Saturday, November 13, 2004

Fear of The Unknown

When I met Farmer, I was in the Army at the time.  I was stationed at Fort Bragg and assigned to Womack Army Hospital.  It was so long ago that it's hard to remember exactly when, but I'll never forget him and the short time that I knew him. How  could I? I was his only friend.

One night while I was on CQ duty in the barracks, Farmer came to me. He thought he had passed out but he wasn't sure. He asked if I would walk him over to the hospital because he wasn't feeling too well and thought maybe he should get checked out at the ER. He had trouble lifting his arms so I helped him put his jacket on. We talked as we made our way. He told me he hadn't been taking his medicine like he should. He didn't like the affect it had on him. When he took it, all he wanted to do was sleep. He questioned what kind of life that was, what kind of quality life entailed if the medicine you were taking to extend your life made you sleep it away.

There was a parking lot between the barracks and the hospital. So we had to walk single file in order to navigate amongst the cars. It was a cold and windy night. Farmer was a small man. At 5' 10'', I towered over him by at least a head. A strong gust of wind came up and Farmer was pushed back against me - so I thought. I quipped that the wind was strong and might just blow him away. But, as the wind's gust dissipated, Farmer was still leaning back against me and was beginning to slip. I grabbed him under the arms to steady him and that's when I realized something was wrong. I lowered him to the ground. Right there in the parking lot between two parked cars, my friend was having a full blown seizure. Some of the  medicine Farmer had just been complaining about was to control his seizures.

In the middle of a parking lot, on a cold, dark, windy night, with a hospital in sight, I screamed at the top of my lungs for help. I couldn't leave him there. I had to try and protect him from the cars surrounding him, the hard pavement, and from himself. But when someone is seizing, there's not a lot that you can do. I felt helpless. Luckily, someone heard my cries. Someone had to have come. I don't really remember. The last image and recollection I have of Farmer is him sitting up on a stretcher in the ER. He was concerned that they would transfer him again, or maybe even discharge him from the Army. What would his father say? He was a colonel somewhere in the Army. You see, Farmer was dieing. A slow and painful death. He had AIDS and I was his only friend.

I feel honored, and humbled, to be able to say that. I can't really say that I did anything to make it happen. I had never had a close friend who was gay. It just sort of happened. Or, maybe it was something that Farmer saw in me that I didn't even realize was there because he's the one who approached me. I remember the conversation when he told me he was gay. 

We were walking along somewhere together, maybe to the PX-Annex up the street. That's when he said that he wasn't like Mack, that he was bi-sexual. Mack was a guy that I used to eat lunch with from time to time in the cafeteria before he got transferred somewhere else. Looking back, I guess it was obvious that Mack was gay. He had effeminate qualities about him. Heck, we talked about sewing. But, I really didn't give it much thought. I really didn't care. We were lunch buddies. We didn't talk about his sex life.

I guess Farmer thought I knew about Mack, or maybe because he so desperately needed someone to talk to, to be a friend, he took a chance on me. Whatever the reason, I'm glad he did. Knowing him taught me about compassion, love, understanding, and most of all acceptance. As we walked, Farmer told me about his life. How he had a daughter somewhere but his ex-wife wouldn't let him see her. He had a boyfriend who was a Marine. His father was a colonel, but kept him out of sight. Farmer was an embarrassment to the colonel and possibly even detrimental to his career now that it was out that his son had AIDS. He told me why he had no friends - why no one would talk to him.

A guy who worked in medical records came upon Farmer's records stating his condition and decided to post them on the barracks' bulletin board for all to see. It was the mid-to-late eighties; AIDS was still considered a gay man's disease. Not only did it out him on his sexuality but it made him a pariah because of the disease. Nothing happened to the guy who broke the patient's confidentiality. After all, Farmer was a gay man, with a gay man's disease. It didn't matter that he was a man, a father, a son, a human-being, that he was dieing. He was a pariah. But not to me, he was my friend.

I believe all suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their happiness or satisfaction. Yet true happiness comes from a sense of peace and contentment, which in turn must be achieved through the cultivation of altruism, of love and compassion, and elimination of ignorance, selfishness, and greed. ~ Dalai Lama, 1989 Nobel Peace-Prize speech

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27 comments:

alphawoman1 said...

All suffering is caused by ignorance and cruelty. Farmer was lucky to have you as a friend.

mlraminiak said...

What a sad but wonderful experience.  Interesting how the things one sees in life become part of one's personality as years go by.  Who would have thought that something you experienced in the army would have given you a more liberal viewpoint?  Sometimes, I think, some of us have stereotypes in our minds of what military life must be like, and what it must do to people.  Lisa  :-]  

sistercdr said...

I'm glad you had each other's friendship.

aiibrat said...

i started tearing up reading this.  it's amazing how extreme people are with their hands out in friendship & the other spectrum, the cruelty.  i'm glad farmer found somoene to confide in.  no one, i mean, no one deserves to be treated like a second class citizen.  (((hugs)))

coy1234787 said...

