Patrick B. McGuigan
Oklahoma City, OK – A musician and exponent of practical methods to provide food security to the poor, Robert Waldrop was a man of passion and commitment. He deserved every bit of his reputation as a liberal voice in central Oklahoma.
The last detailed news story I wrote about Bob described his efforts to allow nurse practitioners to work with more independence in situations where they could provide needed health care without direct physician supervision.
A band of conservatives at the state capital in Oklahoma City joined forces with social justice warrior Waldrop and some of his legislative (and other) allies to advocate for nurse practitioners having greater autonomy from physicians.
The idea to some extent has greater strength, in practice, than before Bob Waldrop pressed for it. But more work is needed to make health care more affordable for matters that do not require a doctor’s direct involvement.
Not incidentally, the idea is already helping preserve or enhance options for rural consumers of health care services but further legal changes are needed in the coming years.
Bob wanted to advance “something good that is actually doable,” in that joust back in in 2017. He was the “sparkplug” for a kind of reform that was and is outside the box — and absolutely outside the control of the medical establishment.
My last talk with him was at the Dorothy Day Center in Warr Acres, several months (perhaps a year) ago. He was entirely aware of his fate, but relaxed. He wanted to live as long as he could, but did not fear the future.
He had found and begun to consume regularly a carefully concocted brew of coconut milk, super-light broth and tiny minced vegetables. He said it was pretty good. I smelled it and it seemed fine. I did not taste it due to a coconut allergy. The disease prevented him from having anything else, he told me.
I stood next to Bob as he gave a pep talk to young volunteers — students from St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School — before they filled sacks with non-perishable goods for people in our community in need of healthy foods. (As others have reflected since his death a few days ago, Bob was as meticulous as any foreman could be when it came to providing assistance to those in need.)
Other than the “business” of feeding the poor, the conversation Bob and I had at that time was on matters of our shared Catholic faith and recent scandals. He laughed when I said it was nice to find, again, so many things on which we agreed. (After I suggested he sounded like a conservative in discussing that sad topic, he replied, “On something like that, I am conservative.”)
As a reluctant parting arrived, I told him I would pray for him. In my heart, I feared it might be farewell. He thanked me for the prayers, and for helping with that day’s work. Then, I left.
We used to fight like the dickens, but managed to keep the discussions going.
For more than a decade we did not clash in the old ways. In these last years, we talked as friends about the country, the world, the church, mutual friends (too many to count), music (we each retained rather classical tastes), even the weather — and, to be sure, about the things on which we still disagreed.
He was my friend, and I wish to see him one day, again.
Note: McGuigan and Waldrop weathered often stormy political and policy disagreements to become, after many years, friends. Waldrop’s wake service is at Epiphany of the Lord Church on Friday night, with a funeral Mass on Saturday at the same church.