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May 14, 1997
Birthdays Visited and Revisited

Summer 1997

I glance at the clock as I awake. It's 7:00 a.m., I smile and think about the fact that 46 years ago, at 7:00 a.m. I awoke to life. Today is my Birthday, a celebration of life, a day so many of us living with HIV marvel in the fact that we are still living, that we have made it to another Birthday. But also hidden, in the back of our minds, we wonder if we'll be here to celebrate the next one. My mind is flooded with thoughts. I chuckle to myself as I recall the dreaded "getting old" turning points of my 30th & 35th birthdays and how the connotation of getting old has made a 360 degree turn. My 40th, 45th and now 46th Birthdays have not been the dreaded getting old but a wiping of the brow with a, Phew! I made it to another year!


My Birthday is also my Wedding Anniversary, a celebration of a new life with my husband, Thomas. I remember us going to the beach, sitting on top of the rocks looking out into the ocean and sipping champagne as we celebrated my Birthday and our Anniversary. Then I remember 3 years ago, two days after my Birthday/Anniversary, on May 16, Thomas died of AIDS complications.

He, along with a multitude of my friends are not going to get old.

I recall my next Birthday was very difficult, but on that day the unknown forces placed me in the comforting hands of Phyllis. She consoled me and brought me into her support group.


The thoughts keep coming. ... Now, my main support group is at a local women's HIV/AIDS service provider agency. I was standing outside their door when they first opened. I am amused by the thought of the commercial where the lady is standing outside of a store saying; "Open, Open, Open." That was me when this agency first opened their doors. At last an agency for Women who are HIV positive. What does this have to do with my Birthday, you ask? It has taken some time but I am learning to ask for what I want and need. Two years ago and a couple of weeks before my Birthday I continuously told the staff at this women's service providing agency, it was going to be my Birthday and I asked if they would give me a cake and celebrate with me. I don't have any blood family in the area or even in the state of California so it seemed fitting to celebrate my Birthday with them since I felt they were my family and an integral part of me still being alive to celebrate it. Then came my Birthday, and to my delight and oh my gosh surprise out came my Birthday cake with enough candles to sing Kum By Ya. I was so happy.


The next Birthday thought that emerges was last year when once again I told the staff at this AIDS agency about my approaching Birthday and would they celebrate another year of Life with me. Then came my Birthday and my delightful anticipation of celebration. During that day my time at "the agency" lingered on and I mentioned I had to leave soon. Nothing happened -- no Birthday cake -- no cupcake -- no singing Happy Birthday. I left devastated.

A Few Days Later

A few days later, when I was emotionally able, I discussed this with the top staff person at "the agency". The answer was that it had been discussed in a staff meeting and determined that they (the agency), couldn't give me a Birthday cake and celebrate with me because then they would have to do it with all the clients. "Oh My God, what a revelation, an agency to promote Life and Living with HIV, might have to celebrate the Birthday of every client that has managed to survive another year!"

I'm glad the staff has set me straight about that one. (But I digress into emotions -- It wouldn't have been so bad if they had the courtesy to inform me of their decision). I continue my conversation. If it's too overwhelming to consider each client's individual Birthday's why not have a monthly celebration for all those whose Birthdays are within that month. The staff persons reply was: "Well that sounds like a good idea."

Today, another year later, I guess it still, sounds like a good idea.

My thoughts roam to a more pleasurable memory of a Birthday with Rocky, my parakeet. Seven years ago, shortly after the emotional wrenching of discovering I was living with HIV, a loving friend surprised me with her Birthday gift to me, Rocky. He was just weeks old so I consider that day to be his Birthday also. Rocky was a blessing. I believe the pet owners among us living with a life threatening illness will agree that the comfort, support, and unconditional love a pet brings to our life is an integral part of our being able to live with the illness.

My Best Friend

My thoughts ramble through all the happiness Rocky brought to my life for the next six years. I remember a friend, after finding out I had taught Rocky to talk, exclaimed; "You're spending much too much time with this bird, you need to get a life." Rocky and I could talk when others weren't available. I speak in the past tense because, unfortunately, Rocky passed away last September. I never thought I would live longer than he did.

Markers of Life

Birthdays, the "Markers of Life" for everyone and a very powerful marker for those of us living with HIV. A marker of the immense struggles, accomplishments, trials and tribulations we overcome, endure and rejoice in when waking up on another Birthday. A marker of the hopes and fears of getting through another year. A time you and your friends celebrate a new starting point.

I wasn't sure if I would make it to my Birthday. These words echo in my mind, the words of friends who didn't make it, friends who have, and the words I hear myself say today -- on my Birthday -- as I am getting older.

Happy Birthday to Me!

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This article was provided by Women Alive. It is a part of the publication Women Alive Newsletter.
See Also
More Personal Accounts of Women With HIV/AIDS