Monday, August 7, 2023
Sunday, August 12, 2018
I was saddened by the passing of hockey legend, Stan Mikita, this past week. I was first introduced to him as a child watching hockey on TV with my dad. Those were special times with dad – sitting on his lap or next to him on the couch as he explained the game of hockey to me. He introduced me to the players via the TV. He was especially proud of Stan Mikita, a fellow Czech (well actually a Slovak) so I guess a fellow Czechoslovak would be more accurate.
Memories of the many times spent watching the Blackhawks with my dad are some of the most special father/daughter memories I have. Because money was tight, dad didn’t go to many games at the Chicago Stadium, however he did take me once. It was awesome!
Our next door neighbors were friends with Stan Mikita’s in-laws and sometimes they would have barbeques in the summer and the Mikita family would be there. I remember that once even Bobby Hull was there. In those days, it was impolite to gawk at celebrities and I had strict instructions not to bother them during those barbeques. However, being the teenager I was at the time, I asked for Stan’s autograph. He was very gracious about it. I remember when his son Scott was a toddler and they told me to ask him who his daddy was so I did. It was soooo cute as he answered “Staaanley”. And when I asked him, "Stanley who?", he answered “Mikiiita”. His wife, Jill, gave me one of Stan’s old blue plaid shirts (I still have it somewhere). It had been mended but I wore it a lot for several years.
I’m not sure how it came about, but when Stan’s sister, Vera, was visiting from Czechoslovakia, I was asked if I could take her out somewhere. It was summertime and I was working as a waitress to make money for school. The ‘in’ thing was to go to Old Town (I had never been there before so it was going to be a treat for me as well). Since we didn’t own a car, I had to beg one of my Slovak friends to talk one of her brothers into driving us. I don’t know how she did it, but she talked one of them into it. I was promised that I would be able to leave work early that day. Unfortunately, as it happens in the restaurant business, we were shorthanded and busy and I got stuck at work til almost 9pm. I ran home (a couple of miles) where everyone was waiting for me. Evidently, Stan and his wife had dropped Vera off between 6 - 7pm. They were supposed to drop her off at 8pm. I guess they thought if they dropped her off earlier, she would get home earlier, not taking into account that I and my friends had summer jobs to make money for college tuition. My mom had tried to explain to them that I was at work and so we would be getting a much later start.
After I changed my clothes, Vera, Yvonne, Yvonne’s brother and one of my friends (who was interested in Yvonne) and I took off for Old Town. By the time we got there, it was almost 10pm. We had a nice time walking around and enjoying the late 1960’s atmosphere of Chicago’s Old Town. I am not sure when Vera was expected home, but we knew we were definitely late as it was after 11pm. Marian drove like a maniac down the Eisenhower Expressway to Elmhurst where the Mikita’s lived. During those days, traffic was very light at that time, not like nowadays, and it was clear sailing. We passed an accident on our way there but it in no way impeded us. I think Marian got us to Elmhurst in well under 20 minutes – don’t ask how fast he was going, no one will admit to it. As we pulled up, Stan and Jill were standing outside – not a good sign. Stan came toward me as I walked Vera to the door yelling at me for bringing his sister home so late. I tried to explain and even tried to blame the accident we had passed for us being late but he was having none of it. This is my ‘Stan Mikita claim to fame’ story and also the last time I actually saw Stan and his wife.
My condolences to the Mikita and Gvot families..
Saturday, July 14, 2018
Mom hadn’t been feeling well most of February and so she missed dad’s party. She hadn’t wanted to go to the doctor, and since her symptoms were flu like and weren’t life threatening, we didn’t force the issue. She was feeling better but was weak when I took her for her primary care appointment in early March. Her doctor prescribed at home physical therapy, occupational therapy and had a nurse come by to check on her once a week for 4 weeks. The caregiver had scheduled a trip to the Czech Republic but we didn’t want a replacement for the time she was to be gone as mom and dad said they could handle it. In the meantime, I was starting the battery of tests the GI specialist had ordered at a pace of one per week.
I took dad to his cardiologist appointment on a Thursday late afternoon where he was told (after the doctor reviewed the results of his echo-cardiogram) he had the heart of a much younger man (not a 90 year old), that it was safe for him to fly to the Czech Republic to see his family and that the cardiologist would see him in a year. On Sunday night, dad was planning his trip to visit with his family with them via Skype. He was joking that he had forgotten to ask the doc if he could chase the young women but that he realized he couldn’t because of his bad knee. On Monday morning, he was gone. He hadn’t responded to mom over the intercom and when she called me, she said he didn’t respond to her after she went upstairs to his room. My husband and I had just ordered breakfast at a restaurant after having blood drawn at the hospital for tests that our respective doctors had wanted. I told mom to get ready to open the door as I was going to call the paramedics and that I would be there as soon as I could. We had the waitress pack our food to go, paid and ran out the door.
