White family updates
(copies of emails send to Craig's, Doris's & Abbey's family and friends since 2005)
(Emails are posted in reverse chronological order. Read from bottom up to follow the chronicle.)
White Family Update—Abbey is married (Engagement pictures are at http://whitepayne.com. Wedding photos online will follow as available.)
Saturday 14 May 2011 our daughter Abbey White married Simon Payne in the California Wine Country, bringing that idyllic setting a love and beauty all their own. They honeymoon there, then return to Houston where Simon manages Vintner’s Own winery and Abbey the Vine Wine Room (where they met).
Tuesday 10 May I drove Abbey and Simon to Houston Intercontinental Airport, and two days later Doris and I took a flight to San Francisco and Sonoma, a rural community an hour north where Simon grew up. His father Silvano, a publisher of communication satellite information, was born in Rhodesia and migrated to South Africa where he married Kathy Sanderson. In 1982 they moved to California, where Simon was followed by Theresa and Sean. Silvano’s parents, originally from England and Italy, live on the family’s Sonoma compound.
Friday’s cool temperatures under cornflower skies made Doris wish she’d packed socks. On Sonoma’s central plaza we bumped into a Houston friend who had just left Abbey at a nearby restaurant and now texted her to meet us outside the Swiss Hotel, where we stood and the rehearsal dinner was scheduled. The Gwizdowski’s, friends formerly of Houston whose daughter Sarah is Abbey’s maid of honor, joined the impromptu sidewalk party. That evening the Paynes hosted a big night before the big day with homegrown wines for toasts and the house’s best foods for the wedding party and partners in the Wine Room. Abbey and Simon, encircled by family and friends, were radiant. Tourists and local acquaintances from the Hotel’s bar and restaurant added cheer as Doris and I shared stories with the groom’s parents, his godmother Linda and her husband Dr. Marty Albion, who would conduct the marriage ceremony.
The next day opened cloudy but by late afternoon the sky cleared as Silvano chauffeured us to the bucolic GlenLyon Winery, owned by friends Squire and Suzy Fridell—Squire a former actor who in the 80s and 90s played Ronald McDonald and touted Toyotas but now supervises winemaking at Vintner’s Own; Suzy a professional dancer and choreographer; both in highland kilts for the occasion! Silvano escorted Doris through the garden to the hilltop site, followed by me (in blazer, khakis, and, per Abbey’s request, black converse high-tops)—and Abbey looking lovely and commanding in a knee-length antique-white gown with her dark hair swept simply back. Thirty guests stood at our entrance, Simon upfront in his 3-piece flanked by best man Brady of the U.S. Marines, siblings Theresa and Sean, and Sarah Gwiz.
In a shining moment our lives with Abbey turned to a new life for her and Simon, the Paynes and Whites. Champagne, tears, and sun sparkled as guests ascended the winery tower and photographers posed groups at the vineyard. Everyone stood taller and lighter as if on tiptoes. Abbey and Simon, mixing happily, gleamed like visitors from the future. Time shimmered till everyone re-crossed the Valley of the Moon to a reception at the Paynes’. Their house, deck, grounds, and vineyards brimmed with a hundred guests, a taco truck, a keg, and . . . more wine! Nearly a third hailed from Abbey’s staff and clientele at the Vine Wine Room in Houston’s Memorial area—where she’s made another informal family under the enlightened ownership of Joe and Rachel Rippey. Abbey flashed Texas swagger in paisley turquoise cowboy boots that were complemented by her new mother-in-law’s California mosaic buskins. Jan and Robin Gates, friends from doctoral days in Wisconsin, arrived via Oakland where they picked up son Chris, with whom Abbey once made tinker-toy bouquets for a preschool wedding. Vintners and associates bore gifts and stories. Women who met Abbey on a previous visit exclaimed to see her face and style in Doris’s. Amid toasts I read a poem I wrote on the plane (below). Day and night turned to another gathering Sunday at the Paynes’ for breakfast. Abbey helped in the kitchen. Simon renewed friendships. They shone with a peace that, however we witness it, passes understanding.
For Our Daughter’s Wedding
We brought you to this world one day.
You brought yourself the rest of the way—
now with another, now our son.
