Monday, July 31, 2017


Westwood, Massachusetts
October 10, 1966
     Kathie came home from her first day at B. U. aglow with enthusiasm for her professors and her courses.  She said the standards are tough—as tough as Swarthmore—but she's prepared to meet the challenge, wheelchair or no wheelchair.  
     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 explanations about the accident last December, 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.
     We sold our Cohasset 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.  They’re 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 domestic errands she won't have time for.  I'll make myself useful for as long as she needs me.  Vonnie is still devastated by what happened to her sister but puts on a cheerful face and willingly helps out with trips to the hospital and B. U.
April 2, 1967
From Vonnie to Dr. Clay, administrator
     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 ever 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. . . .

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