Saturday, December 2, 2023

First Flurries, and Becky

It felt so good to sleep in this morning. I was tired because of my sleeplessness the night before. Maybe because it's the weekend (THANK GOD) I slept pretty soundly last night.

Yesterday, for World AIDS Day, I broke out my red ribbon once again and wore it, as did several co-workers. Many of the kids had no idea what it meant. "What's that ribbon for?" was a question I heard multiple times.

Considering that the red AIDS ribbon was once one of the most famous symbols in the world, this blows my mind. But it just shows how AIDS has diminished as a medical crisis and political cause, at least in countries where people can afford the medicines to keep it at bay. I have friends who have remained perfectly healthy even after decades with HIV. Thank goodness the bad old days are over, but they're not over everywhere, which I always try to remember.

Around noon, a teacher was speaking to her class in the middle of a lesson in the library when she suddenly said, "It's snowing!" We all looked out the big windows and sure enough, flurries were coming down. It didn't last long and nothing stuck, but still -- our first snow of the season.

Which was appropriate, because yesterday was also our faculty/staff holiday party. The library closed a bit early, all the teachers gathered and we broke out the wine and prosecco, and the parents provided trays of cheese and nuts and other food. (A ridiculous quantity of food, to be honest. I feel a little guilty about it because I'm sure a lot of it didn't get eaten.) I even convinced Dave to go, which was a monumental undertaking, but I think it's important that we at least show our faces at such events.

Here's a bit of surprising news I learned. To lay some groundwork: That photo above shows me in the '70s with my friends Theresa (left) and Becky, who lived in my neighborhood. (And three traumatized kittens.) I'm guessing I was in fourth or fifth grade.

Yesterday I was reading Ms. Moon's blog when she mentioned a friend who was taking a Master Gardening class, and that made me think of Becky's father, who lived across the street from us and who also became a Master Gardener (which is some sort of official certification but don't ask me what it involves). He used to write a newspaper gardening column, in fact.

I wondered if he was still alive, and searched for his obituary, and he's not. Which isn't surprising. He was older than my parents, who are both gone. But what did surprise me is that the obituary noted that he had been predeceased by daughter Becky. So I found her obituary too -- she died on New Year's Day in 2016 at the age of 51. Although we played together as kids we weren't close friends, and in fact she went to a different school than I did -- a private school in Tampa. I can't even remember the last time I saw her. Maybe high school, or even middle school. So this news is not a personal loss on any deep level but still a surprise, in the way that a death of one's peer is always a shock.

As my brother said when I told him the news, "Wow. 51. Don’t f*ck around with time. Do what you want while you can!"


Debby said...

Your brother is right.

Moving with Mitchell said...

For a variety of reasons, my best high school friend and I parted ways after high school. When Facebook came around, I was excited to reconnect. I joined my high school group and discovered he had died at the age of 46. Your brother is right.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Fifty one years - that's not so long. Poor Becky - whatever it was.

You are right to remind us that AIDS has not gone away. Worldwide, 630,000 people died from AIDS-related conditions last year.

Ed said...

We are about the same age and I remember the AIDS epidemic well, but not the red ribbon wearing. I'm guessing that is because I grew up in a rural, and very conservative, part of the country.

At least in Iowa, to be given the title of Master Gardener, you had to take a class (or several) through the local ASCS office branch. Perhaps because we were regularly in there for farming requirement, I only knew it by the acronym and only through google this morning figured out that it stood for Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service. These days, it is part of the FSA or Farm Services Agency.

These days when I do a search for a former acquaintance, I prepare myself that they might not be alive.

Rachel Phillips said...

At the time of the emergence of Aids in the early 1980s I was working as a management trainee in the NHS. I brought the subject up over lunch one day with the hospital manager, the most senior person in management at the hospital I was placed at, along with two of his deputies. None of them had heard of Aids and literally laughed at me and said I was over exaggerating and basically talking rubbish. I often wondered later if they ever remembered that conversation.

Bob said...

We attended a World AIDS Day event in Columbia where Carlos played his trumpet and also spoke about the epidemic and the Hispanic community. I was shocked to learn that the biggest group showing a rise in infections is white men and women aged 20 to 29. Education is so important, so good on you for wearing the ribbon and telling the students what it means!

As for your second post, I remember about twenty years back flipping through my local Sacramentos paper and passing the obituaries and seeing the name of my very best childhood friend. Shocking to see the name of someone your age in an obituary.

