In my first appointment with my Orthopedic Surgeon after the 18 day hospital stay (big car accident- see the 100 Details page) he told me that having such surgeries almost guaranteed arthritis would arrive sooner than later. I now have arthritis pretty much all over- some of it localized as bursitis in my right elbow and gout in my right foot. As chronic conditions go, osteoarthritis (that is, non-rheumatoid arthritis) and ‘benign hypertension’ (high blood pressure) are lightweights. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a battle, day to day. My right leg is throbbing from over 50 years of wear & tear after surgery done to correct the club foot I had at birth. Of course bad diet, poor exercise routine, and other ‘lifestyle choices’ (especially as a wayward youth) certainly play their part.
That’s just the physical stuff. Long before these things there was the mental challenges of being an openly gay man in the time of aids. Friends and acquaintances (Friends of Friends in Facebook terms) were dying. Young. At first without much warning; then as we started to understand and got such treatments as we could, their fight was longer. But for so long it seemed inevitable. As I said in my review of Two Boys Kissing, people died of “complications of aids such as neglect, fear, hatred, bigotry.
We each came up with our own survival tactics. I helped as much as I could; sat with Luke (and so many others) at Casey House, raised funds (mostly through the original Mr Leatherman Toronto committee), fought back against prejudice, political posturing and religious bullsh!t. I became a guerrilla nun and refused to go celibate; refused to surrender to guilt and shame.
For me there’s also the lost childhood. Repressed memories, and memories devoid of emotional content are the foundation of a lonely childhood. Sort of nerdy, non-athletic, and not interested in trying to fit in with my peers. And yet, due to a loving supportive family, or perhaps self-determination, I had no desire to ‘shoot up’ a school, go through a ‘goth phase’ or otherwise visibly rebel. I wore normality as a cloak.
I am not writing just to complain about the unfairness of life- but to offer thanks to the quirky twist of fate that I am alive, still, to feel all these aches and pains.
In my 20s, back in the ’80s, I did not see myself living past the ripe old age of 40. Too few people in my circle could imagine it. Too many would never achieve it.
Here I am about to complete my 58th year on Earth. I am not smarter, was not better at picking sexual partners (nor did I stop engaging in joyful, casual, heartfelt, glorious sex or enjoying some recreational chemicals) and it’s not that I prayed the right words to the right gawd.
I was lucky.
So as I lie here, about to take a nap, I let go of the frustration at my current life and troubles. I know there are souls who would gladly take these pains for the chance to be here in the flesh, once more. I shed tears of sorrow for them and vow never to take these aches for granted. And I will never forget.
Photograph of the Aids Memorial, Toronto ON, © 2008 Brian Gryphon