In such good ways the world makes one
And yesterday makes today
a day that promises tomorrow.
What can we wish but what we have?
O Abbey, only child lonely no more,
and Simon, prince of hearts, who know
the love your parents learned from theirs,
you find yourselves in each other
and all that is all ours today.
White family update post-Ike, 21 September 2008
Dear family & friends of Doris, Craig, & Abbey White,
Several of you who know our house is near Galveston Bay emailed or phoned to ask how we fared with Hurricane Ike, which struck here 12-13 September 2008. Thanks for your care and concern. A week later we’re home, humbly feeling lucky and clearing debris.
For Hurricane Rita in 2005 we visited Doris’s sister Julia and family in Louisiana, but the trip turned more dangerous than the storm: hundreds of thousands of cars jammed a six-hour drive into a 30-hour endurance test. Following that debacle, new plans called for only those near the water to evacuate; inlanders would “shelter in place.” As Ike moved towards us, Abbey, now living 30 miles inland in west Houston, invited us to flee our mandatory evacuation zone and camp at her one-bedroom apartment. On Thursday the 11th we put storm boards on the windows, packed, and moved in with our gracious daughter.
Friday was spent resting up, watching TV, and hoping Ike would, like Rita, twist north to less populated areas. Meanwhile, Galveston Island was flooding. The only good news was that Ike wasn’t intensifying, but the storm’s scale was so enormous that, even though it remained a Category 2 hurricane, its surge—the “mountain of water” that accompanies a hurricane—was Category 4, the same size that flooded Galveston in the country’s worst natural disaster in 1900.
The surge wasn’t a factor at Abbey’s third-floor apartment, which proved well-built and, facing west, well-situated for riding out the storm. That part of Houston remained on the clean or dry side of the eye. Several inches of rain fell, and tropical-storm winds forced water through the locked windows and wet the carpet. The eeriest phenomenon was greenish lightning that howled as it flashed—the thunderbolt and lightning bolt fell at once, phosphorescent. Your temperate-zoned professor, having read like descriptions in Caribbean travel accounts, felt a witness to a true tropical event.
At the storm’s peak around 3am Saturday morning, the electricity crashed—and with it any larger perspective. By dawn Ike blew north. The scene from Abbey’s windows wasn’t so terrible as desolate, stunned. The lights of a major intersection nearby tossed, flaring on and off. Security alarms claxoned. A few young people walked out, wet and careless. Emergency vehicles tested the roads with their distinct sirens.
Inside, water pressure failed. Abbey drove farther west to a friend’s ranch that retained amenities. Her apartment’s population dwindled to her stressed parents and a mix of our households’ cats measuring their territory but mostly napping—O fortunate felines! The heat index those nights was high even by Houston’s dire standards. The second night Doris and I descended to our car for a/c and radio. Since even public radio now offers only phoned-in gripes and personal stories, we missed any news of Ike’s path across the Midwest and Mid-South.
Phone service was spotty, but Sunday the weather turned ironically pleasant, so while Doris rested I drove homeward to survey our damage. The drive showed a hit-or-miss calamity—a few stoplights worked, but most were stop-and-go; some apartment buildings seemed untouched, while others showed tarps and plywood patches; some stands of trees seemed pristine, while other corners had collapsed like houses of cards.
Nearly every home in Taylor Lake Village, our bedroom community between NASA’s Johnson Space Center and Seabrook on Galveston Bay, had at least one great tree down, but city crews and citizens with chainsaws had carved a lane for driving through the chaos of giant pickup-sticks.
Our house was little different: every open space was filled with large boughs, small branches, or whole trees. A handsome live oak landed on our roof, causing minimal damage. A tall red oak near our rear deck fell across the privacy fence into our neighbors’ yard; one of theirs fell into ours, sagging the power lines. One neighbor said the storm surge at our end of the bay, forecast for 15-22 feet, crested at 9, so only a few low-lying houses had flooded.
Doris met my mixed but manageable cellphone report with news that Abbey’s electricity was restored. Abbey resumed management of The Vine Wine Room despite its lack of power, compensating with a sale. Every afternoon I drove home to bundle sticks and field estimates offered by cleanup crews from Florida, California, and elsewhere. Thursday the power crews were up en masse—our lines connected to a pumping station, granting us some priority. Friday the 19th, one week after Ike hit, I drove Doris home. Two colleagues from school helped me finish removing the stormboards, and that night a man knocked to make a tree-cutting offer I couldn’t refuse. The rest of the weekend has been spent watching and helping a platoon of workers.
