Friday, Aug. 7, 2009 | 1:23 p.m.
My life with Jerry? It’s been like a rollercoaster, with a lot of sweetness in there, too.
We’ve been married 54 years and we will celebrate his 79th birthday tomorrow, with all the family in our Pacific Beach condo near San Diego, and I am happy to be able to write a guest Shark Byte in his honor.
Jerry was released from Scripps Memorial Hospital yesterday. They all applauded when he left. They do that when someone leaves the rehabilitation center, but I told him they did it because he was driving them crazy and he was getting out.
It will be a great time for all of us to be together, and we’re grateful to God that he made it through all of this.
The doctors emphasized that he has to be very careful in how he gets up and down. They told him no BLT – no bending, no lifting and no turning.
Jerry wrote in his last column how I jumped on him when he had that terrible fall. I hope that sounded right! (Laughs.) Someone asked me how I knew to do that.
I just know that I read some place or was told that when someone takes a serious fall, do not move them. You don’t know what might have occurred. It was a horrendous fall. His face just blew up.
It was horrible.
I didn’t know I was saving his life.
So what I did is, I laid my body across his shoulders, at an angle. I didn’t want to hit his cracked ribs. Remember, the previous week he broke two right ribs and fractured his right shoulder in separate falls.
It was hard to keep him still. He has a strong upper body, and he’s so persistent and stubborn. He kept saying, “Let me get to the condo.” He told the paramedics, “I’ll be all right guys, let me get to the condo.”
With those ribs, he was in such pain. We wanted to get an ambulance the next day or drive him to Scripps, but he refused. No, no, no, he said. But he was in agonizing pain.
So I told him I wasn’t listening to him anymore. I don’t care what you want, I told him when he was laying on that sidewalk. You’re not moving. He wanted to get up, and I wouldn’t let him up.
Thank God he fell, though, because we wouldn’t have found out about that problem, the bone spur, with his spine. We’d been to Scripps before and are so thankful for the caliber of physicians they have.
Before his recent spills, we were talking about how fortunate we have been in our lives. We have such good kids and grandkids.
Jerry and I both grew up so poor. We had never experienced much out of life when we married, and I think it’s pretty good when you don’t expect things.
Financially, we did things we never thought we could and we met people we never thought we would.
As a young girl on a farm, my family had no TV. Nothing. I would get teen-age movie magazines, and I’d read about Elizabeth Taylor. Well, I got to meet Elizabeth Taylor, at a New Year’s Eve dinner, just because of Jerry.
And we met Frank Sinatra. My goodness. Those are people you never thought you’d meet. I wasn’t one to be overwhelmed with stars, but it was part of my life.
At Fresno State, the late Sid Craig, Jerry’s great friend, would have food packages sent to him from his family, and Jerry and others would abscond with the cookies and cakes before Sid got them.
Jerry and another friend would go to a diner and, many times, order hot water. They’d put ketchup in it and make tomato soup. The crackers were free.
But, you know, to understand Jerry you have to understand where he came from. His parents were immigrants, from Armenia, and the massacre that took place there is part of the culture.
His grandfather was beheaded by the Turks, after he had to witness the beheading of his oldest son. Like the Jewish culture, stories are maintained through generations. That’s part of Jerry’s background.
He is so loyal. If you had to say one thing about Jerry, he’s certainly loyal. We have disagreed, sometimes, on his loyalty. I consider myself a loyal person, but he is loyal to the point where all faults of a person, all misdeeds, are just wiped out.
It’s a genuine feeling.
I remember our first date. I don’t drink coffee, but we went out to a diner to talk. Coffee cost a nickel. I ordered a hot chocolate, which cost a dime. He told me I’d make him broke.
He never let me forget that.
We actually met when I was on the Student Court at Fresno State. Different clubs used to perform at lunch hour, and the dance club was entertaining when he was with all his football buddies.
They pulled the record-player plug out of the wall and thought it was a good joke, and they were brought before the Student Court. I was one of four on the court.
They came before us. He asked me out but I didn’t go out with him. I thought he was asking me out to be more lenient on him. The rest of the court was going to let him off, but I thought he was trying to manipulate me, asking me out.
I convinced the rest of the court that they should be responsible for what occurred. It wasn’t a heavy punishment; they had to put up voting booths, for elections, around campus, and take them down.
Then he asked me out again. We talked, and later we went to see the movie “All About Harry,” with Shirley MacLaine.
He would talk about his basketball coach, Clark Van Galder. He was very open with his players. He’d have them over for meals for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and they’d talk basketball.
Jerry emulated that feeling Van Galder had toward players, that closeness. When Jerry was playing, the idea was the coach was the general and the players were soldiers. There wasn’t any warmth. It was a straight dictatorship.
Van Galder was the first coach Jerry had that was different than that. He was close to the players. He listened to them. He helped Jerry get his first job.
When we were dating, I remember Jerry telling me that he didn’t know if he’d ever be able to coach or be any good at it. “I just don’t match what they’re teaching in those classes,” he’d say, “that you can’t be close to players. I just can’t coach that way.”
I remember that very clearly. He stuck with the way he wanted to coach and was very successful.
He is a lot softer inside than most people realize.
And we are so grateful to everyone in Las Vegas. I was the one who didn’t really want to come here. He told me, “This is a college town, Lois. The whole town revolves around UNLV.”
I found out it was like any other small town. People are so close and proud of their city, and loyal to it. I developed a great pride and loyalty to the city. Jerry did far sooner than I did.
So it’s his 79th birthday and we start another episode in our lives. We’ll have to be more careful. There’s a sweetness to life and how good it’s been to us.
We are different in many ways, and we’ve had some rough spots. There always are. What’s most important is we care a great deal about each other, and that’s what made us stay together so long.
We’re going to watch the waves and beautiful sunsets, and toast life.