WASHINGTON — With the exception of a day in December, Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., has not been here, going on a leave Sept. 12 that continues because of the illness of his wife, Carolyn.
“My wife’s illness and her condition has dictated it, that I be more or less in the hospital room with her,” Rush told me on Monday. “She is dependent upon me as she should be for support in a lot of different ways.”
Rush discussed his Washington absence in a phone interview from his district office at 700 E. 79th St. I wanted to speak with him as a sort of status check because of his long absence from Capitol Hill.
When he got on the phone he told me he spent the night with his wife at the University of Chicago hospital. She has been in and out of the hospital these past months.
During this time, Rush said he has been working steadily out of the district. “I fully intend to be as vigorous in my job as a member of Congress as I’ve always been,” Rush said.
He had no idea in September that he would be anchored to Chicago for all these months because of his wife’s declining health.
Carolyn Rush had open heart surgery, other surgeries and multiple serious health issues, he said.
“I can’t be in Washington,” Rush said, because his first duty is “compassion and concern and caring for her in a way only a husband can provide for his wife. And so I’ve decided to be by my wife’s side.”
Rush said he does not want to take a chance of not being in Chicago if she needs him.
The congressman explained: In 1999, his son Huey Rich died, a victim of gun violence. After Huey was shot, doctors told Rush his son’s condition had stabilized, so Rush left him in the hospital and flew to Washington, where he was part of a conference committee negotiating legislation.
Rush got a call later in the day his son took a turn for the worse. The last plane to Chicago had already left. Rush took the first flight out in the morning.
“Didn’t make it in time,” Rush said.
Bobby and Carolyn Rush have been married 33 years. She has been Rush’s long-time political adviser as well. Rush represents the South Side 1st Congressional District, elected to Congress for the first time in 1992; before that he was the alderman from the 2nd Ward, first elected to City Hall in 1983.
In 2008, Rush took a leave for several months because of his own health scare, salivary cancer, which required surgery near his jaw.
Said Rush, “My constituents need me and I want to be there for them, but my wife’s health condition is at a point now where I, I just can’t leave her side.”
He added, “I will return when she is strong enough and stable enough.”