My Lover’s Chair

I missed last week when this was the assigned topic. My excuse is that I was in the middle of colonoscopy prep. All came out fine, literally and figuratively, with 7 benign polyps, an actual improvement from 2 years ago when I had 10 benign little buggers. My next scope will be in three years maybe. I will be 75 by that time and the urgency to repeat the test is much less at that age and the rather not very reassuring message from the medical establishment is that something else is much more likely to kill you at that age than colon cancer. Gee thanks!

Well after that bit of TMI about the state of my colon let me address the topic: My Lover’s Chair. My lover David who died of AIDS-related causes back in 1995 did have a favorite chair and it was a blue Barcalounger.  In the last few years of his life, he had severe peripheral neuropathy, and being on his feet at work all day was very challenging. So, coming home and getting in that chair and putting his feet up was a welcome relief. We had purchased two chairs and they were in our basement TV room. After his death and my selling that house a couple years later, I decided the chairs were not for me and I gave them to my dear friend Clark who kept them for almost another twenty years.

My friend Clark had lost his partner Phil to AIDS the year before David died in 1994. I was with him when Phil took his last breaths in their home on Jersey Street. Being HIV positive ourselves I wonder if perhaps we were both thinking of our own demise, though honestly, I have no recollection of such memories from that time. Perhaps because of so much death all around us in those days. Perhaps we just assumed this would be our fate and the appropriate task at hand was to focus on our dying partners.

Thinking of those chairs, especially in the month of September, conjures up many very bittersweet memories. David died on the 17th of September now 26 years later. The 17th is also the birthdate of my dear friend Clark, the man who inherited the blue lounge chairs, and who was with me when David died in Rose Hospital on that brilliant fall day just one year after the death of his partner. Clark was in town this past week for a gay bowling league tournament, and we celebrated his 75th with Chinese food. We reminisced over lunch as we often do when getting together these days and wondered once again why we are still alive when our partners now long ago died of AIDS.  I don’t think either of us suffers from “survivors’ guilt” something I personally have always been a bit suspicious of, but we are nonetheless left to ponder our good fortune in having survived the plague. I now get to anticipate the real possibility of dying from the complications of diabetes. My life is an adventure. There is however a bit of guilt I do feel around David’s death and that is the fact that it was a cardiac event or heart failure that was the immediate cause of death and not AIDS perse. David never met a double cheeseburger and fries he did not love. I had been the nursing manager of the AIDS clinic at DH for six years by that time so I was well versed in AIDS and the myriad of ways it could kill you. David certainly had full-blown AIDS another phrase I have always hated, I mean having AIDS is quite enough without making it “full-blown”. He had had no T-cells for a couple of years and had several of the major opportunistic infections that alone were enough to eventually kill you. 1995 was though before the protease inhibitors had really made much of a dent in the disease and advanced AIDS was thought to be terminal. I am left to wonder though whether a major cardiac intervention would not have bought him enough time for the better drugs to come along. Should I have been more assertive in demanding more cardiac interventions? Did I succumb to the medical thinking and actual fatalism of the day that said this is a terminal situation and was the use of further resources not indefensible? I was a nurse known for not being afraid to confront physicians and medical decisions I thought had no merit. In the end, I seemed to acquiesce to the power of the white coats. No matter how hard I might have pushed on this I may very well have been overruled, perhaps by David himself. It would have resulted in him being subjected to numerous invasive procedures that may very well have been futile. Despite these rationalizations, it is a regret I have, and it haunts me still, particularly this time of year.