I got stickers today.
I got one at the polls, where I cast my vote for those I want to hold public office, even though I wonder if that vote really matters. Yes, I understand that every vote matters. In theory. I still question whether or not my vote matters in reality. I’ve voted every election year since I was old enough to do so, and I even majored in political science in college. I still don’t know as much as I should, nor do I follow the issues as closely as I should.
Maybe that’s why my other sticker means more to me. The heart-shaped one that says ‘blood is life.’ The one I get when I give blood every couple of months, for no other reason than because I can. It’s one tradition that I took from my mother; she donated blood regularly, just as her dad did. I think he got some award for how many gallons of blood he’d donated through his lifetime, he was such a regular in the chair. She was too, at least when I knew her.
My heart is always heavy when I go to donate. I think of her, and how I wish she’d done more good things like this instead of the other choices she made. I think of my grandpa, who is now gone but was gone to me even before he died. Once my grandma died he moved on, married another woman and built a new life. I’m happy he did that. I hope he had joy in those years, because I know he didn’t have much of anything but heartache and drama in the life I was privy to.
But for most of the appointment, I think of Curtis. My cousin, my friend, the sweet boy who died of leukemia when we were in the fourth grade. I think that technically, he died of a brain aneurysm that was precipitated by his leukemia, but that’s not a detail that matters. What matters is that I couldn’t do anything for him then. I couldn’t make him well, I couldn’t make him less self-conscious of the wig he wore when his hair first fell out during chemo, and I couldn’t take away the needles and the hospitals and the blisters and the fear.
So now I give blood, so that someone else’s cousin, son, father, brother or friend can live. Maybe. Even though I’ll never really know, it’s more tangible to me than voting for someone I’ll likely never meet and who may or may not make a difference in my little corner of the world.
I think of Curtis and the kind of man he may have grown up to be as the tech taps my veins and swabs my skin. I nod and smile when the tech says “oh, you have such good veins” and tell her it’s alright when she scrambles to clean up the blood that splatters and spills when the draw comes too fast and too hard. “You’re a juicy one,” she says, and I return her tentative smile with one of my own, purposefully squeezing the little rubber ball every ten seconds instead of the recommended five and thankful that it’s not my kids or my dad or anyone else that I love who needs what I have to give.
I am participating in NaBloPoMo, and posting everyday in November.