I received a lot of swell presents for my birthday. Some of it came in the shape of packages to unwrap, others were more of the experiential variety. For example, my family took a trip up north to the Six Flags theme park in Vallejo. We rode roller coasters. We ate corn dogs. All that tossing about via various modes of kinetic conveyance made corn dogs and other tasty morsels hard to digest, making us feel at times as though we were working at cross purposes. In the end, we were all able to take our dizzy heads and stomachs home and rest them for what would come the next day.
On Saturday morning, I woke up early, as it was the longest day of thee year and I always like to take full advantage of the hours of sunlight offered to us here in the northern hemisphere. I watered the plants. Inside and out. I did the chores I needed to do in order to have the rest of the day to myself. And those I care about. Which is why I woke my son up early, or at least early for him. I made us an appointment for us all to donate blood. This is something I do on a somewhat regular basis, along with my wife, but my son had never made the trip before. Initially, this was because he was too young. More recently it was because he was less than enthusiastic about the experience. Needles, specifically.
He wasn't shy about explaining his fears. Just like I wasn't shy about using the leverage I had of being the birthday boy to cajole him out of his self-imposed avoidance of sharing his precious bodily fluids. I also hoped to get him while he was still sleepy, and have the hemogoblins taken out of him before he was fully awake. That wasn't exactly how it all went down.
By the time we arrived at the Red Cross, panic was brewing. He did a good job of covering it up, as he is a very good sport about most things. Once my wife and I had been ushered off to our separate rooms for reviewing our medical history, however, the fear struck hard. When I came back out to the waiting room in anticipation of my own bloodletting, he was sitting with his head down, looking more than a little pale. "I don't think I can do this," he told me. We had a little chat, and he agreed that he would sit and watch while his dad got stuck.
As it turned out, I was fortunate to get the A Team, and my technician was as enthusiastic and personable as my son was not, at the time. When all was said and done and my pints had been sealed and stored, I went back and had another chat with my son while my wife finished her own date with a vampire. Her time in the chair wasn't as successful as my own, and we tried not to let on to my son that sometimes things go awry and you don't get to finish off cleanly. A bandage and a bruise was what she left with, but I really wanted my son to get the chance to conquer his fear.
I got Tony, the tech who took my blood, to work with him. We took it a step at a time and Tony made it all seem so easy and natural, this opening of a vein. Before he knew it, my son was in the same chair where his dad had been just a short time before. Tony talked to him about cars and music and zombie movies and just like that, he was done. My son had crossed into a bigger world. He was sharing something with his parents and his community. We all had this great gift of life to share, and I felt just a little happier than everyone else because I was as proud of him as I have been in quite a while. I asked him what he thought after he had a couple cups of juice and some Keebler snacks. "No big deal," he replied.
I know different. It's a very big deal, and quite a gift.