I’ve been visiting hospitals all week, between donating blood and visiting a friend who just had an operation. And as Valentine’s Day rounds the corner, I think and contemplate a deeper meaning.
I have never had much cause to celebrate February 14 but when I was sitting with my friend’s family, chatting about when I was hospitalized, it made me think about the importance of a kind act.
It was November 1, 2000. The Day of the Dead, here in Mexico. I had just glimpsed the front page of the newspaper as I strolled into the hospital and saw that a local politician had just died while in the OR for a bypass.
It’s the not the kind of news you want to read right before you get operated on.
My family was in California and my friends were all working so I went by myself, checked in and went straight to surgery.
I had told various friends who said that they’d come and visit.
They did not.
The only person who came to visit was a man I befriended in the bullfights. We called him “Tio” (“uncle” in Spanish). Tall with a bushy white moustache, he is as much a gentleman as he is a brawler. He can drink with the best of them and is the type of person who would have those infamous friends in low places, should he need something.
Nondescript day, Tio’s Apartment
Tio: Yes child.
Me: That plant in the corner…it isn’t what I think it is?
Tio: You can take some if you want to smoke it at home.
That was Tio.
Fitting, seeing as that he worked for the government.
He is that friend that you should always have one of in life. A little reckless but a good egg.
In the space of 24 hours, he came to visit me four times in the hospital.
I’ve always been the type to do things by myself and so I never considered how much being alone in the hospital would affect me to this day. I never understood how sad it would feel to know that though I understood my friends worked, the only person who visited me was someone who did not know me even half as well as they did.
And I could not let someone else feel that.
As I told the story, my friend’s sister asked if that brought tears to my eyes upon remembering it. It was only as the day wore on and I understood the implications of that act: a man who I considered my drinking buddy, thought I was important enough to slip out of work to come and visit.
It was a staggering realization.
So on this Valentine’s Day, I plan to enjoy the fact that there is an ice cream shop down the road with a 2 for 1 promo on a double scoop. I plan on eating my decadent ice cream while enjoying the evening. I plan on baking red velvet cupcakes and sharing them. And I plan on marveling over the wonders of kindness, from those who held me as I cried to the simple hello from a friend whose voice I was hearing for the first time.