Saying it best by saying nothing

If I could undo it now I would. I’d rewind the tape and have the words run backwards into my voicebox, that treacherous little container that does not contain.

I was in the bloodbank, proudly donating my B Positive platelets. She was the nurse overseeing the donation. Her name was just a set of cyphers, same as yours, same as mine, meant to signify who she was, but just because of a quirk of chance the letters also spelled something else. Awkwardly for her, the name badge that she wore read Nurse Death.

It was all unremarkable at the time. I said blah blah blah. She assumed the look she’d doubtless assumed a hundred thousand times before and explained that ‘it’s pronounced Deeth’, but the damage was done. Again. This time by me. And in the years since then I’ve often wished that I could have been the one stranger in her day who did not feel compelled to comment on those five letters. Not that I said anything nasty, or excessively idiotic. Just middle-of-the-road idiotic, like ‘You must get a lot of stupid comments.’ Cause I’m not, you know, crass or anything.

Why couldn’t I have surprised the hell out of her by not saying any words, not raising any eyebrows, not making any big deal about it? Why not? Because I’m only slowly learning this being-a-human-among-other-humans game, one day at a time.

My niece posted something on Facebook yesterday, about a group called Every year, I realize how stupid I was the year before. It gave me an instant chuckle because of the twisted little truth in it. It’s saying I’m not smarter this year, I’m only more aware of my previous stupidity levels. Still though, I hope that if, in the future, I meet any Professor Ships or Major Killers or Doctor Murders or anyone else with a randomly unfortunate name, I will gently startle them by not reacting.

Because when you’ve got an odd name, or an unusual birth mark, or you sit all the time in a chair that has wheels, or you have a slightly different genetic put-together, sometimes all you want from people is absolutely nothing at all.

The different one is wearing blue

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29 comments on “Saying it best by saying nothing

  1. bkdawg says:

    “…………..” πŸ™‚

  2. my god you have got some good looking children there. xx

  3. cate says:

    oh, I’ve had those moments too. so awkward.

    I think the fact that you were donating blood cancels it out though.

    • Nick McGivney says:

      Kind you are to say so, Cate, but I still cringe. And maybe that’s what learning has to be like. It’s a small thing I know, thankfully. πŸ™‚

  4. Nan P says:


    Translation: “I ain’t saying nothing here”


  5. Mel says:

    I think the old man who felt the need to point out today that Luke was “a Mongol” at the top of his voice in a pet shop out-did you! Could’ve beaten him with his cane…

    My maiden name was Ferry. Cue the roll-on, roll-off jokes πŸ˜‰

  6. Jann says:

    There is something different about each of us, thank goodness! AND don’t we all wish we could take back some hastily spoken words and magically digest/disappear them?

    • Nick McGivney says:

      Hey Jann. True indeed. I imagine standing at a podium in front of the entire population of the world, my job being to whittle it down to just the normal ones. By the time the physically and mentally disabled, the criminal, the gay, the ones in therapy, the female, the black/brown/yellow, the ones who can’t do sports and the French are taken out of the crowd, not even George Clooney is left. Let’s face it: everyone’s weird. πŸ™‚

  7. Elbog says:

    Wisdom is an elusive property. It can elude us in the most inopportune moments. While I am fond of the saying “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished” – I mean, here you were, in the midst of donating blood. . .
    As we are so wont to point out to others (I’m thinking of a picture of a horse’s behind on this very blog), easy humor can come at the ‘expense’ of others. For those who are considerate(and I count you in that group), it truly probably bothered you more than it did her. All that’s to say that this has added to your wisdom. It’s not to say that it won’t ever happen again – but it will certainly be mitigated – that’s been my experience.
    Ironies abound. I often think of the irony of Trisomy 21 being called “Down Syndrome”, as it implies impairment when it’s just the name of a Doctor. I suppose it could have been worse.
    Will stop talking, now.

    • Nick McGivney says:

      The irony of the blood donation wasn’t lost on me either, Jeff. What gets me here is how the utterly random can end up having deeper consequences for people without any real reason. Did a change of name ever tempt Nurse Death? The pros and cons of it make for an interesting dilemma, and the choice of her career was always going to throw it into relief. I hope she never chose palliative care nursing.

  8. Jean says:

    Insightful post…will make me bite my tongue in the future (I hope…) XXX

  9. Martin says:

    This is such a good post on many levels.

    Clever & well executed.

    • Nick McGivney says:

      Thank you sir! Really good to hear from you, and a much-needed boot in the backside to go over and check out your own wonderful family. Stay well mister. πŸ™‚

  10. Kim L. (aka Joshua's mom) says:

    “Sometimes all you want from people is absolutely nothing at all”……So true!!!! Exactly how I felt when some well-meaning parents began to fawn over my son during his music class last week. I didn’t need anyone to tell me how “well-behaved” or “attentive” he was. Or how well he shook his tamborine, for that matter. I just wanted him to be treated like everyone else…Sigh. Sincerely, Kim L, RN (“L”…By the way, is short for Lube. Imagine the comments that I’ve received from patients over the years…. πŸ™‚ )

    • Nick McGivney says:

      Hey Kim, great to hear from you. You can tell exactly what I mean then! But do you notice it when people don’t comment? Can you sense that they’re consciously not doing so?

