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Saturday, July 25, 2015

(1) "IT'S POSSIBLE SHE WILL BE A VEGETABLE FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE," THE DOCTOR TOLD US.

                                       
December, 1965   
     ‘T’was the season to be jolly.  I updated my Christmas card list in a spiral notebook, starting with the current year. Following each name a space was left for check marks, indicating "sent" and "received." Very efficient, I thought. Very practical. No point in doggedly sending cards to people who, for whatever reason, were not interested.
     In a further burst of efficiency I drew a series of ruled lines to separate the next six years, 1966‑1971. An eerie feeling crept over me as I headed these columns with the Ghosts of Christmases Yet to Come. What would our family be doing six years from now? What unanticipated joys or sorrows would brighten or darken our days?
    On the morning of December 19th I mailed the cards. The phone was ringing when I got home. It was my son‑in‑law, who was calling, I assumed, from Berkeley, California.
     "Merry Christmas!" I said.
     A few days later I found myself exchanging this time hallowed greeting with a passerby in a small, unfamiliar town.
     "Merry Christmas," I echoed. There was no way the stranger could tell that my heart was breaking.
     Kathie was in a hospital in Williams, Arizona.  Ed and I strove to reach her side as fast as we could. I remember nothing about our flight except a stopover where we were supposed to change to another plane. The airport was thronged with happy travelers returning to their families for the holidays. To our dismay, we were told there was only one seat left on our connecting flight.
     "You go ahead," Ed said. "I'll join you as soon as I can."
     I didn't want to go without him. I needed him. Kathie needed both of us.
     "Isn't there anything you can do?" I begged the ticketing agent, fighting back tears. "Our daughter has been hurt in an accident."
     A young serviceman standing nearby stepped up to the counter and said we could have his seat. He was in no hurry.
    The plane was boarding. Did I take the time to express my gratitude to the young man for his generous offer? I couldn't remember. For years to come I would thank him in my heart and wish I had thought to ask him for his name and address.

     The doctor led the three of us, Dick, Ed, and me, into a room where Kathie's X‑rays were displayed on the wall. He pointed to the damage done to her spine, using medical terms that were meaningless to me but as ominous as the wail of a siren. Dr. Barnes believed his patients' loved ones should know the worst‑case prognosis from the beginning.
     "She is in a coma because of a severe concussion. I don't know how much brain damage she suffered. When and if she regains consciousness, it's possible she will be a vegetable for the rest of her life."
     "That can't be!" I cried to the doctor. He didn't understand what a brilliant girl he was talking about. Her principal said he had never seen such a gifted teacher. Mr. Lievore said Kathie had accomplished miracles with her retarded and emotionally disturbed children. "She can't be a vegetable; she just can't!"
     Ed tried to soothe me, but he too was staggered by the doctor's pessimism. How does one devastated person console another? Dick was stoic and silent.
     Back at the motel he said, "It seems as if life has come to a grinding halt." Then he covered his face with his hands and went into the bathroom to weep.
     After recovering from that brief breakdown, he refused to dwell on the whys and if onlys. (Why had this happened to a girl like Kathie, who never did anything wrong in her life? Why couldn't she have been in the front seat wearing her seat-belt instead of taking a nap? If only we'd told them we were planning to visit them in February! If only we had understood how homesick they were—so homesick they allowed a flipped coin to send them on their way). Dick looks to the future and the productive life he is sure Kathie will still be able to lead. He visualizes her teaching from a wheelchair or writing a book on her successful teaching methods with retarded children. "The main thing is to be sure she has something to keep her mind busy."
     The doctor said it would be 48 hours before he could even make a guess as to whether our daughter’s mental faculties would return. With every hour that went by after the first 48, there would be less chance that she would ever communicate with us again.
     The plan is for me to stay in Arizona with Dick until Kathie is strong enough to be flown back to Massachusetts. Ed and I would give our souls if only this had happened to us instead of to her. We’ve had a full happy life together, while she and Dick had scarcely started theirs.
     The babies she wanted  . . . .
     I can't remember what time it was or where we were standing when Ed and I said goodbye on December 21st. Outside the hospital? Outside the motel? I held back my tears until he left. Our poor little firstborn, why did such a terrible thing have to happen to her?
     
    Kathie is becoming so alert that Dick and I can't help laughing at her wisecracks even though I thought we'd never laugh again. Whatever is wrong with the rest of her body, there is nothing amiss with that fine mind. As soon as we arrive at the hospital every morning, the nurses greet us with the latest humorous quotations from Room 3.
      She doesn't understand yet what happened or how serious her injury is. She thinks she was in a plane accident—-that we were all in the same accident together. At times she hasn't been sure I was really her mother and Dick her husband. She said to him while he was bathing her forehead with a cool cloth: "You're such a wonderful husband. I don't know if you're my husband but you're a wonderful husband."
      Dick and I dread the day when she will begin to ask questions about her condition; that’s something we’ll have to face when we come to it. Meanwhile, I am sustained by his optimism. As long as she can still think, talk, read, study, he is convinced she will triumph over her handicap.
      The day before Christmas I inquired of Dr. Barnes, "Kathie will be able to read and write, won't she?"
      His dubious look as he replied, "I don't know, it's a little early to tell yet," filled me with dread, but Kathie settled the matter the next day when she unwrapped a present from me.
      "The I Hate to Housekeep Book by Peg Bracken," she murmured, gazing at the cover while Dick and I exchanged relieved glances.
      "If it's loose, pick it up;" she added drowsily. "If it isn't, dust it; if it moves, feed it."
      Dick took the book from her hand and his brow cleared as he reads the fine‑print blurb above the title. "That's what it says, all right."
      Our Christmas wasn't as totally miserable as one might imagine. Dick bought a huge red stocking that he filled with little surprises and hung on the curtain railing above Kathie's bed. Her favorite presents were a stuffed poodle that looked like Moppet, and a perky red reindeer     
      "What are you going to call the reindeer?" Dick asked, and she replied with a wan smile, "Archibald . . . Archibald Antlers." On Christmas day she talked to Dick's family.  I heard her say she was glad to be alive.
                                                       

      A week after the accident, Kathie was thinking very clearly indeed. "I have been mentally composing a projectory to present to the doctor," she informed Dick and me, "giving various reasons why I feel I should be put in a cast as soon as possible, my arguments being based on the pre‑med courses I took when I was considering medical school."
      Obviously charmed by his patient's intelligence and wit, Dr. Barnes nevertheless refuses to be rushed. He explains that she will have to be given an anesthetic when the cast is put on; in her weakened condition, this could be dangerous. We will have to be patient and hope her strength returns soon.  
     For two or three days, Kathie was aware of pain and discomfort, despite the medications that were supposed to help her.
    "No one was ever meant to have such pain . . . I guess God doesn't like me very much," she said to Dick.  But even under these circumstances she was able to wisecrack.
    Nurse: "Is your pain any better, Kathie?"
     
    Kathie, wryly: "Is my pain better? How can pain be better? Pain is pain."   
    Next, she demanded, "Where is that sex-pot doctor? I want him front and center immediately."
    Nurse: "I don't believe he'll be back today. He's gone to his office in Flagstaff."
    "Is he arranging my plane reservations so I can fly home tomorrow? I get so tired of just lying here all the time.  I want to be sitted up."
    Nurse: "The doctor said he might let you be propped up a bit toward the end of the week."  
    "What's today?"  Nurse: "Monday."  "Is tomorrow the end of the week?"
    "Funny old thing, I think you should have been a comedian instead of a teacher," Dick laughed. How he appreciates her little jokes.
                                            


     Dick returned to Berkeley to finish the first semester. I am thankful he had the strength of character to do this. Kathie's face is already a mile longer than it was before, and her chin quivers every now and then, but I have yet to see her shed a tear. She knows that giving him up for three weeks is the only sensible thing to do and wouldn't hear of his doing anything else.      
     Meanwhile I try my best to keep her mind occupied by reading to her, which she seems to enjoy very much. With pets Lurch and Moppet to care for back at the motel, letters to write, my room to keep tidy, and laundry to do, it’s surprising how busy I manage to keep. If I am careful not to let myself think too much, I'll be able to carry on until Kathie is strong enough to leave.
      She is as yet unable to read or write letters, so I have become her secretary.

