Leila never displayed her ill temper to Howard. She was head over heels in love with and slavishly devoted to her husband for life. When Howard, then a stockbroker, asked her, "Mom, why do you think you're here on Earth?" she replied, "To take care of you, Daddy." She really felt that way, Doris said. Leila was either J. A. Stahl's daughter, Howard Buffett's wife or Warren Buffett's mother. "That was her identity. And it really burned her up when I didn't seem to buy into that."
Leila often told Doris that she wasn't smart. She didn't want her to go to college. "She didn't see any reason. The only reason you went to college was to get your man, your 'Mrs. degree.' Ick."
But her younger sister Bertie was sent off to Northwestern at sixteen. Doris was never allowed to leave home to go to college, and took college classes in Washington and Omaha while her friends all went away to school.
All four of Doris' marriages were disasters. After Leila's death, Doris saw a daybook her mother had kept for decades. An entry from Doris' first marriage, when she and her husband were struggling financially, noted: "Doris called collect today."
Doris lost everything in the 1987 stock market crash, going $2 million into debt. When that happened, Leila wrote in her daybook, "Don't give Doris a cent."
She has battled depression at times in her life and gone to a psychiatrist, trying to understand why her relationship with her mother was so ugly and how that may have affected the rest of her life. "We'll never know, because at the age of three you couldn't be that bad, and that's when it started," she said. Whatever the reason, it had a huge impact on her life.
Looking at a picture of herself as a cherubic blond toddler, Doris said, "How could you hate that child? Their nickname for me was 'Mary Sunshine.' "
"When I was twenty-eight and married, I remember thinking 'Isn't this strange? My brother's a genius, my sister's a Phi Beta Kappa, we all have the same parents, and I'm such a dummy.' I bought it. I really believed that." Much later, she discovered that the woman who had administered an IQ test to Bertie, Warren and Doris when they were eight, ten and twelve, respectively, was still alive. Doris checked the results: her IQ test result was 150, a couple of points lower than Warren's and a couple higher than Bertie's. "I don't know that I believed it, but I immediately joined Mensa because I could get in on that score," she said with a chuckle.
"You knew that, if you were in the family," Warren said, "there was never anyone who was smarter than the other or pulling up the rear. That was clear at the dinner table," he said. "We all had this high energy level and aspiration level. My dad thought the world of his three children; but the way the world was, boys had a different future than girls. They got out of school and wore an apron, basically. My dad wanted me to go to Wharton. I wasn't too keen on that. My guess is that he didn't much care where Doris or Bertie went. It's not that he didn't care about them. It's just that it didn't make that much difference.
"She would have been a terrific anything," Warren said. "She could've been a Johnny Carson or something like that. Fast and funny women, though, that was different from being a funny guy."