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Sunday, October 10, 2010

HIV VACCINE(?)

I almost always ignore that messy shelf of postcards found in the front of cafes and coffee shops. It's the one place neglected for sometimes weeks at a time. It's full of outdated events, bad graphic choices and typography, and even when I grab one on a whim, it ends up at the bottom of my purse for another couple weeks before eventually being discarded.

I met my sister at Cafe Vita yesterday. While waiting a moment for a new pot to brew, I glanced around the free postcard section. I'm that person who starts straitening all the little piles.

My face must have gone white. I felt my heart speed up when I picked up a smooth, glossy postcard that I haven't been able to stop thinking about for over 24 hours.

It read:

Help us fight HIV. We need healthy volunteers who are 18-50 and HIV negative to take part in a paid study. You can't get HIV from the vaccines, but you can help us beat an epidemic.

Call (206) 667-2300 today.


HIV VACCINE
Trials Unit, Seattle.
www.seattlevaccines.org.


I must have read it three times. Turning it over and over in my hands, I looked around to see everyone else having a normal morning.

My Uncle Craig lived with HIV for many years, and died of AIDS when I was 20 years old. I will never forget the random afternoon my family shared together, when I was very young. I don't recall my age, but I remember my dad and mom asking my sister and me to come have a family meeting in the kitchen. We didn't sit. I stood in the entryway, and my dad started to talk about AIDS, and how we were learning about it in school at that time.

He told us that our Uncle Craig was living with HIV, and had been for many years. I wasn't exactly sure what this meant for my uncle, except that there was no cure. My dad also told us that we didn't have to treat him different. He explained that we could share a soda with him at the beach if we wanted, because there was no way to get HIV by doing so.

I cried and cried and cried. My Uncle Craig and I were very close, and I swore I was his favorite out of all the nephews and nieces. (Which is highly unlikely because he loved all of us!)

I'd listen to him talk for hours about his wild days of growing up in the 60's and 70's, and when I discovered music, our friendship only grew.


Me and Craig on the Jersey Shore. I believe this was the summer before my Sophomore year of high school. This is how we spent most of our summer weeks.

My uncle and my grandmother, Dotty, lived together in a tiny apartment in Keansburg, NJ. This was home-base to my favorite childhood memories.

Grandma Dotty's life was extremely fascinating. She lived with many struggles, but most of all was raising five boys from a young age when her husband died of a heart attack. I never knew my Grandpa Truax, and my father never spoke of him much. I believe my dad was five years old when his father died. However, his stories of growing up with four brothers are hysterical and wonderful. I always asked about Craig, he was my favorite.

In my family, we don't talk about things. Ever. And as years progressed, and my uncles health began to deteriorate, I wanted so bad to talk to him about it. It was a huge elephant in the room, as were the tens of prescription pill bottles that scattered the top of his dresser. We never discussed his disease. I often wish I had been older during that time. There are so many things that an adult can say, that a kid cannot. There are so many things I didn't get to ask him.

It's not fair this happened to him. I am so angry.

My sister strolled into the cafe. I tucked the card into the pages of my book. We embraced and I presented her with a steaming cup of coffee, with non-fat milk. How she likes it. We pulled some chairs together and began chatting.

I handed her the card. I excused myself to the bathroom. I felt embarrassed of the emotion it had created in me.

And in the possibility of an HIV vaccine, I regret it taking so long to get here.

2 comments:

Anandi said...

I'm sorry to hear about your uncle.

Do you think you'll participate in the trial?

Kristen Blush said...

Thank you...it's still hard.

I am moving to New York in the beginning of November, so will look into ways I can help there. I feel it's my calling in life.