Life with Mom
—-This is a story of a shared life with Mom after her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease.—
While cleaning out a closet in one of the spare bedrooms this weekend, I found and old Newsweek and Esquire from 1983 and 1984, with a wealth of information from the “olden” days about society’s views on Gays and Women. Although I haven’t read the “Esquire” about women, I did read the Newsweek about “Gay America” (Newsweek: August, 1983)
The date, the headline, and the picture from this edition transported me back to the early Eighties when I worked as a clerk in the Emergency Department of a trauma center in a nearby city. Shortly after I began working there, the hysteria regarding this mysterious disease known as AIDS was just beginning to unfold.
Many of the frontline caregivers seemed to be in a constant mood of panic and fear about how to protect themselves from this strange condition. The unknown was driving this madness: How was it transmitted? What were the symptoms? Who had it?
One of my responsibilities was to handle tubes of blood and mark them for the lab. The nurses began using gloves to draw blood, and would then hand me the tubes that often had blood on the outside. They were protected, but I wasn’t. We were all living in a state of nervousness which often came with unfair rationalizations about the Gay community. It was a certain time of chaos. A time of urgency to uncover the mysteries surrounding this “public threat”.
I read the 30 year old Newsweek article which revealed ideas of the “party being over”, “punishment”, and “forced isolation”. Results of a Newsweek Poll summed up some statistics. An unbelievable 76% of people polled said they didn’t know anyone who was Gay. I imagine that number is now zero. Another, unimaginable detail revealed that 23% of those interviewed never heard of AIDS.
We, as a society, have come a long way. Many of the mysteries surrounding this disease have been solved, like how it’s transmitted, how to protect yourself, and how to treat it.
I’m going to hold on to this magazine and maybe revisit it in 20-30 years. In the midst of a busy life, where sometimes it seems like we don’t make any progress at all as a society, this article reminded me of the strength of the human spirit. The gay community perseveres despite the enormous amount of discrimination that was pervasive even before AIDS. Humanitarians fought and continue to fight heroically to make sense of this ailment for the good of those directly and indirectly affected. And it seems that more people than not are accepting people who are “different” from them, for any reason.
This all gives me hope that we’re heading in the right direction when it comes to our own kind.
- Morganthau, Tom, Vincent Coppola, John Carey, Nancy Cooper, George Raine, John McCormick, and David Friendly. “Gay America in Transition.” Newsweek. 08 08 1983: Pages 30-40. Print.