Wednesday, April 1, 2015

TENEBRAE 1986 on TENEBRAE 2015



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After the post–Valentine’s Day dinner at Dennis’ place on McAllister Street, my sojourn in Eden lasted barely another six weeks.

In the meantime Dennis with the doggies moved in to my flat on 23rd Street. The pretext was a plumbing problem on McAllister. (I was living with former flat-mate Merritt Anderson, who had lived with me previously more than a decade before. I asked Merritt, who was married and had a young son, to find another place. His wife and son lived elsewhere. He used my flat for work convenience.) Again, this was one of the happiest periods of my life.

It was 1986— a test for HIV had just been introduced. Dennis and I both decided to be tested. I got my results first. I was negative.

On Wednesday March 26, I went with Dennis to get his results at the public clinic on 17th Street. (It was Tennebrae of Holy Week-- when candles are extinguished one by one as a Lenten ritual in preparation for Good Friday.)

I was sitting with Dennis when he got his results. He… was positive!!!

After bursting into tears, Dennis immediately proclaimed that he wanted to end our relationship—that it wasn’t fair for me to live with somebody who would soon be sick. (Reasonable expectation was that Dennis had another year or two at most).

It’s so easy to be clever or say the right thing at the right time when you write a screenplay or novel. For example, I’ve edited and re-edited these descriptions repeatedly. I’ll still go back and switch a word here and there.

In real time, it isn’t so easy.
But somehow, I was blessed… in finding the right words to say.

It went something like:
“If that’s what you want, Dennis, for your needs, OK, let’s talk about it. But don’t you dare tell me that because you think that’s what I want to hear. Just tell me the facts, and I’ll make up my own mind. I love you, Dennis Graham. And I want to spend my life with you – no matter what.”

Amazingly, Dennis didn’t live another year or two, but twenty full years …and one week. We had the final sit down cracked crab dinner in the dining room following the service of last rites on Saturday March 25th 2006 – the week before Dennis died.

Had I taken the way out offered to me by Dennis on March 26th 1986, I would have missed the entire core of my life. I am continually grateful for the wisdom, luck….grace… that enabled me to say the right thing when I needed to. I consider myself so lucky to have been in a loving, long-term relationship with a special person – with Dennis James Graham.


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Tenebrae this year is on April 16th -- my 65th birthday.

1 comment:

John Guilford said...

Beautiful, touching story, Rob.
Thanks so much for sharing it. None of us know how we would respond in a similar situation. But I hope that I would demonstrate true love and commitment as you did.


Titian in the Frari (Venezia)