As I mentioned oh so long ago, when my father turned 65 at the end of December, we threw a small party and got him 65 of his favorite things.
Most of them were silly little things, favorites foods and wines, books on his favorite topics, etc. The one that elicited the biggest response was actually the container of BOSCO! chocolate syrup. Not because he was particularly touched but because in front of everyone in the living room, he suddenly belted out the jingle that used to accompany the Bosco commercial back when he was a kid. Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
My father has a huge booming voice and can arguably sing somewhat on-key. It’s pretty startling when you’re not used to hearing it or when you’re not prepared for the fact that he’s going to burst into song as if he’s the lead in his very own Rogers and Hammerstein musical. The windows of our house rattled as he sang, holding up the Bosco container and making it dance in mid-air:
OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH I LOVE BOSCO!
BOSCO IS FOR ME!
BOSCO GIVES ME ENERGY AND SUNSHINE VITAMIN C!!!!!
On and on it went as all his birthday guests stared slack-jawed at this man, screaming out a chocolate syrup commercial at the top of his lungs as if that was a perfectly natural reaction to getting a present, as if we all should know the song and eagerly join in.
When he was done, we all applauded.
And, as my father would say, rightly so.
Before my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he drove forty-five minutes to Riverhead every few weeks to donate his platelets. I’m not exactly sure how it started but it very well may be that the Red Cross called up my dad and was like GIVE US YOUR PLATELETS and instead of ignoring them like I do, he was all OKAY NO PROBLEM DAT SOUNDS GREAT!!!!!
And so it began.
The people at the blood center LOVED my father and he loved them back so very much. Turns out that Polack’s blood is so damn thick, when he donates platelets, they can get THREE TIMES the amount they get from a normal person. He didn’t even mind the fact that they stick BOTH of your arms with needles so they can take out the blood, separate the platelets in a centrifuge, and then put the blood back in you, taking over an hour. He used to tell me how enjoyable it was because “I CAN JUST SIT ‘DER WITH MY ARMS OUT, WATCHIN’ SEINFELD. DAT KRAMER CRACKS ME UP. SOMETIMES IF I HIT IT JUST RIGHT, I GET TO SEE EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND TOO. THAT RAYMOND. I LOVE THE FACES HE MAKES.”
Right. Me too. ?
The Red Cross (or the American Blood Society or SOMETHING blood-related, who KNOWS) compensates you happily for platelets as they are a hot ticket item. My father received gas cards, gift certificates to Macy’s, duffel bags and t-shirts, thanking him for his many donations. The clothing items were his very favorite thing to get. He wore his t-shirts proudly, anywhere my mother would let him which meant anywhere but church or a dressy occasion.
“You can’t wear that t-shirt to dinner,” she would point out.
“WHY NOT?!” he would demand.
“I THINK IT’S OBVIOUS,” she would respond.
And then we’d all look at dad who was wearing a t-shirt with a cartoon drop of blood smiling on the front with cartoon pants down around his little ankles.
DON’T LET US GET CAUGHT WITH OUR *PINTS* DOWN!!!! the shirt exclaimed.
“I think you look good,” I offered.
“YEAH,” said my dad. “I LOVE ‘DIS SHIRT.”
Sadly, with a cancer diagnosis comes a rule that you can’t give blood or platelets anymore. I believe you have to be cancer-free for two years before donating again, something that absolutely devastated my father. He was continually upbeat about his cancer diagnosis from the beginning but when he told me about stopping platelet donations, the man actually cried.
He was angry and sad that he could no longer help people. HIM! The man who gives THREE TIMES the amount of platelets in ONE sitting! The platelet SUPER HERO! I knew how good he felt helping other people. And I knew his sadness and frustration had nothing to do with the free t-shirts and everything to do with cancer taking something away from him without his permission.
When I was gathering up 65 things for his birthday, I thought it would be a cool idea to get a bunch of people together to donate blood in his honor. I had previously tried to donate platelets, thinking I would just keep donating to replace what my father couldn’t give, only to be turned away and told HONEY, YOUR VEINS ARE TOO SMALL FOR THAT. DO NOT COME BACK.