The police officer that met me at the house told me that he was sorry but my dad had passed away. He said he was sitting in his chair looking peaceful with the TV on. I was in shock.
I answered the officer’s questions but I didn’t want to go upstairs to show him my dad’s meds (he was only on a few - for gout, high cholesterol and they had just prescribed a very small dose of blood pressure medication). I needed to call my sisters and make the arrangements and I would have lost it if I had to go up to see him. My husband went instead. Mom asked me to call their priest first and I did. Because we normally send texts to communicate, my sisters knew it had to be an emergency if I was calling and leaving a message to call me back. All of them thought I was calling about mom and when I said it was dad who died, they all went into shock. Everyone said that they would be over as soon as they could.
The officer said he couldn’t leave until the body had been picked up so I had to ask mom what funeral home to call. She said she wanted the funeral home that took over from one that had closed a few years earlier. She wasn’t sure of the name but it was in Berwyn. My husband looked up the funeral homes and mom said she thought she recognized the name. I called and made arrangements for them to pick up dad. My sisters started to show up and to notify their spouses and children. We wanted to make sure that everyone from out of town would be able to make it so we scheduled the funeral for a week later with the wake on Sunday. That evening, all of us sisters, my husband and a close friend went to the funeral home to make the arrangements. We had one sister on video chat, and together, we picked out the casket, cards, etc. and made a list of what else was needed. When we returned to mom’s, my sisters picked out the clothes and I looked for the cemetery plot information as our parents, along with our aunt, had paid for them years ago.
We couldn’t leave mom alone and even though Paula had memory issues, she was the logical one to stay there. She didn’t want to but we told her she had to as mom couldn’t be by herself. She asked what she needed to do and we ran down a list of things and told her she should call me if needed.
2017 To Be Continued….
Thursday, June 14, 2018
My parents really liked the new caregiver and she took exceptional care of our mom and dad so my husband and I started 2017 by visiting my son and the family in Nevada for ten days. My daughter-in-law had made plans to make our visit a fun and relaxing one. Both she and my son took off of work to spend time with us. My honey and I spent our last night at the El Dorado in Reno in one of their spa suites. We had really worked hard on getting caught up with laundry and house cleaning and organizing before we left. While we were gone, one of my sisters came over and dusted, vacuumed and generally cleaned everything so we returned to a nice clean house.
The year was starting out well even though my hubby had a lot of doctor's visits in January. I was tired of the gastrointestinal issues that had me cancelling plans at the last minute and I finally had time to make an appointment with a specialist toward the end of February and set up future dates and times for the many tests he ended up ordering. I felt like I was beginning to decompress. I started to breathe again – slowly.
As dad was celebrating his 90th birthday in February, his friends wanted to make it special. Dad had me come over and started writing down the names of the people he wanted at his party. He wanted me to make sure that they all showed up so I started making phone calls. Most of the people on the list were already planning on being there, but I had to call and make sure per dad's instructions. Dad kept adding more people to the list and so I made more calls. I enlisted the help of some of the people that were taking care of most of the plans for this celebration for my dad. I have to say that most of the people dad wanted at the party were there. Only a few couldn't make it because they were out of town/state/country. Many people worked on making this a special day for my dad and our family is so very grateful. There were around 100 guests at his party and his musician friends played his favorite songs and performed funny 'old people' skits. Others cooked and baked and everyone contributed time and money to make this a truly memorable day. He was, also, awarded a special medal from Chicago's Czech Consul General for his work at Radio Free Europe and keeping the Czech culture alive in the Chicagoland area.
Let me share with you this video of his party that our friends were able to put together and edit for a memorial service earlier this year.
Let me share with you this video of his party that our friends were able to put together and edit for a memorial service earlier this year.
My dad had always said that he would be here until he was 100. How could we know, that a month and a half after his party, he would be gone.
