Sixteen Candles: Guest Writer Robin Hope Returns
As a child, all the way into adulthood, my father told my older sisters and me about the horrific experiences he had as a foster child. The constant reminder was his mangled toes due to never having shoes that fit properly. I was always told I walked to a different drumbeat than everyone else and in many respects I guess I did.
In 1987 I met Charlie. that was my first introduction to AIDS. As his friend I took him to the hospital. Because I was just a friend I could not advocate for him when he was too ill to do so himself, so I married him and took care of him till he passed away in 1992.
One night I was watching TV and I saw a show on babies being born with AIDS and dying with AIDS, never leaving the hospital, never learning to reach their arms up because nobody ever held them. That stuck in my mind and had a tremendous impact. Not more than 2 weeks later I read the paper and there was an ad: FOSTER PARENTS DESPERATELY NEEDED FOR AIDS BABIES. They were calling me. I knew I had found my place in this world. That was in 1990. Now in 2007, I have 4 beautiful adopted children and a new addition, Elijah who joined us 2 weeks ago and will be having his 2nd birthday this May.
The date is February 16th, 2007. Ashely has turned 16 years old. As Ashley's friends and family stand around her cake with its beautiful glowing candles, I can't help but cry with happiness and sadness. Each candle representing a year of blood sweat and tears.
As a baby it was so easy to care for her. All I had to do was love, spoil and guide her including kissing the boo boos to make her better. I can no longer kiss her pains away. Physically she is doing beautifully, emotionally is a whole different story. Ashley carries a secret, one she will probably have to hold for many years to come unless she wants to be treated like an outcast or leper. Ashley has AIDS.
The ignorance that still floats around is amazing . My daughter comes home from school and relays to me how some kids in her health class still believe that you will get AIDS just from being in the same room. Ashley wants to stand up and scream, but instead she screams silently, afraid of the repercussions if she were to disclose her diagnosis
As Ashley's candles slowly burn down, she looks at me before she makes her wish. I already know what her wish is. It's the same one every year. She used to wish that she didn't have AIDS, but that was one that she knew had a very small chance of ever happening, so now she wishes for understanding, tolerance and acceptance.
Some day, hopefully..........
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