You don’t have to tell me twice!
But giving blood was something I could do and while uncomfortable, something that didn’t really bother me very much. I had good veins (apparently except for the platelet needles) and never felt sick afterwards. WHY NOT GIVE SOME BLOOD!? I thought. Slacking off with donating blood is pretty lame, no? In fact, I decided it meant so much to me that I added it to my Mondo Beyondo list – #63. Donate blood four times a year.
I e-mailed a bunch of people and organized a GIVE BLOOD FOR MY DAD event on a Sunday afternoon. Regrettably, it was the Sunday afternoon after our first big snowstorm at the end of December. People were either snowed in or out of town and it didn’t quite turn out the way I wanted it to.
HOWEVER! PCG, Married Ashley and I took the challenge and off we went in two feet of snow to get our arms pierced by a very unhappy nurse named June. We couldn’t get a smile on her face, despite repeated attempts and so we concluded that June was a miserable woman who did NOT want to work on a snow day and MAYBE took it out on our arms a little bit because none of us could remember the needle hurting quite THAT badly.
THANKS, JUNE. FOR RENDERING MY LEFT ARM USELESS FOR A WEEK. CHEERS!
But the point of the activity was not to make me feel good.
It was to do something nice in honor of my father, a man who was a little bit too sick to do it himself. And though we only got three pints of blood that day, one from each of us, I think it was the perfect amount. TRIPLE the amount of just one of us.
As I sat around a table with PCG afterwards, munching on Lorna Doone’s, I read some facts about giving blood and was pretty horrified.
Do you know that only 2% of people who are physically able to donate blood do so?
Do you know that NYC has such a low number of people who donate blood that they have to BORROW blood from neighboring states?
Peeps need blood, y’all!
Let’s give it to them!
This is just your friendly reminder to head out there and give up a little of your time and a 1/8 of your blood. You get free cookies afterwards and a fruit punch juicebox. Well. I did.
My 56 days are up around Valentine’s Day so I’m thinking of heading back for Round #2 pretty soon. Despite June nearly cutting up my arm, it was a rather enjoyable experience and I can’t thank PCG and Married Ashley enough for coming with me. Hell, Married Ashley and her husband even cooked a BRISKET the night before to make sure she’d pass the iron test the next day. NOW THAT IS DEDICATION!!! And PCG, certain that he would be disqualified for living in Africa for two years was cleared to donate because of some rule we didn’t know about. Either that or he lied to me and showed June the nurse his boobs. I’M NOT ENTIRELY SURE.
On a final note, when you donate blood, they wrap your arm in some cool looking bandage, usually a bright color and advise you to keep it on for a few hours after. When you donate platelets, since both arms are used in the process, they wrap BOTH of your arms and you wind up looking pretty badass.
One of my father’s favorite stories is the time he was driving back from donating his platelets and stopped at a Krispy Kreme because the light was on for a free fresh donut. (My dad cannot pass up anything free. Especially not a DONUT. AM I RIGHT?!) He was in a bit of a bad part of town and on his way out of the store, noticed a bunch of hoodlums in the parking lot, possibly up to no good.
The young guys took a look at my dad’s badass arm bandages and figured those must be his loud and proud gang colors.
“YO MISTA,” they shouted across the lot. “WHAT GANG YOU IN?”
My dad didn’t miss a beat.
“OH!” he screamed, voice booming across Riverhead. “I’M IN THE PLATELET GANG!!!!!!!!!!”
“NO SHIT,” said the guys. “‘DAS COOL.”
And so, should you ever want to join the coolest gang around, I highly suggest getting to a donation center near you, rolling up your sleeve and taking the plunge. Cookies and juice aside, I think it’s pretty much worth it just to say that my dad is your gang leader. I mean, he knows all the words to the freaking Bosco jingle from the 1950’s and I honestly don’t know that you need ANYMORE motivation than that.