An Indelible Presence: The Big Two-Hearted Woman

By Anthony Kovatch, M.D. — Pediatric Alliance — Arcadia



(Musical accompaniment: “Always a Women” by Billy Joel)



Obituaries about famous people are generally nothing more than shadows of lies, detailing the superficial events and timelines revolving around a deeper heart known to none other than the individual soul. As another way of putting it, we all have our “rosebud,” — that private little pilot light that throughout our life guides our wakefulness and dreams — revealed ultimately to the self at the moment of death. Sometimes our “rosebud” is revealed to the ignorant around us but is never understood, except in fictional stories like “Citizen Cane,” where the significance of a decal on a sled — the symbol of the innocence and mundane joy of childhood — is disclosed at last to a detached audience.

Please forgive me for presumptuously suggesting that Mary Charlotte Goessler’s “rosebud” was “thousands.” I will support my hypothesis by events I singularly witnessed — under the condition that someday I may be the sole author of my own obituary (or if I am incompetent of mind, then only an idiot can be my surrogate).

Flashbulb: It was very early on morning rounds and I nodded to the pediatrician on the other side of the otherwise unsupervised nursery. Later, unaware that I was looking on, she picked up a newborn baby, kissed it on the head, and laid it back in its bassinet. There was more simple tenderness in the gesture that I had ever seen before in my professional life or would ever see again. Years later, I heard from the mother of a child of this age that Doctor Mary had allowed her son to use her Cadillac to drive his date and his sister to the prom. The mother reported the loving deed in a matter-of-fact way — just another day in the life of your legendary pediatrician.

Flashback: The nurse practitioner was overwhelmingly distressed but suffering silently by the findings on her daughter’s brain scan. As she and her doctor studied the X-rays together, the pediatrician put her arm around the nurse who was tearful and drew her close like a mother to her child who had just been injured. It was an indelible act of love and hence the creation of the moniker, “indelible presence.”

Memoir: When the boss invited the junior partner to a golf outing on his day off, the junior felt compelled to show-off his driving skill, so he chose a farther, more difficult tee-off site. After three consecutive drives into a gully, he joined a smiling Mary at the shorter tee site, acknowledging that he was essentially a beginner. Once they both knew that the junior stunk at golf, the fun began.

Flashbulb: Her obsession with generosity made The Big Two-Hearted Woman a formidable foe in negotiations. As Mother’s Day approached one year, she insisted that I (a notorious cheapskate) buy my wife some jewelry. A mother’s ring is what she convinced me to choose and she arranged an appointment for me at the jeweler down the road in Bellevue, who had been one of her long-time patients. (It seemed that she was friends with everybody within a ten-mile radius.)

There was no such thing as turning back. No nonsense — just like Humphrey Bogart, who she adored as the role model for virility. She also adored her pet schnauzers “Humphrey” and “Bogart,” who behaved impeccably at parties and business meetings at the home (adorned with Disney World knick knacks) of Mary and her sister, Sue. The schnauzers had duly received pet psychotherapy for behavioral modification and, in retrospect, the pediatricians in the practice would have benefitted from the same.

Flashback: Unknown to the others in the office, I had run my first marathon that Sunday. In spite of my desire to stay under the radar, one of the office staff found me out and the leak produced a series of banners in my honor on Monday in the office. Although these were ripped down by the other doctors by the end of the day, I was presented with the one and only trophy of my lifetime at the next business meeting by the “foxy” Doctor Mary. I think she felt a little guilty that she had beaten me so badly at golf. Whatever the motivation, I was stupefied!


To be continued…


(Image“Mister Toulouse Paints Mister Lautrec,”  by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Parisian artist — 1891)