… is a regular feature of University Diaries. UD is a veteran blood donor, and she donates at the National Institutes of Health. This is just down the street from Suburban Hospital, where Sargent Shriver was admitted yesterday.

NIH is also the place where UD‘s father, an immunologist who studied cancer, spent his career. She likes to give at NIH because walking its campus and halls reminds her of his happy years there.

So after lunch with Georgia, once her student and now her friend (they went to Le Pain Quotidien in ‘thesda), she asked Georgia to drop her off at NIH.

This being the federal government and all, she and Georgia had to get out of her car, and get patted down, and (while someone checked the car’s trunk and back seat) show identification, in order to get visitors’ passes. UD apologized to Georgia, who said, “I’m happy to do this! I’m too uncomfortable with the procedure to give blood myself, but the fuss makes me feel as though I’m doing my bit.”

Once at the Clinical Center, UD walked its eerily empty halls (holiday today) to the distant blood bank. The security guards had assured me that the blood bank was open.

It was closed. But the Plateletpheresis Center was open, and UD was, she explained to the woman working there, up for that.

“Hm. It’s pretty late for you to donate today. Would you be willing to make an appointment for later?”

After they put together a platelets date for UD, she again trekked the long corridors of the Clinical Center, all the while recalling her lab-coated father.

The afternoon was cold and gray; the trees were gray, with a few white trunks. She descended the very slow Medical Center Metro escalator with its cold white archway, and she thought of a line she’d just read in the Norman Maclean Reader, the book she was carrying with her.

His prose never moves far from a sense of despair, a fear that life merely happens, incapable of being charged with meaning and grace.

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