2003: A Year in the Life of the Davis Family

Here it is the day after Thanksgiving and we have a few minutes to recount the events of the year that will soon be past. It has been an eventful year for the Davis family.

Alicia graduated with highest honors from Woodruff High School in June. During her senior year, she was the statistician for the varsity basketball teams and traveled with the teams to all the games. Sometime in the spring, she finally made up her mind to attend Wofford College. For a long time, she seemed to prefer Presbyterian College, which is a little more than 40 miles from Spartanburg, but after an overnight visit to Wofford and comparing the scholarship money, she decided on Wofford. Figuring into the decision was a promise by Tia's Dad and Marlene to pay for her first to study abroad during January. After a lazy summer where she worked on Friday and Saturday nights at the Roebuck Fish Camp and got her first speeding ticket, she was off to college at the end of August. Her roommate Lara Simpson is from Tampa, Florida and they get along great. Alicia was sick the first week of classes and spent one night at home under the loving care of Mother Pidge. Since then, she's come home a couple of times to do laundry and a few times for meals. Otherwise, we've seen or heard very little from her. That was the deal…. We'd give her all the space she wanted if she went to Wofford and we've tried (successfully) not to be meddling college parents, even when she wounded herself (to the tune of seven stitches) while cutting carpet for her dorm room. Friends from her hall took her to the doctor and got her stitched up. They also took care of her during those trying days when she broke up with Kevin, her boyfriend of a year and a half.

She's thinking about psychology as a major. She continues to work at the fish camp and makes a few extra dollars by taking care of a professor's dogs. On the way to take care of the dogs one afternoon early in the semester, she bumped into a 2004 BMW at a yield sign. No damage to her car, and only $800 damage to the BMW. Next morning, on the way to traffic court to deal with the summer speeding ticket, she rear-ends another lady at a stoplight. Excuse this time: she was wearing dress shoes and her foot slipped of the brake. No damage this time to either car, but any increase in her insurance premium is her responsibility!

The second night she spent at home was over Thanksgiving. She's tired of the cafeteria food and really enjoyed the feast that Tia prepared, which included "Liquid Gold" (our name for creamed corn.) During the summer, we made a few trips to the farmer's market near Asheville and bought corn 60 ears at a time. Brought it home, creamed it, and froze about 6 gallons. Alicia helped do one of those big batches and was there when G.R. cut his finger several times on the blades of the creamer. As a result our alternative name for Liquid Gold is "Blood, Sweat, and Ears."

Alicia is all set to go to Peru for 19 days during January with a Spanish professor and physics professor. We're all excited about the trip and can't wait to hear about all the adventures she'll have.

Alayna has had a year of adventure, too. She got her unrestricted driver's license in December shortly after turning 16. In February, she was taking a shortcut through a parking lot, she bumped into another car rounding the corner of a building while running no faster than 15 mph. Once the police arrived, the three guys in the other car claimed that their necks were sore, and each went to the hospital by ambulance strapped to body boards. What a farce! All the emergency personnel on the scene (and there were about 10) knew this was just an act to take advantage of a situation. We drove our old '92 Lumina home with a broken headlight and a little wrinkle in the hood and worried about the insurance consequences. No ticket was issued and both drivers were considered equally at fault. State Farm dealt with all of it and we never heard anything else. I replaced the headlight with one from a junk yard and painted over the dent in the hood.

Alayna played JV basketball for Woodruff High during the spring of her sophomore year. Her team went undefeated in the conference and had a great season. Alayna wasn't a starter, but got plenty of playing time. During the summer, she took a few tennis lessons and made the varsity tennis team during the fall. The team was district and region champions. Alayna and her partner were All-Region in Number 2 Doubles. This is only Alayna's second year playing tennis and we're really proud of her. She's looking forward to playing softball in the spring and getting her letter jacket.

Alayna got braces in June. Her teeth should be straightened within a year. Over the summer, she practiced tennis and went to Myrtle Beach for a week with the family of her good friend Micah.

Athletic, energetic, outgoing… Alayna has no trouble attracting boyfriends but so far none has lasted more than a few weeks.

