Mark Fraser Landon

Michael's Legacy - his children

 

Mark Fraser Landon – Born: October 1 1948

Josh Fraser Landon – Born: February 11 1960

Cheryl Lynn – Born: November 16 1953

Leslie Ann Landon (Matthews) Born: October 11 1962

Michael Graham Landon - Born: June 21 1964

Shawna Leigh Landon – Born: December 4 1971

Christopher Beau Landon – Born: February 27 1975

Jennifer Rachel Landon – Born: August 29 1983

Sean Matthew Landon – Born: August 5 1986

 

By Rose Blake (March 1960)

The Landons’ best friends will tell you that Mike and his adopted son Mark are “buddies,” that they’re pals rather than father and son. But Mike won’t agree. He feels he’s not only a father to 11-year-old Mark, but a stern one. He feels he has to be, that both he and Mark want it that way. Mark was fatherless for a long time before Mike Landon came into his life. His real daddy died in an auto accident a month before the boy was born. Mark yearned for a daddy for a long time. When he was six years old, he picked one out. It was the first time Mike Landon was at Dodie’s home. In fact it was the first time he had even met her. A mutual friend had brought him to the house and made the introductions. The evening passed very pleasantly and when it was time for little Mark to go to bed, Mike tucked him in. The youngster looked up at him and said, “You look sort of like a teenager. Will you be my daddy?” Within a matter of months, Mike was Mark’s daddy. At first, he admits, “I was very nervous. You must remember I was 19 at that time so of course I was not exactly an expert on children. However I’ve always been a very settled sort of guy, so that helped I’m sure. The first thing I noticed about Mark was that he actually wanted discipline from a father. I knew he was looking for discipline because he never attempted to hide anything he did wrong from me. And Mark got plenty of correction. So much so that Mike began to wonder at times if he was too heavy handed. The fact was that Mark had become quiet a problem. “He’d even been kicked out of kindergarten,” Mike says “and that isn’t easy, as anyone knows. For a while it almost seemed as if he was hungry for punishment. Inside of a month or so he was practically a new man. Dodie has left the training of her son up to Mike for the most part. There was one occasion when she felt Mark should be severely reprimanded for some “breakage” in the living room. She was surprised when her husband let the matter go without a scolding word to Mark. Seems that Mike couldn’t really blame the boy: “Especially since I was teaching him how to swing a golf club in the living room and the golf club flew out of my hands and crashed through a window.” There’s no doubt that Michael governed his stepson with a firm hand when he first came into power, but the boy learned to respect his new father’s authority – and being a good boy paid off! That stern young father turned out to be a “buddy” despite his statements to the contrary. When Mark became a Cub Scout, Mike became Den Dad, and then Cub Master for the whole pack. They go bowling together on Saturday night, play baseball and football together with neighbourhood kids in the big vacant lot next to their house. Since they’re seen so often together – engaged in man-type activities, having such a ball – it’s no wonder friends have come to think of them as pals. And though Mike considers himself strictly a daddy, anyone who looks into Mark’s adoring eyes can see he’s that and more to the boy.

By Dodie Landon (1960)

“To Mark, there is no one greater; he walks in Michael’s footsteps. Mike is the supreme ruler of our house and Mark takes orders from him exclusively because Michael is never wrong. I am sure Mark wants to be an actor and he is fascinated, as Michael was and still is – with western stories and old west heroes. They spend hours together telling stories and they even planned their own motion picture production. Mark assembled a few of his friends and they all planned a prodigious schedule in and around Griffith Park . It was their project and they took great pride in it. Michael calls Mark “Mook” – it is a sort of nickname and Mark loves it.”

 

By Nancy Anderson (1962)

The headlines struck Mike Landon with the sickening force of a blow in the stomach. From the line of heavy black type marching across the page, fifteen letters stood out, burned like the Scarlet A. They spelled “Black Market Baby.” Mike wadded up the paper and flung it in the wastebasket, as though it were something unclean. But even with the paper crumpled and hidden, he could still see the sensational headlines, “Doctor Charged With Black Market Baby Sales.” “Black Market Baby!” Mike spat out the words under his breath. “What do you mean, ‘Black Market Baby?’ he thought. “Babies that have been given to parents who love them? Babies that are giving joy to parents who otherwise would be childless?” Like a man hypnotized, like a man under irresistible compulsion, Mike retrieved that paper from the basket and smoothed it on the table. Angrily he read the story. The doctor who was accused was a man whom he liked and who had done him an incomparable favor. One of the babies that the doctor had placed with parents hungering to love it was Mike’s and Dodie’s adopted son, Josh. Mike and Dodie had wanted a baby so badly and so long. Hopefully they had visited state agencies, and sadly they had come away – until a doctor had worked a miracle. “There’s something so wrong with the system,” Mike thought. “Very, very wrong . . . Sure, it’s wrong to sell a baby like so many pounds of hamburger, just as it is wrong to sell any human being. But this man has brought people happiness . . . ‘Black Market Baby’ – words – a catch phrase that’s a natural for a headline. But what does it make me? What does it make my son?” Michael and Dodie were young, both now in good health, and so it was with expectations of a reasonable short wait for a baby that they applied to an adoption agency. Mike and Dodie filled out papers and papers. They were interviewed and they were then sent home to wait. Nothing happened. “It can’t be much longer,” the Landons told each other. But, one day, Mike’s patience cracked. “Next time we answer questions, I’m going to ask questions of my own!” Next time, facing a case worker across a sterile desk, Mike asked point blank: “Are we ever going to get a baby? We seem to be having more trouble than most couples. What’s the problem?” “Mr. Landon,” he said at last, “I shall be quite frank, because you appear to be intelligent. The problem is your religion. You’re Jewish, and you’ll have to wait until we can find a Jewish baby.” “We’ll have to do what?” Mike yelled, standing up. Wait until you’ve found a Jewish baby? Do you know how long that will be. It will be forever.” Dodie futilely tugged at his sleeve, trying to calm him. “Hush,” she whispered. “We’ll never get a baby this way.” But Mike kept going. “How come we can only adopt a Jewish baby? Will we love that kind more than some other? Will it love us more? Do you think we’ll only be kind to a child whose mother was of my faith? I don’t know about you, but I can love a Catholic baby or even an atheist baby. As a matter of fact, I never knew that a baby was born with its religion built in – like the size of its feet will eventually be!” The agency representative was making hasty notes, as Mike talked, and occasionally shaking his head. Unfortunately, Mr. Landon was less stable than he had thought. Very unfortunate. Such a nice looking couple, too. As Mike and Dodie left the office, Mike was penitent. “Oh, honey, I’m sorry. I’ve really fixed it so we’ll never get a baby!” “Maybe,” Dodie said, with the first note of wistfulness creeping into her voice, “we weren’t intended to have more children. But it’s hard to accept…” They almost gave up hope – but not quite. “I’m going to talk with everyone I know,” Dodie said, “and see whether someone can help us. I was a nurse, so I know doctors, and I worked for a while in a lawyer’s office, so I know some attorneys. Somebody, somewhere, may know of a baby that would just adore to be our little boy.” Sure enough, through Dodie’s legal and medical connections, she had reached a doctor who knew of an adoptable baby. That very day, the doctor said, they could go to the hospital and get it. Mike paid some legal and medical fees – but no more, he reasoned, than he would have paid had he been born to Dodie. Now, the words “Black Market Baby” made him sick. What could be wrong – what stigma could possibly be attached to a child who means as much as Josh to Mike and Dodie?

