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The Birthday Surprise

I retired after forty-three years as an Intensive Care Nurse. I worked at the onset of the AIDS epidemic until AIDS became a treatable, chronic disease. I cared for early cases of MRSA and drug-resistant TB. Working in Dallas, I prepared for a possible Ebola crisis. Imagine my reaction, when my thirty-nine year old son revealed he was an anti-vaxxer.

As a child, my son experienced the consequences of single parenting. When my employer asked me to  work an extra night shift, I agreed with the stipulation my son could sleep in an empty bed. My son accompanied me to work and walked by rooms filled with equipment that, to a child, must have resembled a space ship. He witnessed what patients experienced. Growing up, too often it was he who listened to me vent my frustrations over patient suffering, recovery versus survival, and the  loss of patients to whom I’d grown close.

As my 70th birthday approached, my son asked me what he could give me. “A nice bottle of cabernet,” I said. He delivered one bottle of red wine, a bag of flavored coffee, and the announcement he wouldn’t be getting vaccinated. I managed not to spoil our visit despite feeling blind-sided.

I recovered by the next day and e-mailed my son. “I was selfish to ask for wine. What I’d like is for you to get vaccinated.” I asked him to imagine my grief if I lost my only child.

My son responded with an e-mail:

“I  understand and respect your intentions….non-FDA-approved poison will never enter my blood stream. (This occurred before FDA approval.) I have been exposed daily at work, the gym….I’ve been tested upwards to 50 times per my job’s request….I  do not fear death….I’ve had my freedom of choice taken from me before….That is something that will never happen again. My body, my right.  Don’t forget you raised me. A single mother, nurse, author, activist, athlete, and independent human. You didn’t make this far in life conforming to societal standards or opinions. Enjoy the wine and coffee.”

I told my son he need not fear death; I have enough fear for us both, although I am fully vaccinated with a booster. Dr. Fauci says  if you are not vaccinated, there’s a high probability you’ll catch COVID. I brace myself for what may come.

Happy Birthday.

Cynthia Stock
Garland, Texas


4 thoughts on “The Birthday Surprise”

  1. Your story really resonates with me. I have 2 sons in their 20’s. The older one has mild common variable immunodeficiency & had a lot of illnesses growing up. He wasn’t diagnosed until age 18 & after antibody testing we learned he made some vaccine antibodies but not protective levels so we repeated several vaccines. He chose to be vaccinated.
    My sons live together and run a small business together. My younger son refuses to vaccinate. Surprised the heck out of me & I asked him to vaccinate on 3 occasions & made him really mad. Not going to ask again. He was always the one who said no he wouldn’t do something I asked and then he’d do it so I’m hoping maybe he’ll change his mind. I think growing up he felt slighted, overlooked due to his brothers illnesses . I’m not sure if he really knows his brothers condition & I try to respect that they’re both adults & stay out of their healthcare which they mostly prefer to keep private. The younger feels strong, healthy & if he gets sick he’ll be fine. Probably tried but I worry his brother will not. So I send up a lot of prayers & stay out of it. As a physician I strongly believe in vaccine effectiveness but that didn’t get passed to him apparently.

  2. Cynthia-
    I was also a single mother who raised two children from
    ages 2 & 4. (They are now 40 and 42. I am close to your age.)

    My son still feels a strong need to disagree with me about most things.
    The good news is that he has gotten vaccinated. (He is married
    to a good woman who insisted.)

    But in general, he disapproves of me in many ways.
    Yet, deep down, he still loves me and calls me every week.
    (Though often he argues with whatever I say).

    When I read that your son said “I have had my freedom of choice
    taken away from me before”
    I think he meant that his parents divorced when he was young–and
    he didn’t have a choice in that decision.
    Of course he didn’t.
    His parents made the very difficult decision to split. Any
    divorced person knows how hard that was.
    But in our society, even 40-year-old children can feel that,
    somehow, when they were four, they should have had a vote.

    I hope that eventually, your son will get vaccinated.
    You can’t persuade him, but perhaps a girlfriend will.

    1. Thank-you for letting me know I am not alone in this quandary. After a lot if self-recrimination/examination, I decided the push back from my son was his response to having a strong mom. I couldn’t have been any other way. He and I connect every week. Our relationship has come a long way. Thank-you again for your comments.

      1. to Cynthia stock:
        I think Maggie Mahar meant well in her analysis, tracing your son’s vaccine refusal to your divorce long ago.
        But I wouldn’t take it that way.
        I have never been divorced, tho I came close over 54 years of marriage to my wife, who died a year ago.
        Live your life in spite of others’ analyses.

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