Since today is Valentine’s day, I’d like to tell you about the two Valentines in that picture. They are my parents and this year they celebrated two big anniversaries in the month of February – they have been married for 38 years, and it has been three years since my mom donated one of her kidneys to my dad.
Polycystic kidney disease runs in my dad’s side of the family. My grandmother (Mamaw) was the first to have it, and three of her four children inherited it. Of my five siblings, three of us have it. I was diagnosed two summers ago when I went to the ER with a kidney stone. PKD is a disease that often doesn’t cause symptoms until middle age or later, but it is a common illness – about 1 in 1,000 Americans have it. Thankfully, healthy kidneys are also common since we’re born with two of them. But on the flip side, there are many, many people who don’t have a loved one to donate a healthy kidney. They have to wait for another family’s tragedy to save their life. Sometimes they are saved by a stranger who chooses to become a living donor.
February is special for a couple of other reasons. My mom celebrated her birthday yesterday. I won’t tell her age, but I will say that she was born in my favorite decade. February is also the month my Mamaw was born in 1933. She was a quilter, something she learned from her mother and grandmothers. She mainly sewed with the remnants of old clothing, not surprising for someone who was born during the Great Depression in the rural farm country of Arkansas. She grew up picking cotton on her daddy’s farm. My dad remembers her spending long hours hand quilting on a frame that came down from the ceiling on a pulley system (much like this one). Her name was Gladys Maxine and she passed away when I was 17, too young to appreciate the wisdom of an “old” woman. She spent the last 16 years of her life on dialysis, and was quite frail when she passed. I wish that she were still around so that we could talk about making quilts. I know her thrifty country girl nature would be shocked at my fabric stash and my expensive sewing machine. It makes me laugh a little to think of what she might say about modern quilting. She would have been 78 years old this month.
And even though Valentine’s Day is cheesy and overly commercialized, I do think it’s important to do something special for the people (or doggies and kitties) you love today. You can also do something for a stranger and donate blood (or a kidney).
Happy Valentine’s Day,