I was just a country girl. Born and raised in Northwest Ohio. I spent many summers on the farms of my aunts and uncles. I never went to college. My Dad didn't approve of the girls going to college. So I got married ten days after my 18th birthday. We had two daughters.
I was married and not enjoying it anymore when in 1974, I left the corn and beans and went to Cincinnati. It was the hippie days. Those times when sex, drugs and rock and roll were a part of my generation.
I got a job making theater drops and drapes then went on to take the civil service test which I passed with flying colors. I became a civil servant. I married again in 1975 to a man who had two children of which he had custody. It was grand living in a Princess Anne house with pocket doors and the sense of yesterday all around.
Ten years after we married, he decided he'd 'help' this girl ten years his junior who was a coke head. I cautioned him that she would pull him down into the gutter with her. He left one night while I slept. My world became a nightmare.
My mother in law owned a bar in Covington Kentucky. There was this handsome man there that was much younger than I who had wanted us to date. I told him I was married. Then when he found out the ol' man had left, he told me to give up that Daddy probably wasn't coming home. His name was Billy. Ten years younger than I and full of life. I finally gave in on my 39th birthday. We became an item. Shortly thereafter he moved into my childhood dream of a house.
We married in 1988. Ten months later Billy became very sick. He was diagnosed with pneumonia. The doctor was giving me all these statistics and reasons why he thought he had HIV. Statistics that are quite familiar to me now. I was devastated. Billy was angry. He knew he was dying. He knew his secret was out. The last day he could speak he told me "when I'm gone, no other man will ever want to touch you." Shortly after he died, I was informed that Billy knew he was infected when he first met me. His Mother knew also. I'll never understand why they kept this a secret.
On Sept. 17, 1989, I got the news that I knew in my heart of hearts was true. I was HIV+. Billy had been dead and buried about 8 days when this revelation became my new life. I couldn't even cry.
I ask for medical service, information and support groups. I went home to tell my youngest daughter and plan my defeat of this disease. Six weeks later I was doing my first panel at Dennison University outside of Columbus Ohio. I continued to work. I wouldn't give up. I couldn't relate this information to my family for over 3 years. But when I did, they have been a huge support.
I cried three years later when they told me I had to start medication. I felt so defeated. Skeeter never lost. She would claw and climb until she got to the top of the mountain. I felt like I got half way up and pushed back down. I was getting really tired, weak and wondering how long I would make it. Would I see grandchildren? Would my parents have to bury me?
In 1995 I got PCP. My doctor and I had a pact that there would be no lies, no softening of the truth. He came to my room to tell me I had a 50/50 chance of living even if the drugs kicked in. Death. Grim reaper, here? In my presence? My response to him was "You mean those John Prine tickets I have just went to hell?" He smiled and said that with that spunk I'd probably live, but no crowds.
Survive I did. I became a writer, instructor and manager at the civil service job. I thrived. I was so lonely however. I continued with my activism, my AIDS education and wondered if I'd ever be part of a pair again.You know, that special wink from across a room? Would that be ever be mine?
Living in the city of Cincinnati, I never met a straight HIV+ man. The ASO didn't believe in straights having a co-ed support group. Heaven forbid. We might hook up. Can't have that. I couldn't believe we weren't allowed to share our issues. Straight men are seen as closet gays. This is a travesty. It is so wrong on so many levels. So, the straight men stay in a closet of their own.
I've since had one long term relationship. I bought a farm after my parents passed away. Iretired 24 years after having PCP (38 years on the job) Isaw grandchildren and great grandchildren arrive. I have one grandson in the Army. I have a very supportive family and many supportive friends. And, I finally feel somewhat whole. I am alone, but when the right one comes along, I'll know.
Life is what you make it. There's only one to a box. No one else is going to comb your hair, brush your teeth, dress you or make you happy. No one else is going to help you to cope with the 'gooch' (as I call it) except you. We can collectively support one another, but the real acceptance comes with the individual.