I just read an article in the Tallahassee Democrat (it’s a few days old now, but when you’re a REALTOR these days, reading news is somewhat of a catch-up game) entitled “Because AIDS isn’t over”. …WHAT, It’s not!?
It seems to me that I haven’t heard anything about AIDS/HIV for quite some time. Last time I can remember giving it much thought was… wow, now I feel old!
These days, I’m married, two kids, a mortgage, and an alarmingly spreading waist. My thoughts are too often taken up with the hum-drum of early-parental life: “do we have enough diapers?”, “Will we make next months mortgage and still be able to cover the growing costs of two small children?” “What’s for dinner, and WHO is going to cook it!?”
So it was with an uneasy jolt to my world-view and my general sense of well-being that I allowed myself to remember Barbara …I was 12 years old and an ocean apart when I learned of my cousin’s untimely death. Barbara was quite a few years older than me, street-smart, hip and my idol in every way. When I was 7 she took me to a music store in London, and offered to buy me my first record. Anything I wanted. I chose “pass the dutchie”, by the musical youth. I remember fondly her smiling and cracking jokes with my dad (she was closer in age to him than me) on summer weekends as we strolled along the Thames River, stopping for a quick pint and a bag of crisps (The pints for them, shandy for me) at one of my dad’s favorite pubs.
Barbara was, in all accounts, what most would consider beautiful. She was strong-minded and intelligent. A leader not a follower. A giver not a taker. Always smiling, always fun. She was into the punk scene back in the 80’s in London… Something my conservative, Polish-immigrant, catholic family frowned upon in public, and cried about behind closed doors.
I was at that age that AIDS, to my friends and I, was still considered synonymous with the “lurgy” (in the US this approximates Kudies). Something to tease people about. Not a cold, cruel killer that could actually take a person away. This was the first death in my family. My great grandma – who lived across the street from Barbara - still would walk a few miles to church every morning. She was in her mid-late 90’s when she finally left us.
I remember that day that something changed within. I remember feeling older. Sadder. Different.
It’s been a while since I last thought of Barbara. But as I read the article, and as I write this, the loss and emotions that I felt when I heard the news are still here… different, much quieter, but not gone.
So it is with a little shame that I write this story. I’m admitting that I have shared in our silent cultural consensus that “AIDS is so over”. If you, like me, missed not only paying attention to a continuing national and global pandemic, but also missed the fabulous sounding, Big Bend Cares Artopia: Hats and Tails event this last week, please consider donating to Big Bend cares, our local education and care services provider for those affected or infected with HIV/AIDS. www.bigbendcares.org.