The following story was written by Beatrice Wyllie and shared as part of the Memory Project.
I had heard different people talking about the new show on TV. It was about a blue collar family; the head of this family was named Archie Bunker, and he was a bigot. Because I did not think that bigotry was ever funny, I decided that I would not watch this program at all. After all, I had experienced prejudice firsthand while living in Romania during the Holocaust. I did not have to be reminded of it. I know it exists; I know that it’s here. A few years later, I turned on the TV in my den, and who do I see but Archie and his very docile wife. The only reason I did not turn it off was because I had heard that Edith (Archie’s wife) was a very timid woman who would never yell at anybody, and here she was yelling at the master of the house, something I had heard was not the norm in the Bunker household. My interest was piqued, and I decided to watch the rest of this show.
The atmosphere in the Bunker house was volatile, since Edith would be her old self for a while, and then she would start shouting, and cry, and make everybody uncomfortable and unhappy. Finally, Archie and Edith’s daughter, Gloria, convinced Archie to take Edith to see a doctor. They came back, and Archie took a vial of very large pills out of his pocket to show them to his daughter, who asked, “How often does Ma have to take them pills?” Archie replied, “They is not for your mother. They is for me.” In the next scene, Archie asked Edith to sit in his favorite chair, in which nobody but he was allowed to sit. Edith hesitated but sat down on the chair, and Archie told her, “Edith, I know that you are going through them changes, and I understand, but you got five minutes to get over it.” I became hooked on the show and saw some of the re-runs. Of all the shows I have seen, the first one impressed me the most, and I will never forget the wisdom of “you have five minutes to get over it.”
Whenever a friend calls me and tells me about some problems that are not very serious and continues to be more of a nuisance, going on and on and just feeling sorry for herself, I first tell her to take a deep breath. Then I tell her the story of Archie with, with, of course, my favorite quote.
On December 3, I had what was supposed to be a routine cataract surgery, but it was not routine, and, I had to have another surgery to fix the first. Walking around with a strange-looking patch on my eye was not my idea of fun.
On January 17, I ended up in the hospital with a stroke. The first time that “the stroke team” came into my hospital room, I suggested a party, since there certainly was enough people for a party. I was finally discharged and came home with an entire retinue. The physical therapist would come in the morning, then the speech therapist would appear in the afternoon. The next day, the occupational therapist would ring my door bell, and then the nurse would call me up to make an appointment. In the meantime, my friends, my wonderful friends, would drive me to the different appointments, since I was not driving. After being discharged by my friendly therapists, I started to drive again. Oh, the freedom, the lovely independence of not having to ask my friends for rides. Being able to be my own woman and doing what I want to do whenever I feel like it is a great feeling.
Beneath the euphoria of freedom lay a fear, and I finally decided to talk with a counselor about it. My great big, terrifying fear was that my body would become my prison. She suggested that I join a group called Life Changes. At our first meeting—I forget why—I told them about Archie Bunker and my favorite phrase. We continued with our session, and all of a sudden it hit me. Hey, Bea, you have five minutes to get over it. That lovely phrase has helped a great deal. As a matter of fact, sometimes I cannot even think of the word “stroke.”