(2) THERE ARE TWO LEGS IN BED WITH ME BUT NO REAL INDICATION THAT THEY ARE MINE.

Dictated letters from Kathie

To Kathie’s father
Williams, Arizona
December 19, 1965
Dear Daddy:
     If I tried to put down all my thoughts and feelings in the journal Dick got for me, my poor non-focusing eyes would probably turn inside-out and my writing would look like upside-down Arabic.  So Mom has agreed to take on the chore of recording my momentous observations in a letter to you.
     The strangest thing is that the accident itself doesn’t seem credible to me.  I was half asleep when it happened and unconscious or only semi-conscious for a week thereafter, so it has no reality for me.  I’ve learned some of the details so I can reply intelligently when people ask me about it, but it is mostly just a story to me.  Of course I believe it happened, mainly because it’s an explanation of why I’m here.  It’s like asking, “Why do the tides come in and out” and being told, “It’s the moon.”  As an explanation, it’s acceptable but somehow remote.
     When I first became fully conscious I simply felt that I had a new situation to deal with.  All of a sudden I found myself in a hospital bed with two strange and numb legs attached to my body.  I felt very week and very helpless.  Mummy was with me as well as Dick, so I was aware that something was out of the ordinary.  Even as I became informed of the details of the accident and my injury, I couldn’t really become depressed because I just felt like me in a new situation.  I’ve been in lots of new situations in my life and have come to feel the best way to handle them is to keep laughing and shoot high.  I don’t feel any different now.  
From Vonnie
January 4, 1966
Scituate, Masachusetts
Dear marvelous, heroic, darling sissy,

