rain was coming down on them hard. Time dragged.

After a while, Hunter said, “Is it going to be like this the whole time?”

Toni turned to Dorothy. “Nana, I’m not going to make it. Shall I go get the car and pick you up?”

Hell no. She wanted to see the parade. Toni felt shamed to be out-hardied by an 82 year old.

Nevertheless, she and Hunter left to go back to the church where the car was. Dorothy stayed there with 11-year-old Carlisle. On the walk back Hunter looked over his arms and feet and said, “I could not be wetter.”

“I could not be colder,” Toni said back.

At the church, Toni called Dorothy's cell phone to see if she’d reconsidered. The parade hadn’t started yet, but others had left. Dorothy was finally ready to cry "uncle". She had started walking.

Toni jumped in her car and headed route ward. When she got to the underpass, there were pylons blocking her way, and a police officer was pacing nearby in the dryness.

Toni got out and started moving the pylons. She was frenzied knowing her Nana was walking — sopping, cold and carrying that leaden blanket. She knew her Nana was simply not as strong as she was stubborn.

The officer moved to stop her. Toni shook her head. “My grama needs to be picked up. You wanna stop me, you’re gonna have to shoot me.”

The officer squinted against the pouring rain and made out the small figure of a white-haired lady struggling in their direction. He let the car through and they went to her.

It is three years later. Mom is there in her chair in the family room, watching the Rose Parade on TV.

She doesn’t complain now, just like she never complained once on that cold and rainy day.

That's just one of any number of stories I could have shared. I chose this one because, well, it’s a good story, and besides, Toni had already written it, and that saved me a lot of work... but also because I'd never heard it before, and it struck me, and made clear to me something about my mom - and something significant - that I'd never consciously considered before. Which was that she was never a whiner, or a complainer – except for complaining about not going to the Rose Parade - and she never, ever played the victim, in a world where so many of us find it so easy to find reasons to feel sorry for ourselves. That extraordinarily positive outlook on life made her strong in character and always a joy to be around.

She was also smart, curious, engaged, competitive, spirited - unwaveringly giving, loving, compassionate, unselfish and generous. Always more interested in others than she was in herself. At least, that's the way she made you feel.

I could go on with a litany of her good qualities, many of which have been generously offered in recent days by friends and family. My purpose today is not to extol the many virtues that each and every one of us already knows quite well that she embodied. What I can do is to confirm that the Dorothy you knew was exactly the same person I knew all of my life, year in and year out, day in and day out, even through her final hours.

But… knowing that nobody is perfect, when I try to look at the other side of the ledger to my mother's faults, all that I have ever been able to come up with is something like those interviews where the celebrity is asked "What's your worst fault?" and the answer is always something ridiculous like "My worst fault is that I care too much". I've told my mother, “Mom, you’re just too tolerant, too forgiving, too understanding and sympathetic. I mean, how can you be judgmental and discriminating if you're always giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, no matter what?” By the results of her life, as measured by the many to whom she is beloved, I must today admit to the possibility that maybe those attributes can't be such faults after all.

I miss her terribly already. At first there was a sense of relief that the ordeal was finally over. Now, I find myself wishing she were here for at least a little bit longer, walking about and talking, playing Scrabble, scrapbooking, gardening, and doing the million other things she loved to do, so that I could simply focus like a laser on her presence and just be there to absorb her spirit as deeply as I can, while I can, and tell her how much she means to me. But I suspect that in the fullness of time, these feelings of sadness and regret will turn into something more like feelings of joy, because I know that hers was a life well lived. And the fact is not lost on me that I am extremely lucky and privileged to be her son. I am also forever gratified, beyond words can say, to know that she will be with me -- with all of us -- always. I know that for certain because, at the end, with her last bit of strength, she promised she would.

Eulogy for Mama, by her daughter Dianne
For memorial service, March 6, 2010

A part of me died when Mama breathed her last breath and each day is a little harder as I feel her absence and miss her more and more. I have to remind myself that she really had a wonderful, full life. She grew up in a big, happy family, full of love and fun. She had a lifelong romance with my dad. She had two wonderful children (!), two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. She had a job that she loved , working with and for people who became lifelong friends. And she traveled throughout the world and had great adventures. We should all be so lucky.

