Linda Mickalowski takes compassion and selflessness to extraordinary levels. She always has and always will put the well-being of family and friends so far ahead of her own needs that they’re barely visible.
It’s a delicate balance she walks sometimes, but Linda celebrates her 70th birthday with love and support from the many who have benefitted from her care. She is known by friends and loved ones as a woman who bends over backwards for everyone and thinks nothing of it.
“What stands out about her is how selfless she is,” her son Todd said. “She doesn’t do anything for herself. If we ever had field trips or anything as kids, she would always volunteer. She always made treats and stuff for any celebration. Pretty much anything we wanted or wanted to do, she would make sure we would have it or could do it.”
That’s the very definition of sacrifice and part of a long history of thoughtful gestures that continues to this day. Linda has willingly and thoughtfully stepped into a caretaker role for anyone in need. That obviously starts with her kids, but includes her husband Dan and her mother LaVerne in their own ways.
Linda gives of her time and energy without question and asks for nothing in return. It’s a fact that stands out to her mother and makes her beam with pride that one of her children could have so much love in her heart.
“She’s a wonderful caregiver,” LaVerne said. “She always takes care of everybody else except herself. She’s very dedicated to her husband and his problems. She’s a wonderful daughter. She’s always there for me and anybody else who needs help.”
In particular, Linda has risen to the occasion since tragedy struck and Dan was paralyzed in 2006. In her role as Dan’s primary caregiver, they have traveled often, spent countless hours in the hospital and generally relearned how to do everything together. They are currently in Nebraska caring for Dan with hopes of returning to Sioux Falls as soon as they possibly can.
That care has taken a new level of commitment from a woman whose dedication has been unwavering for decades. And because of that effort, Dan has greatly exceeded his life expectancy.
Linda’s sizable contributions have improved the quality and length of Dan’s life while perhaps taking away from her own. It’s a bittersweet feeling for her family, who applaud her efforts but want to see both their mother and father live their best lives.
To her son Kyle though, Linda is simply doing what’s in her nature to do in this situation. How could they possibly ask her to be self-serving now?
“The reality of it is, if Mom did not do what she’s done, Dad would have never survived as long as he has and had the quality of life he has,” he said. “But I think there’s this great struggle between how do you balance giving life to someone else when it’s taking away from the life of somebody? For Mom, there was no other option.
“All through her life, she has put everyone else before herself. So, although we can wish that wasn’t the case, that’s just who she is. Rather than try and change it, we might as well just support her because it’s the only way she knows how to be.”
It’s all Linda has ever known, which is quite a legacy she has created within her family. That sacrifice goes back to her 40-plus years as a banker, when she would pile up work for nights and weekends to maintain a prominent role in Kyle and Todd’s lives and on their sports teams.
Linda and Dan together showed them what strong parenting was by working in tandem in everything they did. They both worked full-time, yet showed up to every one of their activities and got involved in all of them. In doing so, Linda and Dan taught a valuable lesson about priorities and making time for what’s most important in life.
“They taught me that no matter how busy you are or how much you have on your plate, you can always find time for the people who matter most to you,” Todd said. “She would bring home bank work to do so she didn’t have to go in on weekends because we were going to play softball or something.”
As life has progressed and Kyle and Todd have come to understand the many time demands of adulthood, their appreciation for their parents has grown exponentially. In particular, Linda’s role in managing life on the home front, working a demanding job and taking time to volunteer in the community has become all the more impressive.
She made it look easy then, and she continues to make it look easy to this day. Linda has dedicated much of her life to caring for others, and now she does it with an extraordinary effort as an advocate and self-taught medical expert for Dan.
“The thought of having a professional career and managing the home life and being there for your kids, it’s a whole lot harder than they made it seem,” Kyle said.
“That is still true today. I don’t think Todd or I have any idea just how hard everything is to Mom, and yet she has never backed down to go from banking to the point where she now tells nurses and respiratory therapists how to best care for Dad. She has always done such a phenomenal job taking care of her family.”
So, the prevailing thoughts from her family members as Linda celebrates a milestone are gratitude, love, perspective and hope for her future. She is the backbone of a family that loves and appreciates her immensely.
“I’m so thankful she’s my daughter, and I don’t know what I’d do without her,” LaVerne said. “I just hope things work out with them soon and they can get back home.”
“I just want to thank her for always putting everybody else before her,” Todd said. “Hopefully, now or soon she can start putting herself first because she deserves it.”
“I think that her impact on me and everyone else she has touched in her life goes far beyond anything she could imagine or any of us can comprehend,” Kyle said. “And I think her unending determination to care for Dad and the family has been such a model of love that I don’t know that there’s a more powerful example they could give to Todd and me.”