December 14, 2011

Mom was always on the phone, coming or going.

When the phone rang at our house, the person who answered it most often was my Mom. The call usually was for her. Mom practiced medicine in the "old school" days, when there was no email, no electronic record system, and no pager. In the early 1970s, Mom rented a primitive answering machine from Illinois Bell. It was a large grey piece of equipment that took up about two feet of space on an old counter top in the basement (I can't find a photo of it.) Mom didn't rely on the answering machine very often because she rarely took time off from work.

Mom also made house calls. Patients telephoned her, at home, at all hours. Mom would pop into "The Swan" and drive to the destination. House calls taught Mom how to navigate around Chicago. She also saw the interiors of some pretty nifty houses, including a few built by Frank Lloyd Wright. Mom's partner asked her to make a house call the night before I was born, but she declined the request. Her belly was so large that if she made room for it behind the wheel, then her foot could not reach the gas pedal.

Mom's day started out by 8:00 am when she made rounds at three hospitals. After visiting those admitted patients, Mom drove to her suburban office. There, she often saw up to thirty patients a day. While Mom examined patients, a receptionist answered the office telephone, writing down the names and numbers of the callers. When Mom finished her office visits, the receptionist handed that list to Mom. The list usually had sixty or so names of patients on it, and the patients expected Mom to call them back that same day.

Mom headed home at around 7:30 pm. She ate the dinner that my paternal Grandmother, Tatjana, heated up for her, and Mom sat down in the Master Bedroom chair to start calling those sixty or so patients. She usually knitted while she was on the phone, but she typically was tied up for several hours with the call backs.

At the end of each month, Mom and her partner split up the office earnings. He got sixty percent, and she got forty percent.

The partner did, however, agree that Mom take a full month's vacation every summer.

Suburban Chicago, 1959. I don't know whether Mom has just come home here, or whether she is heading out the door. She's sitting next to her nightstand.


Anonymous said...

My grandma had the same bedspread. :)

Irene said...