It was 1986, and I got accepted to the PhD program in Clinical Social Work at Loyola University on Michigan Ave. Wow – the Miracle Mile I rarely walked.
My boys were in grammar school.
My boys played soccer in the cold rain and sometimes sleet.
My boys played basketball.
My boys played baseball.
My husband worked full time.
I worked 15 – 20 hrs/ week, at the Old Orchard Psychiatric Hospital, in the Juvenile wing.These were teens who were doing drugs, didn’t go to school, and hung out on the streets. Why? most had been raped/ molested/ abused/ neglected.
I did group therapy with them, and a psychiatric nurse ,every day after lunch, and then family group therapy once/ week – for all the parents/ foster parents/ extended family members, who shared their stories with the kids next to them.
We knew the teens would be going back to these families, and all the adults had their own treatment on another floor. This was to try to make it safe for the kids to go back to their “homes”.
And somehow – I squeezed in two years of going downtown to Loyola on Fridays and Saturdays, nearly every weekend for courses – with that PhD seemingly a long way off. After going to classes for 2 years, I needed 4 more, to do my research and write my dissertation. And the usual juggling my life.
And on those days/ nights, my husband took our boys to the Old Chicago Stadium, walked up to the window, and got tickets for all them to see the Chicago Bulls. He said that those two years were the best for him – when the boys were in his care, and the full bonding took place, while seeing Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Bill Cartright, John Paxson, and crew – play some of the best professional basketball – as the team was in its infancy. And the Stadium had empty seats.
I, of course, had to work with 3 other families from the kids’ grammar school, sharing the “after school day care”, while we all the mothers and fathers worked.
We figured it out – and my days were usually Wednesday / Thursday. The rest of the time I worked at the Psychiatric hospital, and studied my ass off during the day. And going to school on weekends.
I set my alarm on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Friday nights – to wake up and study/ write papers, from 3 am – 5 am, go back to bed, then wake up at 7 am to get the boys ready for school, while my husband had to run off to work.
Oh – and between all that: we had extended family events to attend: birthdays, holidays, dinners, lunches, etc – with our parents, nieces, nephews, cousins, etc.These were the times that for me, were most important: having our kids become close with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, while growing up.
Yeah – and I even cooked dinners most nights, and made birthday cakes – did the homemaker thing, cleaned house, all which I really kept me sane.
And yes – once classes ended, we got season tickets to the Bulls – 4 seats in row 22, which cost $16.50 each, in 1988. I got to finally go see this miracle team which was the buzz of the town.
I was now working on my PhD dissertation, and we shared our tickets with brothers and sisters, each getting about 20 home games/ year. Of course we’d go on Friday nights, and figure out other times which did not conflict with the boys’ teams schedules.
How did I do all that? All the juggling, studying, dinners, school pick up for 7 – 8 kids, and seeing the Michael – Scottie team?
I dug deep for the energy – but some days I couldn’t make it.
One night at 3 am, I went into our bedroom closet, and just cried and cried and cried. I wanted to quit school – I couldn’t cut it. My husband heard me, and gave me hugs and kisses – he said, “Screw school – it’s not worth it.”
So for that week, I thought long and hard. My goal was to become a professor with a PhD, after working 10 years as a clinical social worker. I thought: if I quit, I’ll go back to working as I had done.
But if I just dig deeper than ever before, to finish at Loyola, and walk across that graduation stage, and defend my dissertation to a committee, I’d be able to fulfill a dream I had, of getting a tenure-track position at any university.
I picked myself up, mentally – and went back to it all:
Psychiatric Social Worker for those kids who were desperate to have a life
Cooking, Cleaning, being a sister, mother, daughter, cousin, aunt.
Loyola University requirements towards that PhD dream
And the joy of seeing these Chicago Bulls at the old Stadium.
Yeah – I worked harder in my life than ever. All worth it. Culminating in 1991 to see the first of 6 Bulls Championships with the team for the ages.
And walking across that stage at Loyola’s graduation, in full PhD garb, shaking hands with the school President, while my sister, mom, husband, and kids were in the audience. I cried hard while hugging all of them after the ceremony. Tears of joy – and total exhaustion. And then on to the Bulls that evening . Done.