My parents are both in their seventies and over the past year or so, both Tod’s parents and my parents have lost friends from high school and from their professional/work life. A recent phone call from my folks had my Dad lamenting that his friends are “dropping like flies” as he has lost several high school friends and his long time business partner within the past six months. Recently my Mom lost her best friend from church in a sudden (but not unexpected) death. While I am not denying the fact that this is a hard thing, it is, as my Mom’s friend was a great friend of our family and a big supporter of MY family.
But what makes me sad is the fact that many of my friends from high school and my early college years never made it to the nineties. That big disease with a little name took out my rather large part of my graduating class’ sizeable Lesbian and Gay population. When Tod and I went to see the NAMES Project AIDS Quilt in DC a while ago, I was stopped dead in my tracks when I looked down on a block of panels from the Toledo area. I recognized 6 out of the 8 names stitched together and fell to my knees in grief.
I wish my friends from high school would have lived to see their seventies. My friend Christopher, a lovely and tortured soul, was the first of my friends to die of AIDS. My fellow trumpeter (from my early high school marching band years) Ed was the first person I ever went to see in the hospital. The regular hospitals in Toledo didn’t know what to do with him, so they sent him to the Medical College of Ohio. I had to visit him in a quarantined room, it was horrifying. But there were others. Others who in the drug and alcohol fueled frenzy of club life in the mid 80s and early 90s never made it to see the turn of the century. While we may have shaken our asses to Prince’s “1999” on the dance floor, a lot of them didn’t live long enough to write that year on a check.
I must confess that I miss my buddy Steve the most. He was my big Bubba BFF from Texas. I loved Steve and his genteel southern drawl and when he got sick; my family helped me through it. He was one of the first people that my parents knew who passed from this horrible disease. He worked for a tour company and he worked with my Mom to arrange a trip to Nashville for her and her Nursing School buddies. A copy of his quilt square hangs in our attic family room, a silent witness to all the craziness our family exhibits each week. I have to wonder if he is somehow watching all this and shaking his head. I get a card every year from his Mom, I treasure it.
I miss Tam and his partner Tom, forever stitched together on the quilt. I remember gasping for air when they showed up to work on my parent’s lawn (they owned a B and B in town and a landscape service) one summer (Shirtless, natch) and as I busily checked my hair and made iced tea for these two hot (umm, literally and physically) guys. I knew we would be friends, and after I brought out my cool offerings, our friendship began.
And then there are those who just disappeared, for whatever reason. We didn’t have a high school that connected us, and many of the bars that we hung out together in are history. Yes, Facebook has provided me with some great reunions, including my very first boyfriend, but searches for many of my friends have turned up nothing. It’s saddens me that they are just gone. I have some pics, but for the most part, they are just hazy memories floating around in my head.
So yes, I mourn with my folks and their losses, but I hold a candle that has been burning for almost 30 years in my heart, a candle that burns for the lives that ended much too soon.
I offer this post in loving memory of: Christopher, Ed, Tam, Tom, Reed, John, Ed, Terry, Todd, Steve, and so many others. I miss you all.