     I went over to Dad's house yesterday to dry some clothes and made an inspection while I was there. I couldn't help being concerned about how he was eating and taking care of the place. All the doors were locked except the one on the terrace. A downstairs and upstairs light was on but the house was immaculate. He sure is a good housekeeper. I checked the refrigerator and it looked to be pretty healthy and well stocked. There were two steaks on a plate that hadn't been covered and the air had turned them a funny color. I left a note telling him to put wax paper on food so it wouldn't spoil.
     He called me when he got home and said he'd purposely left the lights on so people would think there was someone there at night before he got home. Smart ol' Dad. He also said his steaks were still good (ach! they looked awful to me) but promised to cover them from now on. All in all he's doing pretty well.
     We had our first real snowfall out here Sunday so Bob and I brought the baby outside to see it. Unfortunately his reaction was a disappointment. He didn't like it. It was too cold, too wet, and didn't taste like a cookie. He really is a delight, though. For instance, yesterday he pulled the living room curtains down, every day he throws his toys all over his room, feeds the dog when I'm not looking, and bangs his bedroom wall with his toys. You should see it—scratches, dents, chipped paint, etc. What a darling child. Nine months old and his nickname is Michael the Monster. He keeps me busy but it's worth it when he's asleep.
     Sis . . . We're plugging for you. Our hearts never leave you. I can't really put into words what we feel, but believe me, it's strong and warm and everlasting.
To Kathie’s principal
January 5, 1966
Dear Mr. Lievore,
     You can’t imagine how much your call meant to me.  Every card, every letter reminds me that I belong in a non-hospital world, too—not that the hospital routine is dull. . . as a matter of fact every day begins with a Battle Royale!  I am forced to fight fiercely for my beauty sleep against a hoard of uncooperative nurses.  At 6:00 a.m. the first wake-up nurse crashes into my room, hooks open my door, and turns on two lights.  At 6:15 the next bright-eyed nurse comes bounding in to get my water pitcher.  She doesn’t refill it, mind you, she puts it on a cart with all the other water pitchers and clanks the cart up and down the hall a few times until she is sure everyone is wide awake.
     Six-thirty is pill time.  A sweet, friendly looking old nurse who looks like somebody’s grandmother brings me about eighty pills and stands over me until every one of them has gone down the hatch.  At 6:45 comes the cruelest of all blows—some unidentified nurse wakes up every baby in the nursery and urges each to howl his loudest. I would like to think that the cold, wet washcloth that is brought in at 7:00 is intended to sooth our brows after fifteen minutes of listening to baby squalls; however, judging by the nurse’s expression when she hands me the wet cloth and says, “Get ready for breakfast, dear,” I doubt if this is her motive. She is not satisfied with eyes that are only half open and expects me to undergo a form of medieval water torture to complete the journey to wakefulness.
     Breakfast provides additional fun and novelty.  The nurses optimistically drape a king-sized towel under my chin, but in my groggy state, I still manage to feed at least half of my oatmeal to the sheet, blanket, and pillow case, as well as amply nourishing my neck, throat, and shoulder-blades.
     Much of the morning passes quite pleasantly because my mother is with me to read and write letters.  This is so out of keeping with the usual scheme of things that she is shooed out from time to time by nurses zealously devoted to restoring hospital normalcy.  The customary excuse is that my bedsores need treatment.  Who would have thought that one could develop sores just from lying on a soft, clean, comfortable bed!  The treatment is unique; the nurses prop me up on my side with a few pillows and then direct a bright lamp on the problem areas.  Never in my wildest nightmares did I ever picture myself with that particular part of my anatomy in the spotlight.
     Despite the obvious zest in hospital living, I appreciate my Manzanita mail more than I can say. I expect to be in Arizona for another two or three weeks and hope the mailbag will continue to be full.  Thereafter I will be at Massachusetts General Hospital.  I miss Manzanita and hope to be back there before too long.  Make sure my substitute is giving my kiddies enough loving.
To Kathie’s grandmother
January 6, 1966
Dear Isha,
     A steady stream of letters from home have helped to brighten every day.  Reminders and memories help the hospital routine pass more easily, not that the routine is very complicated—they feed me, wash me, roll me around and rub my back, somehow change the bed with me in it, massage my legs, give me different pills forty times a day and regularly take my temperature, pulse, and blood pressure.
     The hardest part isn’t the external hospital routine, it’s getting used to me.  Like there’s a strange pair of legs in my bed.  I have a vague feeling of a numb pair of bent legs attached to my body, but every time I look, there is very clearly a pair of flat legs lying here.  I can’t feel a thing though the nurses prod them and rub them and move them, but Mom tells me originally I couldn’t feel anything below my neck, so I figure by next week I should have feeling to the knees, and another week I should even be able to wiggle my toes.
     There’s been a lot of progress, anyway.  Instead of lying flat in bed like a pancake, I am wound up to a sitting position, trusted to wash my own face and hands, and I’m even allowed to feed myself.  I wonder if my kiddies would mind a teacher with egg all over her face.
     The doctor was a little worried about the injury to my head, but obviously I’m as quick and clever as ever.  The plan of action is to get me back to Boston for therapy.  I’ll keep you in touch and meanwhile would appreciate as much news as possible.  Please write again. 
January 7, 1966
Williams Hospital
Dear California friends,     
      Goldwater country is probably the last place you ever expected to see postmarked on a letter to you. Just before Christmas Dick and I started impulsively east, cat and dog in tow; we planned to call you as a big surprise when we had gotten close to home.  Unfortunately, someone must have let it out of the bag that we were good liberal Democrats because we weren’t able to make it through this state.  In the midst of a snowstorm our poor little “Baby Cadillac” and a great big tough old Republican car went skidding into each other.  Virtue failed to win out and the poor Democratic Volkswagen got demolished and I got pretty banged up myself.
     Dick and Lurch and Murphy proved too tough for injury, but I guess I had everyone pretty worried for awhile.  My mother and father came out from Boston to help Dick, and Mummy is still here, keeping me company.  As soon as I’m strong enough the doctor will put me in a body cast and send me back to Boston.  It’s been kind of a long trip but I still can’t wait to get home.
     Dick reluctantly went back to Berkeley to finish his semester, then he’ll be back to Massachusetts, too.  The doctor expects to get me out of here in three weeks.  I’m eager to begin some real therapy—there are two legs in bed with me, but no real indication that they’re mine.  Since I’m determined to be swimming, sailing, horseback riding and wrestling with Dick by next summer, I am naturally very anxious to get started on my progress.
     Lunch just came, and since eating is supposed to help me strengthen fast, I’ll sign off to you now. Mom is going to fill in some of the events between December 23, when I was still unconscious, and today, when I’m obviously my outspoken old self.  I am very anxious to receive mail, so please take time to write to me here.
Love to you all. . .
January 7, 1966
Williams, Arizona    
     Kathie continues to "hold me up," as my sister put it so accurately.  She cried today for the first time ‑‑ said she felt as if she needed to cry to ease her tensions.  I said, "Go ahead and get it out of your system, darling, before your hubby comes back.  He'll tell you what a tough kid you are, but a good cry might make you feel better."  
     My words sounded pitifully inadequate in the face of a sorrow so unanswerable, so beyond the reach of comfort.  I longed for a wishing stone to turn back the clock, to turn off her tears.  But Dick said "no if onlys."  He pictures her teaching from a wheelchair someday.  I must try to focus on the positives, as Kathie does nearly every waking moment.
     Before I left, she had dried her eyes.  She gave me a smile and a hug, and said not to worry, she was all right now.
January 12, 1966
     Dr. Barnes spent over two hours in Kathie's room last night, examining her from head to toe, checking her eyesight (her right eye "lags" a bit but will gradually become normal), and fending off her amorous advances.  She flirts with him outrageously, much to his amusement.  He says she has shown marked improvement in the last week, and as soon as the bedsore on her backside is sufficiently healed, she will be ready for a cast. 
