Today, December 1st is World Aids Day. After all these years….there is still no cure for Aids, only drugs that help with the symptoms.
Aids affects us all in one way or another. We know someone, who knows someone who has it. Or maybe we even work side by side with someone who has it and we don't even know it. Or maybe it's a neighbor or someone in a club we belong to.
In some cases, it's the result of a tainted blood transfusion, in other cases it is the result of risky behavior. Aids leaves behind orphans, widows, widowers and grieving families and friends.
Do you know someone who has been affected by Aids, maybe you've been affected by it. I have……..in 1973 my former husband’s son, Tim, came to live with us. One day I was just a wife and a mother, the next I was also a stepmother to a 12-year-old boy who didn’t know me and really didn’t know his dad, all that well. At times this boy was a handful, at other times a source of great joy. He was tall, handsome with beautiful thick dark hair, hazel eyes and a winning smile. His laughter would ring thru the house and make us all laugh along with him. I remember he’d would put on the headphones of his Walk-Man and sing horribly off key with Cher. By the time he came to us, he’d been in trouble and had experimented with drugs. We hoped and prayed things would change and they did from time to time. He was always a hard worker, and would drag the lawn mower around the neighborhood, mowing other people’s lawns for money.
Time went by and after a short stint in jail; he seemed to want a different kind of life. He got a job and did well. Meanwhile, his dad and I had separated and Tim seemed to go his own way. In the late 1980’s he just sort of disappeared. Sometime during this time he apparently got involved in the drug culture again. His mother (who lived in Northern California) and I would call each other from time to time and check to see if there had been any word from him. We made a pact that every night at 9pm we would pray for Tim. Pray that God would keep him safe, and pray that he would call one of us. Almost a year went by with no word, and then one night about 11pm, my phone rang. It was Tim, I started crying, he was crying, telling me he was sorry he hadn’t called. He was living in Coos Bay, Oregon, working as a bar tender. He went on to tell me that one of his friends had been in a bad car accident and needed blood, so he’d gone to donate blood. After a couple days, he’d received a call that his blood could not be used because it had tested positive for HIV. That night I made him promise, he’d call his mom and to keep in touch with both of us. Soon after that he made the decision to move back to the Seattle area, because he felt there would be better medical treatment for him here. He got a job at a restaurant as a prep-cook but his doctor advised him to quit, because if he were to cut himself while prepping food, it wouldn’t be a good thing. So he went to work for a landscaping company. Often, I would come home from work and my lawn would be mowed and edged. I loved it, since I always cut my own lawn but didn’t have an edger. Tim was nearly 10 years older than his little brother, Jim, and during this time they were able to spend time together, once they cleaned out my basement while I was at work and I was horrified when I came home. They were talking about all the boxes of “junk” they took to the dump. Oh my gosh….what was it, they hauled away? I’ll never know I guess. Anyway, they were very proud of themselves.
He met a fellow at an Aids Support Group and they bought a house together and totally remodeled it. It was beautiful. And they did a wonderful job. Tim had his dad’s natural ability to build and remodel and have it look like a professional did it. Around 1992-1993 Tim’s condition worsened. He had to cut back on his hours at work. Soon he wasn’t able to work at all. He was pretty much homebound. He had a huge pile of prescription bottles on the table that contained the drugs he had to take each day. And finally it came to the point that a visiting nurse came and administered some medications via an IV on a daily basis. The fall of 1994 he grew worse with each day. His mother came from California to help care for him. I remember I was at the house one day and he asked to be moved from his recliner to a straight-backed chair. It took both of us to move him, as he had no strength to even move his legs. He was eventually hospitalized and one day when I went to visit him, he was tied into a chair, the bedside table in front of him and on it sat his lunch, untouched. I asked him if he was hungry and he nodded his head, so I fed him. A 33 year old man, too sick and weak to feed himself, I know he didn't see my tears. I chattered on and occasionally I got a word from him. And I managed to hear a weak laugh when I talked about the old days when we’d go to Skipper’s on “all you can eat day.” About how he and his dad would try to put them out of business by eating bowl after bowl of clam chowder and basket after basket of fish and chips. He looked up at me with those beautiful eyes and said, “those were the good days, huh mom?” We talked about life and the fact that several months before he’d called me and asked for his Bible that we’d given him on his 13th birthday. He managed to tell me that day, not to worry…he had made peace with God and he knew he’d see me in Heaven someday. Four days later he passed away, peacefully with his mother at his side. I was heading there after work but he passed just as I was getting off duty.
My son Jim is now older than Tim was when he passed away. Every year around Christmas or Tim’s birthday, we visit the place where is ashes are held. Jim still misses his big brother terribly. We know he’s not there….we know he’s in a better place. But it still hurts.
So you see…it’s important that we all get involved in finding a cure for HIV/Aids. I understand that in some parts of Africa there are thousands of men, women and children suffering and dying of this disease. If there’s someone in your area, collecting donations….even a handful of change out of your pocket will help towards finding the cure.
Rest in peace~ Timothy Erin born January 17, 1961 left this earth on November 7, 1994.