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Eye of the Storm
Thanks, Mom!

By Joe Greenwood

May 1999

Like everyone else, I grew up thinking my parents were just like everyone else's. I remember complaining as a kid because there was a toy my folks wouldn't buy for me, or because my brother got the best spot in front of the TV when I had specifically "saved" that chair. You know what I mean. My parents just didn't seem to understand.

As an adult, however, I have met plenty of people who have made me appreciate just how great my mother and father really are. I have friends whose parents were alcoholics, or abused them, or kicked them out the house just because they were gay or HIV-positive. The stories these friends would tell always shocked me to no end, because I could never picture my parents doing anything so hateful. My mom and dad made a big point of letting me know they would always love me -- no matter what -- and that it didn't matter if I was gay or positive, I was still Joe, and that was good enough for them.

This week, with Mother's Day just ahead, I have become especially aware of how lucky I am to be blessed with a mother like Jane Greenwood. As I write this, I have had constant -- and I mean non-stop -- diarrhea for over three weeks. I've lost five pounds that I really can't afford to give up, and I'm so weak I can barely make it up out of bed some mornings. Worst of all is the psychological trauma and stress this has caused. The doctors have no idea what is causing it, and I have taken every test they can think of. I've been a mess. I mean, I always thought that when I died it would be from some glamorous disease where I could play drama queen and say my good-byes like they do in the movies. But terminal diarrhea? The shame of it all! The embarrassment! And my God, the pain is ... well, maybe I should just let you use your imagination.

But my mom made a horrible situation bearable. She took time away from her job (she's a dean at a high school) in the middle of a busy school year to come help me get to the doctor, make sure I ate enough and make sure my apartment was kept clean. She even cleaned the bathroom. I don't know anyone whose bathroom I would clean, unless there was good money involved. And she never complained once.

Best of all, she made sure not to treat me like a baby. She helped me get everywhere I needed to go without making me feel like an invalid. And when the discomfort made me bitchy and impossible to live with, she held her tongue and simply asked what she could do to help. At one point, while she was talking to me to keep me from focusing on my pain, I took a moment to look at her in a new light. I had taken this woman for granted my whole life, and it didn't matter. Her love for me was, is and always will be unconditional. At one point, my eyes started to tear up as I realized that no matter bad things got for me, this woman would always be there to do what she could to make it better.

I was only able to get this issue of Survival News together because of her support, so it only seems right to thank her for doing the "mom" thing better than anyone I know. I will never take you for granted again, Jane, you can bet the farm on that. Thanks for being more than just a parent -- thanks for being my friend as well. And thanks for not slugging me when I my temper reached critical mass. Or any other time in my past, for that matter. To say that I love you would be a gross understatement. So I'll wish you a "Happy Mother's Day" instead. I guess I just needed to put it in writing.

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