(December 1963)

“Leslie, the baby – she’s fabulous,” Mike grinned. “She’s a beautiful baby with big eyes. She’s got a huge amount of energy, and the greatest personality in the world.”

 

By Colin Jay (February 1964)

(Michael talking about when Leslie was born) "The last time, I took Lynn to the hospital at two o'clock in the morning, and I had a seven o'clock call at the studio. So I had to leave the hospital when she was still in labor. It was awful. I was such a wreck, they couldn't shoot anything anyway. I told them I just had to get out of there. I stayed at the studio an hour, and then I went straight back to the hospital. Well, I paced up and down. I hung around and hung around. Finally, I called my mother-in-law to tell her nothing had happened yet. And she tells me: 'It's a girl!' I rushed upstairs, and you know what? I had been waiting in the wrong waiting room!"  

By James Gregory (September 1964)

“I remember something else about our first year that continues to delight us now that we’re in our second year. I mean watching that little baby, Leslie, grow up. She walks a little, she talks, she eats up a storm – she has a great appetite. She likes everything!’ He grinned proudly. “She’s a gorgeous, beautiful child, and she looks like me. She has curly light brown hair, Lynn’s blue eyes, but now they’re getting kind of greenish looking – and they’re the same shape as Lynn’s, slightly slanted. She’s really cute! And she moves around like a little machine, running all over.”

 

By William Tusher (February 1965)

One has the inescapable suspicion that Mike doesn’t dare say fully what is in his heart about his newborn son, because he is convinced that no-one else – save possibly his wife – could understand what an outstanding specimen his child his. In fact, in the unguarded first flush of elation at the baby’s birth, Mike ingenuously admitted that Michael Jr. was just about the most beautiful baby ever born – at least at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital. More recently Mike has been tucking in his emotions – publicly, at least – and playing it relatively cool. “Actually,” he demurs with heroic modesty, “at this age, he’s a blob.” …Having said that, Mike rushes on to add, with barely a pause, that this blob he has sired shows spectacular outcroppings of personality. Mike doesn’t intend it that way, but the superlatives – a “terrific” here, a careless “great” there – have a way of slipping past his guard. “He’s too young to play with,” Mike admits. “You walk around with him on your shoulder – and that’s the end of that. You talk to him in bed, and spin his birds (mobiles) around, and watch him get his eyes focused. It takes him a long time to figure out what he’s looking at, because he’s so little. But, as I say, there’s no playing with him. You just talk to him in a high voice, and say silly things, and hope he looks at you.” It is clear that through experience and/or his own devices – and possibly random recourse to Spock and Giselle - Mike has become quite immersed in child psychology. Still, he does a good job of giving the impression that he takes his latest adventure in fatherhood in stride. But it is only that – an impression not to be taken too seriously. He is far too sensitive of the special implications – without any sense of diminishing the affection for his other children – of at last having a son born of his own seed. For the most part, Mike tries not to be carried away. He talks more often about everyday things to which he looks forward rather than the big, faraway dreams of a relationship he never had with his own father when he was a little boy. “We want to potty-train him,” Mike says with a diffident smile. “And take him out on his first ride in the car. We’re looking forward to the first time he goes on a little ride in Kiddyland, the first time he goes in the pool, when he eats ice cream for the first time, the first time he swings on the swing….” Mike is not coy about the kind of relationship he would like to have with the son who sprang from his loins. He recognizes that these cherished dreams were spawned by voids between him and his own father. “I’d like to be close to him, and I’d like to be involved with him in things that he enjoys, things that I missed when I was a kid,” Mike says earnestly. “Not because my dad didn’t love me – because he did. I realize that now. “But I never really got to know my father until I was a grown man. My relationship with him was a beautiful one when it finally matured and blossomed. But it was all too short. I was nineteen when I started to know him - and I was twenty-one when he died.”

 

By  Jane Ardmore (May 1966)

“Daddy, when are you coming home?” Cheryl says. She’s Lynn Landon’s twelve-year-old daughter, and she brings all of her problems home to Daddy Michael Landon. Over the long distance telephone she insists on telling him everything that’s happened to her that day. In three-and-a-half-year-old Leslie’s voice there’s a quaver, “Daddy, please come home.” Then she sends him a big kiss. She’s Daddy’s girl and has come to hate it when he goes off “to work.” Michael has explained to her, when he and Lynn take off on these public appearance tours, that he’s going “to work.” So now if he starts to leave the house on a Saturday, Leslie will cry, “No work, Daddy. No work.” After the girls talk to their parents, they hold baby Mike to the phone and he chatters. Every other night on tour, Lynn and Michael phone home. From Texas , New York , Tennessee , Louisiana . And each night it’s the same heartbreaking conversation – “Come home, Daddy, come home.” After they’ve heard the faraway voices and returned the telephone kisses, Lynn and Michael are totally bereft. In the middle of the tour, they took a week’s vacation and had the children join them in Acapulco, but then they had to send them back home which just made the homesickness that much more acute. Lynn tries not to say a word about the tour; she trots right along with Michael at a pace that’s absolutely exhausting – one day in a town where the temperature’s zero, the next, walking off a plane into 90 degree heat. It’s Michael Landon on parade between seasons on “Bonanza” and as he’s always said, “It’s part of the ball-game.” Lynn’s right with him and no complaints. But by the time they hit Shreveport this trip, he simply took her in his arms and said, “Honey, this is the last long tour; it’s not worth it.” “And I meant that,” Michael tells me as we chat across the Cartwright dining table at the “Bonanza” ranch. “From now on, any fairs I play will be short hops only. It’s a problem, but it just isn’t worth the money to be away from the children. Mike, the boy, is twenty-two months old and he doubled in size while we were gone. Now he’s really growing. We can’t afford to miss a minute of him, or of Leslie or Josh or Cheryl or Mark. These kids are part of us.” And seeing the look on his face you know that’s the understatement of the week. “I really like a houseful of kids, and that’s just what I’ve got.” On weekends it’s wild. Michael’s just bought a dream of a tree house and filled a whole yard with play equipment. On a Saturday or Sunday you’ll find the older kids and their friends all up there in the tree house for lunch. Michael and Lynn hand up sandwiches and milk and cookies. “The children love the tree house; it’s like a picnic in the sky for them. The house is made of burned wood, plastic coated, and they guarantee it against splinters. There are two bars at the bottom of the door so no one can be pushed out. Really, though, the kids get along. Josh is six now and he’s beautiful. In the beginning, when Leslie was about a year and a half and he was four, he was bored to death with her but now they play very well together. It’s hard not to get along with Leslie. She’s a redhead and a ham and when she dances it’s tremendous. But what gets to Josh is she’s so loving. She really loves him. And Cheryl, even if she is twelve, is marvellous with all the little kids. She plays with them a lot.” They’ve had some assorted parenthood, these children (three sets of Moms and Dads), but they are Michael Landon’s joy and don’t forget it! As a matter of fact, you’d travel a long way to find a man with the same degree of love, tenderness and concern as he has for each of the youngsters. He has Mark and Josh every weekend. Actually, he and Mark usually spend time alone together during the week now, because Mark has things he likes to do with other kids his age over the weekends, and with all the little kids at the Landons, it sometimes gets boring for a seventeen-year-old. Michael will take Mark to dinner and a show, they catch baseball games and boxing matches - all the things a father and son enjoy doing. There are divorces every day in Hollywood – for that matter, in New York and San Francisco and Podunk, too – where fathers and mothers split up and the father is never again close to his children. He may love them very much, but he seldom sees them and when he does see them, he’s so anxious to keep the relationship pleasant that he sidesteps any basic issues. This is not true of Michael Landon. He was deeply concerned about the boys when he and Dodie were splitting. Josh was too little to understand, but Mark was twelve and Michael had been his dad from the time he was six. A little kid who was hungry for a father’s love and an instant father who loved the responsibility and lived up to it. They’d been very close, these two. Mark had hero-worshipped Michael and Michael could never let him down. “In the beginning, it was just very emotional. I talked with Mark at great length. I’m sure it didn’t take him long to realize what was best for both parties. This way he has happy parents. They don’t happen to live in the same house, but at least he spends time with them both and it can be a happy time. If parents aren’t getting along, even a child of two will be very much aware of it. We go to movies, baseball and football games; I get him home early enough so that it doesn’t interfere with his school work. And we talk. He brings me some of his personal problems and I’m able to help somewhat. I’d like to see him do better, work harder in school. He’s a bright boy and I’d like to send him to college, but I’d rather he’d go because he wants to go, not because I want him to.” He’s finally learned to relax with Josh and not try too hard to make him feel at home. At first, when he’d bring Josh over for the weekend, he’d worry every minute: Is he having a good time? Is he happy? Not being with the little boy every day, Michael wasn’t always sure of his moods and needs and was trying too hard. Children can’t be excited all the time, he finally realized. The one child Michael had to give up was the tiny baby, Jason, whom he and Dodie had been about to adopt when their marriage broke up. It takes a long while to get a child by adoption and the Landons had applied long before, then just as they were about to split, along came this day-old child. It was a big decision but Michael figured it this way: “If this little kid was only going to have a split home, he could have stayed with his mother in the first place. Why not give the child a break?” Since the papers on his adoption had never been finalized, they found a wonderful father and mother for him with a wonderful warm, happy home, and the baby was placed quietly with the grateful new parents. But nothing is easy. He doesn’t take life easily, this Michael Landon. He is a thoughtful and sensitive man. Can you imagine then, what it meant to him to fall in love with Lynn and find another child, a little girl this time, eager for a man’s sure presence in the house. Lynn laughs and says Michael pampers Cheryl too much, but pamper isn’t the word. From the beginning, he brought the child the gifts of his imagination and warmth. He had her believing in the Easter bunny until it became quite a large-size family joke. “I want to give them all the help I can while they’re growing up – without trying to run things so far as the child is concerned. Always remember that the child, aside from respect, owes the parent nothing. We’re the ones who derive pleasure from children or we wouldn’t have them. I don’t feel hurt when the child goes off and has his own life to live. I try to bring them up so they can, so I can see a job well done. Also, so they can get to work growing up and having the grandchildren Lynn and I are going to spoil.”

