39 years

Today marks the 39th anniversary of Earl’s kidney transplant. He was born with a defect that covered the outlet of the bladder, causing pressure on his kidneys, and spent his first four months in the hospital. He did pretty well throughout his childhood. In adolescence, the kidneys started to fail, and it became necessary to consider transplantation.

Fortunately, the best surgeon in the world was at the University of Colorado, Dr. Thomas Starzl. Transplantation was still fairly experimental in 1970, and Earl was fortunate to be a part of a study and have his transplant done with little charge.

That’s a lot to have on one’s mind when you are only eighteen and want to be a champion athlete. He never wanted to be known as the ‘kidney boy.’

Finding a donor was not the long wait some people have to endure. His mom was considered first, but they found an aneurism on her splenic artery. She ended up having a splenectomy.

Next, Uncle Jerry stepped up to be the donor. Although Jerry’s kidney was only a D match, it has done very well. Jerry is a special guy. You wouldn’t know it from meeting him, though. He’s a regular, easy-going man that plays in a band, loves his Dalmation, and holds the family together with his crazy demeanor. Three generations of Carlson decendents have Jerry as their special uncle, much as my Uncle Tom was my special buddy. Jerry also took care of his parents, and moved into the other side of my in-laws’ duplex with his mother, our Gram, so they could live next to my in-laws. After my father-in-law and Gram passed away within 12 days of each other in 2003, Bev and Jerry now have a wonderful relationship as brother and sister separated only by a closet. Neither is alone. What Jerry really did for a living before retirement can’t be discussed, or the government would have to kill me. I still don’t know all the details, but national security was involved.

Earl could have been on disability his entire life. Instead, he went to college and veterinary school. He opened a small animal clinic, and then worked for the State of Colorado as Animal Welfare Veterinarian for the Division of Racing Events. He rarely missed a day of work. The most work he ever missed was during my ortho soap opera. He stayed home with me for three whole weeks after my hip replacement.

He has done much research to benefit racing animals, and is a popular speaker at conferences. He’s really good at that. My heart always turned to stone whenever PETA would picket the racetracks and target him. He was hired to protect the animals. He worked with retired greyhound associations to help greyhounds get adopted. The beautiful plaque and statue given to him by the greyhound industry on the occasion of his retirement attests to his care of racing animals.

Monday, he has his colon surgery. We are hoping for the best. It could be benign, as was a friend’s grapefruit-sized colon tumor. Skin cancers that are not much of an issue for normal folks blow up in transplant patients. After months of our wonderful dermatologist hacking away at Earls face, his skin cancers are under control, and he will start prophylactic radiation therapy on these after he recovers from surgery. He underwent needle-guided ultrasound biopsies of some lymph nodes that lit up on the PET scan. That was not very fun. After it was over, we went to lunch at the famous Silver Grill, and feasted on cinnamon roll French toast. After we went home, Earl popped a Vicodin® and went to sleep.

My quiet, mellow gentleman is really a tough guy. He is training for the surgery by going to the health club every day. My mom never lived to have a son-in-law, but she adored Earl. She did tell me one time, “You don’t deserve him! He’ll never look at another woman!” Thanks, Mom. I miss you after 30 years, special lady. Yo, Carol!

Franklin is already lined up to take care of Earl. I believe he posted about being a Feline CNA. He does not leave the bed when Earl is resting. We tease that Frank is bedridden. He did make one boo-boo yesterday. Earl was talking on the phone to the admissions nurse. Frank jumped on the bed landing directly on Earl’s abdomen. Not good. Earl and I laughed like idiots about where Frank would land on Earl after surgery. 16 pounds of cat landing on a new incision. Oy.

We are having a blizzard again today. I slept in a little. Cowboy Joe came to visit, purring loudly. Frank was positioned on my pillow, and we were head to head smooching. Earl had returned to bed after feeding Scoot and Hannah, and letting Tipper out into her Husky wonderland. Earl petted Joe and said, “There is nothing better than a cat purring on the bed.” I think Earl is well covered for companionship during his recovery.

Life is so strange. I closed out Jean’s estate yesterday, sending a certified check for the dregs of the Estate account to Morris Animal Foundation. I was going to walk around the mall for a while to think, but I went home and burst into tears. My duties for my best bud are finished. It was more emotional than I thought.

I also have a decision to make. University of Wyoming MSW program, or Texas Tech University School of Law. Paid up in both places, but need to know where Earl will be after surgery. I retired at 53, and that was too young. School teaching was making me ill, my room was toxic, but I was too young to stop using my overactive brain.

So, I will employ a phrase I read long ago. Let time pass. Send some good thoughts our way, please.

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