Letter to My Son

The Mothers' Group

David, it is your birthday. If you had not died of HIV/AIDS I would have prepared to visit you in San Francisco or elsewhere, organized a party, and baked you a Linzer Torte or a Sacher Torte chocolate cake. You were such a birthday junkie. I have your pocket calendar and in it you marked the birthdays of your pals with different size red hearts. I smile when I see that February 19th, yours, has the biggest heart of them all.

It took awhile for your expectations to equal the actuality of your birthday party. You were often disappointed, even incensed at the gifts your friends brought. You were not an easy child and your requirements of others were exacting, but we always were best friends, though I too had to toe the line. During those early children’s birthday parties you insisted that I wear that garish red velvet dress that I had bought at Klein’s department store for ten dollars.

I was sort of awake when you were born. I complained as the obstetrician was sewing up my episiotomy. “Look at your son,” he said. There you were lying next to me, tiny, extremely pale, waving your hands. The doctor was right; you already were a comfort then and I forgot my pain.

You always tried to take care of me. Therese, your paternal grandma, lived with us for a number of years. She died when you were three years old, and you could not understand the fact that she had “vanished.” You became very frightened when I left a room without telling you. Soon thereafter, Judy (our daughter) got the measles and I caught the mumps. I had to rest. Dad took you to stay with Omi, your other beloved grandma, where you usually loved staying. You insisted on coming home, even though you were told that I had to stay in bed and could not care for you. During the next week you sat at the bottom of my bed, watching over me and amusing yourself.

When you were about six, I took a science writing class at the New School in New York. At its conclusion, we met for a party at our house. Dad was not home and Judy was sleeping, but you were my enthusiastic co-host, offering hors d’oeuvres and filling glasses. I was so proud and grateful having you.

When you were 34, the two of us spent a week in Paris, going to museums, eating in fancy restaurants, or just walking around the French capital. The HIV virus already undermined your strength, or so I thought, because you insisted on an afternoon nap. Only later did I discover in your diary that at night, after I retired, you went out enjoying Paris’s gay world.

I will be forever grateful that you did not develop full-blown AIDS and died quickly from pneumocystis pneumonia. I promised you that I would be alright even if you would be gone. I am, though I miss you terribly.

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5 Responses to Letter to My Son

  1. Ivette Feliciano says:

    I love this. What a beautiful window into your special friendship with your beloved son. Happy birthday, David!

  2. naomi says:

    I love this essay…such a beautiful tribute to him and, as Ivie said, all these stories and perfect little details give such a wonderful window into your relationship. I wish I had gotten to know him, but I’m lucky to have a grandma who can help me imagine what he was like. Happy birthday, Uncle David.

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