What is Todora?

Actually, it's WHO is Todora?  She was my grandmother, the family black sheep, known for her terrible driving, her elaborately landscaped back yard and her wild stories.  She died in a house fire after rescuing a grand-nephew when I was 10 years old.

I think of her now as my muse.  Whenever I'm about to start something new, I imagine that I drive to Todora's house and find her sitting in her gazebo, tossing bread to the koi.  She listens to my idea, gets excited and wants in on the fun.  "Imagine what wonderful trouble we'll get into!" she says.  We get into my car and start for some unknown destination.  I do the driving of course, and Todora is in charge of finding a good radio station to listen to.  That's the proper role of a muse, after all.


Todora Halls Best Lansing

Picture
Todora was one of 16 children born to a New Zealand aristocrat and a Mormon missionary.  She married Elihu Best and lived in Colorado, where she had 3 daughters.  After they divorced, Elihu was awarded custody of the children, but Todora kidnapped them and hitchhiked to San Antonio.  She lived with, but didn't marry Ray Rucker and had a son, Richard Ray Rucker (Dickie Ray).  Father and son went on a fishing trip one morning, unaware that a hurricane was approaching; both drowned.  Todora then married James "Red" Lansing, whom I knew as my grandfather.  In August 1972, he left on a fishing trip while Todora visited with a niece and grand-nephew.  The niece left to visit other relatives, leaving her son, a toddler, in Todora's care.  The boy knocked over a gasoline can in the garage, and the gas was ignited by the water heater's pilot light.  The garage doors wouldn't open, but Todora shoved the child through a window into the arms of neighbors.  She was trapped inside and received fatal burns.