 

By Tex Maddox (June 1966)

For seven years he’s appeared regularly on TV as Little Joe, the youngest son who has to be properly advised by Lorne Greene. Since the show stays Number One in the ratings and is an enormous hit in sixty other countries, Mike is slated to go on indefinitely in his role of a young man who hasn’t found himself. In Bonanza, he still hasn’t even met the girl who can inspire him to settle down. In person, however, he’s surprisingly grown up. Actually twenty-nine, he ignored his own parents’ warning when he eloped impulsively at nineteen and immediately shared the responsibility of raising a seven-year-old stepson. Mark Landon, whom he legally adopted, was seventeen four weeks before Mike’s last birthday and today is as tall as his dad who’s less than a dozen years older. Another son, Josh, adopted as an infant during Mike’s first, futile attempt to find the love he must have from a woman, is six. A second, happy marriage has rewarded him wonderfully. Leslie Ann, the daughter he and Lynn have, is three, and their son, Michael Graham, two this June. His wife’s twelve-year-old daughter, Cheryl, has her own secure place in his heart. This particular day when I found him with plenty of time between scenes, Lynn had dropped in at the studio. “Mike has all the instincts a father ought to have!” Lynn reminded me with an affectionate glance at him. His green eyes lit up with the compliment. “You remember how he behaved when Leslie was born? He insisted on remaining at the hospital all those hours I was in labor, and he wasn’t at all ashamed to cry with joy when she was finally born. When he came to work here, he phoned practically every hour and then hurried to the hospital with flowers and gifts.” Mike smiled. “Why wouldn’t a fellow be excited and concerned about the birth of a baby?” he asked. “That’s always a marvellous event!” Lynn added, “Then he was just as thrilled when little Mike was born. He’s so thoughtful with Cheryl. She’s in the high seventh grade now. Just before she went into junior high we had a few days for a vacation, so we planned to spend them in the desert. We’d been there only one night when Mike determinedly drove me back into the city for the next evening. They were having an open house for parents at the school where Cheryl was enrolled, and he felt we should go to it to get acquainted with her teachers. Mike’s always encouraging her by showing his pride in her achievements. He’ll devote an hour after dinner to going over her homework with her in detail if he senses it would help her.” “Mark wanted a brand-new convertible last year,” Mike disclosed. “I didn’t think that was a necessity. One of my own biggest kicks was my first jalopy that my parents got me. So Mark has a $200 car that’s transportation, but it’s a custom-made foreign model that will look better when we get it to a body shop for the welding and paint job it needs. He’s a junior at University High and he’s gone steady for years, with one girl after another. Each time I hear it’s a great emotional experience, and then he casually remarks that the chapters all over. Josh is eager to go to the park where we take Leslie and little Mike. He’s Leslie’s hero, but he gets annoyed when she tags after him constantly. They all love to climb and swing and slide. Taking these three to the zoo is their special treat.” “Leslie is a firecracker,” Lynn remarked gleefully. “She’s so full of vitality. She’s a born dancer. And she’s so feminine!” Mike chuckled “Last night when I came home she greeted me gaily with ‘Well, hello Little Joe from TV!’ She was so pleased about letting me know she was on to what I was when I wasn’t just her dad. When we took her to the circus she responded to every act by automatically popping up to imitate it. At the first applause for the performers she took a couple of bows because she thought everyone was applauding her! I’m glad she’s not a bit bashful.” Cheryl was christened a Catholic, and Mike drives her to church when they’re home on a Sunday. Lynn ’s a Presbyterian, and Mike is happy that Leslie and little Mike have been baptized in her faith. I remember going to the Bar Mitzvah for Mark when he was ready for it. He gave a touching tribute to his adopted father in the temple that day. Mike’s own father was Jewish, so it was repeating an ancient tradition, yet his mother is a devout Catholic, so he has a double religious inheritance. And if anyone will do a good job rising to the challenge of bringing up lively, intelligent youngsters, it will be Mike Landon.

