We haven’t heard from Gram here lately and I have been wanting to share this for some time. For those of you who haven’t been following, I found a folder after she passed away containing all sorts of tidbits of writing; everything from letters to the White House, poems and, what I cherish most, her innermost thoughts. In May of 1975, her only son, my favorite uncle, Gary Dordigan, died tragically and unexpectedly.
On May 10, 1975, the Los Angeles Times reported “William May Garland, 38, a wealthy real estate developer, was found dead Friday with instructor pilot Gary Dordigan, 32, in the charred wreckage of Garland’s twin-engine Skymaster light plane on Frasier Mountain 10 miles west of Gorman.”
I was in 2nd grade and living with my grandmother at the time. I will never forget the day she entered my classroom at Pinecrest School in Burbank to pick me up early. She didn’t speak, just took my hand gently and off we went. I didn’t really know what was going on and I am certain she was still in shock at the time. Back at our apartment all of her sisters and other family members had gathered and I remember a lot of quiet crying and hushed grown up talk.
This tragic accident left an irrepairable fracture in my grandmother’s heart. Gary was the “golden child”, the champion swimmer, dashingly handsome and charismatic in every way. He was the light in her life and definitely a big part of my world. It was the first time I ever experienced true sadness. Uncle Gary loved to draw and made wonderful sketches. I was given his sketch pads, markers, colored pencils and chalks. I carried them around with me for a long time.
The following is my gram writing from the perspective of Gary’s little Blue Maverick…
“Twilight was settling quietly over the parking lot at Golden West. The little blue Maverick sat waiting in its customary parking spot, dusk dulling its soft color. Shadows of night engulfed the little car as it silently watched and listened for the familiar step, the strong grasp of a hand on the door handle. It was very late. Where is he? He would not leave me here. Morning brings hope. Footsteps in the distance? Time and time again, the little car springs alert only to sink back into disappointment and the steps fade away, it’s not him. Other car doors open, other cars drive away. The little car is perplexed, worried. The second night approaches. He is again alone in the parking lot. The noisy activity of a busy day at Van Nuys Airport fade into the soft sounds of evening. Where are those jaunty footsteps, where is the cheery repartee with friends? Why has he not come to take us home?
A third night, the dim parking lot lights only emphasize the loneliness of the little car as it sits keeping its solitary vigil. Something has gone wrong. He would not abandon me. What is it? Gary? Gary?
Hope dims and flickers out as the steps of a stranger stop at the door of the little blue car. An unfamiliar hand turns the key in the lock. I will respond to the command of this stranger. It is not my Gary. My Gary is not coming back to guide me. Seven days ago I watched as he flew over me into the late afternoon sun. He was here, he has slipped away, out of the burning wreckage crushed on the side of the rugged mountain.
Via Condios Gary. Gary, Gary, Gary.”