     The treatment for the bedsore consists of placing her on one side or the other for as long as she can take it (she has worked up to half an hour at a time) with a lamp's rays directed at the sore.  Tonight Dr. Barnes and the nurse put her on her stomach for the first time, and he was pleased to see the area looking much better.  There was a  lot of kidding back and forth about what he would remember best about her after she was gone.
     At one point he turned to me and said quietly:  "You were right when you told me what kind of girl this was, the first day I met you.  Maybe you didn't think I was taking it in, but I listened and remembered, and you're right.  She's one in a million."
January 13, 1966
Dear Ted:
     It was wonderful to hear from my favorite older brother.  Writing an answer isn’t as easy as you might think.  I still have a problem with quadruple, over-lapping, intermingling, and thoroughly confusing vision.  I can’t even read what I’m writing when I attempt to be my own secretary, unless I keep one eye closed in one-eyed pirate fashion.
     Other than my skewed vision, my progress continues to be very good.  I had a problem with a squeaky ear, but that was only because of a low pressure area at our high altitude.  The doctor’s carefully weighed and well-considered prescription for this malady was a wad of bubble gum, which was intended to equalize the unbalanced pressures between my ear and Eustachian tube.
     I’ve applied myself so steadfastly to this cure that I can now down my pills  without so much as breaking rhythm in my chewing.  Lucky my children can’t see me chomping away; they’d think I should stay after school.
     One of the most exciting signs of progress is that I’m beginning to have some sensation in my legs.  Now that I’ve become convinced they are really mine, I have stopped requesting that the nurses return them to their proper owner.  I can’t move them yet but expect with the proper concentration I should be able to wiggle my toes within a week or two.
     You’ll be interested to hear that Daddy has thoughtfully arranged that I go to Mass General so I can be near the Union Boat Club.  Dr. Barnes hasn’t been at all cooperative about my getting exercise.  When I requested that a jungle-gym be installed over my bed so I could do chin-ups and pull-ups to restore the body beautiful, he merely suggested that knitting would be a more appropriate occupation and hurried on to his next patient.  Realizing that planning ahead can solve  many problems, I have my scheme all worked out for Boston:  whenever you and Dad arrange to play squash, come to the hospital to see me first, then you take my place in bed and I’ll go play squash with Daddy.  See you at the hospital. . . .
January 20, 1966
Williams Hospital
 To Kathie's father (dictated)
         The last few days have been particularly exciting.  Tuesday  morning they wheeled my bed down to the operating room.  I told Dr. Barnes that January was my "nervous month, but he seemed  convinced I was ready for my cast now and "never mind the  stalling, Kathie."  Actually I was pleased to be getting my cast at last but had no idea it would so closely resemble a corset.
     They began by wrapping me in felt, pulling it tighter and tighter, despite my protests that I needed room to get my figure  back.  They assured me there would be room for my tummy to expand but I couldn't convince them that this was not the only area where I intended to do some growing.
     During my badinage with the nurses I noticed a mild‑looking young man leaning in a corner and laughing at our conversation.   My glances toward him changed from coy to alarmed when he wheeled over a tall pole terminating in a menacing looking needle.  In confirmation of my fears, it took the anaesthetist three jabs  before he could find a vein.  I was about to protest loudly when, without so much as a good‑bye, the doctor, two nurses, and the anaesthetist all disappeared.
     The next thing I knew Mummy was saying, "How do you feel,  hon?"  I probably shouldn't tell you this, but she must have been  drinking because she was so blurry I could hardly see her, and her vision was so confused, the room looked spinny even to me.  I  was about to chastise her for her moral lassitude when the doctor came in.  I began to have doubts about him, too, when he walked  up to my bed and cheerfully thumped me on the chest.  I should  have realized that the hollow thump my chest gave in response wasn't my heart, but I still reacted with modest defensiveness when he swept back the covers to my waist.  
     To my amazement,  there before my eyes rose a far huger bust than I ever expected  to see attached to this body.  As my delighted eyes began to  focus more clearly on this unexpected development, I noted that it was white, nubbly, criss‑crossed with tape, and all in all not the texture you'd find in a Reubens painting.  Further exploration with my own tapping fingers proved  beyond a doubt that it was a cast in bust's clothing!
     "Is it comfortable?" Dr. Barnes asked, drumming thoughtfully on my chest.
     I was forced to admit I suspected his creation was designed solely as a punishment for all my flippancies of the past few  weeks.  I had expected rough spots in the plaster, but not sandpaper, bottle caps, and old coat hangers.
     As a reward for not resorting to physical violence to defend myself, I was placed in a wheelchair for the first time and taken on a Cook's tour of the hospital.  Everything looked a little blurry because I had been in a prone position for so long, but I was as thrilled as if I were seeing the whole world for the first time.
     We were on our way back to my room when this crazy broad in the lobby suddenly came dashing over, quivering with excitement and shrieked, "Kathie!"  I was a little overwhelmed by this mad, onrushing bundle of emotionalism until I realized it was only Mom.  It wasn't as though I was standing on my head, but I can  imagine it was quite a sight for her to see me sitting in a wheelchair after all these weeks. 
     As we close another dramatic chapter in the life of Katrinka Von White, the belle of Williams's white‑ coated set, we see her progress being ignored by a food‑hungry mother (reading recipes  in Playboy) and a comic‑craving husband (reading Batman). Since  I'm about to crown someone with my cast, you'll have to excuse me for now.
January 27, 1966
      We left the Williams airport in an ambulance plane, a small single‑engine Cessna that barely had room for Kathie's stretcher, Dick, the dog, cat, myself, and all our luggage. Moppet had become quite brave about flying. Instead of crawling under the seat when we took off, she perched on top of Kathie's cast and looked out the window at the passing scenery. The cat was another matter. Lurch was hit by a car when a kitten and has never recovered from the trauma. Kathie and Dick raised him to be a protected house cat, so whenever he sees the outside world, he becomes panic‑ stricken. Dick put Lurch in a cardboard carton, but by the time we got to Phoenix, he had nearly busted through it.
      At Phoenix, TWA provided two heavy cardboard carriers for the animals, and we were allowed to carry them with us onto the plane. They withstood the five‑ hour flight to Boston very well—and so did Kathie. She was provided with a "stretcher kit," composed of four passenger seats laid flat, thus making a bed, and curtains for privacy if she desired. She preferred having them open, smiling her cheerful smile at passengers boarding or disembarking.
      When we arrived at Logan Airport late in the evening, we were met by an ambulance and by Ed. Dick went with Kathie to Mass General, and Ed and I followed. Her room in the rehabilitation ward on the ninth floor was not yet available, so she was put in a ward with surgical patients on the sixth floor. She had a bad night. Unable to sleep because of moans and snores from nearby patients, it was nearly 1:00 a.m. before she dozed off. Then she heard a voice in the distance, calling, "Where's the paraplegic?"
      The voice neared the ward. "Where's the paraplegic?" the resident repeated. "Mrs. White?"
      "I'm Mrs. White," Kathie said sleepily.
      "Are you the paraplegic?"
      "I don't know," she said. It was the first time this term had been used in her presence.
      "You can't walk, can you?" said this bedside monster.
      "Not yet," she replied hesitantly.
      "You're the paraplegic," the resident declared flatly.
      In her forbearing way, Kathie said later that he was probably wakened from a sound sleep and hadn't meant to be insensitive. Personally, I am unable to condone his callousness.
      She was given no breakfast in the morning since no one thought to order one for her. She didn't even get a pitcher of water until I got there in the afternoon. She did get a lunch tray, but it was sitting on the table in back of her. She had been placed on her side to give her bedsores a rest, so she couldn’t reach it. By the time someone noticed her plight, the lunch was cold.
      Not a good start, but now she is on the ninth floor where she will be placed on a bed like the one Senator Kennedy had when he was recuperating from his plane accident. Called a Stryker frame, it will help her bedsores clear up; then therapy will start. The doctor said he would know better in forty-eight hours just how much recovery we could hope for. 

