So… it’s been one of those times when I have to sit down and reflect a bit. We all have to do that at times, and I’m no different.
I admit, last week was tough because I got word that my friend, Tim Marsh, more than likely wasn’t going to recover. Matt, his husband, told me that they were going to remove the ventilator so if I wanted to see Tim, I needed to come.
Tim, buddy, your timing couldn’t have been worse. I’m just tellin’ you.
With several deliveries already scheduled for that day, a house full of people expected, I couldn’t make it down there. It had been my plan to get up early, even for me, and go down and say my goodbyes. Sadly, I didn’t make it. He was gone before I even woke up.
Yeah, I felt guilty as hell for not having gone the day before, but in all honestly; I’d already said my goodbyes. But it wasn’t supporting Matt that made me feel the guiltiest. That really sucks, because I do love him and wanted him to know that by my being there.
Now then, that’s not what really sent me off in a tailspin…
The mind is a great and wonderful thing, until it slaps you in the face and calls you ugly names. That’s what happened to me this week. Memories suddenly flashed back, playing in my head like a badly filmed B rated movie. There is a lot of regret there and a lot of sadness. Those things that I tend to keep in small boxes up on the filing shelf of my trivia cluttered mind.
Things I don’t talk about… His name was Jim and he was the great love of my life. He worked for Bell South, when there was such a thing. I seduced him off a telephone pole when I was… well very young. Our relationship was on and off, mostly on, for over seventeen years. He was older, had more experience than I did, but we fit together. He was so not my type, which was the oddest part, at least it was to me. But Jim had that spark of life that never seemed to go out.
He was the biggest kid I’ve ever known. Poor man couldn’t carry a tune even with the help of a courtesy clerk from the grocery store. That didn’t stop him… sadly. “The Good Book says to make a joyful noise, so I am!” Yeah, it also caused the all the dogs to howl within a mile radius. But that was Jim. My Jim.
I had to make the decision to have the ventilator removed. He was never coming home...
That was the flashback I had. That rattled my cage hard this week. I got to watch the vibrant man I knew, the one who loved life, wither and die before my eyes. It took over a year for AIDS to finally take him. He fought the good fight. He kept his head up. Even when he was no longer able to work, he volunteered for organizations, did his thing and kept on going, until he couldn’t. Unfortunately, he was always singing.
For those caregivers out there: I know from firsthand experience that it the hardest job ever. To take care of the one you love most in this world, to be there twenty-four hours a day, making sure they have everything they need. Keeping them as comfortable as possible isn’t always easy. Actually, it’s damn hard.
Now, I’ve had other friends, we had other friends, who’d lost the same battle as My Jim. I was no stranger to the “AIDS Ward” at the hospital. At one point, I was going to a funeral a week. It was never easy. To know that these men were cut down in the prime of their lives, men who had careers, family, lovers and friends who loved and cared for them. And what of our government? Well they were just fags so they’re not great loss.
The ventilator came out. There was no hope of recovery...
Jim wasn’t conscious when the nurse and doctor took the ventilator out. I held his hand. I sat and watched. I don’t know what I expected but I sat there, holding his hand, stroking his arms with the other. I waited. He never woke up.
Friends came and went. Family came… and went. I sat there and held his hand. I sat there holding his hand for almost twelve hours waiting, watching and holding his cold pale hand. My Jim took a breath, exhaled and was gone and yet I still sat there, holding his hand. It was three-twelve a.m. when My Jim finally lost the fight and left me sitting there… alone.
One of the nurses came and got me, took me to some lounge and gave me the best cup of coffee I’d had in days. Her name was Charlotte and she was a wonderful nurse and woman. She didn’t try and talk. She just sat there with me as I drank that coffee and then got me another one.
Sometime later she took me back to My Jim, who was now lying there, clean, no tubes, no monitors, no incessant beeping noise. It was peaceful. I sat back down and took his hand once more.
Memories, like the corners of my mind…
That was twenty years ago now. It seems like a long time ago until something like this happens and then it all comes rushing back, my mind slapping me with the reality of that long day and night. What seemed to be so long ago, suddenly feels like it just happened.
I rarely talk about it. For me it is something very personal and private. It’s easy to say ‘Let it go’ but that never happens. Things like this stay with you. You learn to cope with it and move on. It’s like when you first put on a ring. It bugs you and then you begin to get used to it. Before long, you forget it’s there, until you touch it or like me, bang it into something. Then suddenly, you’re aware of it. It’s part of life. Part of your life, you’re history.
Tim’s passing was quick, or at least it seemed so to me. I kind of figured it was coming, but I still wasn’t prepared.
“… take him off the ventilator tomorrow.”
Yeah, those few words came crashing down on my head like a ton of brick. For those that I’ve been short with, snapped at or not been very nice to this week, I do apologize. And yes, I’ve probably not been the most pleasant person to be around, and for that I’m sorry. I find it difficult to have one foot in the past and one foot in the present. I’m really not that smart and it messes with my head. So again, I apologize for being such a bitch this week.
It’s time for me to say goodbye once again to My Jim. To let him go back into that little box on the shelf where sometimes I take it down to visit, on my own terms. To put the past in the history book and look forward and get things done.
Goodbye my friend, Tim. I’ll never forget you.
Goodbye My Jim. You know you’ll always be in my heart. I’m sure they’ve gagged your ass wherever you are. Damn, what a racket you make. I love you.