He had a stroke. That’s what we had been told, a major stroke that would dramatically alter his life if he was lucky enough to come out of the coma that he was in as a result of his failing health.
The family quickly rushed to his side in his hospital room showing their usual support when a family member falls ill.
So when the phone rang and the person on the other end told my mom my cousin had indeed had a stroke, I just assumed she was re-stating old information, but she wasn’t done.
I heard my mom say, “he has AIDS”. Everything in the world came to a stand still and silence immediately came over everyone in the room. This was the first time that anyone in my immediate family had ever been known to have “it” as some family members refer to HIV/AIDS.
I knew I would have to spend the rest of the evening educating my family on the facts about “it”, the only problem was they refused to talk about it after the announcement was made, or at least not to their gay son. “It” became the topic of conversation for everyone my mother talked to on the phone. “I don’t know what kinda life he was leading”, I overheard her say.
My heart begins to race, my tongue is dry and my head starts to ache. I’m starting to have an anxiety attack. This rarely happens to me but I’ve experienced it before and it’s scary.
Did my mother think he deserved to have this disease? Even worse, did she think that she or anyone else was immune to contracting HIV?
Damn! Speak up Darian! Don’t allow her to continue walking around uninformed, but I can’t speak. My heart is now beating at an aggressive pace and I’m thinking about my cousin who I haven’t seen in years laying in a hospital bed with “it”.
No one is making any plans to drop everything and rush to his side now.
My God is this really happening? He’s our blood. Whatever happened to “a family that prays together stays together”? I guess that only looks good on the front of a family reunion T-shirt.
Don’t they know that could be anyone in our family lying up in that bed? AIDS looks like my grandmother, my uncle, my sister, and me.
I’m disappointed. Disappointed that a person dealing with any disease that doesn’t bare the title HIV/AIDS is deemed worthy of compassion and the person living with AIDS is better off being quarantined.
But more than anything I’m disappointed in myself. My cousin needed me to speak up for him and all I could do was worry about not making the moment any more uncomfortable for my mom.
I’ll be by his side in the morning.