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Tuesday, July 16, 2013


     I know it's been a while since my last post.  College life as a senior has taken up so much time, energy and effort that this blog has really suffered and for that I am deeply sorry.  It is after all my outlet to openly speak, and bring awareness to topics I think we should know about.

     I sit here today, realizing that somehow, someway I have been deeply blessed to say that as of today I have survived AIDS for 23 years.  Now, I know what you maybe thinking, especially those who were reading regularly, "Charlie you have only 22 years".  Well, I met a friend recently with photographs, that I also happen to have, and we got to digging about information for the Cleveland Gay Pride event, which is where the photographs were taken and its 23 years ago not 22.  It is those photographs in June that for me mark the year as it was in July I got my diagnosis.

     You can imagine my surprise that I had made that simple mistake.  Maybe some of you think "Well  it's only one year what's the big deal?"  The big deal is it finally sunk in that my being diagnosed with AIDS has been half my life and beginning next year it will be over half of my lifetime.

     I know, a miracle into itself that somehow, someway I was able to pull through the early days of the gay holocaust, when nothing but death was around us.  Somehow, I managed to survive through only having one medication that was available to treat us.  Somehow, I survived losing over 600 friends, acquaintances, fellow gay men who in many cases I saw die before my very eyes; while some of those deaths were filled with medical violence--side effects, over use of drug induced comfort and families who in some cases were down right horrible.

     That I was a witness to a "funeral" in front of the White House, with the deceased in a wooden coffin, with the lid off and the young man in that coffin that day was just a few years older than I was.

     Somehow, I have survived where everyone, at every moment was talking simply safe sex.   Now, we as gay men live in an environment were there is the discussion about "safe" barebacking.  We live in an environment now, thankfully where we are living longer, but for those of us who have lived as long or longer than I have how do create a full, enriching and satisfying life when we have literally seen the monstrous eyes of the plague itself?

     This is something I struggle with a fair amount of the time.  It is why I am in college in the first place.  To try to create a life off Medicaid, Medicare, and Food Stamps.  To finally have a career, a life where I can possibly own something, buy something without worrying about how am I going to buy food. To be a contributing member to society.  To be able to work to build an IRA and retirement.  To give voice to the stories I want to tell, to give focus to the research I want to do and finally and most importantly, in my opinion, give at least one voice to those of us who have survived the earliest years.

     My awareness to AIDS came as early as 1986, when I was a mere 19 year boy.  I lost a very good friend to what was then called GRID.   Actually to be honest with you he was a boyfriend.  As a 19 yer old boy, I loved him deeply and when he died I stumbled head first into a world of pills and booze.  Pills and booze, it was a battle for years with two trips into rehab.  But as in all cases time marches on and I fell in love again and by October 1988  I was burying a second lover to AIDS.

     That event lead to my first suicide attempt and my falling "off the wagon" and falling even further into the abyss by frequenting gay bath houses.  It is something I am not proud of, I rarely admit it, but I think for many gay men--- my self included-- it was a part of our lives and our darkest days.

     I was then in an 11 month relationship, that ended with my being thrown down an entire flight of stairs.  It had been violent all along and it took cement stairs to bring me to finally leaving that relationship.  Once again "off the wagon" and back to the baths.

     By 1992 I met an incredible man named Ron Rooy Sr.  who simply turned my world upside down.  I dried out completely.  I stop the cycle of the baths.  I was madly in love with a phenomenal man.  We were together four short months of 10 years when he died in our home in 2002.  I have loved him like no other.

     I think about him a lot these days.  Would he be proud of what I 'm trying to do today?   Would he approve of the man I have become?  What would he say about my Honors Thesis work, a Creative Nonfiction piece on gays in the Holocaust?  Would we really enjoy my trying to become a teacher and author?

     I know at my core, if given the chance I would still be with him. today  In many ways I still am.  He was able to finish my sentences, he knew me inside and out.  He was not only my lover, my husband---he was my best friend.  I lost so much when he died, and honestly at times I wonder if I have ever recovered.

   I sit here today knowing how blessed I have been.  Sometimes I wonder why.  Why me?  Why did I survive the horrors of the gay holocaust? Why am I now thinking about my "old age" when 23 years ago that wasn't even an option.  A career with Full Blown AIDS, 23 years ago was damn near impossible and now it is a reality.  So much has changed; and I wonder have I changed enough with the times?

     Am I still living in the past?  Has the past overshadowed everything else?  What will the next 25 years of living with AIDS be like?  By that time I will be 72 years old, and living with AIDS for 50 of them.  Is that even a possibility?  Will our pharmaceuticals make that a reality?  Will our society as a whole change even more dramatically in acceptance or will we still be bogged in ignorance and bigotry?

     For now I am thankful for what I do have.  I am, if I have to be honest, thankful for even the struggles because without them I wouldn't be the man I am today.  I met a Hindu swami recently and asked his advice for someone living this long with AIDS.  He first said in his country my story would more than likely never happen.  He felt I was looking at my diagnosis with AIDS all wrong.  Maybe G-d chose to come and manifest him/herself as AIDS so I could literally see the face of G-d.  That through this "disease" not only see G-d but feel his/her presence all around me; that I may have missed the appearance of G-d in my life because I chose to see it the way I did.

     I know he didn't mean it as G-d's curse on me, as Hindus do not believe that is even possible.  He saw G-d in the disease.  That G-d is in everything, everyone, and everywhere; we however simply have to see it.  That simple thought has changed my life.

     I want to leave you on that thought---can we see G-d in everything, everyone and everywhere or do we chose not see it that way?


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