Boud said...

I vividly remember the AIDS crisis, the fear before the facts were out, and the deaths before current medication was discovered. Now, if you're in a country where you can access the medication, it's a management issue more than the terminal diagnosis it was then. I think covid has driven it out of the headlines in recent years.

At my age it's become sadly normal to see the obituaries of friends, sometimes upsettingly, when I'm trying to contact them and find their obit.

Seize the day!

Ms. Moon said...

Here's a funny thing- when I wrote that post, I thought- why in the world am I mentioning that this woman that even I haven't seen in twenty years is taking a Master Gardener class? Who will care?
And then...that triggered you to remember Becky.
One never knows.
Glad you got Dave to go to the holiday party. It is probably very important for your faces to be seen. Part of the team, etc. Rah-rah!

Tasker Dunham said...

When I look at obituaries or online sources and see what became of all the people I was at school with, and there were hundreds, some I knew well, some not so well, I start to wonder about all the permutations of what might have been. Just one little change somewhere, one small word or action, and so much might have been different.

Red said...

Being out in the boonies, I have never heard of the red ribbon. That's a new one for me.

Michael said...

Your brother is so right. One of my friends from high school died of AIDS back in the early 90s. When we were growing up, I had no idea that he was gay..(I had no idea I was either for that matter). before he died I saw him and he told me that he thought he had picked it up in Germany when he was in the army.

Sharon said...

Your story about Becky made me think of a photo I took while I was in London. I was looking at all my London photos yesterday and I came across one I took while I was taking a rest on a bench in Elm Court, Middle Temple. There was another bench inscribed with "In Memory of Tahera Ladak. She was a brave advocate for families facing injustice". That was followed by the dates, 1962-2014. It struck me that she was so young, just 52. It made me try to find out what happened but no luck. However, I did see many tributes to her.
So, all of that just to day, your brother is right!

ellen abbott said...

your brother has it right. my sister dead and 76, our father dead at 75. I'm 73 and it's freaking me out a little.

my light pink plumerias that bloom so profusely originated with a guy we knew who died of aids back when it was so devastating. he was good friends with a friend of ours and our friend gave us one of H's many plumerias.

Karen said...

I am your age for context. In 1987 I moved from Winnipeg to Vancouver and worked in a bank I'm a low level position (wish I had stayed as I would be retired by now). Anyway, I worked with a young gay man named Steve and we became friends but because I was young and emotionally immature we stopped being friends after I quit. I tried to find him years later through Facebook but he was nowhere online. One day I was walking past an AIDS memorial wall at one of Vancouver"s beaches and I found his name. I also remember another co worker named Vince who was a bit older and had left his wife when he came out. One day he came into the staffroom sobbing saying he had lost another friend to AIDS.

Allison said...

AIDS was so devastating, more so because the Reagans would not acknowledge its existence. Dr. Fauci was instrumental in pioneering the "right to try' with new drugs. The leader of ACTUP convinced him to do it, they were going to die, why not trial the drugs on actual people. It was a terrible time.

The Bug said...

I have a former colleague from Ohio who has been living with HIV for many years. His health has NOT been good, but he persists. He and his husband are hilarious - I'm really glad they're still alive!

My cousin & I were walking in the mall when her mother called to say that another cousin had suddenly passed away. She was pretty much our age. Shocking - and definitely makes you want to embrace your brother's philosophy!

gz said...

Your brother is right...however old you are, seize the day!

We had our first proper snow here last night, which has been melting in the sun...although it hasn't felt warm.

Knowledge of AIDS, the same as knowledge of COVID (already) has been forgotten so quickly

Jim Davis said...

I realize that this marks me as someone who has been on this planet for quite a long time, but I'm rolling up on my 60th high school reunion and there are many many of my classmates that will not make it. In fact there are many that didn't make the 40th or 50th. Getting old isn't fun, but it sure beats the alternative.
Regarding HIV, there are generations of people who have likely never heard of the epidemic or if they have, think it was not true or a conspiracy theory...hard to believe....

37paddington said...

Your brother is right. The older I get the more I understand this.

Margaret said...

I'm flabbergasted about the wine at school; our Puritanical regulations would never permit that. AIDS is still rampant in Africa as far as I know; they don't have access to most of the drugs that we take for granted here. 51, so young. :(

Susan said...

