Friday, November 1, 2013
On giving and living
I gave blood today. It's something I do whenever I am well enough. Which is pretty often. I do it because I can. I do it because it is the right thing [for me] to do. I do it because I care and want to share what I have in a way that can really mean something. The recipient of my blood will never know it came from me. It is, in that way, anonymous. Which I like too.
My mom had several blood transfusions in the hospital. It is amazing to see those bags of deep burgundy dripping into someone's veins. It gave her energy and the gift of life for a little bit longer
My dad never shared much about himself with any of us. Probably not even my mom . One time I went to his office, on 19th Street NW, D.C. Not sure why I was there. He worked for the National Science Foundation. He was an accountant. He used to joke that he was the loan arranger (loan ranger- get it). He spoke on the phone with Louis Leaky once about funding his work. I was very impressed by that.
But I never knew that my dad was a blood donor. It was not something I would ever expect him to do. I didn't think of him as being particularly altruistic. So, on that day when I visited his office, when I was about 10, I saw a plaque on his office wall. It was from the Red Cross. The award was for giving a bunch of gallons of his blood. Not at once of course. But I never would have even known that he was a donor if I hadn't seen that on his wall.
And, of course, I have his blood in my veins. And I give it away too. Maybe I am helping the grandchild of someone my dad helped.
There is so much I don't know about my father. He told me bedtime stories. I used to sit on his lap and look at magazines with him. I combed his hair and made a mess of it. He never seemed to mind. And I loved polishing his shoes. There was a sort of ritual. Using the right polish and brush. The little round, hard brush to apply the polish. Then the bigger, longer, softer brush to buff the shoes. Followed by using the shoe cloth to bring out the best shine. He had big, sturdy shoes. Black shoes and brown. He had a pair that he called his walking shoes. They had thicker soles than his other shoes. They were a lighter brown than the shoes he wore to work.
I cannot remember seeing my dad in bare feet though I certainly must have. I have always shunned shoes. I ran barefoot all summer long as a kid. Still almost never wear shoes in the house. But my dad did.
I don't remember a whole lot about my mother's shoes except the sound that they made. She came in to my school on several occasions to help out in the classroom. I could hear her heals click and clack down the hall in the school. I wanted to sound to stop. It embarrassed me that the clicking of my mother's shoes was the only sounds that could be heard. But as I think back, I bet nobody even noticed but me. My mom wore "heals". Not really high heals, but high enough to make that staccato sound on the hard floors at school.
Neither of my parents were very cuddly. I guess sitting on my dad's lap was our "bonding" time to use current terminology. My mom was small, and I quickly grew too big to sit in her lap. I remember sitting on the end of the couch with her bare feet in my lap as I gave her a foot massage. With Jergen's Lotion. When my mom worked as a waitress, her feet would get so worn out and she got callouses and corns. It was a quiet connection. I used to rub her back too. With rubbing alcohol- because that's what we used in the 60s. She said I gave great back rubs. I think I really did.
That was our way of being affectionate in my family. I drove my brother and sister crazy as the youngest. But we had our fun too. My sister and I shared a bedroom most of our time living at home. She left when I was 13 and she was 19. We would whisper and giggle and then our parents would yell at us to go to sleep.
My brother and I would sneak out of our bedrooms late at night to watch the wrestling on TV together. It was, of course, as fake as it is now. But we were little kids, and the thrill was being up when we weren't allowed to be and watching something we could both get a kick out of.
I massaged all of my babies. I held them and smiled at them and rocked them and nursed them I read to them and sometimes even sang. They always wanted to sit close enough to me to touch me when they were small. At least until 5 or 6 years old. Even older. I told my kids I loved them. I don't remember ever hearing those words in my home as a kid. I guess I knew I was loved though. Nick is the first person I ever told "I love you to". And I meant it.
After my brother died, when we were in front of the hospital (Shock Trauma), I kissed Carol and told her that I loved her. I told her we had to do that while we are alive because we never know when the last kiss and words of love will come. I know that we are closer because of Dale's death. We were already very close. But with out lives so shaken, and our immortality staring us in the face like that, we both realized how incredibly lucky were and are to have each other.
I care so deeply for so many people, all over the world. I wish I had super powers so I could help everyone. But, alas I don't. I wish I could be able to mother my children in a way that doesn't make them feel diminished and infantalized when I am with them. Mostly we are all adults and I think we are pretty comfortable together. Yes, I am their mother, not their best friend. I don't want to "Hang out" with their friends as if I were their friend. But I do want to have a mutual, satisfying and non threatening relationship with them. They are all adults. Every one. I suspect they might occasionally wish I could make everything in their lives go smooth and easy. Or even just cook them some banana bread. But I know, as a former adult child, now an orphan, how small a child like one can feel when they are dealing with their parents. I know that happens with my kids. I do things that annoy and upset them. I occasionally even say hurtful things. Not often. I strive not to be hurtful because I have been hurt too many times in my life by my damaged parents.
I said some hurtful words to one of my children a while ago in response to some hurtful words. I should have taken the higher ground and I didn't. Now I sit and wait and hope we can heal the rift.
Meanwhile, I do what I can to make the world a pretty good place. I do my best. Sometimes it is not good enough. But I try.