Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The AIDS Memorial

There is a new (to me) Instagram account called The AIDS Memorial (@theaidsmemorial) and this  is my reaction to following them on Instagram.
 
I can't even explain what reading all of the posts on Instagram has done for me. I've been living with HIV/AIDS now for over 29 years and I had forgotten. I had forgotten what the 80's and 90's were like when I watched so many friends die. I can't even begin to name them all but little by little I am having memories return because of the stories you are sharing on Instagram. Finally, with some of the memories I can actually smile. I am remembering a lot of things and not just the death of ones I cared for. 

Why am I still here? God only knows. After being diagnosed I got clean and sober and that completely changed my life. I was able to care for others whose parents/families had abandoned them.  We had an AIDS hospice where I lived and I worked there. I cared for men, woman and children from just months old to 80 years old, learning something from each of them.

I guess you could say I am one of the lucky ones. I am a white male and I  understand what it means to have unearned privilege.  I've add access to medications and the best healthcare possible. I now work in research and hope to help in some small way in finding a cure for this disease.

Live well and Be beautiful

Thursday, December 1, 2016

World AIDS Day 2016

AIDS saved my life.

I was diagnosed with HIV in 1988, I was 26.  I was struggling with alcohol & drug addiction and felt I was losing the battle. I didn't worry about HIV/AIDS, it was something happening in New York and California, not Oklahoma.  I thought I had nothing to worry about and then BAM, I was told that I was HIV+. The  counselor told me I had 10 years, if I was lucky. I sure wasn't feeling lucky! I tried again to stop drinking & drugging but found it even more difficult with the HIV+ diagnosis. It didn't matter anyway, I was going to die. I was scared, I was sad and I was ashamed. I couldn't tell anyone and I sure didn't know anyway else that had HIV.

About 9 months later on a particular blue Monday evening I decided  to go to a little neighborhood bar and have a few drinks. I had to work the next morning so I knew I had to be careful and not get too drunk. I sat at the bar and had a few Long Island Ice Teas, it was about midnight and I wasn't feeling quite as blue anymore. I decided to head home so I could get some sleep. As I was walking to my car  I was approached by a guy who told me he needed a ride home. He told me he and his boyfriend had a fight and he had been left in the bar alone. I asked which way he was headed and he told me and it was the way I was headed home as well. Without any reservations I said sure I'll give you a ride. As we left the parking lot he suggested that I take a different route than the way I was going. That was my first clue. As I was driving through downtown I realized there was a truck following us and I ask him about it. He said "oh my gosh, that's my boyfriend, don't take me home just drop me off at the river".  By this time I was feeling very concerned. I decided to pull over and ask him to get out of the car. As I turned my blinker on and  pulled over to the curb, I looked in my rearview mirror to make sure it was safe. At that moment I felt something hit my head.  As I turned to look at the rider in my car I felt another blow, this time, to my face, I realized at that moment that this guy was trying to hurt me. He never said a word, he just kept hitting my head and my face over and over again. I struggled to get out of my car and I was finally able to open my car door.  I fell to the road. As I was lying on the street, the thug in my car crawled across the front seat, grabbed my head and starting banging it on the ground. At that point my car started to roll backward as I'd not taken it out of drive and he tried to push me under my car. As I saw a tire rolling toward my face I found all the strength I had and made it to my feet. At that point the pick up truck pulled up beside my car and the thug that had been beating me jumped in the back of the truck and they sped off, I fell to my knees and began screaming. A good Samaritan who heard what was happening came out of her home after the truck sped off, she came to my rescue. She had a towel and she wrapped it around my head and she held me as I cried and screamed and she assured me that an ambulance and the police were on the way.  At this point my memory becomes cloudy, patchy. I remember laying on a stretcher in the emergency room and I remember seeing my father. The next thing I remember, I'm at my parents home laying on the couch.

As I was laying there a clear thought came into my head.  I vividly remember thinking, "if I don't forgive this guy for beating me up before I fall asleep, I'll never be the same".  I sent a quiet prayer of forgiveness for this stranger who hurt me. At that point something inside changed, I found the will to live!

About 28 years later, jump to today. I am happy, I am healthy, I am sober and I am grateful. The last 28 years have been amazing but not without sadness.  However,  I have learned how to live with the sadness but more importantly, I've learned how to live with the joy of life. I'm married to a wonderful man, I have many friends and a loving family   I've said goodbye to too many, including my mother and all of my grandparents and countless friends but I've said hello to many more.

 I am grateful today for everything thing that has happened in my life. What was a  deadly diagnosis and fearing death, saved my life. Had I not been diagnosed with HIV and then gay bashed I would probably be dead today. I would've probably drank myself into a stupor, feeling sorry for myself. But that's not how it ends.

❤️


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Mom

It's been almost 14 months since you left us mom. Some days my heart aches so much I don't think I can bear it. It seems like just yesterday you left and sometimes it seems like it's been forever. I didn't think this day would come so soon, I wasn't prepared for what my life would be like without my mom in it each day.

