Friday, March 26, 2010

An Old Man

My husband and I live a very normal life, but we are constantly balancing our fears of his sickness and dying of AIDS, against hopes of a long lifetime together. Hoping for the best, preparing for the worst. I am usually more optimistic about a long lifetime together than my husband is because of an experience he shared with me.

Many years ago, when he was newly diagnosed with HIV, he went on a religious retreat with some friends, that did not know of his HIV status. There was a speaker, and several workshop sessions over the two weekend days. On the last night of the retreat, my husband had a dream where he saw himself as an old man, sitting in the front row of a small church. He didn't think much of the dream, didn't talk about it with anyone, and went about preparing for the final day of the retreat. During the final session of the retreat, the speaker unexpectedly singled my husband out from the crowd of nearly 200 people, and told him the dream he had the night before was intended to "silence his greatest fear". Instantly my husband realized the significance of his being an old man in the dream. His fear of dying a young man, an early HIV related death was his greatest fear then....and still is today.

Just this morning I reminded him about that dream when he woke me up at 5am wanting me to examine his right hand. He had redness and slight swelling, probably from a spider bite, but he was convinced it was the beginning of the end of his life. Seriously.

I am constantly "talking him down" from these irrational and paranoid fears, and trying to convince him the swelling, or irritation, or pain, or bruise does not mean he is dying. It breaks my heart to see him so afraid of HIV. After fifteen years of living with HIV, he is still in denial about anything except that it can kill him. I understand it though. If I let my mind wander, I have to fight my own fears about his illness, and our future together. When it gets to be too much, and too worrisome, I cling to the hope of that dream he had. It may not be very scientific, or even realistic, but one thing I do husband ages very well. And sometimes, knowing that gets me through and keeps me from losing all hope.