Jack, age 60 / Maryland, USA

GOAP_Jack

I learned how to ride a motorcycle, and to get my motorcycle license I had to bring my motorcycle back into New York, ‘cause the test was easier in New York than it was in Connecticut where I was living. So I needed to tell my mother that I was coming home with a motorcycle. I came home and I told my mother, “Mom, I have to tell you something.” And the first words out of her mouth was, “You have AIDS.” And I said, “No, I have a motorcycle.” And at the time, that was worse.

The joke of the matter was, a year before I knew that I had AIDS I had joined the gym, because I was starting to get rather large. A family trait in my family is for a shelf in the rear, and I was starting to develop it, and in the course of that first year, I dropped 70 lbs. And, fat Jewish kid all of a sudden starts to realize that he’s getting skinny, and he’s ecstatic. Especially gay male, finally starting to lose weight.

At the end of about that year is when I started to suffer a loss of energy, I couldn’t get through my work during the day at where I worked, I was bringing it home, it ended up piling up on the dining room table, and then I got what was initially diagnosed as bronchitis. I was shivering so that I was shaking the bed. My lover at the time took me to the emergency room, and they came out to him about an hour later and said you can go home, he’s not coming home tonight.

When I was in the hospital, and Mom knew that I had been tested for AIDS: “Did you have your results yet?” “No.” “Do you have your resul-” Every day, the same question when she came. A tech told me my results when he wasn’t supposed to. So I knew, that morning, that my mother was coming in the afternoon. I called a cousin whose husband is a rabbi, and I said, “You need to have David here when I tell my mother, so that she has someone to lean on.” It was not easy for her, it was easier for me to get it out. I more or less had done my processing all day, and what is, is.

It took my getting sick with AIDS for her to truly accept the fact that I was gay and in a committed relationship. It became harder when I would go home for the Jewish High Holidays, that the tears would start. And Mom would go, “I never thought that I would lose my son before I die.” And finally I had enough. “If you want me to come for the holidays, the tears have to stop. ‘Cause I won’t do that to myself.”

I’m not going to discount the fact that my mother’s rabbi was saying a prayer for me every week. I’m not going to discount the fact that I’m a stubborn S.O.B. I have longevity in my family: my mother is 94. She’s a refugee from Germany, she did forced labor… I mean, there’s good peasant stock in my blood.

Reaching 50 was an amazing milestone. Reaching 60, now, was an, “Oh my God!” I never expected to be here. I mean, to some degree the fact that I don’t have money saved for my retirement is a concern; I am looking to re-enter the job force, because I need money. But still, bottom line, I have my life. I go to bed at night, I wake up in the morning,  and it – you don’t necessarily thank God every day, but every now and then it’s sorta like, “Oh wow! I’m still here.” And now, of course, I have a husband, and I want to be there for him as he’s there for me. And as much as I may chafe under it, and the demands of having a 94-year-old mother, right now part of that is that I want to be there to make things easier for her. So there are things to pull me out, and give me a reason to go on. And when those things are accomplished, there’s always something else.