CAREGIVERS, HOUSEWIVES AND HISTORY

| October 2, 2017 | 0 Comments

When you’ve been married 60 years you appreciate the challenges your wife faces, as mother and housewife (if you have any measure of self-awareness); when your wife is hospitalized 49 days due to a catastrophic leg break and finally comes home, where 24-hour care is necessary, your “appreciation” is suddenly, dramatically, exponentially, greater.

Friday, March 10, was the day that changed our lives.

I was in Denver for a luncheon meeting of The Denver Forum (sister organization to The City Club of San Diego), where former United States Senator Gary Hart was speaking and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper came to introduce the senator, when Mark Mitrovich, our oldest son, called to tell me the terrible news. La Verle, my wife and his mother, had fallen at our Kensington home and broken her right leg.

She was at Scripps Mercy hospital and was about to undergo an emergency operation, as she had crushed her upper and lower tibia. (Her surgeon would say later it was the worst break he had seen.)

I did not get to see here until Saturday morning, but, as you can imagine, she was in pain and distress.

She said something that struck me to the quick of my soul. She said, “I’ve ruined our lives.”

Looking down at her in her hospital bed, lying there helpless, my eyes welled with tears, we’ve shared so much these 60 years, but now she felt guilt because of her accident.

I said, “You’ve done nothing of the kind. You broke your leg. We will get through this.”

For several weeks after she came home, there was almost nothing she could do for herself.

She needed me, but most of all, she needed Mark, who was on his way to the desert for the weekend with friends when La Verle called and told him she had fallen and thought her leg was broken. (Somehow she had managed to crawl on her elbows, slowly and with difficulty, down the hallway to her bedroom and call 9/11.)

Mark arrived at our house a few minutes after the paramedics, and followed the ambulance to Mercy to be at his mother’s side – and at her side he would remain. (La Verle later told me that if it wasn’t for Mark, “I think I would have died.”)

When I underwent lung surgery May 5, and was hospitalized for 12 days at Sharp, Mark became savior to both La Verle and me. He temporarily moved into our home to oversee and manage our care, prepare our meals, keep track of our medication, pay the bills, drive us to either Mercy or Sharp for our many doctor appointments, do the wash, fold the clothes, mow the lawn, take out the trash, and feed Oliver (La Verle’s beloved Cockapoo).

While it is true that Marks works with me in connection with The City Club, Denver Forum, and The Writers Series with the Red Sox – as he did when we created The Committee of 2,000 and led the strong mayor movement – caregiver is not part of his job description, but caregiver he has become – and I cannot imagine anyone performing these responsibilities with greater skill or love.

Obviously, I do not know your family, small, mid-sized, or large, but I know mine, and when you grow up with 21 aunts and uncles and tons of cousins, first, second, and third, you know the meaning of family. But you may never fully appreciate its meaning until misfortune strikes.

In our ordeal, La Verle’s and mine (to a much lesser extent), you rediscover “family” and its importance in your life.

In our family, Mark has been the everyday hero, but others have made major contributions to our care and well being: daughter Carolyn; son Tim and his wife Lisa; my sister, Gloria; cousin Shirley Christian; Mark’s significant other, Lisa Danshaw, who has been so supportive; and other family and friends, both near and in distant places. And there have been dozens and dozens of others, who called to say they were thinking of us and remembering us in their prayers.

But amid our good fortune, we thought about others not so fortunate, who have no one to turn to when misfortune strikes, neither mother nor father, husband nor wife, daughter nor son, cousin nor friend. They are alone in an unfriendly and often impersonal world.

I think of the very elegant woman who shared La Verle’s room in a rehabilitation hospital where she went after Mercy. The woman was almost 90, tall, thin, lovely face, but in the time she was there, no one ever came to see her; no one.

That said, as they say, let me now turn to another lesson I have come to appreciate anew – and to a far greater degree:

As the oldest of six children, and the one my siblings turned to for guidance amid our family’s not infrequent uncertainties, I am a most domesticated male. I know how to do most of those things mothers and housewives do everyday of their lives, but it’s not the same, not close.

When your wife is dependent upon a walker, as La Verle now is, she can fix her coffee as she likes, but can’t carry it to her chair. Unable to stand for extended periods, she’s unable to prepare breakfast, lunch or dinner (but can guide me with her favorite recipes, and does). The house she kept spotless, she can no longer vacuum or dust. She needs assistance when bathing. She can’t drive to Vons or shop at Macy’s because she is unable to drive her SUV.

So those responsibilities have become mine; the responsibilities for which most members of the male species are clueless.

You’ve read this far and it’s been about family, not politics, which is essentially my norm in this space. But I will end on a social/political note:

I’ve been a friend of Gloria Steinem’s, Jurate Kazickas’ and Lynn Sherr’s, since 1969, and thereby became an up close witness to the feminist movement; which I supported then and believe in now, but know 48-years later, is not over.

The feminist movement was a moral movement. It was, is, about rights and fairness and justice. And women were, are, the victims of discrimination, of being shutout, even in supposedly enlightened places like Silicon Valley. And if a woman of color, your exclusion was, is, all the greater.

But I believed then, as I believe now, the great mistake of the feminist movement was the failure to reach beyond professional women, the ones trying to break the glass ceiling, to single mothers and housewives. Too often the focus was on women in law, medicine, science, education, or business, among others, and the place of women in those challenging professions – where they had been systematically excluded and denied advancement, despite superior talent and intellect.

But the movement never reached out to women at home, to mothers and housewives. The single most critical element in our society was ignored and excluded. And single moms who went to work everyday to save their families, were at best, secondary thoughts.

The foundation upon which our freedoms were formed was relegated to a paragraph or two in our history books. And unless you were Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Mary Todd Lincoln, Edith Wilson, or Eleanor Roosevelt, your role in our society and in the building of this nation, is unknown (talk about intellectual dishonesty).

I love my friends in the feminist movement, but now is the time to reach beyond the “professional classes” to all women, whoever they are, wherever they are, whatever their responsibilities, whether managing money on Wall Street or washing clothes on Main Street.

Unless Sisterhood is for every woman, it denies the moral foundation upon which it was founded.

George Mitrovich is a San Diego civic leader. He may be reached at gmitro35@gmail.com.

Tags:

Category: Local News, National News

avatar

About the Author ()

"Mine Eyes Have Seen"

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *