We've already established that I was a girl in love with animals, so it won't surprise you that in the early 80s when my dad took me to the lab at the University of Utah to visit the baby cows that his artificial hearts were first implanted in, I was ecstatic.
In my memory the place is zoo-like and friendly. I overlooked the urine and manure on the floor, the loud hissing and clicking of the machines. I only remember the calves, with their wobbly legs and knobby knees, their large square heads jutting out between the bars of their cages and the dark globes of their eyes.
There’s a picture of me holding a handful of hay out to one of them. I’m not very old in the photograph, maybe four or five and I stand a few feet from the brown and white calf, clutching the hay with two tiny hands, hoping with all my might that my dad will let me take it home to keep.
I didn’t understand that this calf wouldn’t live much longer, that his life was expendable. After proving that he could survive, he simply wouldn’t be needed any longer. “Sacrifice” was the word my dad used, describing it. It wasn't until much later I started to wonder if I had been expendable too. What need had I filled in him that simply wasn't required anymore?