(3) A GOOD CRY IS PROBABLY A RELEASE FOR ME.


Massachusetts General Hospital
March 12, 1966   
     I’m picturing you and Daddy on your way to Martha’s Vineyard.  It looks like perfect flying weather.  They cranked me up a little higher than usual for breakfast this morning, and I can almost see New York.  The sky is a pale but unmistakable blue; I can recognize the Prudential and John Hancock buildings, and a tall dark church—Arlington St?  I can see the snow on the Charles River; it shouldn’t be long before it is replaced by boatloads of eager, rowing lads.  The seagulls winging along the river stand out in sharp relief today.  Even in a city, there is beauty waiting to be appreciated. 
     My study notes are open on my tray and I do intend to tackle them with vigor but . . . I have been thinking about you and Daddy.  I worry sometimes that you’ll think I take your visits for granted.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Trouble with hospitals, they don’t permit enough ordinary conversations—or ordinary anything. 
     I know it’s natural to get depressed or restless now and then, and a good cry is probably a release for me, but it doesn’t do anyone any good when I express those fears.  If the surface of my mind becomes recalcitrant, and dwells on probable impossibilities such as my ever riding a horse again, I want simply to draw a curtain over it.  I have too many months to go to give in to depression, and yet these foolish thoughts push into my brain and overflow hot and wet over my face.
     Although I know I’ve been able to show good spirits to almost all visitors, my weaknesses betray themselves to the people I care about the most—my parents and Dick. I know you all love me enough to bear with me, but I hope my own love will strengthen my resolve. You mean the world to me —forgive all my words. 
March 15, 1966
Massachusetts General Hospital
To Mr. Lievore , Kathie’s principal
     Mass. General is like any big overgrown agency ‑‑ lots of  mixups and confusions and hysterics.  Take last Saturday.  Three  of our "rehab" nurses called in sick, so a new nurse "floated" up  from another floor.  She gave fair warning of her dizziness.  She  went from patient to patient handing out thermometers and bending  over to explain that she had been sick with the flu and still felt deathly ill. 
     When she assured the head nurse that she was experienced  with Stryker frames, she was sent in to get me ready for turning.  This was an experience I shall never forget.  Assuming you know as little about ye fine Stryker as the floater did, I'll explain  that the straps with foam  rubber over them; all kinds of pillows and padding are needed to  keep the victim—I mean the patient—from getting bed sores from the forced immobility. 
     Miss Dizzy's first boner was to put the other half of the frame over me, leaving out the pads and pillows I need for my  "on‑the‑back" position.  Moreover, she clomped the frame down onto my sheets, blankets, and pillow.  I protested, but she insisted all was well and started hauling sheets and blankets out from under the top frame.  Sheets and blankets may be soft, but when they're dragging across my suture line and a bed sore . . .
     Fortunately Dick was there, and by the time Miss Dizzy had  started pushing and shoving pads under the top frame, he had  fetched the head nurse.  Off came the top frame, and the project was renewed in a more normal and comfortable fashion.  Every time Dick and I think about that dizzy nurse, we have to laugh. 
     Then there's Dr. Constable.  He's the skin specialist who recently grafted my bedsore to be sure it would heal properly. He's a huge, craggy‑looking Englishman, dedicated to his work.   All the nurses are afraid of him because he is so austere; he has been known to hit the ceiling if a dressing is done incorrectly.
     Since I'm not easily intimidated, I soon discovered Dr. C.  has a hidden sense of humor.  When I got indignant over his taking pictures of my bedsore (it's bad enough when staff  members stand around and gawk at my behind), he pointed out that I'd need something for my Christmas cards next year.  And when he decided I wouldn't require the extra piece of donor skin he had saved after my grafting operation, he said, "No sense wasting it; I'll send it down to the kitchen."  He complained to Dick that the dressing he had put on after the grafting was lopsided because he  had never dealt with such a "jolly" patient.  Nothing makes me happier than jollying a grin out of Dr. Constable.
     I will have to be on the Stryker for about two more months  for my bone grafts to "take" satisfactorily.  Then they'll have  me in a wheelchair and going home weekends as soon as possible.   I can't wait to be by the ocean again.  Dick better start lifting weights because I expect to be pushed right down to the water's edge.

(4) KATHIE'S EMOTIONAL BAROMETER AFFECTS MINE.

July 29, 1966
Cohasset
      I'm getting ready to fly Kathie and Dick over to Martha's Vineyard where they will spend the weekend together.  Ed and I were originally going with them, but business problems have cropped up, so we probably won't make it.
     Kathie wanted to wear the dress she wore the last time she and Dick visited Martha's Vineyard.  It was then (three years ago) that they first began to feel "serious" about each other, and she gives a lot of credit to Dick's enchantment with her dress.  When she tried it on yesterday, it just didn't look the same.  Her neck and shoulders have become thinner, and consequently the bodice looked too big.  She was a good sport about it, smiling and sayng, "Well, it was worth a try," but I went upstairs and cried.  Somehow the little disappointments and frustrations are harder to take than the tragedy of her not being able to walk.  We have adjusted to the latter; it is the lurking "unkindest cuts" that hurt.
     Kathie is excited about today's flight and wants me to give her a flying lesson.  She longs to learn to do as many things as possible.  She surprised me yesterday when I came out to the car to take her to the hospital and found she had  managed to get both herself and her heavy, bulky chair into the  car.  I don't know how she lifted the thing, but she did it.