In the fall, Alayna went through a stage where her friends were far more important to her than her family and she acted compulsively on several occasions, causing extensive sleep loss for her parents. Lately, she seems to be happier to be around us and has resumed her wonderful sense of humor. She loves her old blue four-dour sedan Granny-mobile Chevy Lumina with the dented hood. To our amazement, she hasn't blown out the speakers yet. You'd think a teenager would rather drive a red convertible but she doesn't like the VW Cabriolet (perhaps because it has a black hood with flames……. Not cool or hip or whatever the equivalent contemporary term current term is.)

During tennis season, her grades slipped, but she's been working very hard lately. At this point, she's not interested in Wofford, and probably wants to go far far away. It will be interesting to see how the college thing evolves with Alayna.

Phillip made the basketball team as an 8th grader at Woodruff Middle School but had a very tough season. Always one to get himself up at 5 am for school, he had no energy at all. We just thought the practice and game schedule was exhausting. He never seemed to have any energy and after multiple trips to multiple doctors (one of whom was a woman, who deemed it necessary to perform a testicular exam,) it became clear that he was battling pneumonia and mononucleosis at the same time. No wonder he'd come home and collapse. He missed several weeks of school including the last part of basketball season but eventually got well. In retrospect, we're amazed that he was able to participate at all given how sick he was.

He begged us to let him go out for football over the summer, but being the protective parents we are and knowing how common injuries are in football, and confident that he would have made the team if we'd let him try out, we said "No." Instead we encouraged him to get involved in the Marching Band so he took up the trumpet, got some lessons, and has enjoyed being in the band. We were surprised as "Band Parents" how much effort is spent over the summer with band practices. The band had a successful season taking several top honors at the numerous Saturday competitions and earned 11th place at the South Carolina State Band Competition. We found Phillip a perfect 40 year old trumpet at a yard sale. He loves it. He bought another one for $25 at a junk shop and honest-to-goodness strapped it together with rubber bands because most of the welds were broken. He now has that one held together with plastic cable ties and uses it for practice. His yard sale trumpet is no longer perfect. He claims it fell off its stand during band class a school, but to me it looks like it has been trampled by an elephant.

Over the summer, Phillip got his Uncle David's 30 year old dirt bike running by rebuilding the carburetor and cleaning everything thoroughly. Now he wants a dirt bike of his own. You guessed it: too dangerous! He does have a knack for mechanical things. We took a cast-off push mower and with a little tinkering got it running like new. Bolstered by our small successes, we bought an old riding mower that needed some work and after spending an embarrassing number of hours and a ridiculous number of dollars, we still don't have it running.

Phillip got his restricted driver's license shortly after turning 15 in September. No wrecks or tickets so far, but he's not had much time to drive.

As marching band season came to a close, he tried out for basketball as a freshman at the high school and made the team, which means Tuesday and Friday nights during December and January will be taken up with JV basketball. Even with all this extracurricular activity, Phillip keeps his grades up (only one B and the rest A's.)

Tia has had quite a year. She was selected as Teacher of the Year from her school and then as the representative from her school district in the state competition. She kept having trouble with her back and her hormones. Menopause is being mean to her. Plus there was blood in her urine. After a follow-visit with more blood and urine tests and an X-ray, doctors ordered a sonogram of her kidneys. GR was there for the sonogram and knew something was wrong when he saw large holes in each kidney. Shortly thereafter, the nephrologist confirmed that she has polycystic kidney disease. What this means is that there are numerous huge cysts in both kidneys. These cysts are fluid-filled cavities that take up the space formerly occupied by functional kidney tissue. Gradually, the kidneys lose more and more functional tissue as the cysts get larger and larger. There is no cure and no treatment. At this point, we don't know which of the many versions of the disease she has. Some progress very rapidly and in others the degeneration is slow and gradual. Fortunately, kidneys can function adequately if only 10% of the normal kidney mass remains. Once the disease passes that point, dialysis and kidney transplants are the only options. Sadly, this is a genetic disease (Tia's older brother Bobby has polycystic kidney disease) and there is a 50% chance that each of our kids have it. Nothing can be done about it. She will be going back to the nephrologist every three months so that they can chart the progress (seems like a bad term here) of the disease.