      • Kim L. (aka Joshua's mom) says:

        Hey Nick! I guess you could say that I am aware of people “noticing” my son, whether they choose to comment or not. To be honest, I tend to get equally annoyed if someone says something about his DS, or if they just simply stare at him intensely & say nothing. I believe that you wrote a hilarious post about this very topic in the past. I seem to remember something about “pulling a woman’s thong over her head” in retaliation. That image still cracks me up to this day! πŸ™‚ Kim L.

  11. Dan says:

    You are absolutely right, and this is a very insightful and thoughtful post.

    But c’mon, seriously – Nurse Death? Surely, SURELY you can’t be too hard on yourself for that one. I mean, that is a particularly powerful nametag. It’s like, if you didn’t comment on it, you would be guilty of not paying attention. That’s like a name from a children’s storybook or something.

    I feel sorry for her, but I bet she could create a great blog just by writing down all the comments she gets every day.

  12. Mary says:

    I can’t understand why the name of your blog is ‘The journal of a parent in Ireland with a Down Syndrome child’

    I find it such an old fashioned way of seeing.

    Is the child Down Syndrome or does the child have Down Syndrome?

    My mother has arithris I don’t refer to her as airthris mother, I could go on and on and on. My son has down syndrome he isn’t Down Syndrome Dan. He’s just plain old Dan with Down Syndrome as his sister is Neassa with Dyslexia not Dyslexia Neassa. His older sister Jenny was born premature but isn’t Premature Jenny. I would be interested in your views on this. He has another sister as well she’s the glasses child or maybe just the childs that wears glasses.
    Good night

    • Nick McGivney says:

      Hi Mary. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I understand what you mean but I’m afraid I don’t feel the same way about labelling as you do. He is not Down syndrome, of course, and if you get stuck on the language at that point then you’re probably going to get stuck on a whole lot of other words that I use too. I’ve been told before that I should refer to Jacob as a child with Down syndrome, not a Down syndrome child, but there’s too much else in life that’s important in my opinion that I won’t be getting bogged down with details that make no earthly difference to me or my expression of how I see my son. Would the label be the same if he was my white son? He is, but I don’t think that anyone who really thinks it through would suppose that that’s all he is. He’s not asthmatic, but if he was would ‘The journal of a parent in Ireland with an asthmatic child’ offend you too? An Irish child? A tall child? I don’t define him by the label, but in terms of this blog, that is the label that is most important, for discussion, for learning, for pointing out new ways of seeing things.
      I have discussed this with some friends who have autistic children (there, I did it again) and they too felt like the important thing was not the immediate label, but what you did with it thereafter. The world that I – and you – have to live in will be judging people by appearance long after we’re gone. They’ll do it if I call Jacob a Down syndrome child or a child with Down syndrome. If I’m to do even a half-right job of being a parent I think it’s important that I should remember that. I hope that doesn’t upset you, but in my opinion there are bigger battles to be fought, and today’s politically correct language will be incorrect tomorrow in any event.
      I appreciate you taking the time to share your opinion, and my best wishes to you, Dan and all your family.

  13. Jill says:

    Hi Nick,
    Not been here for a while, busy busy you know how it gets! Just wanted to say something about the last comment.

    My son is autistic & yes I say “autistic son” rather than “my son who has autism”. Just because it’s quicker really. Nothing to do with how I define him, although by its very nature autism is quite a defining aspect of his overall character.

    I can understand why people can view it as a harsh label but to me it’s just an adjective. Besides, saying to people “he’s autistic”, is a quick way to reference it, before they put their foot in it commenting on his behaviour. So in some ways I am trying to be nice (which is rare for me lol).

    • Nick McGivney says:

      I hear ya Jill! Takes all types I guess, and it’s hard to judge something from just reading it cold, but when someone knows you, or knows enough to make an informed opinion at least, then maybe they get it. Not that they always do of course. Ain’t life grand!

  14. Niamh O'Driscoll says:

    Hi Nick
    Just a quick note to say I heard you speaking with John Murray this am as I returned from leaving Niall to school with his big sister Jenny.
    Really helped to start my day and week on a positive note. Niall is 7 and in 1st class and to be perfectly honest he’s finding the going tough at the moment (as are we!)but I’m ever hopeful and always try to see the glass as half full so I’ll pop in and out of your blog just to keep my spirits up! Have a good week and big high fives to Jacob!

    • Nick McGivney says:

      So nice of you to get in touch, Niamh. I’m sure we’ve quite a bit to learn, so hopefully we’ll be able to chat here and elsewhere. Good luck with school!

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