Today I would like to share a beautiful essay written by my friend Lynn, who lives upstate New York. I hope it touches you as it did me. Thank you Lynn.
I usually stay away from too much thinking about my brother Mark. There are depths there that I don't want to plumb. He was a kind soul, very loving. He was also very naive and even though he warned me that I should never trust anyone, ever, he trusted lots of people he shouldn't have. I remember one Christmas the woman who claimed to be the mother of his son (we all know that Marcus was NOT his son, and he knew it too but really wanted to leave a legacy...more about that some other time) telling him if he wanted to see Marcus, he'd better get his butt out to her house. After he drove 45 minutes in icy conditions, he called my mother's house crying because that b-word that rhymes with witch had left, with Marcus.
Life was not very fair to my brother, he was born with hemophilia and contracted AIDS we think when he had to have his knees replaced. Continued bleeds caused more than his knee joints to deteriorate.
But this isn't about Mark. Well, it is, because for me he was the first personal face of AIDS. He was subject to humiliation because of it. Some one made an AIDS joke in front of him and he lost his temper - he hadn't told his co-workers, simply because they didn't need to know. After he admitted to being HIV- positive, he went back to work. When he came out of work in the morning, he found that 'someone' had spray painted his truck with all kinds of epithets. That was not the first blow, but it was toward the beginning.
People still make AIDS jokes. Ignorance is a disease, too.
His teeth fell out. He lost his hair. He hardly slept the last two years of his life because he had terrible nightmares. His particular hell was the liver damage - because of the drugs he was taking. We counted the number of pills he took daily, once. The number 52 sticks in my mind. AZT probably prolonged his life, but at a very great price since that was what ruined his liver.
He'd gotten married two months before he received his HIV positive diagnosis. He was the best kind of father to his stepdaughters, I remember one Thanksgiving he went and sat with Niki in the hospital (she was ill with some weird bacteria infection.) He was there, but her biological father was not.
As much as I'm trying to keep this clinical, I can't. I guess it has to be personal.
At the end, he'd pretty much lost his sanity. He had flashes of his old self, and when he did, he was ashamed of how he'd acted during those other times.
There were other things. After he lost his job and had no money and no food, he went to the United Way for help. They refused to help him. I do not contribute to the United Way because of their treatment of my brother. PEACE Incorporated helped him, hooked him up with some agencies and most important, gave him food. He wouldn't tell us, his family, that he was in such a state because he was ashamed. Humiliated.
And I know that what happened to him was just a patch on all the stuff AIDS patients have to go through.
By now, perhaps everyone knows someone who is living with AIDS, or has died from it. And by now everyone probably has heard the conjectured theories that it started because men had sex with monkeys And of course, that is is a scourge sent from God to help rid mankind of homosexuals because they are an abomination.
I used to make the distinction, once.
I told people that my brother died of AIDS but he wasn't gay, he'd gotten it from a bad blood transfusion.
I don't do that anymore.
I am a sister who once had two brothers living, but now I only have one.
I am a sister who remembers those last humiliating and horrifying years, months, weeks and days of my brother's life. I would not have loved my brother any less if he had been gay. I know there are sisters out there who have brothers who are living with AIDS, and sisters who are terrified that their brothers might contract AIDS because of the way their brothers live.
I am a sister who hopes that one day, sisters and brothers won't lose their siblings, mothers and fathers won't lose their sons or daughters, to this scourge.
This is way too much of an emotional issue for me to write about without letting the personal creep in. I have people who might take me to task because I said I wouldn't have loved my brother any less if he'd been gay.
All I really want to say is that NO ONE deserves this horribleness. No one. Not my brother, not my co-worker's gay cousin, not ANYONE no matter what their sexuality, their religion or their personal habits.
I can only do this once a year. I am not strong, I can't find it in me to work with AIDS patients or rock AIDS babies. I sang with the Silent Chorus at one time, but that was about the best I can do. There are no longer observances on the Quad on this day.
But today, World AIDS day, I CAN put on my red ribbon and blog here. I can answer questions from people who see my red ribbon and ask me about it.
Because I am a sister who lost her brother to AIDS.