Here To Inspire

Op-ed: An Older Sister’s Reluctant Response to Her Newly HIV-Positive Brother

HIV is a family issue.

BY Amber Gracia

December 14 2012 5:37 AM ET

Time has a way of changing the way you see things. Life happens and all its bumps and bruises leave their mark on your insides. So, just as I no longer live in your world of Sunday brunches, you were much too young to see parts of mine. You wrote about the scary, outdated images that makeup the horror stories of older gay men. You state that these are images that the gay community is lucky to forget. Well, my dear brother, I’ve lived those images and I haven’t forgotten.

Tyler was the one we lost slowly. Wasting away over years, his youthful face was sunken for much of the time I knew him. I once held his frail body in my arms when the pain was too much and after he may have tried to take it away once and for all. That wasn’t his final day, but it came soon after. His family will always bear the scars of his pain and the irony that you share his same name does not go unnoticed.

John was the one we lost suddenly. As I laid there in labor with my first born, he laid hooked to life support at a nearby hospital. He went in for a mild cough and died of pneumonia only days later and within hours of the birth of my son. As I sat in a pew holding my newborn, I listened to the eulogies about a life taken too soon.

These are the memories that ran through my mind—memories almost a decade old. Hardly the scale that others have seen and lived, but I can only share what I know. Mimosas notwithstanding, these are the things I remember. These weren’t horror stories. These were real—real fucking hard.

I share these stories so that you may understand my own personal process of rediscovery. We will deal with what you have been dealt. Pick up and get ‘er done, cause that’s one thing we learned from this twang-y place we call home. But I admit, I must be taught what it all means now. I realize that the conversation has changed and the stories are different now, but don’t be angry because I fear. I simply need to put the past behind me and learn how this all plays out today. I promise to dig myself out of this well so that I might fight alongside you—bookend to bookend.

You have taken off the mask once again. This time in a public forum so that your pain might help others too afraid to speak for themselves. Others who need a voice like yours. To say I am proud of your courage would be a vast understatement. When I look back on those tragedies and comedies, they seem so insignificant now in the face of your “needle prick.” Those silent whispers are quickly becoming a faded memory as I watch you bring everything into razor-sharp focus and uncover your courage without limits. You are a bold example of someone who is learning to dance in the rain with a fresh wound and a trace of naiveté.

Things have changed. Things have evolved. We are evolving. Although my memories remain firmly intact, have faith that I will overcome this insufferable anger, crawl out of this dark place and dance alongside you in the pouring rain.

 

AMBER CURRY GRACIA is Principal of Dallas-based Cinco Strategy Group and can often be found writing herself awake at LifeOneSpoonfulAtATime.com. She thrives on relentless exploration and constant change and, despite her arguments to the contrary, may indeed be a malcontent. Twitter: @ambergracia; Facebook: Facebook.com/Amber.C.Gracia; E-Mail: [email protected]

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