    Robbie, this is a really great entry and a real example how ignorance can breed fear and hate. Farmer was indeed lucky to have you as a friend.
    I have had very close gay male friends all of my life as a matter of fact my own father has been living an openly gay lifestyle for over 40 years now. I am all to aware what discrimination is about. I'm leaving you the link below to a private entry I wrote some months ago.
   
                                               *** Coy ***  
       
http://journals.aol.com/coy1234787/BetweenYouAndI/entries/932

fancykat28 said...

I sat here and cried.......cried for your friend.  Cried for for him.  Cried for his Father.  I cried for his Father for shunning his OWN son!  I've lost several friends to AIDS.  My Mama lost her very bestfriend in the world to AIDS a year and a half ago.  One important thing that people should know about AIDS is that they should shun us!  People don't want to "be around" anyone with the disease for fear of "catching it".  A person that does not have the disease is more of a danger for a AIDS patient to be in contact with.  Their immune system is weak and can pick up a germ that probably wouldn't make one sick, but could hospitalize a person fighting AIDS.   ~Angel on Your Shoulder~CHRISSY

freeepeace said...

Another powerful entry Robbie.  You're like a pioneer in your endeavors - making friends with those who need friends the most, acknowledging the similarities between you and others rather than focusing on the differences.  You're a warrior.

As I read about your peers' reactions (and actions) to hearing that Farmer had AIDS, I was shocked...until you reminded us that it was the 80s.  We've come a long way in 20 years.  That's encouraging.  Reminds me there's hope in our struggles of today.

nellemclaughlin said...

Robbie, what a lovely entry. One of my closest friends in the world is gay and I worry about him being safe. It's not just Aids, it's any life threatening illness. People who DO care often avoid someone because they don't want to face their own mortality. Farmer was blessed to have you. "Think where man's glory begins and ends, my glory was I had such friends."  ~ Nelle

magogos said...

I am crying and thinking how lucky you and Farmer were to have each other. Margo

indigosunmoon said...

What a powerful entry Robbie.
I have a big lump in my throat.
Connie

readmereadyou said...

How sad. I'm in tears. Me, who never shuts up, can't find words.

Angela

dymphna103 said...

Robbie such a tribute to your friend.  Thanks  john

thesheatons said...

I firmly believe that what goes around comes around. I wonder what happened to the one who outed your friend. Wiccans believe that whatever you do to someone else will come back to you-multiplied. Some say three, others say seven. All that pain caused by that action coming back multipllied at least three fold.........

ryanagi said...

My first reaction when I started reading was "Robbie was in the Army?!" then I continued reading. You were Farmer's angel at a time when he really needed one. Good on ya. :-)

plieck30 said...

I'm so glad Farmer had you, such a level headed young woman for a friend. Paula

rollinghillsides said...

I've enjoyed your beautiful entries Robbie, what a great friend you are to all!   I'm also remembering the touching stories and pics of Ellie and Scout and how you and Freee saved them from possible destruction!  How marvelous that was of you.  You surely make the world a brighter place, I always feel good after reading your stories.


kathlyna22 said...

oh what a horrible thing to do to someone
A best friend of mine lost her uncle to AIDS in the 80's and I remeber the rumors that flew around about him. He was an awesome guy and I was so young I couldn't figure out what was so wrong with him if he like boys instead of girls..
I still don't
Thank you for sharing this entry...it touched me
Kathleen

bridgetteleigh75 said...

Farmer was lucky to have you in his life, Robbie-girl.  

We sure have come a long way in 20 years, haven't we?  

Love,
Bridgett

lamove04 said...

Hi Robbie-- waited for this entry... there were so many tragic stories from that decade.  I'm so glad that Farmer made a connection with you, that he knew that you accept him and not treat him with the prejudice that others did.  

Society as a whole could not deal with AIDS back then, but being in the military would have been a double whammy for him.  I hope that he found some peace in his final days... xxoo, Albert

judithheartsong said...

I appreciate your heart Robbie. judi

st0rmwhispers said...

He was lucky to have you for a friend.  

ckays1967 said...

I know so many people who judge others instead of loving them, instead of showing them true friendship.  Good for you for making this man know he wasn't alone.  I think ALONE is worse than any other thing one must endure....alone....without simple human love.

ksgal3133 said...

He was blessed to have you in his life.
That is awful that the person posting his private records had nothing done to him.


Gretchen
http://livinginsavannah.blogspot.com/

deabvt said...

Aww, robbie, what a sad story...I`m glad you were there for him.
V

lisita15 said...

Wow Robbie....what a story.. I am glad that he had you for a friend... AIDS is a terrible disease and I have had a few friends die from it. That is terrible the way people were treated in the 80's... Lisa

dmt66frd said...

You were a true friend to him.  

kellye09090 said...

you are such a good friend when i ws in high school i had a friend that had aids he was born with it . my mom dident want me to hang out with her but i did . she was my best friend . she is still alive and we are in college. we are each other life line . the world need more pepole like you  hugs kelly  screen name  kellye09090@aol.com