Dorothy Anne Arnold was born February 11 1935 in Kinderhook New York. She was the youngest of 7 siblings, 5 brothers and a sister. She watched all of her older brothers go into the service and off to war and saw them all come home. She attributed their safe return to the power of her mother’s prayers and the blessings of the Virgin Mary, who was a mother herself after all.
Dorothy studied at the Columbia Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in New York and with friends she made there, would go to the city on weekends. She loved how small the cars looked from skyscraper windows and found the young Irish cops to be quite handsome.
In 1969 Dorothy packed up her green and white VW bus with her 4 kids and some snacks and drove to a new life in California. Before leaving she got us kids together to put a red vinyl racing stripe on the front and over the top of the bus. She told us it would make the trip more fun and that we’d get to California faster. She was right. It worked. Mom liked to make everything fun for kids.
Coming to California was the beginning of Dorothy’s age of Aquarius. She met, fell in love with, and married my father Neil. She came alive then. She thought he was even more handsome than the New York city cops. She liked his strong arms and his warm smile. Dad called her Spunky. Sometimes I would walk into the living room and they would be listening to music and dancing. They were in love. They stayed in love and they never stopped dancing.
Mom lost a baby. Carise Pere’ was still born in 1973 after a full term pregnancy. Mom was devastated and nearly broken for a while after that. Her faith and love of children ultimately prevailed though and God blessed her with two more children, my beautiful brothers Neil and Cordel.
Dorothy loved nothing in the world more than children. She loved her children, your children, strangers children, all the children. If she saw a little girl in the grocery store wearing cowboy boots and a princess dress casting spells on unsuspecting strangers or a little boy walking like a robot and barking orders at an imaginary enemy, she would laugh and say “Oh my, I wonder what’s going on in that little head!” She would then of course go talk to them and steal a hug if she could.
Dorothy was always young. After a successful career in nursing that culminated in her administering the Home Health Care program at Sharp hospital, she decided at 50, to return to college to study interior design at the Design institute of San Diego. She thrived there. Dorothy always loved design and fashion. When we were kids there was always fabric swatches, jars of buttons and Women’s Wear Daily scattered around the house.
She was a beauty, her eyes sparkled, she had style and class. Three years ago she rode the train up to Los Angeles so she could attend my daughter’s friend, Daniella’s Quinceanera. She came because she knew it was a big day for Daniella and wanted it to be special. I did mention that she loved kids right? She was 79 then and I marveled at the number of people that commented on her style and beauty and fell in love with her at the party that night.
Dorothy was forever young because she was forever interested. She always loved what was new. When the new Mini Copper came out she said “Now isn’t that cool!” She also thought clever toys, innovative design, cellphones, laptops, Facebook, Skype, iPads, and Facetime were cool. She would have loved Uber and Apple Pay. In the 70’s when almost everyone was driving a Ford or a Chevy, she decided to buy a Peugeot. A French car with a diesel engine. When she first saw it she said, “Now isn’t that cool.”
Dorothy cared about people. She had enormous empathy. She lived by Christ’s words in Matthew 25:40. Which reads, “Truly I tell you, that whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, that you do for me.” When we were kids we lived in a house 6 miles north of the Mexican border in the middle of nowhere. On occasion, Mexican men and boys, tired and hungry, would come looking for help on their journey north. Mom would be in her bright yellow kitchen singing Roberta Flack, (Mom, by the way, had an incredible voice), she would be baking bread when she would see them peak around the bushes in the back yard for a signal that we might help. She would cook a big pot of chili for them and give them a bucket of hot water to clean up and a blanket if it was cold. While she was administering the Home Health Care program at Sharp, there was a corporate downsizing and it fell on her to to layoff a dozen women whom she loved and who had families that relied on them. That caused her tremendous distress and pain. I remember her crying at night then. A few years ago she paid a repairman $1000 to fix something at the house and it broke again shortly after. When I asked if she got a refund, she said that she didn’t need the money, that he was nice young man and worked very hard and had a family to feed. When someone looked defeated, or troubled or otherwise in pain, she would say, “Oh that poor soul, we must remember to pray for him.” wedding dresses for older women
Dorothy was also fierce. She was an unflinching advocate for her kids and grandkids, even when she knew we were at fault. She didn’t like bullies and mean spirited people were afraid of her. She didn’t like Fuddie Duddies. The best example of a Fuddie Duddie I can give you is someone who turns off the the lights and closes their blinds on Halloween to avoid trick-or-treaters.
But mainly, mom loved to laugh with friends, and sing, and show her family warmth and love.
I believe the reason that she stayed with us as long as she did, past doctor’s expectations, is because she loved her grandkids and great grandkids and didn’t want to miss out on anything that would come to pass in your lives. She wanted to be around to see your joy and to help you in difficult times. But Nana will never be gone. She is but a thought or a prayer away. Her love is always with you and if you ever need her wisdom, just ask yourself, ‘What would Nana do?’ Then open your eyes and look around see the beauty and wonder that surrounds you and laugh and sing.
God bless you mom.