October 10, 1966
Cohasset
     Kathie came home from her first day at B. U. aglow with enthusiasm for her professors and her courses.  She says the standards are tough ‑‑ as hard as Swarthmore ‑‑ but she's prepared to meet the challenge.
     One problem had her in tears:  two flights of stairs leading to one of her classrooms. To use the elevator, you had to have a key.  After two weeks of pleading phone calls and repeated explanations, she was finally given her own key.
     I drive her to school three mornings a week; Dick picks her up after work.  He has started classes at Harvard night school.
     The other big news:  we sold our house and have bought a smaller one in Westwood.  We are up to our necks in packing boxes and the chaos of moving from a twelve‑room house to a two‑bedroom ranch.
     Kathie and Dick have been house‑hunting, too.  We are looking for something reasonable, not far from Westwood, since Kathie will need my help for at least another year.  If she weren't going to school, she could start in "wifing," as she  calls it, as soon as she moves.  But the B. U. library is inaccessible to her, and there are other errands she won't have time to include in her busy schedule.  I'll make myself useful for as long as she needs me.

      In the spring of 1966 Vonnie came home from California, where she had tried for several months to find work that would support both her and Michael.  (Bob, her ex‑husband, couldn't afford child support on his mailman's salary.)  Ted and Joyce continued to care for Michael while she got her bearings.  Ed gave her a job at his manufacturing plant in Hingham, typing and doing errands.  We were hopeful that at twenty‑one, she would be more mature and ready to resume her maternal responsibilities.
      Vonnie was devastated by what had happened to her sister, but put on a cheerful face and willingly helped out with trips to the hospital and B. U.
December 6, 1966
Westwood
     I don't have time to write as much as I used to, although there's certainly plenty to write about.  Dick has to go to work earlier now, so I am driving Kathie to B. U. four mornings a week and picking her up at least twice.  The other times she goes home with Dick to the little house they bought in Framingham.  She is still leery about traffic, hasn't once driven their car since she got her special license.   She can hardly be blamed for that.
December 13, 1966
Westwood
     Kathie's spirits are up and down ‑‑ recently, it seems, more  down than up.  Her emotional barometer affects mine.  I can't  bear it when she's depressed; I feel almost suffocated by the  awareness of all she must cope with for the rest of her life.  
     It's so cruel, so unfair!  But after a day or two, she casts off her despondency and is once again her valiant, animated self.   Right now it can't be easy to keep smiling when she is facing  another operation that may or may not prove to be helpful.
January 14, 1967
Westwood                                           
     Kathie took her last exam yesterday, and now has a couple of weeks to finish recuperating from her operation.  She has developed a bruised swelling (hematoma, they call it) near one of  her incisions, and this must heal before she can attempt walking  with braces.  She still tires very quickly.  When I drove her back to Framingham she lay down "for a little rest" and didn't come to  until late afternoon.  I took her grocery list to the market, carried bundles into the house, put everything away, and Kathie slumbered on, oblivious to doors opening and closing, and Moppet's burglar‑alarm woofing.  I'd been home in Westwood an hour when she called wanting to know what day it was, what time it was, and whose little girl she was.
     Kathie and Dick want one of Reinette's* puppies as a pal for Moppet.  Teddy & Co. have put in a request for a female, and a third pup will probably go to the Marshes, the proud grandparents  on the father's side.  We are thus left with only one, which I hope to sell for enough to cover Reinette's sizeable veterinary bills (oh Barbara, you dreamer, when did we ever break even in  this poodle‑raising business!).
     The puppies haven't opened their eyes yet but are managing to find their way to the dinner table. They fill their already round tummies until they look more like little black blimps than babies -- any day now I expect to come home and find them floating around the kitchen.  
* Vonnie's twentieth birthday present, adopted by us when she went to California.
February 7, 1967
Westwood
      Last Thursday, to describe a typically traumatic day, I was helping Kathie get ready to come home from a short stay in the hospital (she had developed an infection that is better now).  Since her suitcase was full, I stuffed her slippers, purse, and three or four textbooks into her book-bag. 
    "Okay, let's go," I said, bending over to pick up the heavy canvas bag. Kathie's purse came flying out, and I fell over backwards onto her bed.  I had grabbed the wrong handle.
     Back in Framingham, I unpacked the suitcase and the book-bag, started a load of laundry, then headed for the market with Kathie's grocery list.  I locked myself out of my car and had to  be rescued by the manager of the market and a coat hanger.  
     After I put Kathie's groceries away, it was time for exercises.  Her heel tendons have shortened, making it difficult for her to use leg braces.  We spend half an hour a day stretching the tendons by pressing the top half of her foot  toward her knee.  While I was sitting on the edge of her bed, working on her right foot, I noticed what appeared to be a small  bruise.  I studied it, wondering if I should point it out to her.   "You seem to have ‑‑ " I began, then broke off as the discoloration vanished when I pressed her foot in the opposite direction.   "Oops!" I said.
     "Oops, what?" said Kathie, pushing herself up on her elbows.
     "Nothing, dear.  I thought you had a bruise, but it's gone now."
     "Mummy!" Kathie said, laughing as she sank down on her pillow.  "Don't ever say `oops' to someone who doesn't feel sensation.  It can give a person quite a turn."
     She continued to laugh so heartily that I couldn't help laughing, too.  She really is amazing.  Circumstances that would make anyone else cry, she regards as funny.   Like the time she was sitting near her professor's desk in front of the class, and a spasm made her feet lift out of her shoes.   Not wanting to distract her classmates or the professor by putting them back on, she simply sat there until he had finished his lecture.  How she giggled later when she told me about her "embarrassing experience."
     Vonnie misses Michael terribly, and in order to see more of him, is going to try a new arrangement while she's at work.  The girl in the upstairs apartment has agreed to take care of him for  five dollars a day. I hope this will work out.  She seems more sure of herself these days and ready to make any sacrifice to have Michael with her.
March 4, 1967
Westwood
     When I was exercising Kathie's ankles recently, the cat jumped up on the bed.  "Come here, baby," Kathie crooned.  "Your grandmother's allergic to you, so you mustn't wave your tail in  her face."  She petted Lurch for a few minutes, then said to me, "Tell me if your nose starts to drip ‑‑ and I'll have you leave  the room."
     The fresh kid has a genius for coming out with the unexpected.  Gets it from her father, no doubt.  He and I were reading and half listening to a radio discussion featuring a guest who believed in reincarnation.  Ed put his book down and said, "Would you marry me if we were reincarnated?"
     I stopped to think about it for a minute.  Under what circumstances did he mean?  Would we be the same two people or two other people?  How old would we be?  Would we . . .
     "I don't need to hesitate," Ed said, interrupting my pondering.  "I'd marry you again in a minute ‑‑ which just goes to show," he added, "I never learn."
March 28, 1967
North Terminal, Inc.
South Boston
From Vonnie to her parents             
      This stupid typewriter is driving me crazy.  I think Mr. Malley should think about getting his
faithful little secretary a new one -- BEFORE SHE QUITS!  There's a threat for you.  If I ever said that to his face he'd think it was Christmas and that was his present for being good all year. 
      Today and tomorrow I am going to bring Kathie to school on my lunch break.  I love seeing her and being able to fill in for Mommy while she's away.
      I really hope this will be a good summer.  Last year it led to my divorce.  Maybe this year it will lead to something wonderful.  It's hard for me to cope with things the way they are now, with
everything I've worked and strived for crumbling at my feet.  I signed our house away today.  That house at one time meant a great deal to me and Bob.  Why do things have to turn out so empty? 
      Guess what?  I think I'll shut up.
      I have a lot to be thankful for -- my family, my baby, my job, my health.  I do love life.  However bad things seem at times, there are always good things to involve myself with.  I'm so lucky to have Michael as one of my involvements.
       My favorite time with him is right after his bath when he's all fresh and ready for bed.  We have such a good time tickling each other or playing hide and seek or just hugging and loving each other.  He looks like a little angel with his blond, blond hair and deep blue eyes and rosy red cheeks.  His nose squinches when he smiles, his mouth is soft and never stops or shuts up, his eyes sing, and his little frame is perfect.
      Something else makes me tickle all over.  Sometimes he'll tell me something and I won't quite
understand him.  He'll look at me with his big eyes, as though I were the child, and patiently try to explain himself or make his words a little clearer.  What a charmer.  I could just squeeze him.  We have each other.
      Yikes, I gotta go get Sissy.  I love ya.
April 2, 1967
Quincy
From Vonnie to Dr. Clay, administrator
Dear Dr. Clay:
     I've never had the displeasure of writing a letter like this.  Last week I brought my sister, Kathie White, into Mass.General Hospital at about 1:00.  I drove the car up to the main entrance on Cambridge Street and parked where I thought it would be easiest and quickest for her to get out of the car ‑‑  in front of the door.  Kathie started to organize herself as I got out to help her.  The parking attendant came over and roughly told us we'd have to move, his tone implying what a nuisance we were.
     When I asked him where we should go, he told a taxi driver in front of us to move and signaled me to follow.  Kathie got out as fast as she possibly could, and just as we were ready to head  for the entrance, the attendant directed another taxi to pull up  behind us, so close that Kathie was wedged in.
     Then he came over and began yelling at us for blocking traffic ‑‑ after he had told us to park
there.  I was horrified by the way he was shouting while Kathie struggled to get unstuck.  He added to all his other mean words that neither of us should return to Mass. General.  What a wicked man.  He may have his own problems too, but no problem justifies being unkind to an unfortunate girl.
     Kathie finally maneuvered the wheelchair between the two cars, no thanks to the attendant.  I grumbled some indignant words, said goodbye to my sister, and drove off with a lump in my throat and a sick feeling in my stomach.  I love my sister dearly and it hurt me to see her treated in such a cruel way.  All I could think of as I drove away was how she was feeling.  If I felt so bad, how must it have affected her?
     What do you think, Dr. Clay?  Wasn't this a horrid experience for a patient to have?  I realize she's going to have many unpleasant moments, but it's these unnecessary ones that are the most unbearable.  How could this attendant have caused a situation like this and then have the stupidity to be so impatient and unkind.  Kathie can't help it if she can't simply get out of a car and walk away, as he can.
     I understand you've got a fine staff at Mass. General, but I thought you should know you've got a rotten apple in your barrel.
[flash forward 20 years]
June 7, 1987
Weymouth
      Kathie has learned there are riding schools that work with disabled people, helping them to ride horseback.  We found one in Weston and have been there twice.  A steep ramp for the wheelchair leads to a platform; with a little help, Kathie is able to transfer to the horse's back.
     "Just relax your hips," said Debbie, the trainer.  Kathie told her she had no sensation or control from her chest down, and asked what she should do if she lost her balance.
     "Fall forward toward one of your walkers or grab Chico's neck."    
     I was one of the walkers.  She looked so natural, sitting up there with her riding helmet on.  She didn't dare hold the reins but clung instead to the front of the saddle.
     "Now we're going to take three steps," said Debbie.
     As the horse started forward, Kathie gasped, "No, wait!" and fell toward Chico's neck, instinctively clutching it.
     "Good!  That's just what you're supposed to do."

