Thursday, June 9, 2016
There is no panel in the great AIDS quilt with your name on it.
Your life did not fit neatly into a 3-by-6 foot shape.
When you took your last breath on June 10th, 1994, I did not believe then and do not believe now that you would have wanted your legacy forever stitched with the 48,000.
It would have been a forced, symbolic gesture incompatible with how you lived your life.
I could not bring myself to weave your story into the fabric of the AIDS pandemic.
Instead, I have pieced your life together for my own comfort
working backwards from a diagnosis you were unable to name.
The massive memorial to victims of AIDS does not include you because I could not pretend that you saw yourself as one of them.
That would have been my own invention.
A sister seeking an imagined brother to fill her own needs.
Twenty-two years later, I do not regret the decision.
I believe I honored you by embracing the truth of your life.
To have done otherwise would have been to deny your denial.
I do not even visit the cemetery where you and our parents are buried.
You are not there.
You are alive to me each time I listen to the opera,
recall your laugh,
remember your grace,
or look at one of your six grandchildren.
That is your legacy.
The Names Project is a beautiful and significant memorial.
But your name is not a part of it by choice.
Your name, Bob, is forever on the tip of my tongue
and in the ache of my heart.
I wrap myself in your memory, warmed by the history of our family
and the complexity of its pattern.