I haven’t felt like writing much here lately but today something happened that got me thinking.
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away I used to row boats in races with other peculiar folk just for the fun of seeing who could cover 2000 meters the fastest. One of the other, peculiar things about me is that I have AB- blood type. According to that font of wisdom Wikipedia this is restricted to less than 1% of the population. The even more peculiar thing is that way back in 1972 myself and another guy who rowed at Brock ended up in the same 2 man boat with both of us having this rare blood type.
Back then it was of very little interest really. Usually it’s of little interest because usually we can take blood from anyone with RH – blood but can only give to another AB- person. We both found out about the blood type thing only because I was called at the school one day. I was a regular donor with the red cross and they had received a call to round up AB- donors because a patient with a bleeding ulcer was taking so much blood they wanted to match him properly rather than just giving O- which is what they commonly do in these cases. I explained this to a few friends I was with in the cafeteria at the time I got the message and Ken, who donated in Niagara Falls also knew his blood type and he went with me to the hospital. We both gave, along with many others. The guy with the ulcer recovered and both Ken and I got nice letters thanking us. We also both thought it highly odd that we had ended in the same crew with such rare blood types.
Skip forward almost 4 decades. Ken and I over this time went often for years at a time without meeting. Whenever we did we always got along and reminisced about the good old days and how good we had been etc, just like old jocks everywhere. I went to work for GM and Ken spent a lot of his time running a pool making company among other things. A year or so ago we bumped into each other again and I found out in catching up that he now owned a bar in St Catharines and as is usual we parted again intending to get back together again more often. And as usual we never did.
This past year during a couple of my surgeries I required transfusions that they provided with O- blood. My sister who also knows Ken from our friendship over the decades happened to meet him and told him about the medical troubles I had been having and that I had required transfusions. I need to stress here that Ken and I were hardly close friends in the normal sense. We had certainly had some good times together back in the early 70s at Brock, but over the years we had rarely seen each other. Chance meetings in a mall etc. The thing is that unlike any sport I have ever been in, rowing builds a comradeship that is very rare. Perhaps it is that everyone in the crew does the same thing. There are no superstar quarterbacks and lesser light linemen. Everyone has the same job and if a crew is ever to be successful everyone does it at exactly the same time over and over seemingly forever. The work we do together leads I think to a realization of how connected we are. Certainly the best friends I have today are almost all people I rowed with nearly 40 years ago. Some of them I see regularly but many like Ken are people that pass like ships in the night, only occasionally making contact but still enjoying those times without rancor about how long it’s been etc.
Today I found out that Ken had made the trip to Hamilton while I was in hospital the last time in order to donate blood again in case I needed it. He just took it on himself that if I needed transfusions he could be of help knowing we had the same blood type. THere had been no call this time because of the amount of blood I required. In fact I just got one unit of blood during both major surgeries and I was actually released form hospital the day before he went up to Hamilton to make the donation, and drop in to visit me, so once again we missed each other rather than connecting.
You run into some incredible people when you get involved in rowing as a sport. I’ve known that for a long time, and today I realized it again in a way I never thought I would. Ken and I shared a lot of races and a few titles together 40 years ago. Perhaps it has little to do with the sport and more to do with Ken’s generosity but it really touched me that he was willing to share so much more with me once he knew I was in need.