     Within a few minutes she was walking around the ring astride Chico's back with no problem.  A few days later Debbie led Kathie and Chico into a huge indoor ring where half a dozen young girls (it's always girls that are fascinated with horses) were trotting and cantering around.
     Debbie was pleasantly but firmly demanding of Kathie, telling her to let go of the saddle first with one hand, then with both.  Soon Kathie and her walkers (now trotters) were trotting around the ring.
     "You're a good teacher," Kathie told Debbie.  Now that she knows she can do it, she is looking forward to riding Taffy along the long driveway on Country Lane and giving Sarah and Greg riding lessons.  Greg, her paper boy's brother, loves the pony and has offered to clean her stall in return for rides.

(5) I FELT LIKE A CIRCUS SIDESHOW WITH PEOPLE STARING AT ME.

April 4, 1967
Westwood 
     Now that I'm back in the Real World, it seems as if our two‑week vacation was something I dreamed.  My first day started at 7:45 when Ed dropped me off at Kathie's.   (She had been practicing driving my car with hand controls while I was away, had no trouble at all, but is still nervous about driving her own car.)  I spent the next three and a half hours putting her house in order.      
      I took two dozen of Dick's shirts to the laundry, drove home to Westwood, picked up our mail, spent an hour trying to figure out where I stood with the bank due to a slip‑up on Ed's check, got a phone call from Kathie telling me her new automobile's hand controls had arrived C.O.D. and would I please bring her $75 when I came back to Framingham.
     I arrived in Framingham at 3:30, exchanged $75 in cash for Kathie's check, picked up library books to be returned and a list of others she needed, and drove in town to the library.
     By 5:30 I was standing on the corner of Dartmouth and Boylston Streets, holding a fresh stack of volumes about four feet high.  A man also waiting for the light to change remarked, "My, aren't you studious," but didn't offer to carry my books for me.  Nor did I offer to explain that the one who would plunge into these textbooks was my resolute, unsinkable daughter.
April 10, 1967
Westwood
     I was supposed to pick Kathie up at 3:30 at the B. U. School of Law, which is the most accessible place for us to meet.  I got caught in a traffic jam that made me an hour and a half late.  I was frantic, picturing Kathie sitting there wondering what was keeping me, worrying that something might have happened to me.
    When I finally rushed into the lobby with regretful explanations on my lips, Kathie blew up at me.  This was so unlike her, I was stunned.
     "How do you think I felt sitting here for a solid hour and a half, while people walked by me and stared at me?  I felt like a circus sideshow.  Why didn't you allow enough time so we'd get ahead of the rush-hour traffic?  Dick is going to be worried sick!"
      Now I was angry.  I snapped that I'd done the best I could, I had been worried sick myself, did she think I'd let her down on purpose?  I was immediately repentant.
      "I'm sorry, but I feel as if I just can't do this any more.  What are we going to do?"
      By the time she transferred from her wheelchair to my car, we had both calmed down.
      "Do you think you could work up your courage to start driving yourself?" I asked.
      "I'm working on it right now," she said.  "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can."
      It was a long, stop-and-go trip to Framingham.  Dick was waiting on the doorstep.
April 12, 1967  
Westwood
     Today was Kathie's second attempt with the parallel bars since her operation in December.  She and her therapist had been encouraged because after her preliminary stiffness, she was the "loosest" she'd ever been.  But then the spasms began again, making it clear that the surgery had failed in its purpose.  She had so wanted to be the first woman in Mass. General history with an injury as high as hers, to walk with crutches and braces.
      No outward sign of disappointment, though.  Just a rueful smile and a shrug.  "It was an interesting experiment."   
April 20, 1967
Westwood                                              
     Mom and I drove down to Duxbury to give Ted and Joyce the poodle pup I'd promised them and to see their new house.  I was driving along, enjoying the scenery, when Mom let go with the kind of shriek that used to embarrass us kids in movie theaters.  Whenever they showed a newsreel of a bullfight, and the bull fighter came out second best, she got gored right along with him.  Bronco‑busting mishaps, chariot races, fencing matches had the same effect.  Anyone who heard one of Ernestine's blood‑curdling screams couldn't give blood for a week.  She was a pro, I suppose, because of her Metropolitan Opera career.
     She proved she hadn't lost her touch when the puppy threw up in her lap.  Somehow I managed to keep the car on the road, despite my shattered nerves, and while poor Mom tried to keep from gagging, I drove to a friend's house where we sponged off her dress .  She never has been fond of animals and I guess they sense this because she's the one they head for when they feel like doing something traumatic.  A couple of nights ago she stayed at Jan's and roused the entire family with her E above high C when the cat jumped up on her bed.   
     By the time we got to Ted's, the three of us had recovered, and Mom enjoyed the visit.  The kids named the pup Patrick, despite his French ancestry.
     Our indomitable Kathie reached a new milestone last week, driving herself to B. U. and home to Framingham again, using hand controls.  She'll have her master's degree in a couple of weeks and has volunteered to help out in a clinic for emotionally disturbed children until mid‑June. 
      In many ways Vonnie was more fragile than her sister.  As much as she loved Michael, she could barely take care of herself, let alone a lively three‑year‑old.  She still cared deeply for his father and had difficulty accepting the fact that their marriage was over.  Once again she sought answers in California, and once again Michael moved in with Uncle Ted and Aunt Joyce.  We corresponded regularly, sharing our thoughts and current experiences.
March 3, 1968
Westwood
To Vonnie
     I wish I could turn my mind off at night and stop tearing myself apart over the war.  I have my sorrow about Kathie much better under control ever since she told me she often goes for  days without even thinking of her handicap.  Sometimes she'll see someone else in a wheelchair and will say to herself, "Oh, isn't that too bad, I wonder what happened to him and what kind of  adjustment he's made," without automatically connecting her own condition to his.  She has been watching a program whose hero is a detective in a wheelchair.  She says "Ironsides" is a real, human, believable person with problems and frustrations similar to hers. 
     One ongoing problem is the thoughtless remarks people make to paraplegics ‑‑ even nurses and technicians, who should know better.  When Kathie was in the hospital and had to go to another floor for some kind of test, this often meant getting herself hoisted up on an examining table.
     "Climb right up here, dear," says the nurse.
     "Well ‑‑ uh ‑‑ I'll need some help."
     "All right, dear, just stand up and I'll give you a lift."
     "I can't stand up."
     "Not even for a minute?"
     Laughing as she told me about this particular frustration, Kathie said, "You wouldn't believe how many times people have said to me, `Not even for a minute?'"
     To get back to this obscene war, I give myself a lecture  every night before I go to bed ‑‑ now don't start thinking about  Vietnam, you're not helping yourself or Ed or anyone else if you lie awake despairing all night.  But it is so hard to put out of your mind the terrible things you read and hear.  I could stop listening, stop reading, but that's no good, either; as bad as it is, I don't want to be an ostrich.
     I thought of Kathie when I recently read an article about a courageous boy whose feet were amputated.  She, like him, expressed thankfulness a few days after the accident, just to be alive ‑‑ although she must have suspected she had a hard road ahead of her.
March 6, 1968
San Francisco
From Vonnie
     I was glad to hear how well Sissy's doing.  What strength and courage she has to be able to joke and laugh as if nothing  had changed.  A sense of humor is so important.   
     I read a newspaper article about those poor boys who are getting their arms and legs blown off in Vietnam.  It's so tragic and so wrong.  I was reminded of a guest Merv Griffin had on his show last week.  A fellow named Peg Leg Bates entertained the audience by dancing on his peg leg.  Then he took the peg off and jumped around on his one leg.  It was grotesque.  Maybe some people would commend him for the way he has overcome his handicap, but his performance made me shudder.
March 9, 1968
Westwood
To Vonnie 
      One good thing about letters is the chance they give you to exchange ideas.  I was interested in your impression of the Merv Griffin show that featured Peg Leg Bates.  I saw this, too, and didn't happen to share your reaction that his performance was in bad taste.   I felt, instead, that here was a boy who obviously loved to entertain ‑‑ loved to dance, despite his handicap ‑‑ just as Ray  Charles loves to play the piano even though he's blind.  I didn't feel pity so much as admiration for a talented person refusing to give up something he enjoyed doing just because most people would  say, "Forget it, it's impossible."  Would you believe there are several hundred paraplegics in the country flying airplanes with hand controls?  Can't keep a good man ‑‑ or woman ‑‑ down.
     If the boy seemed grotesque to you, it's probably because you're young and sensitive and hurt by the "flaunting" of a disability.  But to me, an entertainer like Peg Leg is too buoyant and joyful a personality to inspire anything except the thought, "Good for him!"
     Twenty years ago I might have felt the same way you did, but now I have seen many handicapped people stop trying, unlike your sister who is determined to live as normal a life as possible.  If she can accept her condition cheerfully, then this is an example to the rest of us to do the best we can with our own lives..  
March 18, 1968
San Francisco
From Vonnie
      I was watching television tonight and broke down crying when the movie ended -- "and they lived happily ever after."  I'm so scared.  What in God's name is going to become of me?  How long are Michael and I going to be separated?  How many more years am I going to miss?  I can't stand it.
      Maybe I wasn't happy with Bob, but at least I had Michael and I was doing something productive.  At least I was able to watch and help my baby grow.  Now I have nothing.  No one knows how much I love him.  He doesn't even know.  I'd do almost anything to have Michael back with me -- except jump into another marriage.  I can't seem to get interested in anyone.  I like Russ a lot but not enough to marry him.  What the hell is wrong with me?  I try to be optimistic, but when there's no relief in sight, that's hard to do. 
      I try to remember that what I'm doing for Michael is the best thing and I'm just being selfish to feel sorry for myself, but I can't help feeling lousy about losing something I can never get back -- time. 
      Enough!!
      Has Dad's company moved to Hingham yet?  Can I work there when I get home if I prove myself reliable? 
      Michael's birthday is on the 24th.  I can't afford to send him anything.  Will you take care of it for me and remind Joyce about it?  Maybe she could have a little party for him.
      Sorry to bother you with my problems, but it helps to get it off my chest.  I love you very much.