Living our lives to the fullest is important as nobody knows what tomorrow will bring. I also remember the AIDS epidemic. Medical science has conquered this horrific disease. I, also, look for people in my past and have found obits. I am always surprised and a little saddened.

jenny_o said...

The truth of your brother's statement is something I have carried with me (maybe too closely) since my father's paralyzing stroke when I was 50. In the hospital and nursing home I had lots of opportunity to see peoples' lives changed or ended painfully quickly. My husband's death at 66 years old intensified that awareness. It's one reason the time and energy involved in my mother's care stresses me out so much. I see the time I have remaining to me being swallowed up by her choices. I have such a sense of urgency about whatever life I have left. Tomorrow is guaranteed to no one.

Kelly said...

I have a number of friends who are Master Gardeners, but it requires way too much class time AND volunteer hours for me to want to do it. I'd love to have the knowledge, though.
I love how they both put their kittens on you.

Catalyst said...

Your brother is right. Live each day as if it's your last.

River said...

I'd forgotten about the red ribbons, it seems so long ago now. Yet people still die from it. It's just all been taken over by newer news stories, like the Ukrainian/Russian war is now taken over by the Israeli/Palestinian war and we don't hear about U/R much anymore.

Jeanie said...

It's both wonderful and sad that the kids don't understand the tragedy of the AIDS period, before the drugs evolved into something that would be effective in prolonging life with quality, I lost a dear friend to AIDS many years ago and we still mourn his loss, both personally and to our community. So much of what passed historically in every area -- world history, social history -- seems to be lost to a new generation. We're certainly seeing that politically.

But I digress. The party sounds like fun and I'm glad Dave came. I may have missed this but do you teach at the same school? And snow!

Yes -- I'm seeing more and more of peer age and younger in the obits. Living each day becomes more and more important.

Steve Reed said...

Debby: He is.

Mitchell: It's scary how much can happen out there that we don't even know about.

YP: Yes, it's still a huge problem, and new infections are happening all the time.

Ed: Interesting that you don't remember the ribbon. I think the red AIDS ribbon actually started the whole ribbon-wearing phenomenon (that now continues with pink ribbons for breast cancer, for example).

Rachel: They probably blocked it out. People never want to remember their failings.

Bob: I think a lot of younger people don't know to fear it. To them it's just another treatable STD.

Boud: Yes, I'm sure there's an inevitability to seeing obituaries of people we know. It's unsettling!

Ms Moon: It IS funny how small and seemingly insignificant details can prompt someone else's memory.

Tasker: "Two roads diverged in a wood..."

Red: Interesting! Ed hadn't heard of it either. Maybe it wasn't a thing on the midwestern plains.

Michael: That's so sad! I am lucky, given my generation, that I had no one close to me who died of AIDS.

Sharon: Interesting. And nothing turns up on Google? Given that you were in the temple, I wonder if she was a lawyer or family court advocate of some kind.

Ellen: How great that you have the plumeria to help remember him. I love that about plants -- that they can link us to people and places in our past.

Karen: It was a terrible time. It boggles my mind to think about how that specter of AIDS haunted us all in the gay community.

Allison: Yeah, Fauci wasn't on board with that in the beginning, and he was roundly criticized until he changed his mind. ACT UP really transformed the thinking about access to drugs.

Bug: Well, that's the thing -- even if people survive AIDS now (and they do), they often have significant health impacts. Not to mention punishing drug regimens, though they're much better than they used to be.

GZ: Yes, we should ALL be seizing the day!

Jim: I bet! My 40th is next year. I'm not sure I'm going to go.

37P: It's true!

Margaret: We would never drink with students around. Alcohol is rarely permitted at school functions if they're adults-only.

Susan: Well, I wouldn't say it's conquered. There's still no cure. But yes, it is treatable, at least.

Jenny-I: I'm sure that resonates with you given your relatively recent experiences. :(

Kelly: Yeah, and what's the point, honestly? Unless you want to teach (or write a gardening column).

Catalyst: Wise words at any age!

River: That's the nature of news. We forget about long-running conflicts and struggles that are continuing all around the world.

Jeanie: Yes, it's both good and bad that kids don't know AIDS the way we did. They don't have the trauma, but they also don't understand the dangers, I think. They just figure they'll pop some pills and be fine.

Andrew said...

It would be so good if PREP and the 'day after' medication was available to everyone. AIDS really does feel like history now.

So I am not the only one who looks up death notices in public media of people I have known.