The only humorous aspect of the whole situation has resulted from the socio-economic nature of Taylor Lake Village. Most men in this neighborhood are salaried workers who suddenly found themselves on an unsettled vacation. Our post-storm exigencies combined with boundary issues to create an innocently primitive atmosphere akin to summer camp for big boys. Wearing shorts, T-shirts, caps, and sneakers, we confer, compare, crow, and pile our brush and tree-boles by the curb, resembling forts.
University of Houston-Clear Lake reopens Monday 22 September. To see my courses and their adjustments, click on http://coursesite.uhcl.edu/HSH/Whitec and check out LITR 4232 & 5931: American Renaissance & Romanticism, and LITR 4332: American Minority Literature. By the way, my application last year for promotion to full professor succeeded. I haven’t heard from other LITR professors yet, but we’ll meet this week. I’m writing in a hurry before the moment slips.
Pardon my not offering information about areas hit harder—or any appearance of lacking compassion. I simply haven’t gone there, as increasing traffic through so many non-functioning intersections only raises everyone’s peril. Yesterday a neighbor who helped a church mission to old Seabrook said those poor folks had lost everything—appliances, furniture, and clothing were stacked at every curb. God forgive my petty vision; have mercy on the pride of life. Thank You for Doris and Abbey. Be with you all!
Email update on Doris White 2006
Dear friends and family of Doris, Craig, and Abbey White,
Last fall I group-mailed several messages concerning our evacuation during Hurricane Rita and Doris's subsequent hip replacement surgery. After two weeks at a good local hospital, Doris returned home, continued therapy, and gradually resumed her normal life. I spared further messages, which would only have detailed the long, everyday arc of recovery. But now that we've passed the one-year anniversary (Sept. 24) of Rita's landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border and Doris's one-year checkup on 2 Oct. (also Abbey's 22nd birthday), this old professor seeks closure—therefore, one last message.
Time speeds up as we age and impose our routines on the world—but not last year! The 2005 hurricane season shattered or shook lives all along the Gulf Coast. Then Doris's surgery—her recovery, like the arrival of Abbey in 1984, made familiar experiences a challenge and made us learn daily routines all over again. Doris rose to every occasion despite the pain and debility of MS on top of the trauma. Steady as usual, she oversaw our family's finances and took increasing charge of her meds and care. Above all, she remained a good sport under conditions that would have rendered me infantile.
A year later, walking can still make Doris ache, especially where metal meets bone. Now, though, the rewards of walking can outweigh the pain. Recently Doris had lunch with a friend who showed her a yoga studio where the friend instructs. Doris may try a class there, but for the moment the triumph was simply strolling pleasantly through a potential scene.
Doris returned to her half-time job in Development at UTMB-Galveston. During Christmas break I chauffeured. In the flight from Rita, the darkest moment had occurred as we inched through a southeast Texas town in the hopeless dead of night. One volunteer traffic cop called to another, "She's got winds 170 miles an hour and she's heading straight for Galveston Island"—beyond which Galveston Bay, where our house stands a few feet above sea level.
Rita veered north, but the dread born of that moment haunted me last Christmas as I walked around old Galveston, now standing like a shadow of New Orleans. Here were noble, dusty buildings once dedicated to civic and religious life, adorned with an aesthetic pride now unimaginable: Masonic lodges; synagogues; Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox churches; old private schools of every ethnic stripe, all spared another season. Most of these buildings have been left by the builders' Americanized descendents in a limbo of abandonment, preservation, and reclamation. One tiny, century-old Methodist church was being born again as a Mexican Pentecostal. Meanwhile, at the island's west end, multi-million-dollar vacation homes sprout by the dozen—fresh testaments to our government's unstinting generosity to the investor class.
