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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

(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 explan-ations, 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 at Sandy Cove and 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 (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 closes 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 these unnecessary ones 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."

                     Headline: Courage Got Her Back in the Saddle.
      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 her pony 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.

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