The other worrisome issue is that people with polycystic kidney disease have a higher incidence of aneurisms in the blood vessels of the brain. An aneurism is a weak-walled blood vessel that is subject to rupture. If this happens in the brain, a stroke is the result. Although it is possible to detect aneurisms with MRIs, there is nothing that can be done about them if they lie deep, so we're just trying to enjoy life and get the most out of each day. We're trying not to get upset about things but it is difficult when we have new neighbors that have a pair of pit bulldogs. Over the summer, the female had eight puppies that kept getting out. They were flea-infested and in poor health. After several calls, Animal Control took the puppies away. Our neighbors probably don't like us very much, but I guess we're even. Sometime soon we hope to get a privacy fence so we don't have to look at them and they can't see us.

In the course of investigating the chronic back pain, an MRI showed that one of the discs in Tia's lower back is almost completely gone. Because of the kidney disease, Tia can't take the usual painkillers like ibuprofen and naproxen because these accelerate the degeneration of the kidneys. Instead, she has to take darvocet and oxycotin as needed to control the pain. The physical therapist gave her a series of exercises to strengthen the back and we're holding off until after school is out next summer to have back surgery that will stabilize the joint where the disk is gone. The orthopedic surgeon estimates that she'll be out of commission for 4-8 weeks. Sitting on those bleachers for Alayna's tennis matches and Phillip's band performances has been rough. If you have money to invest, we recommend those companies that produce oxycotin and darvacet.

For Mother's Day, we surprised Tia with a mini-van. We got her a '96 Mercury Villager. It is the only vehicle we have with less than 100,000 miles. (It had 89,000 when we got it.) We still have the Ford van we bought before Phillip was born. We can't seem to part with it. It has been part of the family for so long.

Tia still does the yearbook for the middle school. She hasn't taken any courses since she finished that Master's degree and we've really enjoyed having her around the house at night and on weekends.

During the summer and early fall we renovated the kitchen. A contractor staggered us with the estimate. We decided to do it ourselves. We stripped the wallpaper off, patched and painted the walls and ceiling, and had a new counter top installed. Got a new gas stove, which we love. First time in a long time we have all four burners working. Tia stripped the kitchen cabinets and GR stained and urethaned them. He also built a solid oak mantle for the living room starting from sawmill lumber. It took four days to build, but it sure looks good.

For our 22nd anniversary in August, Tia and GR spent a pleasant weekend in Asheville strolling the streets and enjoying the shops. It is nice that the kids are old enough to stay at home by themselves. If they got into any trouble then, we haven't heard about it.

GR had an eventful year. For 19 days in January, he traveled with 19 Wofford students and Dr. Peter Schmunk of the Art History department to Amsterdam, Paris, and southern France for a course called "In the Footsteps of Van Gogh." He read up on Vincent van Gogh and came to appreciate his paintings. While there, he enjoyed making slides to show when he returned. He added to his collection of church photographs by shooting many noteworthy cathedrals including Notre Dame of Paris and Sacre Coeur. In the spring, he taught a new course called "The Mammal in the Mirror" with a professor in the philosophy department.

In March, GR's grandmother died at the age of 92 about two weeks after a stroke. She was the last of his grandparents. The others died before he was 12. In October, the mother of our good friend Janice Wilkins passed away after lingering for nearly two months in intensive care. Janice asked GR to say a few words at the funeral. You can read the eulogy entitled "Pig's Feet and Wings" on GR's website. (http://webs.wofford.edu/davisgr)

At the end of June after attending a teaching workshop in Olympia,Washington, GR drove around western Washington for four days taking pictures of Mount Ranier, Mount St. Helens, the Olympic peninsula, and Seattle. In November, he was in New Orleans for the Neuroscience meeting and snuck away to take pictures in several historic churches there. At the pressing of Peter Schmunk, his fellow photographer, he entered one of his pictures in the Spartanburg Sidewalk Art Show and won 3rd place and a check for $75. So now you can say you know an "award winning" photographer. He and Peter will be having a show of their photographs in the art gallery of the library at Wofford College during January and February. Each one will have about 20 photographs on display. After the show, we get to bring our pictures home.

So it has been an eventful year for the Davis family in Spartanburg. We don't want this letter to sound as if we're bragging. We just thought you'd like to know what's been going on with us, and most of it has been good news. We've been tremendously blessed. Our parents continue to enjoy pretty good health although Tia's Dad continues the slow decline that comes with emphysema. At our age, we seem to be paying a little more attention to health and the weather and less attention to the Tarheels. We're thinking that it won't be long until all the kids are out of the house and it will be peaceful and quiet. Perhaps too peaceful and maybe too quiet. I guess we'll find out soon enough.