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My grandfather broke the silence: "What are you going to do with this thing?" He never used the letters HIV or the word AIDS, and he never talked about sickness or disease. But I knew exactly what he was talking about.

"I don't know. There's no cure," I said, looking down while messing with a blade of grass. "There is not much of a choice."

"You always have a choice," my grandfather said, his voice steady. He was straightforward in his words but not gruff or difficult in his tone. He just wanted me to hear and pay attention.

"What choice do I have?" I asked. There didn't seem to be many choices on my end. In fact, the doctors had not given any, and most, if not everyone in my life, were walking around as though resigned to the fact that there were no choices available. "Sometimes," I finally added, "I feel like running as fast as I can. I am not sure where I would go, but just to see if I could outrun this feeling of loneliness and dread in my life." My grandfather was listening.

"And then there are times when I just want to lie down and let it be over. Some days it is hard to find a reason to feel joyful again. That scares me more than the disease."

I was trying to be honest with him about where my heart was in this news and in this whole fight. I had gone through a lot in my life, but this was different. The face of this disease was bigger than all of us put together.

My grandfather shifted to turn more toward me. He leaned against the ground with his left arm so that he could look me in the eye. "If anybody has a right to get in the corner and have a pity party about this, it's you. It's a very raw deal, and I can't tell you that I understand it or have even begun to confront my anger over it. But as bad as this seems—and ...

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hide thisMay May

In the Magazine

May 2010

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