By Tex Maddox (April 1968)

Mark a good-looking bright boy now in his late teens, wonders when he’ll be hailed as a success in life himself. For the past several years his passion for the piano has driven him to concentrate on becoming a great performer of classical music. Spending hours every day in faithful practicing, he realizes that extraordinary concert artists show signs of exceptional talent sooner. Did he perhaps start out too late? “Who can say for sure?” Mike says. “He made this decision in his mid-teens and the results depend upon his actual ability and drive. What I do know for certain is that he’s always been a fine human being. I’ll bet on him to really try to make the most of his possibilities. I admire his commitment to the piano because he’s had the courage to be himself. That’s a genuine achievement. Mark and I went over his chance to go to college, thoroughly. I also think a father should not force his preferences on a teenager who’ll stand up for the dreams he wants to make come true. Mark and I put a high value on our honesty with each other.” Mike’s instincts as a father were apparent as he began courting Lynn Noe. Her daughter Cheryl was eight then and promptly adored him because he invariably saw her as an interesting person. “Of course, I liked her immediately since she reminded me of Lynn ,” he relates. “She had her own charm, besides. We want her to fulfil her potentialities and we’re proud of how she’s going about it.” Now, at fourteen and a half, Cheryl’s finishing the ninth grade. At the thought of Josh Landon, Mike’s green eyes twinkle. He and Dodie arranged to adopt him before he was born. Today Josh is eight, a little older than Mark was when Mike first saw him. All this father has learned helped him retain a relationship that would have weakened with a less loving man. It isn’t ideal after a divorce, to return to pick Josh up at Dodie’s home when he can, but Mike does. “When Josh opens the door and greets me with, ‘I was afraid you might not come for me today, Daddy, but then I knew you would!’ he melts me again. He’s a marvellous little boy. The main thing about Josh is that he’s so alert and cheerful. I always had to fight jealousy, so I’m tickled that he’s not plagued by it. He’s had two homes for as long as he remembers and the way he takes this in stride is remarkable. He’s too young to predict exactly what he’ll be most concerned about. I’ll simply say I intend to go the whole route with Josh. Whatever I can do for him is a big privilege for me.” It is Mike and Lynn’s own daughter, five-and-a-half-year-old Leslie Ann, who definitely has Mike’s personality. Leslie Ann is always waiting impatiently for him to get home from work. Then she follows him about so delightedly he finally tires of her approval and exclaims. ‘Now, Leslie, I’m getting my beaver teeth!’ This is his ultimatum that he’s going to stop laughing and be in a bad mood if she doesn’t simmer down. In another minute he’s taking her onto his lap for a very, very serious father-daughter conference. “Right now she’s amusingly protective with Little Mike.” His and Lynn ’s youngest child, will be three the end of June. “He’s a riot! A towhead who hurls himself into everything he explores and isn’t bothered by the bumps. At present he tries to be like Leslie. She swims beautifully, dives well off the board. Little Mike was taught to swim last summer when he was two, fifteen years sooner than I did. Lynn’s strict with their manners, about their eating habits. They have to be polite, get what’s good for them to eat. They’re not going to be pampered. We never want them to think they’ll be given whatever they wish as their due, because they’d wind up spoiled rotten.” And Mike struggles to save them from that. “I know it makes no difference what I want for those I love. It has to be what they want. That’s what is most important. I hope they all select what will make them truly happy.”

 

(March 1972)

Well, it finally happened for Bonanza’s Michael Landon and his lovely wife Lynn – on December 4th, Lynn gave birth to a six-pound-eleven-ounce bouncing baby girl, named Shawna. For the Landons it was truly a Christmas miracle, for three times before Shawna’s birth, Lynn had suffered miscarriages. It had been frustrating and heartbreaking for the Landons, who had desperately wanted a third child.

By Stacie Keyes (March 1972)

The delivery went off without complications, according to hospital staff. Both mother and daughter were reported in excellent condition. How about the father? Mike never has been known to display his true emotions while off-camera. He’s usually the quiet type. But when a nurse told him the happy news his face lit up like a Christmas tree. “Mr. Landon, you have a beautiful daughter,” the nurse smiled. “And she has 10 fingers and 10 toes.” Mike was so elated that he even passed up his Sunday golf game in favor of spending the entire day with Lynn and his daughter at the hospital.

(1972)

Shawna Leigh Landon is four months old, gloriously healthy, and has such a sunny disposition her father can’t resist pointing proudly to her sparkle. “Notice how big and beautiful her eyes are?” Mike beamed with fatherly pride. “They’re like Lynn ’s…and I bet they’ll be blue, too! Lynn felt I should be the one to chose the baby’s name,” Mike admitted with an affectionate look at his wife whom he’s still totally enchanted by. “I thought about it a lot, wanted something that would remind her friends only of her, but not be freaky. Finally, a name I’d heard came to me from out of nowhere. The sound flows as much to Lynn as it does to me.”

 

By Ann Keyes (December 1972)

Mike Landon believes he should do certain things for and with his own 8-year-old son little Mike. This particularly perceptive father has never left any of the responsibilities he feels are his up to his wife or anyone else. “It’s very important to me that he grows up with the strength he’ll need not only physically but in his thinking,” Mike admits. “Then he won’t be discouraged for long when frustrated, or fooled by false values. Ever since he could talk, there’s had to be time in my own life for us to discuss everything I could imagine a boy his age wonders about. We consider together how he can be happiest at home, with his other friends, at school. By that, I mean I listen to his ideas, don’t just tell him what to do. I want him to be able to make good choices. Not as a copy of me, but as the person he can become, an individual with the right to develop as himself. I’ve always realized he was born into a very different world than the one I grew up in. Conditions will keep on changing faster every year. I want him to be certain he can depend upon my love, and I want to help him gradually become independent for his own sake.”

 

(August 1973)

The Mike Landons flew right off to Tucson, Arizona when Lynn’s daughter from her first marriage was in an auto accident in which three others were killed. Cheryl was seriously injured and was in intensive care, that’s all they knew as they flew to her side. Cheryl is 19 years old and beloved by Mike who has helped raise her from early years. He used to help her with her homework and has always been proud of her progress. This may be one of those times that only their prayers will be able to help.

By Dora Albert (January 1975)

“Cheryl is fine now,” Lynn says, “but the saddest, most frightening experience my husband and I ever had occurred a little over a year ago. We were in Salt Lake City at the time. Suddenly, about one in the morning, our telephone rang, and Mike answered it. As he talked, I could see his face turn pale. On the other end of the line, a doctor in Arizona was saying, ‘Get here as quickly as you can. Your daughter’s in critical condition. I can’t even promise you that she’ll still be alive by the time you get here.’ I knew something was wrong by the way Mike was talking on the phone. He’s a great actor, but not good enough to disguise his feelings that morning. He said to me, ‘Cheryl’s been in an accident. We have to fly to Tucson’ She was attending the University of Arizona, and lived in Tucson; she had gone on a blind date with a boy who was doing the driving and another couple. Their car had crashed into another car. The other three had been killed instantly. We were the lucky ones; she had survived. When we arrived at the hospital, she was unconscious. Her lung had collapsed; her ribs were all broken. I don’t know what she hit in the car, but it split her skull open. At first the doctors didn’t know whether or not there had been any brain damage. What can you do at such a time but get the best doctors you can and pray? All of a sudden you start praying. If you’ve forgotten how to pray, you remember in a hurry at such a time. My husband and I both went to the chapel in the hospital to pray. It was a Catholic chapel in a Catholic hospital and neither one of us is Catholic, but it doesn’t make any difference. All you have at such a time is each other and your friends and everybody that rallies around you, and your faith in your doctors and in God. The doctor who happened to be on duty when Cheryl was brought to the hospital was fantastic. The doctors who examined Cheryl later said everything he had done was right. As for Michael, he gave up everything else so we could spend the next month near the hospital, and be with Cheryl whenever she might need us.”

