After my fibromyalgia diagnosis, I learned that my grandpa and I had more in common than I realized. He also had fibromyalgia and low blood oxygen. I have digestion issues like he did… Our health issues are so much alike, I feel like learning about what he silently endured is like looking into my future.
Despite all the pain he was in, he always smiled. He always goofed around. He insisted chocolate syrup was medicine and never said no to entertaining my cousins and I. He took us to Mexico for shopping and even riding in the car was a blast with him. He loved each of us unconditionally and I don’t remember ever being scolded by him. I don’t know how he kept the pain from making him irritable!
It was Dec. 7, 1971, and Woodrow “Woodie” Peables Jr. was running through the snow-covered streets of Abilene. Back at his house, his wife Alicia was about to have their first child.
Woodie was running the 21 blocks to his parent’s house to borrow a car.
Raised in a very conservative family in Brownsville, Alicia knew very little about the process of having a baby. She was surprised when her water broke.
“Such things were just never discussed by my family,” Alicia said.
Her husband came home from work to find Alicia mopping the floor instead of getting ready to go to the hospital.
But Woodie knew what it meant and that’s when he started running.
When he reached his folks’ house, Woodie began pounding on the door.
“What’s the matter, son?” asked his father, Woodrow Peables Sr.
“I need to borrow a car. Alicia’s in labor” Woodie said.
“The car’s in your driveway, son, with the keys in it,” said the elder Peables.
That had been the plan. For the past week, Woodrow Sr. or one of Woodie’s brothers had left a car in his driveway for just such an event.
In later years, Woodie would claim he didn’t see the white car because of all of the snow.
“He just went into full panic mode,” said his daughter, Chyrstal.
Woodie and his father piled into another car and went to pick up Alicia. On the way to the hospital, that car got stuck in the snow and they had to go back and get the white car. But all ended well and their daughter, Tonya, was born in the hospital. She was the first of three daughters and one son born to Alicia and Woodie.
There wasn’t all of that fuss when Woodrow Perry Peables Jr. entered this world on July 24, 1937. He was born on the kitchen table of his parents’ apartment over a garage in Abilene.
Woodie was one of four sons born to Lois and Woodrow Peables Sr. She was a cook and Woodrow Sr. was a baker doing mechanic’s work on the side. Eventually, Woodie’s father opened his own garage.
Woodie joined the military after high school, but soon was discharged to care for his ailing parents and help run the garage.
“He was ‘busting’ tires,” Chrystal said. “Back then, they didn’t have all of the tools they have now for fixing flats or putting on new tires. It all had to be done by hand.”
After a few years, Woodie moved to Houston and a job as a truck driver. There, he married Wanda and they had two daughters, Nona and Joy.
But the marriage only lasted a few years and Woodie was soon single again.
He started dating Alicia’s roommate. One night, Woodie came to their apartment to ask if Alicia would go out with a friend of his. He never got around to asking.
Then 17, Alicia was working at a Houston hospital. “I didn’t date,” she said. “I liked to sit at home and watch TV and listen to records.”
When Woodie got home that night, his friend wanted to know what Alicia had said about the double date.
Woodie announced, “I’m going to marry that girl and live with her forever.”
“From day one he never let me alone,” Alicia said.
Woodie asked her to marry him and kept asking for six days until she said yes.
“He was persistent,” Alicia said. “I told him I didn’t love him, but he said he had enough love for both of us.
“He said, ‘I’ll grow on you.’ And he did,” she said. “We were married 38 years.”
They moved to Abilene in 1970.
“He was always working,” Alicia said. “He built houses, he wrecked houses, carpenter, mechanic … ”
“He salvaged houses for the wood or whatever he could get out of them,” Chrystal said.
Alicia found out the guy down the street paid his workers a penny a nail to remove them from the lumber. She started pulling nails for Woodie — only he never paid her.
When Tonya came along, Alicia’s nail-pulling days ended.
Like any road traveled, Alicia and Woodie’s marriage was not without the occasional bump or rough spot, Alicia recalled. But they always made it through.
Woodie constantly wrote Alicia love letters. “He was very romantic,” she said. “He was always bringing me flowers and candy.”
The family moved to Victoria, where Woodie worked for Brown & Root and Union Carbide. An accident at work left Woodie disabled. They moved to the Valley so Alicia could be closer to her family. It was to have tragic consequences.
In 1987, Chrystal, then 13, revealed that she had been molested for several years and then raped.
When Woodie went looking for help for his family to deal with this, there was none to be had locally. The system seemed to be geared to help perpetrators instead of victims.
Woodie decided to do something about it.
“It was his way of …,” Chrystal said and then paused, her eyes brimmimg with tears. “Since he couldn’t help me, because it went on so long, he wanted to help other people. He felt it would help give me the strength to go on.”
Alicia said the first step was to get help for their family. A crime doesn’t just affect one person. It has an effect on the entire household. Woodie found therapy for everyone and they discovered the process of healing.
“We found out what each of us were going to feel each step of the way,” Alicia said. “And the support we needed to give her.”
It became a blueprint for how they would help other families deal with the aftermath of any crime.
“We met in restaurants or the hallways of the Courthouse — wherever he found people who needed help,” Alicia said. “We would meet in parks. Flying back from meetings in Austin, we would meet people on the plane.”
They helped people apply to state agenies for help covering medical, funeral or any other expenses that victims suffered as a result of crime.
“We would get them the forms and then make sure they were filled out correctly — that they dotted every ‘I’ and crossed every ‘t,’ ” Alicia said.
“He told me to take typing classes,” Chrystal said with a smile. “I didn’t realize I would be turned into a secretary — unpaid, of course.”
Woodie used part of the family’s only income, his disability checks, to pay his expenses.
It first became People Against Violent Crime, and then Cameron County Victims Assistance after the county began funding their work. Their efforts resulted in millions of dollars of aid for Valley crime victims.
“Looking back, he was always a strict and hard man,” Chrystal said. “Especially after he started the crime victims, because he knew what was out there.”
Alicia said their phone would ring at all hours of the day or night with calls for assistance. Some would come from law enforcement officials telling them about a family in need.
Woodie’s health began to fail even more. It was problems with his heart,
“They started telling him he only had six months to live back in 1979,” Chrystal said. “He outlived three or four of his doctors.”
Woodie kept his romantic nature, even when he became very ill. Every evening at 10 p.m., Alicia would stop whatever she was doing and get a goodnight kiss from Woodie. Then he would take his medicine and go to bed.
Woodie knew when he was going to die. He had Chrystal call her sisters and her uncles so he could tell them all goodbye.
“He said he forgave them for anything they might have ever done and said he hoped they would forgive him, too,” Chrystal said. “He asked permission to die, to let him go.”
“Then he went to sleep with a smile on his face,” Alicia said.
But things didn’t go according to Woodie’s plan.
“Boy, was he mad when he woke up the next morning,” Chrystal said. “He looked around and said ‘What the hell am I still doing here?’”
Woodie was so mad he didn’t get out of bed that day. He certainly didn’t want to have to go through saying goodbye again.
“He always wanted to help, to give,” Alicia said.
Chrystal said it wasn’t surprising that his heart finally gave out. “He gave too much of it away,” she said.
He taught me to surround myself with joy and to love life more than I hate my pain. Most importantly, he taught me to never give up. I miss him dearly…