Those hours Doris and I spent driving to Galveston and back to Seabrook are among the sunniest of our lives together—November 14 is our 25th anniversary. Despite her ordeals Doris remains bright, gracious, sensible, and humorous. At work she specializes in letters to benefactors on the uses of their charity. (Evangelical control of the Texas legislature makes medical research increasingly dependent on private patronage.) Doris's skills uphold her department's productivity and professionalism, and her position survived UTMB's recent RIF ("reductions in force").
As lovely as Doris will always be, our daughter Abbey stands as a lucky roll of the genetic dice. She turns heads everywhere and charts a course all her own. Two months ago she moved out of our house and her waitress-bartender job here on Houston's southeast side, to a rental house on the southwest side and a job with the same franchise. Just before she changed work sites, Doris and I visited the Clear Lake BJ's, whose theme ranges from sports bar to family fare. Abbey showed high work-performance chops in her quietly decisive way. From infancy she's enjoyed a whirl of activity, as long as she's confident in her position. Behind the bar she played the essential server, shifting effortlessly from supplying co-workers to interacting with customers.
Last weekend Doris and I paid a state visit to the rental house Abbey shares with four other 20-somethings, who seem like grown-up Muppet Babies or Ninja Turtles thriving on Diet Dr. Pepper. The scene couldn't have been neater—three girls' order prevails over the upheaval of two boys. Abbey's manager wants to develop her as a trainer, but for now she's learning the new scene and stretching beyond her only-childhood in a house full of unofficial siblings.
Abbey's and Doris's old man queries the cats, tends the garden, turns up rock or Bach, and reads the usual medley of classic lit and escapist nonsense. This spring I cut "storm boards" in preparation for what was predicted as a hurricane season to rival 2005. They'll keep. My Student Companion to James Fenimore Cooper was published Sept. 30 by Greenwood Press. If interested in reading the blurb, search at greenwood.com or click here: http://www.greenwood.com/catalog/GR3413.aspx.
Pardon not referring to your individual messages or news, but everyone doesn't know each other, and attention spans get stretched. Thank you for remembering us and for your support. See P. S. below for a report on Doris's 1-year checkup.
Home phone: 281 326 3529
Work phone: 281 283 3380
Craig's email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Home address: 4018 Shady Springs Drive, Seabrook TX 77586; home phone 281 326 3529
P. S. (Oct. 3) Yesterday Doris rose early for her 1-year checkup with the demigod-like orthopedic surgeon who makes Denzel Washington and Barrack Obama appear ugly and unfit. Since Monday is my busy day for classes, Doris drove herself to his nearby office but directly was back with a good report. Everything has healed well. Hips, knees, and tootsies align. Of the continued aches, Dr. Monmouth said "the prosthesis is settling"; pain should decrease over time. Doris will be "[his] patient forever" at one-year intervals. Will the good doctor, like the Picture of Dorian Gray, only grow younger? Anyway, Doris, one year after, stands straight and steps out.
(Email of 25 Nov. 2005)
Dear friends & family of Doris White,
Pardon me for not writing more often about Doris's condition. Generally events have been few, which is good news enough. Mostly we've managed the gradual parallel processes of healing and therapy. Recently, though, a few landmarks: Last week Doris had a good check-up with her orthopedist; following that, her first physical therapy session happened this Tuesday; and next week she's scheduled to return to work half-time at UTMB. I'll conclude with my usual plea for phone calls to Doris at 281 326 3529
Below are some details if you like. If this is the first email update you've received and you'd like to review previous emails for background, they're all posted at http://coursesite.uhcl.edu/HSH/Whitec/familyupdate.htm.
A week ago yesterday Doris's orthopedist, the Denzel-looking ex-Harvard football demi-god, descended trailing his usual clouds of glory and appearing pleased with Doris's progress. Because two med students were also trailing him, he reviewed Doris's history with a tour of x-rays, which gave us a clearer sense of how her structure had deteriorated prior to surgery and how Dr. Monmouth--again with archangelic glory--restored all to its proper structure. Most striking was just how much titanium Doris now packs in her hip--I anticipated a ball and socket, which were there, but the x-rays also revealed a wickedly upturned pigtail screw (for stability?) and a descending shaft that looks like it takes up 2/3 of her left femur. FYI, Doris's implant was not cemented, which has something to do with why she's not more immediately functional. She's young for this business, and the non-cemented variety has a longer life. (The cement eventually breaks down, but "eventually" isn't always a problem for an older patient.)
