goralka law firm thank you estate tax lawyerA Tribute to Mary Jean (M. J.) Goralka

by John M. Goralka

I am blessed to be a member of a large family of nine (9) children. My father was once the only radiologist in the Livermore Valley. He worked at the only hospital in the valley at that time. Dad worked long hours and was often “on call” to be ready to go in if needed. We rarely traveled beyond beeper range. As the years went by, my father opened his own office where he worked more regular hours Monday through Friday and a half day every Saturday morning. He was usually working on the ranch with the little uncommitted time that he had available. Nine (9) kids were certainly a big financial commitment. We went to a private, parochial school for elementary school. We all went to college and my parents would have five (5) kids enrolled at any one time for many years. 

Before marriage, my mom was a chemist working in a laboratory. She later worked as a teacher in some of the roughest areas of Chicago. She had many interesting stories about both. She took care of all of us and was very protective of her children. She was small in stature, but truly larger than life. My siblings and I got along. We played many board games growing up, which was a family tradition. As we all grew up and moved away, my sister Mary Jean returned home after college. She worked in my dad’s office as an x-ray technician and office manager.

MJ Goralka

Both my parents developed significant health issues as they aged. First, my father had adult-onset diabetes causing circulation and vision problems and then a heart condition. Mary Jean was a big help at the office when my father was sick. Dad eventually retired for health reasons. He was hospitalized for more than a few weeks during my second year of law school.  Closing the office was a blessing as he and my mom had about twelve (12) years after that to focus on each other. Working so hard was too much for my father and his health improved during retirement.

After my father passed, my mom suffered from dementia. We all suspected that for some time. We all knew after an Easter brunch at my brother Ray’s home. I arrived and saw my mom and had a great fifteen (15) minute conversation. I was so happy to see her because she was in Livermore, and I was a few hours away in Sacramento. After a short lull in the conversation, I had the exact same conversation word for word with my mom two (2) or three (3) times. I knew then, as did my siblings, that my mom’s dementia was serious. The first time that my mom did not recognize me was very troubling. I learned to just talk and never to ask questions that she might not be able to answer. 

Through all of that, Mary Jean was there. We all tried to help, but M. J. carried the biggest burden. Mary Jean helped first with dad, both at the office and at home. Later, and perhaps even more challenging, helping my mom as her condition continued to worsen both physically and mentally.

Mary Jean became a strong advocate for my mom’s care when she was in the hospital. She pushed to get mom physical therapy and anything else that may possibly help. Despite my mom’s condition and the need for extensive help, M. J. helped her at home virtually on her own. She even took mom on short trips to Tahoe or Half Moon Bay. All of this while my mom was virtually bed ridden and unable to stand or often even sit. My mom survived as long as she did largely due to M. J.’s dedicated care.

Thank you, Mary Jean.

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JASPER H ANDERSON 03/14/2024 12:36 PM
God Bless
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Kay 03/14/2024 12:53 PM
Thank you for this tribute to your sister. She lived up to a challenging situation with high honors! Caretakes get very little recognition, both economically and socially in our society. I'm sure that all her siblings are extremely grateful for her loving care to your parents.
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