2017 To Be Continued.....
Friday, June 8, 2018
In March, a severe storm damaged our roof and siding. I had to deal with the insurance company and the contractor to try to get it fixed as water leaked from the ceiling every time it rained and it rained quite a bit and of course the insurance company (in the fine print) was not responsible for any further damage even if they were the cause of the delays to the repairs. To get away from all the stress, I went to visit my son and his family in Nevada. I have to say it was great seeing my grandchildren and spending time with my son and my daughter-in-law (her mom had passed way in January and her dad was now living with them). However, one week into my 3 week stay, I fell and broke my shoulder. I continued to cook for them mainly with my granddaughter's help.
Even a painful (the only pain killer I could tolerate was ibuprofen) broken shoulder didn’t get me a reprieve. The morning after I flew home, I had an appointment to see an orthopedic surgeon in the morning and had to go with my dad to his doctor’s appointment in the afternoon. The next day, right after my early morning physical therapy, I had to take my dad to see his eye doctor.
And so it continued for the rest of the year. I spent 1/3 of 2016 in hospitals, doctor’s offices or at physical therapy – half for me and half for family members. Add to that my family’s non-medical items that I had to attend to (for my parents and sister Paula), I spent 1/3 (4 months) of my year taking care of other people’s issues (based on what I had written into my calendar). Not everything was written into my calendar, i.e., many phone calls to my parents’ new medical insurance company to get them to cover my parents’ visits and calls to agencies looking for a new caregiver for mom (her social worker was not happy with the care she was getting and gave me a list of state approved agencies to call). I was, also, putting out feelers for a caregiver who could speak Czech. We got a new agency in May and then a friend found us a Czech speaking caregiver which the agency subsequently hired in June.
The damaged roof and siding finally got fixed in August. After haggling with the insurance company and the contractor, I then had a problem getting a permit from the town to make the repairs. Along with many auto repairs in 2016, we had to have our old 1930’s furnace replaced and added central air (for my health issues).
For nine months I felt like I had been so compressed by stress that I couldn’t breathe. I was just putting one foot in front of the other. I had to get through this – there was no choice. The last 3 months of the year, the stress finally started to lift a little. I finally had some time to spend with my extremely tolerant husband and we concentrated on getting caught up with housework - something that had been neglected out of necessity for 3/4 of the year.
I ended the year with four medical appointments in the last week (mom, me, my sister and dad). Needless to say, there was no time or energy to write.
Sunday, May 27, 2018
We ended 2015 with one of my younger sisters going into cardiac arrest twice on Dec. 29th. She was in the hospital one month - 1 week in ICU, 1 week in CCU and 2 weeks in the rehab ward. After coming out of the induced coma, our sister's memory was impaired and someone needed to be with her 24/7 in the hospital so family and friends took turns being there with her. Physically, she progressed well, but her memory (long term & short term) was not there.
January was an especially trying month. I spent 13 days at the hospital with Paula and one day with her after she was released. In between this, I had to take mom to 2 doctor's appointments, the ER and for a cystoscopy; then I spent one whole day taking care of my parent's medical insurance paperwork. I had 6 doctor's appointments of my own.
During this time, my brother's condition was rapidly deteriorating, especially since the family visits he was used to were drastically reduce as our focus was on our sister. On January 19, I drove my parents and our priest to see my brother. It was a good visit even though he had lost a lot of weight and hospice had to bring in a hospital bed for him. My car was not running properly most of the month, so I was never sure if I would make it to where I was going or back home, but there was no time to take it to the mechanic. Our brother hung on till they let Paula out of the hospital and family took her to see him. One of my sisters took me to see him on the 25th and it was obvious it would be a matter of days before he died. He passed away that Friday. My husband and I drove out to his house on Saturday to see if there was anything we could help his wife with. I am amazed at the quality of care my sister-in-law was able to give my brother while he was in hospice. I don't know how she was able to handle it even with all the help everyone tried to provide. She is such a loving, caring woman and my brother never truly appreciated her like he should have. We ended January with a celebration of our aunt's 95th birthday as we tried to process our brother's death two days before. February started with our brother's wake and a memorial luncheon several days later. My brother's death hit me hard, but there was no time to grieve.
Because our sister was on Medicaid, no outpatient rehab center that was qualified to handle her issues would take her. The hospital was kind enough to provide some follow up outpatient therapy for free but only for a few weeks. We were unable to leave Paula alone. She would freak out because she didn't know what had happened to her or why she was there (if she recognized her surroundings) or where she was (when she didn't recognize her surroundings). We ended up passing her around from one daughter or sister to another. Because we were family, most of the time, she refused to do what the therapists said she needed to do to regain her memory and she bristled every time we would try to help by reminding her that she needed to shower, brush her teeth, etc. It was not easy for any of us.
2016 To Be Continued......