With the good doctor's blessing, we ventured forth Tuesday to physical therapy, where Doris began putting 30% of her weight (which, to my resigned envy, amounts to approximately 30 pounds). Doris continues to handle her wheeled walker impressively, and her shoulders and arms are, in the words of a Chuck Norris infomercial, "gaining definition." The prospect is that in another month she graduates to 70%, then on to full weight.
About returning to work, I'll likely drive Doris to and from Galveston for her first few days. She has cut back on pain meds and become more engaged, restoring order to the checkbook and helping Abbey plan a return to UH next semester. Yesterday the three of us had a sweet Thanksgiving steak dinner, thankful to be together and still working forward. Abbey's been increasingly helpful around the house as well as hopeful for college. She has a new job as hostess at a likeable restaurant, Perry's Italian in Clear Lake. Doris and I marked our 24th wedding anniversary two Mondays ago, and last week I turned 54, whereupon everyone else turned into a whippersnapper.
Thanks to those of you who've called, and everyone please consider calling Doris again or for the first time. With no disrespect to her mind, will, or spirit, she's simply not capable of much at a time besides sitting and talking or watching TV. Every one of your calls has lit her up in a way that I, with my drone-like ministrations, cannot. You'll hear the same bright, sweet friend you remember. Thinking of you today has been a nice part of Thanksgiving--
281 326 3529
(email of 20 Oct. 2005)
Dear friends and family of Doris White,
Thank you for your continued interest in Doris's wellbeing. Two nights ago (18 Oct) at midnight our daughter Abbey and I relocated Doris from Christus St. John Hospital in Nassau Bay (to whom credit and thanks) to our home .8 miles away in Taylor Lake Village. The move took until midnight because I taught a seminar from 7-10 that evening. Abbey helped pack and, throughout the hospital stay, she has helped lift Doris's spirits with good company and magazines. Plus, if there's anyone in the world more fun to watch TV with than Doris, it's Abbey, who has inherited the Hardies' unrelenting attention span as well as their dry-to-withering commentary.
Yesterday insurance delivered a walker, wheelchair, and other gear, which takes up so much room that Doris and Abbey said it was like "baby stuff" and lacked only a swing.
Doris has slept better away from the hospital hallways and the pre-dawn checks on vital signs, and we've arranged her room so that she can both rest and sit up to plan her next round of appointments.
The main physical issues are that Doris is still feeling considerable pain (both from the surgery and the usual aches of MS) and can't put any weight on her left leg. But her corporeal daintiness helps her hop along with her walker . She has to rest after each excursion, but she's been moving around our first floor surprisingly nimbly, all things considered.
Altogether, Doris looks well and is thinking clearly. Only she's quite limited and will remain so for the immediate future at least. She couldn't have performed better in following instructions from her physical and occupational therapists. Parallel to her exercises and procedures, however, she needs time to heal. Just before her surgery, her orthopedist was increasingly alarmed at how rapidly her arthritic hip had deteriorated; the surgery involved bone grafting as well as the expected implant.
Thanks to all of you who have been in touch. Please consider calling or sending a card or both. Given Doris's illness, our social activities have been increasingly constricted, so loneliness is a threat to her morale. She benefits from nothing more than a good chat with an old friend.
Our home phone is 281 326 3529; address: 4018 Shady Springs Drive, Seabrook TX 77586. (Taylor Lake Village is too small for a P. O.) Or just reply to this email as inspired--she enjoyed the printouts of your previous replies that I took to her room.
Don't fear waking Doris with a phone call, and don't bother being overly apologetic if you do. She doesn't mind coming out of a doze for something better, and catching up with an old friend enlivens her mind and conversation considerably. For your benefit besides, she remains her bright and sweet self.
I'd like to note individual thanks now, but I can guess that I'm needed home soon if not before, but anyway you know who you are, with love--
(email of 5 Oct. 2005)
Dear friends and family of Doris,
Today Doris underwent her hip-replacement surgery, and evidently all has gone well, though much remains.
