My brother, Carl, is one tough cookie. He has had more than his share of health problems – from multiple heart surgeries, to kidney dialysis, to kidney replacement surgery, to diabetes, to an aneurism at the base of his brain, to skin cancer surgery. He just keeps on “ticking,” surprising us each time we think we are about to lose him. He doesn’t sit around and worry about these things. He remodels his house (he’s a master carpenter, like our Grandfather Kuhl) or works in his yard and garden. I’ve seen him crawl outside and sit on the ground to pull weeds or plant tomatoes when he was too weak to walk. He’s devised all sorts of ramps to help him get from his Jazzy chair to his riding lawn mower so he can mow his own lawn. Through it all, he’s kept his quirky sense of humor and his love of family.
When our brother, Homer, and Carl’s best friend, became ill with lung cancer, he was there for him, until we lost him. They lived just a few houses away from each other their whole adult lives, hunted and fished together and raised sons who grew up to share that same kind of friendship. Homer and Carl also ran a country store together for many years. Losing Homer would leave an irreplaceable hole in his life.
When I decided to write a memoir including stories about our growing-up years, “Daughter of the Mountains,” it made perfect sense to include Carl’s stories. Among other things, he is a great writer. Late in life, he decided to go back to school to become certified as a Practicing Psychologist. He specialized in family therapy and practiced until the health issues made it too difficult.
When our mother became ill, he was there every day, cooking the foods he knew she loved (he’s a wonderful cook) or just sitting and visiting with her in the home we all grew up in. When Mom had to be moved to a hospice facility, he was there every day, holding her, rocking her like a baby through all the scary times until she left us too.
Now he is facing a new challenge, a tumor on his tonsils which has resulted in excruciating pain, difficulty speaking and inability to swallow anything but liquids. He sees a specialist this week to diagnose it and determine a path forward. But again, he isn’t sitting home surrounded by doom and gloom. Today, he send me pictures of the huge pot of tulips, just starting to bloom in the big window in his living room. He sat in his Jazzy and planted fifty bulbs in five containers, one week apart. He planted hope and promise. Tomorrow, he’ll be sitting in a hospital waiting room while his wife has the hip surgery that was scheduled long before his new problems emerged. She wanted to postpone. He insisted she go ahead with it. That’s who he is.