 

By Cecily James (June 1975)

Christopher Beau Landon was ten days old when I ran into his dad, Michael backstage at the Miss Teen-Age America Show. “How’s the baby?” was the obvious question. “Just what we expected – a baby,” answered Michael, who plays “Pa” of the Ingalls clan on his series, The Little House on the Prairie. “Kind of a miracle, really. This baby was a surprise, you know. I thought Shawna would be the last. I don’t know why I thought so, but I did.” This is the first show Michael’s ever done that runs at a time when the little kids are still up; Shawna loves it, and the other night for the first time, baby Chris took his bottle on his mother’s lap, while his dad’s voice flowed smoothly from the screen. Michael cried in a scene and Shawna went over, touched the baby, and said, ‘Daddy cries.’ She had tears in her own eyes.

By Jane Ardmore (August 1975)

Michael: “Lynn had some dental work done before she knew she was pregnant. The baby was a big surprise, and she worried because medication the dentist had given her could be harmful to the foetus. She certainly didn’t want to go through the whole pregnancy wondering if there had been any damage done to this baby, so we had this special test. They take a very large needle, send it down into the sac, draw out some fluid and run a chromosome count. They can tell by the chromosome count whether or not the baby is okay and you also know by the count whether it’s a boy or a girl. Now the question was: Did we want to know? We all sat around the dinner table to vote whether we should ask, and my feeling was that I didn’t want to know. I really feel that if God wanted you to know what you were going to have there would be a little blue spot or a little pink spot on the outside. But knowing would take some of the joy and excitement out of it. Everyone agreed, so Lynn said, ‘Okay, we’ll wait.’”

This may be Michael’s last baby – but his devotion as both a father and a husband is absolutely limitless. And if you doubt that, just look in his eyes when he speaks about his wife and children. You’ll find they’re all the proof you need.

By Chris Arnold (1975)

“My hours for the show are long,” he confides, “but I go home right after work. I really spend more time talking to my children and having my children talk to me than the majority of people who are working do. It’s not enough for me just to be home. You’ve got to go home and have something happen, a little bit back and forth. Not only was my day a tough day, but the kids had a tough day and the wife and a rough day. Everybody’s problems are important. I’ve learned a lot from listening to children. Everybody has to be listened to if they’re going to learn to communicate. I’ve found that if you’ll listen to your kids, really listen and try to see things from their standpoint, they’ll do you the same courtesy when you have something to say,” he explains. One of the things Michael often mentions to his offspring is his hope that they value money. He wants them to realize that, although their father is affluent, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will be well-off as adults. “How that affects my children is the only thing that bugs me about success,” he says forthrightly. “Especially the boys. I worry about them more when it comes to our lifestyle. It terrifies me to think that my doing well might cause any of my sons to grow up weak. It’s not just our home, but it’s the environment as well that worries me. So many of their fiends are given things by their parents. “I mean,” he says frankly, “what is a 17-year-old doing driving a Ferrari to school? Is every car he will have after 17 going to be anticlimactic? I’m adamant about my boys buying their own cars with money they’ve earned. I want them to have the feeling that nobody is ever going to be able to throw up to them, ’Well I bought you that car, or I gave you that so-and-so.’ And I also think that once a boy has a car it’s his responsibility to keep it in running condition. If it breaks down and he can’t afford to get it repaired, then it belongs in the garage until he’s earned the money to take care of it.” The boys he speaks of are Mark and Josh, Michael’s sons from his first marriage. While they live with their mother, they are still very much a part of Mike and Lynn’s life.

 

By Jo-Ellen Mitchell (November 1975)  

“People laugh at the problem, but believe me, it’s no laughing matter,” Mike says. “Bedwetting nearly ruined my childhood! I’m not ashamed of it. I don’t feel that my image or my masculinity, is at stake. Bedwetting is actually a hereditary problem linked to excessively sound sleep. Some parents try to embarrass their kids out of it, but that doesn’t cure the problem. It just makes it worse. For years I thought of myself as the world’s oldest baby. I really couldn’t cope with it. Neither could my parents – they misunderstood the situation. They thought I was doing it out of spite. Listen, my folks wouldn’t even buy me a larger bed until I was cured, so until I was 12 I had to sleep all curled up. That can sure damage a kid’s psyche. Eventually a youngster outgrows bedwetting, but he can’t erase the memory.” Mike recalls a childhood during which he was virtually chained to his bedposts. “I couldn’t go to camp. I couldn’t even spend the night at a friends house.” Because of the genetic factor, Mike fears for little Christopher. He would like his son to enjoy a normal childhood. Right now, it’s too early to tell whether the seven-month-old boy will have the same problem, but if he does develop into a bedwetter, Mike will show him understanding and heartfelt sympathy. The ‘condition’ is cured by time, but to help a child relax and learn to live with his problem without undue mental anguish, “a happy home is very important,” says Mike.

By Jane Ardmore (February 1976)

You saw her on “The Plague” episode of NBC’s “Little House On The Prairie,” a slender, stringbean of a girl with great expressive grey-green eyes…12-year-old Leslie Landon.  “In one scene, I saw my dad chopping ice and called him over: ‘Oh, Mr Ingalls.’ He came over to talk with me. He talked very nicely. That made it much easier, doing the scene with him. I told him I was going to be okay. All of a sudden, he had tears in his eyes, and when I saw that, I almost cried, too. I knew what he was remembering… a long time ago when I was really hurt. I was seven years old then. We lived in the valley, and I was riding my bike and hit a bump going down the hill. I fell off and slashed my chin. See the scar?” And she leans forward to show me. We are sitting beside the pool where her dad is holding the new baby, Christopher, dabbling his tiny feet in the water while her mom snaps a picture. Her brother, Michael, ten, balances on a float and her sister, Shawna, three, dances about like a pixie. “I had ten stiches taken at the Emergency Hospital ,” she tells me. “Then I woke up late at night and my dad was there looking at me, and he said he was going to take me ‘to a special doctor, okay?’ So we went and the doctor said I could take my choice. He could put in ten more stitches or take out what were in and put in 20 all at once. I figured I’d better have 20 all alike. That’s when my dad was crying – he was so scared. And I said, ‘It’s okay, Dad.’ It makes you know, when your dad is scared for you like that, that he really loves you.” Which he certainly does. The most basic characteristic of Michael Landon is the love he has – and gives to this family, to his beautiful wife, Lynn, and their kids. He is one of the rare men successful in any business who has never been confused about what comes first in life, and his little girl knows it. “I’m proud of him,” she says, her face glowing, and if you’re expecting her to say “because he’s a star,” forget it. What she’s proud of is: “He works so hard and it’s all for us, so he can give us a house and a pool and make everybody happy. He takes time with us, doesn’t hurry. When I had my appendix out – I was nine then – he came to the hospital every morning on his way to work. He’s patient. Lots of grownups aren’t. And he does everything with us, plays games with us. He and my brother and I play football in the park on Sunday. Also, he corrects our school work, takes us places, to baseball games and on trips.”

So how does she feel when she sees him on screen in a fight or something? “Even when he’s playing a character, he’s always Dad. I was at Laurie’s one night, and on TV we saw ‘I Was A Teenage Werewolf,’ and I started crying because there he was dead on the floor in his own body. I don’t think Mom wanted me to see that. She’s very strict about what we see.”

