Brothers Red, Chuck, Whitie and Don in the restaurant they opened
after the war.
At the new house, however, he seemed changed, always nervous, preoccupied and short-tempered, unprepared for the rigors of caring for small children when my mother worked late, so that I now dreaded Friday and Saturday nights when she did so, and was glad whenever she would talk her mother into coming over and lending a hand so that Whitie could just sit quietly in an armchair watching TV and smoking until Mom got home.
Reba Mae and Whitie on their 50th anniversary. Decades of manic
depession couldn't separate them. They would share their lives for yet
another ten years.
Whitie did…and went to bed for another couple of months. Reba Mae wanted to know what the hell the doctor thought he was doing with advice like that.
In later life drugs didn't solve the problema but helped him find a sort of
middle ground. Here Whitie, Reba Mae, Dan, Darla and Dennis enjoy a
In all those years, I never once heard of anyone’s having asked Whitie about World War II—about his years with the Seventh Army, about the horrors of war—in connection with his treatment. World War II was something you only talked about as a triumph of good over evil. What one had lived through in that war was a duty and a privilege, not a burden. You carried it without complaint and without regret—at least in theory. Anything that was wrong with you mentally was a product of your own failings and weaknesses. And with drugs to remedy it, there was no longer any excuse for “bad behavior”. You fit in or you checked out.
Whitie, still a powerful man a age 70 despite his life-long
struggle with manic depression.
So it is that, in the last ten years, I have begun to wonder just how much the trauma of his years as a combat foot soldier were responsible for my father’s on-going mental illness and his apparent incapacity for happiness or for any deep sense of beauty in life. In fact, as time goes on, I wonder more and more if it wasn’t the war that was entirely to blame for shattering Whitie’s life.
A last family reunión at our Ohio home several months before Whitie's
death in early 2003.