Dorothy was the sixth of nine children, born in Upland of immigrant parents. Her father, Kyung Whan Park, came here from Korea; her mother, Concepcion, from Mexico. Kyung Whan Park was murdered when Dorothy was six months old. His best friend and cousin, In Whan Park, married Concepcion and gave her three more children. They moved to Redlands where she grew up and remained the rest of her life. With five sisters and three brothers, it was a big, noisy, and happy household. I remember hearing of the fun they had. One family anecdote tells of my grandmother looking at the photo of a two-year-old Dorothy standing on a very large pumpkin. Whenever Nana would look at that picture, she would say to Dorothy, “You always were a daredevil.”

My mom was a tom-boy and as a young girl, challenged anyone in the neighborhood to box with her. All the neighborhood children would come to watch the boxing matches and mama fearlessly took on any challenger.

And the Park children were young entertainers. One of the older sisters taught the younger ones the old Mexican songs and folkloric dances. Their mom made costumes for them all and they, along with some of their friends, were often called upon to entertain at the various service clubs here in town. They called themselves the Spanish Troubadours.

As a schoolgirl, Dorothy was bright but lazy about schoolwork. Comments in her Makio were along the lines of “I’ll miss your corny jokes”, so I’m guessing that she was more interested in having fun than in studying. She worked after school to help with the family finances. One of her jobs was teaching Spanish at adult night school.

She met my dad, Albert, at the skating rink when she was fifteen. They married when she was eighteen and he was twenty – just a couple of kids, yet their marriage lasted for fifty-seven years, and their love bound them together forever. Theirs was a lifelong romance that the rest of us only dream of having. They sang together, laughed together, traveled together, grew spiritually together and truly enjoyed each other’s company. Mama handled the business end of Daddy’s artwork and entertained his clients, many of whom became their friends.

Most of Mama’s working life was spent at the San Bernardino County Agricultural Extension Service (later called Cooperative Extension). She started as a receptionist, became the Supervising Administrative Clerk, and finally served as staff analyst to the director. She edited technical research, scientific and academic publications, translated them into Spanish, worked with the director on formulating the departmental budget, handled personnel matters, and performed other administrative work for the director. It is a tribute to her that she remained close friends with the director and with those whom she supervised. Many of them visited her in her last days. Many have sent cards saying how much they loved her, what an inspiration and role model she was to them, and how much they learned from her. She had always spoken of her staff with great pride, saying that they were expected to meet high standards and how she knew she could count on them to meet those standards.

Dorothy never earned a college degree but she, along with my dad, were lifelong learners. She took college courses needed to hone her skills for work. Both of my parents had a love of words, and were self appointed grammar police. Every night that I can remember while living at home, one or the other would find occasion to look up a word or two in the dictionary, read the correct pronunciation, the root of the word, and all the possible definitions. Rob and I would sit there patiently, wishing we had left the table just a little earlier. The games she loved to play reflected that love of words also – Scrabble, crossword puzzles, Tabu, and Scattergories – all word games.

Because they loved to learn, they often took us to all kinds of museums, concerts, musicals, historical sites and national parks. We were lucky kids.

Mama was a devoted and loving mother, if something of a character- as exemplified in the Churkendoose anecdote. My friends loved her as a fun-loving brownie and Girl Scout leader, because she was quite creative in dreaming up activities for us, including treasure hunts, cookouts at the wash, games, and of course, lots of singing.

The Albert Landeros family loved to sing and some of my fondest memories were of us sitting at the piano or going somewhere in the car and singing in four part harmony. Seems like we sang whenever we were in the car, even when Rob and I were very young.

In recent years, one of my great joys and pleasures was to be able to sing with her, my daughter and granddaughter. We had great fun practicing, choreographing routines, and writing parodies that had us rolling on the floor with laughter– you had to be there. I think she really enjoyed doing these silly routines as much as we did.