After some delays caused by equipment issues, Doris entered surgery around 10am CT. At about 2:30pm, her orthopedist found me in the waiting room. A little background: her orthopedist is Dr. Michael Monmouth, a former Harvard footballer who makes Denzel Washington look plain and unfit. Compared to the weary lumpishness of myself and the other anxious souls wincing in front of the huge and loud TV, he appeared as a demi-god in scrubs; better, he appeared pleased. Everything went as he expected, and I could see Doris in her room in an hour.
In that hour I drove home to phone Abbey and Doris's mother and mine. Between calls, my automatic-sprinkler repairman descended to advise and experiment. By the time I disentangled and returned to the hospital, Abbey was already there helping Doris out with Diet Coke, yogurt, and magazines. Within an hour the peaches were returning to Doris's cheeks, though of course she dozed and woke up to mash the morphine pump.
In brief, Doris's little body has undergone a major renovation, but all signs so far indicate the surgery was worth risking.
Tomorrow another arduous prospect opens: physical therapy. Doris intimated that her preferred regimen would be "more drugs and magazines," but she will rise. Thank You for all your sweet and generous thoughts and prayers, from which one cannot separate a good day like today.
Some of you on this mailing list have been added since my initial mailing a week ago. If you wish to read that email's paragraph on our evacuation for Hurricane Rita and a paragraph previewing Doris's surgery, just click on the following link:
Otherwise I'll write again sometime after Doris returns home, probably late this weekend. Thanks for being out there and still part of our lives--
(Email 28 Sept. 2005)
Dear friends and family of Doris,
I've been meaning to assemble an email list to keep you posted on Doris's upcoming surgery. Wanting to let you know about our personal outcomes with Hurricane Rita led me to try out a message.
Exactly a week ago (Wed. 21 Sept. 2005) Doris, Abbey, and I loaded our little SUV, taking our mellow cat and leaving the jumpy one indoors, and headed for Ruston LA, where D's sister Julia lives and teaches with her husband at Louisiana Tech. Since that's usually a 6-hour trip, we planned to be there around 10 on Wednesday--the time of night was right, but not until Thursday. Somehow one tank of gas lasted 24 hours as we sat in "Park" for hour after hour. Doris conserved, and Abbey took several important turns driving when I drowsed. For most of the drive the forecast kept sounding worse. Rita grew to category 5 and pointed toward a "direct hit" on Galveston. As our house sits near Galveston Bay, that would have meant serious flooding. I kept pulling for the high pressure system to the north to strengthen and send it to less populated areas in southern Texas, but then that high weakened so much that, as you know, the Texas-Louisiana border took the hit. Evidently our area had 7-8 hours of Tropical Storm winds and little rain. As for flooding, Galveston Bay actually drained southward, driven by the winds whipping from the North. Rita's remnants met us in Louisiana--heavy rains and wind along with a power outage on Saturday, but Julia, Don, and Chloe were great hosts as usual, and Doris and Abbey and I did fine as long as our little cat and their big dog maintained a chaste distance.
Monday we drove home in about 8 hours, seeing surprising damage in the inland counties, exacerbated by record-breaking heat. At home, our house was intact and the jumpy cat seemed no worse. Our big yard and deck were fuller of branches and leaves than can be easily imagined, much as when another hurricane brushed by a few years ago. The suffering around Port Arthur and Beaumont, not to mention New Orleans, leaves little room for complaint.
But to the preview, Doris missed her pre-op appointment on Monday morning, but yesterday rescheduled it for this Friday. Next Wednesday, 5 October, Doris will finally have hip replacement surgery. Her orthopedist, who is board-certified and inspires confidence, has consulted with Doris's neurologist and is sensitive to the danger of fever for an MS patient.
Later next week I'll send another email updating the situation. A 2 to 6 week recovery is normal. We look forward to getting to the other side of this process, as Doris's hip condition has deteriorated significanctly over the last few months. Most people who go through this surgery feel somewhat reborn afterward, and we hope the ability to walk less painfully will help other aspects of her condition.
Reply individually (or welcome to phone at number below or 281 326 3529) if you have a fresher email address or want to be left off. Compiling this list cast my mind in many directions to diverse, shining souls such as yourselves. With Doris, I always feel like a lucky guy, but writing you I feel even luckier. God bless you all!
Professor of Literature & Humanities
University of Houston-Clear Lake
Houston TX 77058
281 283 3380