Yesterday I missed an anniversary. No matter that it wasn’t mine, nor even the kind of anniversary that some folks would choose to commemorate. Still, I wish I had—remembered it, that is. Somebody besides my partner, RLB, and a handful of others should. You see, seventeen years ago, on November 14, 1994, RLB’s former partner, Peter, a man I never met, expired in San Francisco. The cause? AIDS. He was only thirty-five, a much-loved high school history teacher, I’m told, with friends scattered over two continents—apparently none of them, blood relations. I add this last because his birth family did not even bother to inquire after his death until six years after the fact.
Okay, that is all very sad, you are perhaps thinking; but what does it have to do with you, Jack? Why do you care? I care because one should always care about senseless loss, and because Peter’s surviving friends, some of whom are also mine, still care. But mostly I care because RLB does; and yesterday, all the signs of that caring were abundantly on display: the more than usual quietness all through lunch with a friend; the evident distraction, as if RLB were all alone with his thoughts—even in the midst of a noisy crowd; the hovering moodiness evident despite his best efforts at disguise (which weren’t very good). If only I’d checked my calendar I would have understood that these weren’t just the symptoms of an ‘off day.’ Sadness, it was. Grief. Right there for anyone with eyes to see. And why not? Why wouldn’t anyone who has ever loved continue to care, continue to grieve over a loss so heartbreaking—a man so young, so gifted, so beautiful?
I know all this to be true because I’ve read some of Peter’s poems; I’ve heard the stories his friends still love to tell. And I’ve seen the photographs, some of them every day—like the one prominently displayed on RLB’s desk. Silly I know, but sometimes we chat, Peter and I—usually when I’m dusting the furniture, all RLB’s tchotchkes, the family photos on his desk. Okay, so it’s more of a monologue—a little report from me to Peter on how things are: what we’re doing, RLB and I; where we live; the latest on friends and family–on RLB’s health. Your basic update, I suppose—just in case that kind of information isn’t readily available wherever it is that Peter has gone. That is what one does with family, is my thinking. And Peter is family—which is why an important date, like November 14, deserves remembrance. I’m sorry I forgot, hopeful that others—in the hundreds of thousands—who have experienced a loss like RLB’s have a memory as good as his. For remembrance, it seems to me, is one of the ways we can honor those whose presence once was and still is—if only in recollection—so very enriching. Which is, I suppose, the point of this little piece.
- Gratefulness (annepieterse.wordpress.com)