Mama and Daddy loved to travel, and traveled to Korea, Japan, all over Europe and frequently to Mexico. They made many lifelong friends on those trips. One trip to Mexico was to see the Lacandon Indians deep in the heart of the rainforest and involved flying in by two’s in a small airplane and staying with the well-known anthropologist, Trudy Blom. They slept outdoors in the forest in hammocks – roughing it in a way I can’t even imagine. On other trips, she climbed mountains, hung over the edge of cliffs to see the view, climbed pyramids – my Nana was right! She always was a daredevil!

This church meant a great deal to her and she was actively involved in many ways. In addition to being one of the founders, she was involved in several committees and in choir.

When she moved in with me following my dad’s passing, she became a political activist – you may have seen her picture in the paper carrying a sign and standing on peace corner. She worked with Steve and me on many political campaigns and fundraisers.

I knew her to be generous, but each day since her passing, I have heard from many of you telling me of acts of generosity that I knew nothing about because she didn’t talk about them.

I learned a great deal from her – mostly about giving and loving and forgiving. She always saw the best in people. She never held grudges or spoke ill of people. She made friends wherever she went. At the end, she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love that she received from those of you who visited or sent cards or food or who came to sit with her. It gave her great joy and I thank you for your gifts of love.

And so her passing will leave a big hole in my heart and in my life, but I am comforted in knowing that she had a wonderful, rich life that was enriched even more by the love that she gave to so many and that came back to her a thousand fold. Her faith gave her strength and she left this world in peace and with no regrets. And we are all richer for having had her in our lives.

My Nana, by Toni Momberger

When I was a little girl, I had an awareness that one day my grama would leave me. I was so in dread of it, I dwelled on it.

I never grew out of it.

When I picture a moment from my childhood, teen years, womanhood, I see us.

We played games, sang, traveled, gossiped and watched TV. There was a lot of laughing. We did everything people who love to be together do. She shared me with her friends, and I shared her with mine. The first thing we did with a big piece of news was call the other and say, ‘Did you hear?’

She showed me how to enjoy everything -- to be places and hear people and do things, and love it. While she indulged in the world, I indulged in her.

I looked forward nervously always. I knew it was selfish. I didn’t want to appreciate what we had, I wanted to keep it.

For years she tried to prepare me. She told me that whenever the time came, she was ready. She had no unfinished business. She had a lead a full life.

When the lymphoma was discovered in January, she held me, and when I started to shake with grief, she told me she wasn’t scared.

The day before she died she told me she felt surrounded by love. She said it was beautiful.

So it’s not the loss of her I’m grieving. It’s the loss of us.

It was always us.

More than anything, I’m grateful for this.

She was a perfect grama, modeling the role beautifully to my mother, who is a perfect grama to my babies.

I loved my grama. I just really loved her.

Ode to Dots, by Doug Momberger

I don’t know anyone who wasn’t awed by the bond of affection between Albert and Dorothy Landeros. They set a tone of acceptance...and generosity...and genuine interest in other people that we wanted to make central to our family. We knew that our failures and triumphs would be accepted, or celebrated, without judgment from our matriarch; Remember what Toni got away with in the eighties? If we moved to Redlands, Dots would let us be who we were, and she would model for us, daily, how to appreciate humor more than criticism, how to appreciate creativity over consistency...and to have sincere interest in each other over everything else.

We Mombergers wallowed in the affection of four complete generations for a couple of years before Albert left us in the summer of 1999. Dorothy was among the strongest of us, and although we all reminisce about him constantly, her attention toward all of us never waned. She remained the superglue of our clan, much as she has been the sister who maintained strong bonds with each of her siblings. The Landeros home was everyone’s home – and quite literally for myself and many others.

Practically everyone has lived in the back bedroom at 1333 Jasper Avenue. If you haven’t then you missed out. The list is probably not complete, and I wasn’t there for much of it, but here goes: Kenneth, Susan, Toni, Robbie, Dianne and Toni, Elsie, Dianne and Steve, Toni for a third time, with me and the kids, and Sterling. From experience I can tell you: that house expanded with the number of its occupants, yielding to the sheer force of love emanating from Albert and Dorothy.

