I wrote the following piece with my brother Mark as my editor. We wanted it to be published in the Los Gatos Weekly in our home town in California, but unfortunately, you can only submit dry obituaries. So here goes... a very personal post:
The Dias Mobile
Mom was Retro, a cool hip lady without trying. There she was (pin curls, polyester slacks, and a smile that melted all hearts) making the rounds: Daves Avenue School, Fischer Junior High School, St. Mary’s, and finally, Los Gatos High. In the backseat, the teenagers were slinking down so as not to be seen as she drove right through the crowds of high schoolers too proud to notice their inescapable embarrassment of that 1966 Plymouth Valiant. I learned to love that car and all it represented. I’d take it with the hole in the floor of the backseat and the 20s, 30s, and 40s music coming through the center speaker on the dash. Yes, it was aged, but always motoring, its reliability surpassed all of the newer flashier vehicles.
Mom didn’t need money, she didn’t need flash, she had friends, family, and an over abundance of love. That car, like her life, was always full of people and was forever in motion working for others never complaining about the lack of rest. She never missed a game and always volunteered to drive the players. That car could be spotted at St. Mary’s church, family functions, bridge, Safeway, and at times you could see it pulled to the side of the road with children being reprimanded with threats of the rosary. Pies, clam dip, blue cheese dressing were the most common items in the trunk on their way to her sister Priscilla Anne’s house or to any other destination in Mom’s vast network of friends.
Dinnertime at the Dias household was at 6:00 PM, and it was an occasion celebrated by all. Mom would saunter outside, cowbell in hand, and shout her daily mantra, "Kids, time for dinner!". The clanging of that old-rusty cowbell could be heard for blocks. The entire neighborhood knew it was time for the Dias’ and any other neighborhood straggler to eat. The dinner table, an elongated slab with a decorative tablecloth draped over it, would fill up with the bustle of the Dias clan (and guests), each one yelling in harmonious disaccord to pass the butter, or some other condiment. Six different conversations were not uncommon when it was time to eat. As one friend described it, it was like "eating in a cafeteria".
The day before she passed, I reminded her that she was well loved. And she was. She passed peacefully in her own bed with two loved ones standing nearby. She was an incredible lady whose strength and determination not only allowed her to survive a near fatal brain tumor, but the crazy life of raising fourteen children. The Dias family lived in Los Gatos for over 40 years.
Janice Claire Frier Dias was born October 11th, 1927. She died June 4, 2006 at around 7:50 pm.
The Story of the Slant-Six Plymouth Valiant:
The Slant-Six Plymouth Valiant represented mom in all its simplicity. It was purchased in 1968 by her sister Priscilla. Pris used the car for several years, and then sold it to mom. Mom subsequently enjoyed the use of the car for several more years. There came a time when Mom was, however, concerned about transportation for her children as the learned how to drive. Andy, the first-born of the sons purchased the car from Mom for a small fee, and in turn, he sold it to Mark, the fourth child, for a few hundred dollars. Mark did not take care of the car, and he was not too concerned if he backed into a pole or some other obstruction in his path leaving various dents on the white exterior of the car. He destroyed the car, and so, frustrated by the car’s lack of continued utility, he gave the car (free of charge) to his younger brother Matthew, the auto mechanic. Matthew repaired the car, and he sold the car back to mom for twice the value Andy sold it to Mark. Mom then enjoyed the use of it for many more years to come, and the slant-six Valiant and Mom became inextricably linked, and wherever you found that old but dependable car, there you would also find Mom.