I don’t do mystical much, which is a bit ironic as I’m playing Friar Peter, one of Shakespeare’s ubiquitous man-of-the-cloth father-figures, in Raleigh Little Theatre’s production of Measure For Measure. As I said, usually I don’t go for hocus-pocus explanations, but today I cast aside my unwillingness to suspend disbelief and just accepted that there are greater powers at work than mere mortals can ever know.
Reared Catholic, this friar-figure is pretty versed in that brand of Christianity and regardless of faith I know that thankfulness for the myriad blessings that flow our way never hurt anyone. Still, while I have received blessings innumerable I no more credit God for said blessings than do I blame God for the slings and arrows that are cast my way. Things happen, sometimes I get lucky, sometimes not. Today I got lucky.
My day didn’t start lucky. I had grabbed two complimentary Measure For Measure preview tickets available to cast and crew with the intention of giving them to a coworker of limited means. A good thought, but one that proved irrelevant as preview night finds him working late, thus making him unavailable to attend. I tried another coworker but she too was unavailable that night and is planning to attend on a different date. Stymied in my original intent I placed the tickets in my wallet and took them along with me to my appointment at the Red Cross blood donation center with the idea that I might be able to distribute them to a worthy, unknown and in need theatre goer. At least, I think it was my idea, Friar Peter might have a different perspective.
I began giving blood in 1979 and continued to do so for about ten years, and then I couldn’t. My HIV status got in the way. The need for a safe blood supply is very important and around 1990 my blood got flagged because an HIV test came up “Indeterminant.”
Neither positive nor negative I headed to my physician who pronounced me HIV free, which was great, but the Red Cross, in their need to not only have but to appear to have a safe blood supply, declared me persona non grata in perpetuity. I, or at least my blood, wasn’t wanted. (They let me teach CPR and First Aid classes, no bogeyman there.) I lived an outcast and in the wake of 9/11 even begged the Red Cross to reconsider but they kindly but firmly told me no.
My lack of giving continued until 2015 when I moved to Florida. Florida, unlike most of the country, uses One Blood to collect blood, not the Red Cross. One Blood saw my negative HIV status and gladly took my blood over and over, a lovely circumstance that came to an end when I moved to North Carolina, a Red Cross state. Determined to remain a blood donor I petitioned the Red Cross via phone and email, explaining that I had been donating blood regularly for three years. Faced with a preponderance of evidence proving their lifetime Keith ban irrelevant they agreed to review my case. They did, I was clear, and I have been donating blood in North Carolina for the last year.
What does any of this have to do with providence, preview tickets and a higher power? Maybe nothing, but Deborah, one of the phlebotomist, (that’s blood sucker for those who don’t like four syllable words) is the woman who took my blood. Deborah, a tiny New York City born and bred puertorriqueña age mate, has taken my blood before. In fact, I had convinced her to audition for Measure For Measure but she got cold feet.
She also got thyroid cancer, but that was in the past. Deborah grabbed the next gal in line but after doing the initial iron count, checking blood pressure and other check-list items the would be donor was ineligible to give today so Deborah, who would not have otherwise taken my blood, did.
I had seen Deborah right after our auditions but not since so it was with great sadness that I learned that she is again having thyroid troubles and will be traveling back to NYC and Mount Sinai for further treatment. I asked her if two tickets to our play would help her feel better and her tear soaked eyes assured me they would.
I gave my tickets to a gal who dedicates her life to helping others, a woman I’m determined to bring with me to an audition and one who is grateful under literally life challenging circumstances. I don’t know about a higher power, but I know Deborah and I went full circle for our Measure For Measure and I couldn’t be happier about her and her mother being in our audience on Wednesday.
Oh! By the way? During donation I also learned that Deborah has a phobia-
about vampires! She related a recent dream of hers right out of 1972’s blaxploitation film Blacula in which a dead ringer for film star Charles McCauley gave her something a bit deeper than a hickey.
Get it? She’s a bloodsucker with a fear of mythical bloodsuckers! I’m definitely calling Higher Power on that one.
Here’s to measuring up.