Sunday, May 10, 2009

Angels I Don't See PART XVIII

You can read Parts I-XVII by clicking here

"Oh, I see! You're now calling me after three years of not talking to me because you need help. You know, all my friends have told me to cut you off completely, to never talk to you again. They're probably right. Why should I listen to what you have to say after everything you have done?"

My Dad was right. A few months after my father and his partner loaned us money for a car so Ric could get to work in Bridgewater, New Jersey, I quit talking to him. I was ashamed that I could not pay Dad back like Ric and I agreed we would and decided that, rather than tell my father about our struggles, it would be far easier to cut off communication. Quite frankly, shutting people out of my life for no apparent reason was a pattern. And my Dad's reaction to hearing from me after a three year absence had a familiar ring to it.

Though Ric could not possibly understand what I was saying at the time, I had been telling him the exact thing my Dad told me. I explained to Ric how most of my friends were encouraging me to leave him, to never talk to him again, to let his blood relatives and the state sort out the mess he had made of his life. I made clear that his actions were cruel and to some degree evil and that the idea of walking away and never looking back had crossed my mind more than once. I knew that Ric was unable to process what I was telling him but I needed to say it. I needed him to hear it even if he could not comprehend what it was he was hearing.

"Dad, I am really sorry. The situation is so desperate and so bad right now and I am turning to every possible resource I can. I know how it looks calling you after so many years. And you are probably right. I am watching the love of my life waste away from the plague in the supposed non-plague years. I probably would not have attempted to get in touch if the situation was not so dire. I just need some help". As I was talking to my Dad I was looking out the window of Ric's hospital room at the view of the Empire State Building, an ironic view, to be sure, since the last time Ric was in the hospital he had a view off the Statue of Liberty. Once again, the iconic view did not provide the inspiration it once had.

"What about his sister? Have you called her? Is she helping any? I can tell you right now that Jack (my Dad's partner, not his real name) will not be willing to send any money. He is livid at you about the car" my father replied angrily.

"Don't get me started on her. His sister Eunice (not her real name) has been no help whatsoever. Before we knew what was wrong with Ric I was on the phone with her all the time, trying to see if she could convince him to go to the hospital. Her solution was to get one of my friends to come over and forcefully carry him to the car and forcefully force him to the hospital! As if my friends and I could essentially carry a 51 year old man kicking and screaming to the car and then subdue him until we got to the hospital! But that was her solution! And when I did get him to agree to go to the hospital, he jumped out of the car while it was moving as we were heading there." My Dad hit on an exposed nerve when he brought up Ric's sister. Little did I know that in the coming months, Eunice's kidnapping suggestion would be the extent of all the help she would offer.

"What does she have to say now? Does she know he has HIV? When is she going to be up there to see him and help with him?" This was classic Dad. When there was a problem, he wanted to know who was going to step up to the plate and help and who was going to pass the problem off to other people.

"I don't think she is coming up to help. She had knee surgery a few months ago and…actually, can we quit talking about her? She is going to be of no help so I really want to be solution focused. She is not part of that solution. In fact, in many ways she is part of the problem. I don't want to get into it now"

"Knee surgery? Knee surgery a few months ago is preventing her from getting there to visit her only brother who is dying? Give me a break!" my father said as his anger shifted from me to her.

"Yeah, but anyway, our insurance runs out on Sunday and I know they are going to release him before it runs out. I met with a guy who is now Ric's case manager and he made an appointment for Ric to see the doctor at the Health Clinic on the 28th. His case manager is also helping me apply for all the assistance we can get. I also met with the guy that is the head of one of the HIV resource centers here last week with Ric before he went to the hospital. He was so comforting and encouraging. He told us not to despair, that there is a lot of help out there and it's just a matter of finding it. The one thing he did say, though, was that due to the increased survival rate…no, sorry…the longer people are living with HIV has caused the funding for programs such as his to be slashed. But still, he was very helpful" In the short time since I found out Ric's status I was on the phone nonstop with charities and HIV organizations, scheduling meetings and trying to navigate the elaborate labyrinth of securing assistance.