 I realized over the Thanksgiving weekend that so often I walked on eggshells around my mom. Mom wanted everyone to be happy, she wanted everyone to get along. She hated conflict probably more than anything, but then I came along, her child full of conflict. Her gay, alcoholic, HIV+ son.  Don't get me wrong, she loved me dearly (and she told me often) but she also wanted me to keep my mouth shut.  I remember the heartbreaking day when I told my mother I had HIV. Her first comment was "let's don't tell anybody, let's just keep this between us". I said OK at first but then the more I thought about it I realized that wasn't OK. For me to not talk about my sexual orientation, my alcoholism or my HIV was to live my life in shame and to live a life in shame is like another disease. I knew I couldn't keep my mouth shut and I also knew that would make my mother uncomfortable and I didn't want to make my mom uncomfortable or sad or angry, so I often walked on eggshells. I realized over the Thanksgiving weekend that it was more comfortable not walking on eggshells and my heart broke, again. For the first time ever I felt comfortable with my mom not being there and it just about killed me.

 I don't love my mom any less or any more because of this realization. I do see her as the real person that she was.  I know she wasn't perfect and I also know that she loved me with all of her heart and she wanted to protect me from any pain or suffering as she did for all of her boys.

Coming up will be our second Christmas without mom and it will be sad. We will shed some tears and we will share some laughs. Judith Lee Giles Harrison will always be the greatest mom ever, at least by me.



Thursday, September 15, 2016

Obsession of More

For as long as I can remember I have wanted more, just more of everything. First it was love, toys, and friends and then I wanted more attention and then I wanted more alcohol and then I wanted more drugs and then I wanted more sex and then I wanted more sobriety and then I wanted more money, a nicer care, a nicer home and then it was just I wanted more, just more, just give me more.

My life has been driven by the obsession of more, I am ready to release that obsession. 


Monday, June 27, 2016

Missing Mom at the Dentist

I went to the dentist first thing this morning. This is not something I enjoy now that I am in my 50's. I remember as a young person enjoying going to the dentist. It was a day I got to spend time with my mom and no one else, just me and mom!  I loved that clean feeling after the nice lady cleaned my teeth. I would run my tongue over my teeth all day afterwards, now I usually leave in tears. Six months ago it was, "you need a root canal" today was, "you need a crown". Shit, once again I am leaving the dentist in tears. I miss those days when mom would take me to the dentist and then we would go somewhere for a malt. Those times spent with my mom without my brothers was very special to me.

As I was leaving the dentist office I passed a women and vaguely thought she looked familiar, I didn't think much of it because I do that all the time. Just as I was opening the door to leave I heard someone call her name, "Greta, the dentist is ready for you." I stopped dead in my tracks, THAT'S GRETA, a friend of my moms! As I turned around we looked at each other and I said Greta just as she was saying Ricky. That was about it, I was leaving and she was going in for her time with the dentist.

As I left I couldn't get Greta off my mind. I had many memories of her and her family. Up until the time my mom got sick she would give me daily, if not weekly, updates about her friends and their families.  These were people we had gone to church with when I was young and my mom had stayed in touch with them until the end. I remember thinking, mom hasn't told me anything about Greta lately.

It hit me hard, mom was dead.

She had died 8 months ago and I still forget. I don't know how many times I've gone to pick up the phone to tell her hi or how many times I've thought to myself, mom will know, i'll ask her later. I didn't know how Greta's kids were, where are they, what they were doing now. Do they have kids, grand-kids, mom would have known all of that. I would have called my mom as soon as I got in the car and said,"you won't believe who i saw at the dentist today" and our conversation could have easily lasted an hour.

So today, I was reminded once again that my mom is dead and my heart breaks all over again.

I feel a bit better now after writing, but I know that the next time I remember that my mom is dead, my heart will break all over again.


~dedicated to my mom with love, I miss you so much.



Friday, June 24, 2016

Orlando 2016

Never, never did I imagine that a gay club in the United States would be targeted for a mass shooting. Not just a mass shooting but the largest mass shooting in history, 49 people dead and more than 50 wounded. We will never be the same LGBT community that we were before this mass murder. WE WILL OVERCOME AND WE WILL BE BETTER AND THE U.S.A. WILL BE BETTER.

I no longer go to gay clubs on a regular basis. I am married, 53 years old and my life is much different than it was in my 20's & 30's when I would go to the club every weekend (if not more) and party till the wee hours of the morning. My husband and I now frequent places like restaurants and theaters and a party to us is popcorn and a good movie at home!

I was also around when the AIDS epidemic appeared. I have been living with HIV for some 27 years and I have seen the struggle of my people and I have seen what good my people have done in this world because of AIDS. This world is better because of the AIDS crisis. Yes, I had many friends die but on the other hand, AIDS is no longer a terminal disease. My people and I have learned how to live, how to love and how to survive. I saw a comment the other day on Facebook saying something to the effect, "If you want to get something done go to the LGBT community, those queens get shit done!" and we do.

You've killed some of us and you have pissed off the wrong group. You better take your guns and hide because now that we have been attacked and killed we will longer sit around and whine about horrible gun legislation, we will get shit done! Guaranteed!!!