Dorothy also loved her freedom. I could tell because she exercised it frequently. We nearly had to wrestle the car keys away from her. At eighty plus years old, she was still more interested in taking the car out than my teenage son is. She loved life, and she didn’t want to miss anything – Asia, Mexico, New Orleans, scrabble tournaments at the Joslin Center, shows in LA, church choir, art shows here and in Laguna, dinner at Judy’s, excursions with Marie and Alex, Wednesday club scrap booking, widows’ night playing 31, hair appointments, and back to school shopping with the kids – there was just no stopping Nana.

* * *

Seven. It has been seven for a nice long time. We need seven tickets, the new car must seat seven, table for seven for a Sunday dinner, with seven forks and seven glasses. There is always one cloth napkin that looks newer than the others. That one is Dapu’s.

We are so lucky. Right now my kids are rolling their eyes because Toni and I have unintentionally made this the Momberger mantra. It hurts to lose such a good friend and mother and grandmother and great grandmother. No worries - there is mist of joy that Dorothy leaves around us. So we’ll be just fine, and so will she.

Memories of Aunt Dorothy, by Doreen Garcia

Aunt Dorothy has always been a big part of my life. I remember my brothers and I loved having her as a babysitter, because she always made everything fun. She could always find an article to use as a microphone, for all the game shows we played.

Pink camellias bring back the memory of my High School Prom which, she played a part of, I had chosen a white formal to wear and she made it even more special by patiently sewing on pink camellias( from her beautiful camellia bush that was under her kitchen window ) on my prom dress, of course it ruined the dress for any other wearings, but was well worth it.

Many years later, when she had a medical problem, she asked me to give blood for the transfusion, I gladly said yes. I worked at the time, my kids were grown up and out on their own. It was just my husband and I, so why cook, --- right !! We ate out more then I cooked. So I got teased by Uncle Albert, he said ever since she got your blood she wants to eat out all the time ! Right on Aunt Dorothy !!

We all loved her white hair, it was so soft & beautiful, but sometimes I think she felt it made her look old, like the time at her office when her visitor saw the photos on her desk and said, Oh, is that your son ? It was Uncle Albert’s photo. need I say more.

She has always been young at heart to me, and I’ll always be glad that I had her in my life, and so glad that I was able to let her know how much she meant to me and my family.

Green Apricots, by Chauncey Romero

I have so many great memories of my aunt Dorothy. This is one of my favorites.

As I grew up in our childhood home in Redlands on Texas St, we had an apricot tree in our front yard. Every early summer I would climb the tree onto the roof of the house and eat green apricots with salt.

Just before I entered high school, we moved to a new home on the other side of town. I did not have an apricot tree any longer.

So each early summer, at some point I would make a visit to Mentone to my aunt Dorothy’s home. They had some prime green apricot trees. We would always have a really great one-on-one visit, talking about a variety of topics.

These green apricot visits pretty much went on every year until I moved to Oregon in 1976. And guess what? Every early summer I would receive a box of prime green apricots from my aunt Dorothy. Enclosed would be a personal loving note. I received these care packages up until last year as her health declined.

Very typical of my Aunt Dorothy, loving and caring all of her life.

Dear Aunt Dorothy, by Daryl Dichek

I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been feeling poorly for the past few months, going in and out of the hospital. Ken tells me that hospice is helping you out now – I hope that they are able to keep you comfortable. You are lucky to have had the loving care of your family around you, and for the past few years since Albert died. It is a testament to you that you have created a family who cares so much about you.

Diane, Steve, Rob, Toni, Sterling, Doug, Hunter and Carlisle, your brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews –what a wonderful group of people.

I would like to take this opportunity to let you know what you have meant to me.

I appreciate how, from the very first time we met, you welcomed me into the family. Your warmth and hospitality made me feel comfortable right away. And the love you feel for Ken is so evident that I immediately felt you were my aunt, too. We’ve had a lot of fun over the years – at parties, playing games, enjoying new and old family members, discussing politics. And I’ve really enjoyed reading your letters over the years.

There are many things I admire about you, including your devotion to family, intelligence, creativity, concern about world events, willingness to engage in discussions of ideas, and your appreciation and enjoyment of heritage and culture. You are definitely a role model.

