February 4, 2005

My son, my only, my beautiful son, look at what has happened to my sweet boy. Why my child? Why him? I never let him see me cry, I would wait until I was alone in my bed to shed the tears. Alone. That’s how I felt in this struggle. He refused to involve anyone else and I didn’t know how to help him. I called that hotline I saw on the poster in the subway. {{more}}They said he could get help but he had to go to a doctor, and he refused.

I wanted to tell someone, but he insisted that I must not. So I watched as his body started to shrink before my eyes. He hardly ate. Everything I cooked seemed to affect him negatively one way or another. He started vomiting and had diarrhea. I just didn’t know enough to help him. I tried the usual home remedies, ginger and clove tea, soups, and bush. Nothing helped.

Sometimes I was afraid to touch him. He looked so fragile and I must admit I was sometimes afraid I would get it too. Afraid to touch my own son! The woman at the hotline said I can’t get it from touching him, she gave suggestions about cleaning when he vomits. Even though he was weak, he sometimes seemed angry when I tried to help him. I know his pride was hurting but I wanted to help my baby.

He kept calling her name when he fell asleep. Nikki, Nikki, over and over. She can’t help him now. No one can. He thought I didn’t hear him crying. He tried to hide the alcohol he kept drinking from me. Lord; help me find the strength to deal with this.

I was afraid to leave him but I had to work or we couldn’t eat and I couldn’t pay the rent. I had to keep a roof over our head at least. Now I wonder if I made the right choices. Maybe I should have gone home to meet him instead. I kept doubting myself. I was tired all the time trying to sort out my work, his papers, his health and keeping myself healthy to help him. I forgot to eat sometimes. I just kept praying and I still keep praying.

When he passed out, I called the ambulance. He couldn’t stop me that time. The trip to the hospital and all that happened before he was finally in that cold white hospital room is all a blur. I was on automatic. I couldn’t say who answered the questions they asked. So many forms to fill out. It had to be me but I hardly remember what the questions were. When I was convinced he was resting easy I went to the chapel and prayed and cried for my child.

On the way back to the room I noticed a sign on a door that said “Counsellor”. I knocked and went in. The secretary told me she could set up an appointment for me for the next day so I walked slowly back to his room. The nurse advised me to get something to eat, and get some rest. I could tell she thought it would be a long night.

When I went home to get some clothes for him I found a diary in his room. The last entry was unfinished. I suppose he was too weak to write. What I read broke my heart.

My son’s world had broken down around him the day he found out he had HIV. I read about how worried he was about Nikki, how he hurt so much and how afraid he was to let anyone else know. I could understand how afraid he was. I know of other people who had it. People who lose their job and their friends the minute people find out they have HIV or AIDS. People whose family disown them, abuse them, turn their back on them. They still treat people badly at home. Like they could never get it themselves. Like he isn’t somebody’s child just like them. Like you change into some kind of beast to be feared if you have it. Like if they had it, they wouldn’t want compassion too. Like they wouldn’t want a chance to survive and thrive too.

I took the diary back to the hospital hoping he would be well enough soon to write again. That night was a nightmare. Neither one of us got any rest. He was raging with fever and got delirious at one time. He kept calling out for Nikki. There was a phone in the room, so I used a phone card to call her, hoping that her voice would help him heal. I would have tried anything at that point.

He wept as he called her name over and over again. She and I spoke briefly. She sounded well but sad. I promised to let her know how he was doing. He slept well after the phone call.

My appointment with the counsellor was bittersweet. She told me so much I didn’t know, terms I had never heard before. I poured out my pain to her and I finally felt heard and helped. She explained to me that by keeping silent, Brandon had made things worse for himself. He went too long without medical attention or even counselling to make him to see that there was help.

She told me that his immune system was very weak and that I had to prepare myself for the worse. She explained the tests they were doing, for example the CD4 cell count. She told me his depression made things worse because depression and stress, affect your body’s ability to fight off illnesses. She said his drinking, not eating and not resting enough worsened his health. By the time we were done with the session I felt my burden was lighter.

If only my child had let me get help. If only he had not been afraid. If only I had stopped him drinking. If only he had had fewer women. If only he had used condoms. If only he had seen someone or called someone. Too many ‘if onlies’.

My vigil by his hospital bed continued for days until one afternoon when he turned his head to me, opened his eyes, smiled at me, sighed and went back to sleep. He never woke again.

The tears kept coming until I could hardly breathe. The counsellor came to comfort me and offered to call someone for me. I called Nikki first. I thought it was what he would have wanted.

I think about my son every day. I miss him everyday. I write in his diary to fill the pages that he never will and to fill the hole in my heart that might never heal. I think about all he was, all he could have been, all he wanted to be, all he never will have the chance to be. I hope the best for Nikki. It’s what he would have wanted and what she deserves. Maybe one day we will both heal from this terrible hurt.