 

By Jane Ardmore (April 1976)

But even the worst day, the most hectic, has to smooth out when this man comes home at night and finds himself surrounded by all this love. There’s Leslie practicing her cheerleading… there’s Shawna in a tutu singing her panda bear song… there are the skits Michael and Leslie are always putting on, trying to prolong their bedtime, and there’s baby Christopher (“Quisfoto,” his dad calls him), who is learning to walk by discovering himself in a full length mirror. On a recent Saturday, the dancing-acting school Leslie and Shawna attend gave a recital and Michael and Lynn sat through sixty-eight acts! (Michael): “Shawna was in Act One and fifty-five acts later came Leslie. It was a long afternoon but very, very good.”

 

By Louise Farr (1978)

The man by almost all accounts except those of Landon himself, is a near-paragon. “The child actors all idolize him,” says one stage mother. Wife Lynn, with whom he has four children – Leslie, 16; Michael Jr., 14; Shawna, 6; and Christopher, 3 – explains, “I hesitate to say this because it sounds made up – you read those goopy kinds of stories – but I wouldn’t have the kind of patience he does if I put in his kind of day. No matter how tired Michael is when he gets home, he has time for every one of the children. I don’t want to make him sound sugary or saintly, but he is fantastic.”

Sixteen-year-old Leslie has just started dating. “I don’t worry about her,” laughs Lynn . “Leslie says, ‘Well, on the first date, he kissed my hand.’ When you have a child like that, you don’t worry a lot. I see my husband in her. She’s very competitive. Always wants to be the best. Mike, Jr. is easygoing, a very happy person. Christopher is at the stage where he’s hanging from the ceiling.” “He’s just had his tonsils out,” adds his father. “Now he’s got so much energy, we’re thinking of getting them put back in. Shawna’s very protective of me,” Landon chuckles. “She also thinks I’m Superman. The trouble is she keeps bringing me things to crush – I’ll have to get some phony rocks made.” “Michael’s so much fun for the kids,” says Lynn , before she leaves the studio to head home. “Maybe when my car zooms up, I don’t get the same welcome, but I think it’s terrific when the father comes home and the kids get excited… Once, when Leslie was little, all the neighborhood kids kept asking Michael for autographs, and Leslie said, ‘Mommy, how come everybody loves Daddy and not you?”

 

(1978)

Mark was 14 when his parents were divorced. He still vividly recalls the night they broke the terrible news to him. “I went into the bathroom and cried,” he said recently. “My father came in after me and we must have talked all night – literally 10 hours. Listening to him, I came to know him better than I ever had before. From then on I understood about the divorce and could accept it.” Though Mark lived with his mother until he finished school and, taking his own apartment, began his career in music, nothing changed in his and his father’s relationship. Their closeness, their familial love, is for a lifetime. 

By David Landers (1979)

Mike also has a close relationship with his adopted sons, even though they don’t live with him. They visit often, and he takes an active interest in Josh’s schoolwork and Mark’s musical career. "One time he got down on his knees and told me he loved me,” Mark says, remembering the closeness he and Mike shared when he was growing up. And I felt, 'Wow!' That was one of the greatest nights in my life. If I ever get worried about my career, I talk to him. He always figures out some way to encourage me. The older I get, the more of a friend he is."

 
By Mark Landon (1979)

"One time he got down on his knees and told me he loved me. And I felt, 'Wow!' That was one of the greatest nights in my life. If I ever get worried about my career, I talk to him. He always figures out some way to encourage me. The older I get, the more of a friend he is." 

 

By Mike & Lynn Landon (1979)

“There are too many fathers who are afraid to kiss their sons because they feel it isn’t manly for men to kiss each other. If we ever get to the point where people frown when seeing a father and son hugging each other with love, we’re in real trouble.”

 

By Michael Landon (September 1983)

Suddenly Cindy was jolted by her worst labor pains yet. “Michael call the doctor – I think it’s happening!” she gasped. I yelled for the doctor. He and his staff rushed into the room – and confirmed our baby was indeed on it’s way! They hurriedly moved my wife to the delivery room, where I helped Cindy with her Lamaze exercises as the pains quickened. And within minutes came the sound we were both waiting desperately to hear: our little baby girl’s crying. I thought: “This is what life is all about – babies and new beginnings.” Then I gently picked up our baby – Cindy’s first child – and thought how lucky I was that Cindy and our baby were both fine. Next, my two kids Shawna and Christopher came rushing in to meet their sister. I was bursting with pride when the nurses told me she was a bouncing 7 pounds 4 ounces. Cindy and I already had our daughter’s names picked out – Jennifer Rachel. Those names have always been favourites of mine from “Little House on the Prairie.” When new characters came on the show, I often named them Rachel or Jenny. Three days after her birth, Jennifer went home with us. She’s a little beauty – and she’s already brought a ton of happiness into our lives in just a few short days. I’m 47, and to have a new life to care for at this age is one of the greatest joys of my life. When Jennifer wakes up during the night to be fed, it doesn’t bother me at all to get up and change her diaper while Cindy feeds her. In fact, I really enjoy it.

(October 24 1984 )

Leslie Landon: “Today, I’ve reached a sense of peace about my parents’ divorce, but it wasn’t easy. The shock was terrible. My dad was a family man, and divorce never entered my mind. It was so fast. Growing up, I was so close to my father – actually closer than I was to my mother. It was dad we went to with questions and things. He was more of a kid. He’d eat carnations, put frogs in his mouth and then let them jump out – always clowning around. We related to him. It was dad who even taught me how to shave under my arms. In June 1980, just a few days before I graduated from high school, I learned what was going on. One night I came downstairs to find my mom standing by the door, crying. I heard dad’s car leave. Then my mother said she was going over to talk to her best friend. In a little while I heard dad come back home. Dad called to me – and I’ll never forget this. We went up to my mom’s room and he sat me down and told me there was another woman. I was crying and crying. I didn’t know what to say to him. Then my dad started crying. He was holding me and saying, ‘Please don’t hate me, Leslie. Don’t hate me, Leslie.’ Maybe people think it’s not hard on a man to leave a wife and kids but I know it was hard for my dad because the times when he would come back to the house and talk to my mother after that night, he couldn’t even say goodbye to us. It hurt him too much.”

 

By Barbara Sternig (December 1986)

“Now that I’ve got enough kids for a baseball team, I may stop,” quips Michael Landon, who is ecstatic over the birth of his ninth child. “Seeing your own child being born brings a feeling that cannot be compared to anything else in life – it’s just awe-inspiring,” said the handsome 50-year-old star of “Highway to Heaven.” Sean is the second child he’s had with his wife Cindy. “Just as I did for the birth of our daughter Jennifer three years ago, I video taped the whole proceeding. Even though I work with cameras every day, I had all I could do to hold the camera still as I taped Cindy in labour. I was actually kind of upset that I had to put the camera down because suddenly the baby was popping out, and it was my job to catch him! I cut the umbilical cord, welcoming the little guy into the world with my own hands. As we gazed at our new baby, we were just filled with feelings of love for each other, and for our expanding family. Cindy cradled Sean in her arms, and we just sat there cooing at him and enjoying the precious moment.”

 

By Toni Reinhold (September 1987)

Q.  You’ve been a father to two children by your marriage to Dodie and five children by your marriage to Lynn. How were these children affected by your divorce from Lynn in 1981?

A.  It really didn’t mean a hell of a lot to the little ones, and the older kids – the ones who were no longer living at home – were totally accepting. It was my middle two kids – who were fifteen and seventeen at the time – who had the toughest time accepting the divorce. I had told them over and over that the divorce was best for me and their mother, but they didn’t buy it. They were very angry because they felt I wasn’t being a perfect father. They wanted me to stay married, whether or not I was happy. When I married Cindy in 1983, they pretended to accept her, but they weren’t being honest with their feelings. It was very uncomfortable.