Along with your gentleness, you’ve also shown commitment and passion – especially when you get competitive about Scrabble!

I love you a lot, and hold you dearly in my heart forever…

Opening Doors, by Monty Montano

Over the years, the Landeros home was an intellectual and artistic salon for a very close group of cousins and friends. At the center of it was Aunt Dorothy. Throughout her life she was curious, open-minded and eager to hear new ideas, encouraging our creativity. I know that for Dianne, Rob, and myself she opened the doors to culture that would enrich us throughout our lives. She was a model, even an inspiration for what we would become.

So Much to Say, by Lori Vandermeer

There is so much to say about Aunt Dorothy but I'm not good at expressing it all.

She never forgot ANYONE's birthday. And always sent cards for everyone.

She always saw the good in everyone no matter who they were. Always was interested in what the latest was with you. When she would ask you questions she really listened. A super good listener.

Also she was super fun and always ready to be adventurous.

I always loved listening to her travel stories.

The positiveness she showed towards those close to her was amazing. If only those people she thought so highly of would feel as good about themselves as she did about them.

Thinking about Dorothy, by Judy Lipton

I have been thinking constantly of Dorothy since I saw her last, and struggling with words to convey both the depth of my joy, and my sorrow. Joy, because I feel so fortunate to have been part of her life.

From the moment I met her, she was an inspiration and role model for me. Her elegance and grace were something to strive to emulate, but it was her wit and wisdom that endeared her to our hearts. She was a woman of such rare intelligence and talent that I thought she knew about everything, and how to do everything - sing, dance, sew, cook, art, puns, puzzles, etc. Her gifts were infinite, and she touched so many lives in so many ways.

But it is the sorrow that preoccupies me now - the sorrow of the void Dorothy is leaving in all of our lives. I am flooded with the memories of all of the wonderful times we shared - joking and laughing and just enjoying each other. Dorothy was up for everything. I treasure the vision of her stuffing her cheeks with marshmallows in a contest we had in Baja. I think that she and Terry were vying for champion.

Both she and Albert had such a special place in our hearts and lives, and were great examples and inspiration on how to live with verve, style, dignity, love and joy. They so enjoyed each other, and Terry and I, and Megan and Noah, so enjoyed being with them.

Hers is truly a life well-lived and to be celebrated.

My Aunt, by Susi Maas

Aunt Dorothy was such a wonderful person and I will miss her a lot. What I loved about her the most was that she was always interetsed in what I was doing. She made me feel special and she always wanted to know how my kiddos were doing and sent me notes when she read a new book about a kid with autism or other disabilities. That always meant a lot to me.

With fond Regards, by Marcia Taack

I will always remember the first time I came to a service at UCC Redlands. For some reason my eyes came to rest on your mother’s face and I knew from the moment I saw her sitting there in the choir loft that she was a person I wanted to emulate. I thought to myself; when I am older that is the kind of woman I want to be. As I came to know her this last three years, I know why. She was a woman of great class, great kindness and compassion and great fun.

I will always remember the evening at Diane’s house when we sat with Dorothy and looked at the photo albums of her youth and she told stories of her family. She was so proud of her family and she loved you all so much. That was another reason I wanted to be like her. She knew what was important in this lifetime.

I also remember her at TaiChi class. We laughed a lot. Especially when we were trying to keep our balance. She kept hers better than I did.

I am so thankful that she touched my life and that I had the gift of knowing her. I know that heaven’s newest angel is continuing her souls journey and that she is in perfect peace.

When I Think of Dorothy, by Wendell Young

When I think of Dorothy, I remember the many coffee and lunch breaks she shared with me and other fortunate County employees.

Her cheeriness and "word-liness" combined with her unforgettable laugh erased any dreariness from the workday.

Her love and pride of family and generous sharing of stories enabled me to feel part of the Landeros family for which I will always be grateful.
Travelling with Albert, Dorothy and Toni brings fond memories.

Dorothy will always be part of my life and though I have not been in touch these past few years, I will miss knowing she is a phone call away.


Sandy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sandy said...

Thank you for creating a beautiful tribute to your mother. We cherish the stories and photos and you have put them all here for us.
Thanks again, well done.