Having spent nearly the last eighteen months in and out of hospital, and the better part of that time bedridden, I needed to quickly create a “new normal” for myself to get through what has been a long, oftentimes discouraging, and lonely recovery. Part of my “new normal” activities has been watching dvds via my Netflix subscription. Some I’ve watched over the months have been duds, and some have been gems that will stick with me for a long time.
Case in point was a movie I watched yesterday that had been done by HBO called, “The Normal Heart”. It tells the story of the beginning of AIDS, and of a group of gay men in New York who work together to try to get funding for this disease as they watch their partners die without help from the city or federal government. Watching this movie got me thinking about a classmate of mine from 7th-12th grade. To keep his identity private, I’ll refer to him as “Chuckles”, my nickname for him, because of his infectious laughter. “Chuckles” and I were in choir from 7th-12th grade, and I think we laughed every day for those six years. During our last choir class before graduation, our director gave us time to sign each other’s yearbooks. I tossed my yearbook across the room to him, and said, “Hey, write something nice, will ya?” He returned my yearbook to me, and I didn’t give it another thought, knowing that whatever he’d written would be found in the article about him featured in the yearbook, predicting that he would be a star on Broadway. That was 1979. Fast forward a couple of years when we met up again at the local junior college. He invited me to join him for coffee one morning, (I drank cocoa), and we had a long chat about a secret he had kept for many years and wanted to share it with me. My dear “Chuckles” revealed that he was gay, which I had pretty much already concluded, and I listened while he poured out his heart to me. On December 9, 1993, “Chuckles” breathed his last breath, succumbing to AIDS. You’re wondering what he wrote, aren’t you?
He wrote, “Dear Beth, ‘Here’s Something Nice.” Love, Chuckles…..
Why did I choose to share this slice of my life with you tonight? I don’t know except to say that this movie touched me deeply, and I highly recommend it. Between that time when we sat down for coffee and the moment I learned of his death, we had lost contact. Watching this movie brought home for me how he must have suffered in the end and it gave me an opportunity to mourn the loss of my friend (which had never really done), and his writing what he did in my yearbook, was his way of shielding me of what was to come for him a decade later.
So dear “Chuckles”, I know every night in heaven has been “another opening, another show” and I can’t wait for a front row seat.