 

Q.  It must have been frustrating. How did you handle the situation?

A.  I told them, “Okay, be the way you are. Feel what you feel. You want to be pissed at me? You want to be angry with me? Fine. I can handle that. But I can’t handle when you emotionally lie to me.” I also told them that I didn’t want to see them, and I didn’t want them to see me, until they were ready to see me. But I always left the door open. A little less than a year later, I was the one who initiated the talking. These kids may have given me trouble but they’ve really come around.

 

Q.  Do you see your kids often?

A.  Oh yeah. One of my sons even works for my production company. My two youngest kids from my second marriage live with their mother, but I see them every weekend and have them for almost every summer vacation. I have a great relationship with all my kids. Some days are good, some days are bad, but all days are loving.

 

(April 23 1991 )

Landon – who has nine children, three of them adopted – gathered the entire clan at his 10-acre Malibu ranch on Saturday, April 6, for a dinner to break the shattering news. “After dinner, Michael told the kids that he had something to tell them,” the insider revealed, “Everyone was in a cheerful mood, laughing and joking. Then Michael told them the news as gently as he could: That he had cancer of the pancreas, had just gotten the news and that the doctor had told him he wouldn’t last the year. There was a gasp from the kids. Then a burst of crying and sobbing. Some of them came up to Michael, held him and kissed him. Michael reached his arms out to his children, his voice breaking, and told them, ‘Don’t cy for me. I’m going to do everything in my power to beat this – and you know I’m stubborn.’

 

Barbara Sternig ( April 30 1991 )

The oldest children have set up an office in Landon’s home. They are working nearly round the clock to find a miracle for their dad. “At least three or four of the kids are there all the time, working the phones, calling doctors and medical experts all over the world,” said an inside source. “They’re frantic to find the one treatment, whether it’s conventional or bizarre, that might extend their dad’s life. The kids have gone to medical libraries to do research and they’ve arranged for Michael to speak to other pancreatic and liver cancer patients who have, so far, beaten the odds. Landon’s youngest child, 4-year-old Sean, is taking the news of his illness the hardest. “Little Sean has been having nightmares about losing his daddy. He climbs onto Michael’s lap all the time,” said the inside source. “The other day he asked Michael, ‘Why does God want you now? Can’t he wait? I want you with me.’ That broke Michael up. He lifted Sean and hugged him, fighting back tears.”

 

By Dave LaFontaine ( May 14 1991 )

“I’ve got the bravest dad in the world,” says Mark, aged 42. “The family motto has become, ‘Do it for Dad.’ All us kids have really pulled together over this thing. We are all going to beat it, and we are keeping up with life-affirming things as much as possible. I just want to be with him as much as possible and hang on to him, hug him, hold him and kiss him. A lot of times when we have discussions we start off in the TV room with the rest of the family, and then we go of on our own and start pontificating. We’ll go out by the pool, at night time, and just look up at the sky and talk, argue politics, whatever. We talk about the origins of religion and the development and the true nature of God and heaven. We talk about Egyptians, Zoroastrianism, Hindus, and everything. Sometimes, he’ll be quiet and then say softly, ‘I wonder what’s out there. I wonder what’s going to happen.’ There’s so much to talk to him about, so many years ahead. I will feel really cheated. I wish this thing would just go away."

He recalls how his father has always faced situations head-on. When Mark was a child, he kept a 10-foot-long Burmese python as a pet. One day it got loose and he called Michael to deal with it. "It was in the bathroom curled around the shower rod," Mark says. "You couldn't go in there, because the light was out, and the minute you opened the door, it would strike at you. So we called my father, who was separated from my mother at the time, and he came over wearing these thick leather gloves. He opened the door and the python flew at him and he grabbed it with these gloves. But it whipped the rest of its body around him and started thrashing around. They began to wrestle. It looked like something out of a Tarzan movie. But Dad got control of it. That's the sort of courage he draws on to fight this cancer. He will face it down and wrestle with it until one or the other comes out on top. My Dad has not cried at all throughout this whole thing. He's a stoic all the way. I have seen him cry lots of times, but it's usually love that does it to him. Pondering what it all means, and where it goes sometimes. Also thinking about how lucky he's been to lead his life makes him cry. It is very difficult to think of life without him. But he's accepted whatever outcome is going to happen. He's lived a good life.”

 

 

Living without Michael

Associated Press

Los Angeles – Michael Landon was remembered for his integrity and humor Friday as family, celebrity friends and co-stars from “Little House on the Prairie” attended a private funeral service. “I know that dad wants us to think of him and be filled with love and happiness and laughter,” said Landon’s daughter, Leslie Landon Matthews.

 

(January 1992)

"Jennifer is eight and Sean is five and, believe me, they're a handful - but I don't know what I'd do without them. They miss Michael terribly, too. When I asked Sean why he never speaks about his father, his lip began to tremble and he said in a quavery voice: 'Because it makes me sad.' And the other day Jennifer taped a note to her bedroom door. 'Please come in Mom, or Dad if he's back.'" Cindy Landon.

 

By Tom Gliatto, Kristina Johnson & Vicki Sheff  ( February 10 1992 )