"Ok, the 28th. I will drive up on the 27th and help you take him to the doctor. I will also bring things that you two need, like food, Depends, cleaning supplies, and whatever else you can think of. What else is happening? Is there anything else that we need to address quickly?"

"Well, yeah there is. Ric drove the car a few weeks ago without my knowledge. He does not have a license and apparently he hit a car and left the scene. Anyway, I got a court summons and now I am the one, since the car is in my name, that is going to face the charges" I said as I held my breath and waited for what I knew was not going to be a pleasant response.

"WHAT!?!?!?!" my father replied, his anger rising to white hot flame territory. "You mean to tell me that he drove the car we got him so he could get to work and he has never had a license?"

"No Dad, when we got the car he had a license. But since that time his license expired and since he no longer needed the car to get to work because his job was transferred back into New York, he did not get it renewed. I am the only one that has been driving the car…in theory"

"So he drove the car and now you are going to court? Good luck in jail!" My father has always had a flair for the dramatic, turning a bunny slope into Mount Kilimanjaro ready to erupt.

"Yes he drove the car and yes I am going to court. But I got the police report and there was no damage to the other car. I am not going to jail. I just have to go to court. Please don't make this bigger than it is. In fact, let's not make any of this bigger than it is" I said futilely trying to calm my father's rhetoric.

"Get your head out of the sand, Jon-Marc! I am not making this bigger than it is! Ric has HIV, possibly AIDS that he hid from you and everyone else for many months, possibly longer. He drives your car, gets in a wreck and, once again, does not tell you. Now you're going to court. You are carrying the weight of all his lies and cleaning up all his messes. Haven't you thought about leaving him? I don't need to make this bigger than it is. THIS IS FUCKING BIG!"

"First of all, it's AIDS. Secondly I can't leave him. I've made that decision. You might not agree with it and, to tell you the truth, most people in my life don't. But if I don't stay he's a dead man. And I couldn't live with myself if I left him to die. He does not have the mental capacity to take care of himself. I am really sick of people who essentially don't have a dog in this fight telling me what I need to do. His niece told me I needed to secure our belongings in the apartment because we were going to be evicted. Then she told me to find a job because if not, we were going to be homeless. When does she think I have any time to find a job and pack our stuff and take care of Ric all at the same time? Everyone has a fucking solution to this problem. And you know what? Every solution every person offers does not include that person!"

It took every ounce of humility I had left to call my father and ask for his help. Though I was clearly wrong for not paying back the money we owed him and his partner for the car, I still carried a huge resentment against my father – a resentment that, no matter how hard I tried, I could not shake. And the years that we did not talk only caused the resentment to metastasize and fester and, in many ways, become infected.

My father and his partner have been very generous to me through the years. But, despite that generosity, my father's generosity towards my younger brother has been unparalleled. He pays for most of his education at NYU, has taken him on lavish trips around the world, given my brother thousands of dollars in gifts, bought my brother a brand new car when he turned 16 (without condition that my brother pay him back) and, apparently, paints me in the worst possible light in discussions with brother. My father, of course, would justify all of this by saying that I continually screw up and he has given me plenty of chances.

The problem is that, while I worked from the time I was 14 and throughout college, my brother has never been required to work. And while my parents were separated and during their ugly divorce as they fought for custody rights and visitation rights concerning my brother, I was in college not knowing what the hell was going on, not knowing who was telling me the truth and also dealing with the painful, lonely, reality that I was gay. It was for these reasons and many more that made my groveling at my father's feet a bitter pill to swallow. I was a bitter man swallowing a bitter pill. However, having been broken to the point of complete defeat I was not in the position to decide which pills I was willing to swallow and which pills I would spit out. Every pill would be taken with a big glass of unsweetened iced-humility.

I had no other choice. My medicine chest was bare.

Part XIX here


alan said...

Words seem so empty right now...

You and your resolve are amazing!


::Sarah:: said...

Wow! I'm speechless. You were amazing by holding strong on your resolve.

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