Today is World AIDS Day. Every December 1 since 1988 has been designated as such to mourn those lost to the disease and to raise awareness. To date, more than 30 million have died as a result of AIDS.
Some of those who died in the early years of the epidemic left behind children who are today friends of mine. I hesitate every year to even declare that I’m one of the fortunate children. But out of gratitude for the extra decades I had with my father, I do.
My father’s health always seemed to hang in the balance. He was sexually active in San Francisco, ground zero of the disease before it even had a name. He witnessed friends succumbing to it. And he himself had a number of symptoms associated with AIDS.
In 1990, a decade into the epidemic, he was hospitalized. My mother called and warned us to “come down quickly,” saying he wouldn’t last long. I rushed down from Sonoma County to Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City, but for some unexplained reason wasn’t allowed to see him. My mother avoided my questions.
Though I didn’t know it until years later, he’d been quarantined in the hospital’s AIDS ward. He’d been diagnosed with Hepatitis B, which pointed to him being gay and possibly AIDS-positive. But he survived.
I don’t know if my father was AIDS-positive or not. No one ever spoke to me about it. I was 38 when he was hospitalized and, miraculously, it seems, would have another 28 years with him.
Here he is, thin and pensive-looking, six months after leaving the AIDS ward. He’s 72 and would live to be 90.
Though I’m a fortunate child of a sexually-active gay father at that time, today all I can think about are my friends who were much younger than I was when AIDS claimed their beloved fathers. You know who you are and you know that I am ever your loving sister in this lifetime.
My Dad’s Closet: A daughter’s memoir is scheduled to be released in Summer, 2021.