As I sit here looking at a beautiful arrangement of flowers and other thoughtful items sent us by dear friends in Knoxville, Tennessee, I want to share, with many friends and acquaintances, a brief note regarding hope and joy... even a touch of sadness... emotions familiar to all families.
Tomorrow -- my lover, best friend, confidant and spouse - Paul Eugene Johnson - and I celebrate our 18th year together. We met, and have been together and in love ever since, on Labor Day, 1978 P.A.E. (pre-AIDS era). This is the reason for my joy... Paul is the meaning and purpose for that joy. And to those who have not met him, I dearly hope you one day shall.
With the exception of two days when I had surgery, I have constantly worn the ring Paul gave me at Christmas 1978; the ring of his Dad, the late Ira "Joe" Johnson. On Valentine's Day 1979, I gave to Paul a duplicate ring made by a Castro Street (San Francisco) jeweler. And, on New Years day 1988, Paul asked me to marry him... concluding that after nearly ten years it was perhaps safe to do so. In the presence of friends who happened also to be vacationing in Key West, and officiated by a very dear friend of the cloth, we exchanged our personal vows to one another.
It is my hope to spend at least another 18 years, if not many more, with Paul. It was just earlier this year, however, that hope was nearly gone. Diagnosed with AIDS in May of 1989, with a CD4 count of 200, my count registered at four (4) in January of this year. I named them Matthew, Mark, Luke and Lucille (she's a retired Rockette); all a part of my persona. That same month I began taking the triple drug combination; protease inhibitor with two anti-retrovirals. My viral load dropped from 276,000 to around 800; my CD4 went up to just shy of 150. I can now hope for many more years with Paul.
No life is without a bit of sadness. We all must remember, however, to not mistake sadness for despair. We and our extended family have had our share of sadness. We have never despaired. Next month will mark the tenth anniversary of the passing of the first dear friend whom Paul and I cared for at our home. Bobby Baxter Thompson, in the process of leaving us, gave to us far more than we to him; he gave us courage and the gift of having known one hell of a fine man. In 1988, we cared for our dear friend Schonn Micheals at his home in Sacramento. Then, in 1989, cared for Schoon's lover, David Priessler, at our home. Just a few years ago yet another dear friend came to our home to spend his last days; Paul Michael Greeley. And, today, Paul's brother - Bob - is with us... ravaged with cancer... awaiting his and Paul's sisters to arrive from Ohio to escort him home to our Mom, Bea Johnson, for his final days with us. In each and every instance there is much sadness. But in each and every instance there is joy in the spirit of "family;" and there is the subtle, but truly felt, blessing of being with a friend as they depart from us on a very special journey... a journey I firmly believe has as its destination our true Home.
As you can tell, I'm in a very special mood. And I feel a need to share with you a bit about my family... and to remember friends whom I now and shall soon miss... and to consider what I believe to be real Family Values. My family has given me love, joy and hope. They have made it easier to deal with the sadness associated with those who disparage a true family.
Thanks for letting me share my feelings.
Western Regional Director (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon & Washington)
Log Cabin Republicans