The Pie Baker

Fresh from the Oven

Remember the Time…

It is World AIDS Day and I am proudly wearing a red ribbon to show my support for finding a cure for the disease and in honor of friends I lost to its ravaging effects. This is the story of two of my friends who valiantly fought against the enemy and are gone but never forgotten.

The very first gay man I ever met was a student at the local beauty college and regularly did my mother’s hair. She talked me into seeing him for a haircut, but what I left with was a beautiful and sensitive friend. It was 1984 and I was fascinated by Jon. He was funny, artistic, attractive and mysterious. He was a bit older than I, so I looked up to him for advice and counsel – and to buy me booze. He lived in a funky little apartment that was dominated by a baby grand piano and featured little else but metal drink tumblers and pieces of his extraordinary art. One life-changing night, he and I sat with two other friends and shared laughs, bared our souls, wrote poems and shed tears.

I did not know until later that he had been diagnosed the HIV virus a few days before. He was the only one to know that our night together would be our last. It was his going away party… he was moving back to the Pacific Northwest where he grew up to seek treatment and eventually leave this world. It was my only chance to say good-bye. We managed to keep in touch through mail and phone calls here and there, but as he weakened, our correspondence waned. One evening in April of 1986, his partner called. He said that Jon had passed away on March 2 and it taken him nearly a month to garner the courage to call with the news. What the media was calling “The Gay Cancer” had stolen from me one of the most amazingly talented, keenly intelligent and smartly witty people I had ever known. A couple of weeks later, I received an audio recording of a song Jon wrote especially for me and I grieved…and finally found closure.

The summer after Jon’s death, I met a breathtakingly beautiful young man named Rob. He shared an apartment with a friend of a friend, but didn’t seem to fit into that teeming puzzle of guyness that permeated the place. He was tall and tan, blond and built. I was mesmerized by his ice blue eyes and beaming smile. He was the first of a long line of gay men that I would find myself in love with…and that’s another story entirely! Rob and I quickly bonded and found ourselves sharing more and more time together. He eventually shared his sexuality with me and introduced me to the man in his life…which brought me even more good friends. Rob brought nothing but goodness to my life in everything he did. We understood each other like we shared a brain and I loved him deeply. In an effort to spare me worry and concern, he chose not to reveal his HIV diagnosis to me. Over time, he didn’t really need to…when we visited, I could see the cloudiness behind his eyes, his body was changing and he was rapidly losing his hair. He complained of stomach aches, but had no explanation for them. When my mother died, he was not able to attend her funeral because he was too ill. I admit, I held a grudge.

But when Eddie called from the hospital in July of 1995, I let it go. Rob was fading fast and I needed to see him. I drove two hours to find him emaciated and unconscious. One machine removed the fluid from his lungs while another pumped oxygen into them. I asked if I could spend a few moments alone with him and I held his hand and told him he was the best friend a girl could ever have and that Heaven was certainly going to be a much better looking place with him in it. As the end neared, we gathered around his bedside, each one of us touching him gently. We cried, but we let him know that it was alright to let go – to release the pain and anxiety that plagued him. I sobbed as I watched him take his last breath, his eyes opening slowly as a reflex. Oddly, I saw not cloudiness as before, but a clarity I had never witnessed. He was finally at peace.

Take a moment today to remember those who lived with AIDS and died with dignity.


December 1, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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