Neighborhood NewsLocal Culture

Mr. Positive is ill, part two

Notebook Recollections

OK, here’s what we know about neighborhood treasure Carl Bentson’s health and well-being from part one. He was diagnosed with stage–4 esophageal cancer at the end of February 2024. Not generally a good thing.

Since then he has completed five chemo sessions at Region’s cancer center. Best friend Karen drives him to cancer world appointments, treatments and pharmacy pick ups. Neighborhood all-stars Mark, Emil, Linda, Trent, Tracy and Chuck and Bill Quinn help with everyday stuff.

Carl’s Bridgeview School ground crew-workers had a Mancini steak dinner retirement party for Carl in March. 40 years of stellar cleaning, buffing and picking up. Karen said it wasn’t Carl‘s idea to retire at 61 years. It was cancer’s.

On the first day of the bad news, Carl had one request. “A ride in a Tesla.”

4-2-24, morning. Five inches of beautiful, fluffy but heavy spring snow spiffed up West 7th for half a day. Just home from a scheduled 7 a.m. CAT scan, Carl began snow blowing his neighborhood.

4-2-24, afternoon. Karen couldn’t phone-locate Carl when the call from Regions came in – “Get Mr Bentsen to emergency receiving right now.” 

The morning CAT scan showed a possible blood clot in his lung.

Karen called me. “Carl has a lung blood clot.“

“Call 9-1-1,” I said.

“I can’t find Carl to tell them where to go. He’s probably still shoveling.“

I suggested we meet at Carl’s in our vehicles and look around for him.

Carl was rounding a corner to St. Clair, pushing his big red, now silent, snow covered blower at the same time Karen and I arrived at Carl‘s house.

4-2-24, 2:30 p.m. We all went to Regions Hospital in my SUV. The nurses and doctors were ready for Carl upon arrival and wheeled him away to Radiology-EKG world and Blood- Draw Town. He got IV fluid, blood thinner and nasal oxygen.

Karen and I surprisingly waiting-roomed it for only 4.5 hours.

We all three left ER at 8 p.m. after the good news of Carl’s discharge form. I took Karen and Mr. Positive to their respective homes.

“Stable, but new pulmonary embolization secondary to esophageal malignancy.” Was the culprit. Carl could go home on the blood thinner Eliquis but no more snow blowing or shoveling for at least one week. Modern medicine. 

Spring again. 4-5-24, 9:30 a.m. Carl got his long awaited, new three-wheeler bicycle.

4-5-24, 1 p.m. I’m out front in Carl‘s front yard waiting for his Tesla ride.

1:15 p.m. Dr. Micah Johnson, Karen‘s doctor, glides to the curb in his white, hardtop Tesla. (Dr Ravi’s idea.)

The day was still bright and sunny.

I would wait at Carl’s, no hurry. Sit in his umbrella chair. Karen was home, not feeling well.

Off they headed. Not even an engine whisper, they were gone, gone, gone.

I started reading one of Carl‘s big classic car manuals. People passing by would honk. They couldn’t quite see my face under the big umbrella.

“Hello,” almost all the walkers said as they walked by.

“Hi,” I said back as I gave a little gesture.

Wait a minute!

People thought I was Carl!

They needed his wave, his hello, his blessings.

They got it. Unfortunately, from me. And as crazy as it seems, I was now Carl’s sit-in. His disciple.

I lost track of time in the waves and “hellos.” The Tesla boys returned at 3:15.

Carl hopped out at curbside. Micha walked around the vehicle. In the afternoon light I could see that Carl was yellow as a canary. Yellow eyes, yellow skin. I looked at Dr. Micah, he looked at me. We knew it wasn’t from the afternoon sun. It was the dreaded yellow jaundice. Gift of the tumor in Carl’s chest messing with his liver.

We didn’t say a thing about it.

“We went no hands,” Carl declared. “On an S curve on Shepherd Road.“ 

“Yikes,” I said.

“What did you think, Carl?” asked Micah.

“The Tesla’s beta V 11.4.6 navigator is good.”

Just then a Carl fan drove by and honked. Carl and I both waved.

Dr Micah clapped Carl on the back. “You done good.”

“I’m going to bike over some food to Karen now,” Carl said. “She’s tired.”

4-8–24, dusk. End of solar eclipse day. No eclipse action in St.Paul this year. But of course Carl knew about it.

“I saw it on TV. It wasn’t here. It was good though.”

4-15-24. Carl is swallowing better. Food and pills. And his jaundice is gone.

4-16-24. A cooler day. Rainy. I stopped by Carl’s. He tells me Karen was “ambulanced to United Hospital today. Her heart is still fast.“

I call Dr. Micah on his cell right then and there. He tells me to tell Carl it’s the A.fib again and a little low blood. “She will do well. No worries.”

4-30-24, 6 p.m. I stopped my car in front of Carl’s. He’s at the umbrella table.

“How are you?”

“Good. Chemo again next Wednesday. It’s the third time.”

“How’s Karen?”

“I went with her to the Tesla doctor. The heart is better.”

“Good. Do you need anything?”

“A small McDonald’s vanilla swirl ice cream, two napkins and one no-sugar ice tea.”

“On it!”

5-6-24. John Yust scheduled a Carl portrait-sitting with the brilliant Stuart Lougherly at Waldeman’s Brewery. I was to drive Carl there for a 10 o’clock a.m. appointment in two days.

“You can’t be late,” John said. “Promise me you won’t be late” and “It might be best if you waited in your car for 45 min so as to bring him home at exactly 10:50.”

Stuart and Carl appear in front of my car at 10:49.

The 8×10 pencil rendering looked Da Vinci-ian. It was so good, I lingered and got Carl home at 11:20. 

Well, part of that tardy Carl-home delivery was because Carl asked if we could stop and see Jeff at West 7th Drug. “For my pills.”

Jeff was really excited and delighted to see Carl up and at ‘em. The drugstore staff was excited. Heck, the patients were excited.

6-3-24. Monday, 9:20 a.m. 

Like any sharp entrepreneur, Carl has two phones. Land and cell. Four botched land-line calls in a row to Karen this morning flipped Carl into mission mode. He was outside fast-walking down St. Clair in three nano-seconds looking for “the man on the pole.”

Carl found him five minutes later and one street over 17 feet up a creosoted former Jack Pine tree from Virginia, Minnesota.

A short, hollered conversation followed. The conclusion was swift and efficient. 

“We’re fixing some damaged line now,” said the repair man. “A number of your neighbors are also compromised. We’ll have it done in a jiffy.”

6-11-24. Tuesday. 7:45 a.m.

Carl awoke short of breath, but didn’t call Karen until 10 a.m. Karen called Regions Cancer Clinic. They said bring Carl right in. 

Chest x-ray, EKG, blood draws. CAT scan followed 

No new lung blood clot. No heart attack. But there were five ounces of fluid around Carl’s heart. Pericarditis. Another cancer-chemo side effect.

Carl was transferred to an ICU bed at Regions. The fluid was needle-drained under x-ray. He was monitored for three days and then he was home again.

Carl is still with us. Still on blood thinner. Still scheduled for more chemo. And he is all the while, every waking minute, POSITIVE.

Friend Bret says it’s time to get Carl back to the Bdote down Crosby. In a Tesla.


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