I first wrote about my dad on this blog here. Here is another piece of my story.
My dad got sick when I was 9 or so (and he was 28). He was in and out of the hospital but we (his 4 kids) weren’t told why. He lost his job when they found out about his illness. He took a trip to Arizona to visit his best friend and see the place where we lived when I was a born, then he came back to Sacramento and was admitted to the hospital a short time later. He withered away there before being moved to a nursing home when there was nothing more they could do for him. Once he moved there, it was only a short time before he passed away.
It’s unbelievable to me that that was 18 years ago. Even more unbelievable is how much it still hurts me and how clear the memories are of him in that hospital bed. I remember the hospital in more detail than I remember life before he got sick. I remember the smell of the place he got transferred to once the hospital knew they could do nothing else for him. I remember the morning he died and the years of swearing I saw sightings of him everywhere. His death still haunts me. I’m sure as an adult it is awful to see someone die from AIDS but as a kid it was terrifying, as well. My dad had such vitality, being an all-American type who was a star athlete, a musician, and an artist. In a matter of months, he went from being a strong, energetic man to being a skeletal human smaller than his young kids.
Like I said, we weren’t told that my dad had AIDS. My mom told us that he had Meningitis and Encephalitis (which I think are the things that actually did him in). I was finally told the truth about a year after he died but was sworn to secrecy (even from my siblings). I can’t tell you how many times I sat silently through nasty comments about people with HIV/AIDS. I can’t even articulate how misinformed people were. I think it’s a shame that I had to keep it such a secret, when it would have been better to share my story and get people more familiar with who is affected by it. Back then it was still considered a gay disease and I am sure that all of the misinformation contributed to the state of things now with so many heterosexuals thinking they weren’t at risk. It’s very unfortunate that this disease is still wreaking havoc and so widespread. It’s sad that even now those suffering with it are discriminated against. It’s disappointing that after more than two decades of the disease there is no cure or vaccine. I hope to see one of those in my lifetime.