On a day when AOL headlines bombarded us with news about Nicole Richie’s baby, Winona Ryder’s career and Jamie Pressley’s pregnancy, my thoughts and attention were on none of these celebrities. My thoughts of admiration, respect and gratitude focused on Kitch.
That’s right. My thoughts today and virtually every day since my cardiac event on Memorial Day focused on Kitch.
Perhaps the most stunning moment was the evening when I stood on the balcony overlooking The Garden of Life, and I thought to myself this is very serious.
The more I thought about what could or might happen, the more frightened I became, and then, like a bolt out of the blue, I realized that the worst thing that could happen would be not having the opportunity to spend time with Kitch here in a place that we dreamed about and worked so very hard to build.
When people ask me what did you think about before your surgery, the answer is always the same. I thought about my wife, Kitch, our friendship, our partnership, our ability to survive every twist and turn on the road of life.
I did not want to leave her with a mess on her hands. I did not want to have the surgery until I was sure that her life would not be compromised, if I were one of the two percent of heart patients who don’t make it through the surgery.
In fact, I bargained for a release from the hospital for a few days so that we could get all of our financial matters straightened out so that she would not have anything to worry about.
Like most men, I took care of the monthly bills and everything that went with that job never thinking or planning for what we were about to face.
Fortunately, my cardiothorasic surgeon was a person with a heart as well as an excellent mind, and he arranged for my release so that I could attend to these matters.
Many wonder why I would do such a thing. “You put your life at risk to straighten out the monthly bills?” Yes, and I would do it again in a heartbeat, if you don’t mind the pun.
In reality it was a lot more than just the monthly bills, but whatever the case, it was important to me, and it cleared my mind.
There is a line from a 1970’s movie staring George C. Scott. It comes during a moment when he was torn between attending to hospital business and escaping into a fantasy world of pleasure.
His response was a classic moment in film for me: “Someone around here has to be responsible. I have to be responsible.”
That explains a good deal of my decision, but there is another aspect of it.
Kitch has always looked out for my best interest. She knew how sick I was. Indeed, for many months she had been trying to get me to deal with the fatigue that virtually plagued every day of my life for more than a year. I would work an hour and need two hours of rest.
I thought it was some kind of virus. She knew it was more.
This is a woman who, at the tender age of 12, watched her own father die of a massive heart attack. In August of 2006 she was there to hold her mother’s hand when she breathed her last. Now she had this to deal with.
She knew full well what life would be like after surgery. She knew it better than I. She had been a caregiver for her mother, and now she would have that role again with me.
Her responsibilities would double. She had the house, the cooking and baking, the washing and cleaning, PR and correspondence for Windsor Park Stories, the garden, preparations for the garden tour, hospital visits and attention to numerous details that come when you care for a person who had heart surgery.
I can recall her comments about her first trip to the market. “ Did you ever realize how much salt is in the food we eat?” Do you have any idea how hard it is plan healthy, low salt meals? This from a person who has always been conscious about eating wisely.
Kitch is not one to spend much time online, and yet she had literally hundreds of e-mails and telephone messages to answer, and she did it with great dignity, responsibility and class. If truth be told she continues to do it today.
This in addition to the record keeping of vital signs for the doctors and the disbursement of the medications in the right order at the right time of day.
She was also helpful with the anti-embolism stockings, and a number of other personal things that I could not do myself.
Every day in every way Kitch was there attending to all those things that caregivers attend to when cardiac patients return home. She never complained.
Like virtually every one of the caregivers in America, Kitch will never make the cover of a popular magazine. She will never walk the red carpet on Oscar night. She will not be the subject of a blog poll, and she will never see her name in lights, but for me she is so much more than any of those distractions.
Kitch is responsible, a word that does not curry a lot of favor these days. She is a woman of great dignity and class, another old fashion value. She is intelligent, thoughtful, competent and compassionate.
This week she celebrates another birthday, and we intend to spend it together, quietly in Windsor Park. We will talk about many things as we have our private celebration close to The Garden of Life. High on that list will be my gratitude for her kindness to me, but even higher will be my admiration and respect for her loyalty and her partnership.
In my opinion, she has no rival, and that’s why the AOL headlines about celebrities never resonate with me. There is a lot the celebrities could learn about life from Kitch and the caretakers of this world who find a way, without notice, to make it through every day giving aid and assistance to people like me who need help.
In my opinion they are the genuine celebrities of our time, and they have no rival.
Someone once wrote: “In a garden you can learn what really is important in life."
Happy Birthday Kitch.
(The image of The Hospital came from Yahoo Movies).
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