“We miss everything about Dad,” says Leslie, 29, his daughter by Lynn , who is a family therapist. “There isn’t a day goes by when I don’t think of him.” A battler by nature, he fought his cancer on as many fronts as he could. He underwent experimental chemotherapy and stuck to a “natural” regimen that included a mostly vegetarian diet and acupuncture. “Every time I would call him and say, ‘Hi, Dad, how are you doing?’” Leslie recalls, “it was always, ‘I’m great. Everything is fine.’” Then came the devastating news that the tumor in his pancreas had doubled in size in less than a month (the disease had already spread to his liver). The signs of defeat became clear on Father’s Day, June 16. “He had told me earlier that he knew he was dying,” says Cindy. Then, that day, “he was in the family room and he needed help just getting up the stairs with his portable oxygen tank,” she says. For the children too, Father’s Day marked a turning point. “I’d usually go out and get him something for tennis or sports,” says Leslie. But this year she bought him Gatorade and slippers with little basketballs on the toes. (At the time Michael had been watching the NBA play-offs.) Her sister Shawna, 20, a college-sophomore, gave him silk pajamas. Says Leslie: “It was like, ‘What can I give him that he’ll enjoy now?’” For Chris the difference had the feel of a sea change. “I was the father and he was the son,” he says. “I had to help him up the stairs. I am sad sometimes…” His voice breaks. “… sad sometimes when I think that I never said, ‘Sorry.’” Leslie clutches his hand. “it’s OK,” she says. Crying, Chris continues, “I never looked at him and told him that I was sorry he was losing his life.” “In the last month and a half, “ says Leslie, “you started to take your time with him because you just knew. There was a longing in Dad’s eyes when he was watching everyone.” In a sense he even peered at the Landons yet to come. When daughter-in-law Sharee Landon, 27, Michael Jr.’s wife, was eight months into her pregnancy, “Dad used to put his hand on her tummy,” says Leslie. “He would close his eyes and go, ‘Aaaaaaah,’ as if he was loving the baby.”  “I remember being with him at Jennifer and Sean’s school,” says Cindy. “It was PE time for Sean, and he came running over and said, ‘Hey, Dad, watch me! I’m going to run my laps now.’ And I remember Michael looking at him and shaking his head and starting to cry.” To prepare Jennifer and Sean for his death, Michael and Cindy would read them a children’s book called Butterflies. “Dad would explain that when he died, his body would be like the cocoon,” says Leslie, “and his spirit would be like the butterfly, looking down at his old existence.” “Dad always made us feel good about heaven,” says Jennifer. “See, I like marshmallows, so he would say that I could eat as many as I want in heaven.” At the end of June, a visiting nurse warned that Landon – down 30 lbs to a mere 135 and exhausted with pain – had at most a day to live. Cindy called the kids back to the ranch to make their goodbyes. They gathered in his bedroom and waited. “He was ready to go,” says Leslie. “We told him, ‘Let go, Dad.’” “You could say a thousand goodbyes,” says Chris, “and it would never be enough.” The older kids spent the night camping out on sofas. Sean came downstairs at 2 in the morning, remembers Leslie’s husband, Brian Matthews, 31. “First he told me, ‘My daddy isn’t dead yet,’” Brian says. “Then, ‘Daddy told me he could be anything he wants in heaven.’ So I asked him what he wanted his daddy to be, and he said, ‘I’d like him to be a crab, so he can cut through the clouds and drop back down and be with us.’” “He really showed us how to handle death,” says adopted son Mark, 43, a grocery clerk and aspiring actor. “I’d want to go with dignity, like he did.” That night, Cindy and Jennifer both slept with an article of Michael’s clothing. But, the Landon’s have learned, there’s no real way to swaddle grief. “It comes in waves, and it will hit you when you don’t expect it,” says Leslie. “A picture, a song, a movie.” Shawna will be driving her car and just start crying. Chris had to walk out of a physiology class during a discussion on euthanasia. Cindy has settled back into a daily routine. It helps, she says, that Landon left her “some beautiful letters in a little book. I read those quite often. They’re about how to remain strong and solid.” At least, she says, “I can sleep now without waking and staring at the ceiling, feeling alone.” She’s not alone this afternoon. Whichever way Cindy looks, she can see Michael in his family. “There is so much of him in all of us,” says Chris, turning to Leslie and suddenly grinning. “You can be raunchy, and so was he,” he teases. “Dad loved to bring in fantasy play and pretending, which is a lot of what we do with the little ones still,” says Leslie. “There are games that I play with them that Dad taught Mike Jr. and me when we were little – like African safari in the pool.” But, ultimately, what Michael taught his family wasn’t just about playtime but about a whole lifetime. “When Brian and I have kids,” says Leslie, “there’ll be so much that we’ll teach them because of the love of my dad and our family. We’re going to live life to the fullest, like Dad did.” After three hours of sharing stories about Michael, the family almost seems to have conjured him into their presence. “I think he protects this house,” says Cindy. “Sometimes,” says Leslie, “I will go up and sit in his closet among his clothes to feel closer to him.” “When I walk into the TV room,” says Shawna, “that one chair that he always sat in reminds me of him. You can see that tuft of brown hair.” “And he’s always roll his toes,” says Chris. “You can almost hear his toes cracking when you go in there.” He pauses. “When I used to think about death, I’d say, ‘I don’t want to die at all!’ But now,” he says, “I say the worst that’s going to happen is that I’ll see Dad again.” Leslie holds Chris’s hand. “I know,” she tells him, “we are all going to be together again.”

(March 1992)

 

(Talking about the birth of his daughter, Ashley) "It was a shame she arrived too late for her grandfather to hold her. We all wanted that - most of all Dad." Michael Landon Jnr.

 

From Cheryl Landon's book "I Promised My Dad" (1992)

 

“Shawna and Chris also had been a great comfort to him over the past weeks. Shawna was full of tricks and at one point started a water-pistol fight and even managed to target Dad. He loved it. Chris smuggled in a bag of candy, which Dad hid under the bed. Candy didn't come under the category of health food and technically was not allowed in his home. Dad said he wanted a candy bar, and Chris went and got two of every kind. Chris later went to Jack-in-the-Box to get Dad's last junk food request, a chicken sandwich. There were also difficult and confusing times as each of us tried to deal with Dad's imminent death in our own way. Still, we shared the same bond - to love him as best we could.”

 

From “A& E” Biography (August 1999)

 

“He was wonderful at entering into a child’s world. He could find that child inside of him and I think that’s what helped us bond with him so easily and it was just so easy for him to be with us and play with us and there was just this intimacy that we had with him.” Lesley Landon Matthews.

 

 

(December 1999)

 

(When asked: What do you miss about your dad?) “Oh, I miss everything about him. He had his faults and his flaws, but he was a good person and an extremely loving man, very maternal and affectionate. I miss stupid things too. He always had this habit when he was thinking of something - he always used to nod his head and just stand in front of the television. He was extremely bright and would go way into his head.” Christopher Landon.

 

From the book “The Needs of the Dying” by David Kessler 2000

 

"Some people in my family thought I was the pessimist, but I was the realist. And my father knew that when he was sick. The first thing I did was research the type of cancer he had. I learned enough to know that he had a very, very slim chance of surviving - and I told him so. I didn't want him to have to pretend he was strong or that he was going to survive, or feel that he had to parade around with the false sense of hope for me. I was ready to go wherever the moment took us. I didn't want him to feel like he had to do that with me, because he was doing that a lot for others. That whole 'I'm going to make it, I am going to be okay' routine. I knew that that was really painful for him to stay 'up' for everyone else. I wanted to be in reality with him. That didn't mean there was no hope. You always have hope, even the day before someone dies. It sometimes becomes hard to distinguish what that hope is, what you are hoping for. Hope wears so many different faces. You initially hope for a swift and speedy recovery, or a miracle; then you start hoping for a swift and speedy death because you don't want them to suffer any more. We all went through that. It's agonizing to see someone you love suffer, knowing that living in that condition they are in is not living at all. You hope for so many things, and then finally you hope that you will see them again, which I still hope for." Christopher Landon.

 

From “Headliners and Legends” Biography (2000)

 

(On suspecting that something was wrong with his father a few months before he was diagnosed with cancer). “I looked at him at I saw the tones of illness in him and I called him on it. I said, ‘You look really tired, what’s going on?’ And he said, ‘I’m just working really hard.’ He used to have that macho, strong, I’m not sick, I’m invincible, you know, I’m gonna be all right.” Josh Landon. 

 

“From watching ‘Highway To Heaven’ you’d think this guy’s really religious, you know. Probably sleeps with the bible by his bed, maybe. But it was really just about being a good person and being nice to people, doing good to you fellow man. That’s not a religion, that’s something that everybody should live by.” Jennifer Landon.

 

“Sometimes it seems like with some people, once they’ve finally figured it out, there’s this feeling that they just know a little bit more than you do about the whole deal and those are the people who usually then go. He was definitely somebody who taught you to appreciate your life.” Jennifer Landon

 

 

(2005)

 

"I believe there was a part of me that was frozen in time with his death. When you lose someone when you are very young, it changes you, absolutely. There is the 'before', and there is the 'after'." Jennifer Landon.

 

"He did it all. Yet he always had time for us. Not once do I ever remember saying, 'Where is my dad?' Weekends were the most fun. Dad would cook up a real mess in the kitchen for breakfast, then we would go fishing down at the beach, me with my own little fishing rod." Jennifer Landon.

 

 

"I am amazed at all he accomplished. My father was an extraordinary man." Jennifer Landon. (2005)

 

                                

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