World AIDS Day 2004
Today is World AIDS Day or maybe we should call it the day when the world stops for a moment to think about the plight of this terrible disease on our world. Every day is World AIDS Day and it will continue to be long after there is a cure. As I write, I can hear the hook of the classic house tune “It’s Not Over” by First Choice playing in my head.
I was recently home for Thanksgiving in Chicago. I spent time driving around the city and looking at the changes in the communities. There are so many new buildings every time I come home. I walked around downtown and saw the beautiful Christmas trees and store decorations. I was heading back to the car when I passed the building where my best friend Michael worked and I paused for a moment. The building is being renovated but some of the marble from the old structure was saved. I almost cried when I thought about my old friend. It has been almost nine years since Michael left us but not a day goes by that I do not think about him.
Michael stood about 5’4″ and probably weighed no more than 125 pounds. He would always joked about he looked like a shorter version of Ray Parker, Jr., complete with the shag haircut. Although he may have been short in stature, Michael was a mighty giant in my mind. He possessed the courage to take on any challenge including bungee jumping and his love of roller coasters. He was an avid bowler with a hook that was amazing. He took me to my first bowling tournament. We went to music concerts together and he could not have just any ole seats. He would either be the first in line when the tickets went on sale or he would go to the ticket broker to make sure we had the best seats possible. One of our many cherished memories was when Michael bought his first car. It was Renault Fuego with a manual transmission. I remember meeting him at his parent’s house and we went for a ride in his car. He was just learning how to drive a stick so believe me, we had some great laughs stopping and starting around the city. A few months later, this experience influenced me to buy a car with a manual transmission as well. He even managed to get me to ride a few roller coasters which was no small feat for me.
He was 32 years old when he died. Our last time together was about a month before his death. I went to his favorite restaurant to pick a hot beef sandwich piled with grilled onions and peppers and dipped in gravy. We talked, laughed, and played Scrabble. There were so many adventures left unfinished and so many dreams unfulfilled yet he did so much in such a short span of time. He lived and loved life to the fullest and touched so many lives in more ways than he could ever imagine. The courage he instilled in me is always with me. I am sure we will meet up again some day. I will find him at the great roller coaster or bowling alley in the sky but for now I remember Michael in my heart. I know when I recently bowled a score of 204, he smiled. I encourage you to remember/encourage a friend or loved one living with HIV/AIDS every day for we are all in this together.
If we don’t tell our stories, they will die like roses in the early frost.