March 28, 1968
San Francisco
      I dreamed about Bob all night.  I went to him and told him I loved him, but it was too late.  He didn't want anything to do with me.  The dream seemed to go on for hours and I woke up crying and sobbing.  It's hard for me to believe I'll ever love anyone else as much as I loved him.  And it really scares me because if I don't, it means I've made a terrible mistake.  How do I know that we wouldn't have grown up and worked things out together?   
      Sometimes I even wish myself harm so I could ask for him and find out if he still cares for me.  I know you hate my talking like this, but I can't help looking back and wondering -- wanting -- yearning.
      DAMMIT!!  What am I going to do with that Vonnie?
      Not much else to tell.  I'm being a good girl -- dating Russ, not much drinking or raising hell.  Miss all you people. 
April 10, 1968
Westwood
      I had insomnia all night long despite pills, kept getting up  at intervals to see what time it was, finally took a couple of  aspirin and felt more alert than ever, then took a tranquilizer, figuring it would either kill me or make me not care one way or  the other.   At 6:30 a.m. there was a phone call from Timmy, wanting to speak to his father.  His new motorcycle had been stolen.  Motorcycles are uninsurable.  That means someone is out $800.  Guess whoooo.   The wise old softie.  He'll complain a lot, but he'll come through.
     At 8:30 Kathie called.  It seemed Dick had to leave for work so early, she hadn't had time to produce a specimen.  Could I pick it up and take it to the hospital?   Just as I was leaving, I got a long distance call from Fort Lauderdale.  Mom said in a  trying not to sound too excited voice that she hadn't been able  to get any hot water for several days, not more than a quart or  two, and the plumber was there, and he said there was a leak somewhere under the house and did I know where the crawl space  was?
     I left a message at the office and then told Mom if Ed didn't call her, the problem would just have to wait till we got  down there.
     So I rushed out the door and rushed back in to answer the phone, which was Ed calling short distance and wanting to know what the story was.
     Well, once upon a time, I began, there was this couple who had so goddamn many houses and swimming pools and responsibilities, they never had time to enjoy any of them, all they had was  problems, problems, problems.
     Ed said this one couldn't wait till we got down there for Pete's sake, we couldn't have water running all over the place.  He called Mr. Ellis, Fort Lauderdale Everything Solver.  Meanwhile I was high‑tailing it to Framingham and grabbing the  specimen and a handful of jelly beans out of the refrigerator and sympathizing with Kathie who was feeling pleased because her  thermometer had finally agreed she was sick.
     This morning Kathie called and said, "I hate to tell you this but Dr. Kerr doesn't trust the drugstore's sterile bottles.   He says they should always be boiled for ten minutes."
     I drove to Framingham, bringing my breakfast with me and eating it while the bottle boiled.  Kathie looked alarmingly pale and thin. 
      "Well, so would you if you hadn't eaten for four days."  She wouldn't let me fix her something nourishing; all she wanted was warmed‑up cottage cheese.        
     At the hospital I paid a flying visit to Sue Abbot, an English girl who was in an accident similar to Kathie's last Christmas Eve and is anxious to meet her.  I gave her Kathie's phone number.
     Then back home to Westwood where I found the pool cleaners at work.  Kathie had given me some typing to do, I had 14,000 phone calls I should make and 15,000 other things hanging fire on a list but the sun was out again.   So I'm lying out on the lawn, writing in my journal, and along comes one of the pool workers with a wrench from his truck.
     "I know just what you're thinking," I said.  "You're thinking, `Boy, these housewives lead an easy life."
     "As a matter of fact," he said, "that's exactly what I was thinking."  Sometimes it doesn't pay to be a mind‑reader.
     A great thing happened this week, not as great as I hoped but pretty great, just the same.  I sent a manuscript to Ladies' Home Journal about two months ago called "Letters from Kathie." *  It was ninety‑nine percent Kathie, from the time she went to San  Francisco with Dick until Mass. General Hospital.  It's literally her story in her words.  When I saw the manila envelope in the mailbox, I thought, that's that.  Our wonderful girl's story is wonderful only to us.  But the letter said the editorial staff had all read the story and given it serious consideration (they had written my number, area code and all, on the title page), but they were just booked too far ahead.  I called Kathie and she was surprised and really happy about my news.  She was feeling much better and promised to eat a good supper.
*  The letters were published in 1985 as "Letters from the Moon" in With the Power of Each Breath: A Disabled Women's Anthology
KATHIE ACCEPTING SCHOLAR/TEACHER OF THE YEAR
AWARD FROM PRESIDENT SILBER
May 11, 1968
Westwood
To Vonnie
     Getting into harness after two slothful weeks in Fort Lauderdale was not an easy transition.  On my first day home, I was so busy catching up on accumulated responsibilities, by nightfall I thought it was Tuesday, Couldn't understand why the TV wasn't come in loud and strong with Tuesday type programs.  Missed half of Rowan and Martin before I got my inner clockworks straightened out.
     Wednesday Joyce called and wanted to know if I could take care of Michael while she and Ted were in Florida.  Well, certainly I could if someone would give me a magic carpet big  enough for Michael and a babysitter, but otherwise how could I  possibly fly from one chore to the next with a three‑year‑old  clinging to my mini‑skirt?  I came up with a solution:  Auntie Janeth.
     She said she'd be glad to take him, and guess what!  He was so cute and well‑behaved she's ready to take him again any time Joyce wants.
     Jan brought Michael over for a visit a few days ago, and as they pulled into the driveway I was frantically reading the Polaroid instructions, thinking I could at last comply with your  request for snapshots.  I kept telling myself if I could fly an airplane I ought to be able to operate a camera.  After another half hour of study, I produced my first picture, starring Michael  Crosby.  There was just one trouble: the star didn't want to be a star, he wanted to be a producer.
     "Let me take a pitchah," he insisted, while I cleverly snapped him and then allowed him to manipulate the  levers.  Michael was not to be fooled, however.  I had the camera in my lap and was admiring the second snapshot.  ("Look, Michael, here you are, sitting in the wheelbarrow.")
     "Take a pitchah," he said, reaching for the camera, and before I could say Jack Robinson or Michael Crosby, he pushed the button and took a close‑up of my elbow.  Good likeness, don't you think?
     Michael has a puzzlement:  he's been wondering who the heck  I am, anyway.  These familial relationships can be confusing, even to a bright toddler like my grandson.  He dutifully called  me Grandma Malley, but the next day when I was talking to Aunt  Jan on the phone, she said,. "Just a minute, Barb, Michael wants to say  hello."
     "Hello, Barbara," says Michael.  "I love you."
     After we hung up, Jan told me later, Michael furrowed his brow and inquired, "Who is she?"
     "Well . . . " Jan said, wondering how she could make it  clear, "she's my sister . . . and she's Linda's aunt  . . and  she's your grandmother."
     "But who is she?" he repeated, apparently having decided he already had one grandmother.  Just who was this lady who appeared every now and then, exercising grandmotherly prerogatives such as swooping down on a person and giving him a hug.
     When I pulled up in front of Jan's house that evening, he ran to the door with Linda following and called, "Hi, Aunt  Barbara."

RELUCTANT GRANDPA ED;  MICHAEL ON TED'S LAP
TED'S STEPDAUGHTER CARLA AND POODLE PATRICK
     Linda played with Michael while Jan and I had a cocktail and chatted.  She asked about you, and I told her you'd be back soon for the summer.  Of course I referred to you as Vonnie, but your son's memory cells must have made some sort of connection because he suddenly looked up at me and said with conviction, "You're Grandma!"
     All this is probably making you miss him more than ever, but I feel safe in drawing these verbal sketches since you will be seeing him so soon.  He is a happy, well‑adjusted little boy, and  I do think his living with Ted and Joyce is the best possible  arrangement until you can provide a home for him.
       Kathie has received all her marks except one.  Straight As  so far.  She looks thin and tired and has promised to spend several afternoons a week at our pool, building herself up with sun and exercise and nice fattening lunches provided by Mummy.                         
     Tim, well on the way to getting his commercial flying license, expects to spend the summer swordfish- spotting.  He still appears to have little interest in returning to college.   His hair is neither establishment short or flower‑child long, and when it's combed, he looks very handsome.  He met Mimi at Logan airport when her flight got in last Monday.  She was  expecting Carlo from Dad's plant, and hadn't seen Tim in two years, so imagine her astonishment when an unkempt young man wearing dungarees and a mustache rushed up to her, threw his arms around her, and gave her a kiss.  She reared back and gaped at him, then said hesitantly   . . . “Teddy?"
     "No, it's Timmy!"
     From then on, Tim said, Mimi informed the porter, the taxi driver, the desk clerk at her hotel, and the bellhop that "even  though he looks like a hippie, he's my grandson and he's really very nice."
[Flash forward]

Message from one of Kathie's students
May 8, 2013
Hello Prof. Malley-Morrison,
I just wanted to thank you for a great semester in the family violence class. As expressed earlier on, I was very nervous about the class and overwhelmed with the work outlined in the syllabus (since I was absent the first class). However, as the semester went on, you were very helpful in reassuring my worries and guiding me to the best I could in the class. I thoroughly enjoyed everything you taught us in the class and all the information I've learned through your blog. I will most definitely be keeping up with your blog posts, as I find them very interesting and relatable to a lot of the things going on in the world now.
So, thank you so much for being extremely helpful, knowledgeable, and understanding. You've definitely been one of my favorite psychology professors and I'm very glad I was able to learn so much from you in one semester. It saddens me that it's only one semester as I do wish I can learn so much more from you about your thoughts and knowledge.
Again, thank you for a great class, semester and for being a wonderful, inspiring professor.
Have a wonderful Summer Prof. Malley-Morrison!
Best Regards,
Tina