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A heart of Gould: Perham jeweler selling business, checking items off bucket list after NPH diagnosis

Tom and Kathy Gould stand behind the counter at their Perham jewelry store. They're working to sell everything and check some items off a bucket list after Tom was diagnosed with Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus. Kaysey Price/Focus1 / 3
T.A. Gould Jeweler in having a store-closing sale. Kim Brasel/Focus2 / 3
Tom and Kathy Gould are looking to sell their merchandise and store, taking off on a bucket list excursion this winter. Kim Brasel/Focus3 / 3

Tom Gould buzzes around T.A. Gould Jewelry in Perham talking a million miles a minute. There are customers going in and out, the phones ring about every 15 minutes, as if on a timer. It's busy, and Gould works hard to keep up, talking in run-on sentences, like he doesn't have time for the punctuation.

"I'm dying," he tells a customer who wanders in, wondering why Gould is having a going-out-of-business sale.

"Do you have cancer?" The customer asks back. "Are you going to have a heart attack?"

"No..." Gould trails off.

Adult onset normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH)—that's Gould's diagnosis. It's a disease that causes buildup of fluid in the brain's ventricles, which causes the ventricles to enlarge and thus puts pressure on the brain, causing a number of symptoms including memory loss, speech problems, behavior changes, difficulty walking, among other issues. Not only does NPH make day-to-day life more difficult, it also shortens the lifespan, offering most patients anywhere from six to 10 years of life after proper diagnosis and successful treatment.

But Gould is not typical.

When he was first diagnosed, plans to ease the pressure in his brain with a shunt, the typical treatment for NPH, were carried out in Oct. 2016, and Gould says his symptoms reversed 100 percent.

"I could walk five miles. I had my feeling back," he said.

However, a few short months later, in December, his symptoms began to return. Doctors said that was normal during the healing process and sent him home.

When the spring time came around, the symptoms had worsened again, warranting another doctor's visit, and Gould was dealt a heavy blow.

"The surgeon said well, there's nothing ... they can do for me," said Gould.

He was told he had much less time than he thought and to "go home and take care of his whatevers."

"Well, I didn't accept that," he said. "I'm not going to roll over."

Now waiting on test results from a second opinion, Gould is hopeful. He and his wife, Kathy, who used to be a practicing registered nurse, think there's a good chance the shunt in Gould's brain is malfunctioning for some reason and, with a proper replacement, his symptoms will reverse again. However, they're also not going to take their time for granted any longer.

"We just really didn't think that this would be so soon," said Kathy, adding that when the prognosis gave them nearly a decade, they found themselves procrastinating.

Not anymore though. Gould says he's looking to sell his shop and liquidate everything down to the dust in the corners, which he says he can sell for a pretty penny because it contains gold dust.

"Our goal is (to be out) between Thanksgiving and Christmas," he said. "I definitely intend to be out of here entirely by the first of the year."

From there, he says he's going to take a break from working a busy 60 hours a week.

"Grandchildren, children, family, wife. They're the new priority. Not just working," he said.

While he is tempted to set up a jeweler bench at home after selling the business, he also has a bucket list to keep him busy, most of which involves travel.

"Kathy and I have found a couple of spots in the Virgin Islands that we like to visit," he said, adding that they haven't booked anything yet—not until the doctor's second-opinion results come back—but they're still planning.

"We've got invitations all over the south and southwest to visit through the winter. We're going to hit wine country, and Sonoma, and California, and up the coast and down the coast, Arizona, Texas, Georgia," he says, listing happily. "There's just a lot of stuff that we haven't been able to do."

To get on the road, though, they've got to sell their business first—or find someone to take over their shop, but Gould is doubtful they'll find someone.

"The jewelry business is a dying trade—no pun intended," he said.

Not to mention, Gould has worked hard for his reputation, which still has customers flocking to him from the Fargo-Moorhead area, and he's not going to let just any old shmuck take over the business he's put his heart into for over 40 years (12 of those in the Perham community), a business he started with his father back in 1976.

"You do it right, or you don't do it," he said.

How they're going to get rid of everything is still up in the air, but Gould says he feels an obligation to fill the storefront in Perham before he leaves, to do right by the community as well as his customers.

"It's been a good run. Without the Fargo-Moorhead customers we wouldn't have been able to make it here," he said. "And we've had some good, loyal customers in Perham, and we've made some good friends. We appreciate that."

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