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Amid HIV Stigma and Negativity, Celebrating the 'Lollipops and Butterflies'

December 6, 2013

Lynda Arnold

Lynda Arnold

I remember a few years back when my oldest son had become quite a handful as he entered his teen years. In between his monosyllabic grunts and barely audible moans we were supposed to interpret his needs or better yet be amazingly adept mind-readers just to get through each 24-, no make that 12-hour, time period. He came out on the other side of those years OK and is doing really great. We as his parents wear our badges of bravery and show our scars proudly, especially in front of our 14-year-old son, as if to say, "you try any of that S**T, we have YOUR NUMBER ... Don't even think about it Bucko!!" So far, so good ... but really the parenting season has only just begun. It gets harder as they get older, we have found; don't let anyone convince you otherwise.

Anyway, my favorite themes with my oldest as he managed to spew the wrongdoings of the world against him were always ones of hope, faith, joy, peace, understanding and love ... He summed it up as "Lollipops and Butterflies." It's the perfect catch phrase for all that warm, fuzzy stuff and the "angels" that deliver it that we really can't explain or find a reason for that just effortlessly helps us over the rough patch, through the day and into the dawn of tomorrow. We all have them. Maybe it's hard to find them. Maybe they are so minute that you can't see them and it takes someone else -- a partner, a parent, a friend, a lover, a cousin, a sister, a brother, an aunt, a child, etc. -- to see them for you.

I know I've been blessed with quite a few angels on my path of life that have helped me to see my "Lollipop and Butterfly" moments with clarity. These angels have appeared in my times of despair and when I needed them most, all without me asking. Oftentimes these angels went on their way after and we haven't connected again for many years later. I know they were there though when I needed them most. They gave me clarity to see things as they truly were and they gave me the support to make it through just another day. Without them even knowing it, they became the reason my crappy day turned into a good day. They put a smile on my face, a little laughter in my soul and brightness in my affect.

My son and I were talking this week about the progress he has made in the last couple years as he is now a young adult and getting ready to go out into the world on his own in a few months as he has joined the military. He chuckled at my remembrance of the "Lollipops and Butterflies." He can see them now too. Maybe not as clear as I do; but he acknowledges they exist. He has a girlfriend now. He says sappy things have started to run off on him. They have agreed to no secrets in their relationship. He told his girlfriend, "my mom has AIDS." He was nervous. She was understanding but she asked him to let me tell her when I was ready.

I had a particularly annoying experience with uneducated health care professionals over the past few weeks, not just once but twice. I had a doctor ask me "So you have AIDS ... When do you think you will get HIV?" and I had a young research professional not understand that you canNOT get HIV through casual contact and she felt the need to use a tissue to handle my purse to hand it to me so that I could get something out of it while I was undergoing my magnet treatment. I was trying to understand how and why in 2013 this lack of education is still out there. I was extremely upset, agitated and saddened. The last thing I wanted to do was risk telling my son's 18-year-old girlfriend that I had AIDS. It did not seem like a very good choice. I told him I would have a discussion with her eventually. My son knew that my eventually could be a really, really, really long time.

So I waited. I continued to live my life, host her at our house, eat with her, laugh with her, hang out with her, take my medicine in front of her, laugh in front of her -- in other words do everything normal people do. I made no special arrangements. I didn't alter my way of living at all. We just lived our lives. We talked about a million different issues and subjects. Finally, one night we cooked out in our backyard and my son had several of his friends over. It was a really hectic weekend as the teens came and went. At the end of the night, his girlfriend and I were still sitting out on the patio and she started to ask me some very personal questions. I started to answer them and then stopped. I knew she knew. I asked her why she didn't just come out and ask me. I asked her if there was anything she needed to know or wanted to know. She said she just wanted me to tell her so that she would know that I trusted her with this information. Then she said "I love you."

At that very moment a big yellow and white butterfly came right in between us and landed on the glass table for 2 seconds and then took off again. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. We both laughed and laughed and laughed and called out to my son! "Lollipops and Butterflies!"

I forgot all the negativity, discrimination and stupidity that I had recently endured. I celebrated that very good moment in between. It was just another of so many in my life. I hope you can find yours.

Until next time.


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