As one recalls their childhood, there is always one person that sticks out in their mind's eye. Some favorite person who they looked up to and loved with that fierce, innocent love that only children possess. For me, that person was my uncle Gerard.
Maybe it was because he was the youngest of four kids, but, to me, it always seemed he understood me best. Only he could make my mom forget she was angry with me, and at Christmas, his were the presents I could hardly wait to unwrap. He always knew the places I loved to go and which restaurants served the best ice cream. Besides being fun, he was loved. Not only by me, but also by all he met. He was that type of charismatic person you meet and feel an instant connection with. I looked up to him. He was everything I knew I wanted to be one day - successful, happy, and surrounded by friends. I remember how hard I"d try to make him proud of me.
I don't remember exactly when my mom broke the news to me, but I remember how I felt. She told me that my uncle had AIDS and was in the hospital. I didn't know what this truly meant, of course, but soon he was home again and everything seemed to be fine. After that, I became aware of frequent hospital visits, but they seemed so routine I soon considered them unimportant. The thought of death never entered my mind. He had been okay for so long, I didn't see how that could change. Then, one day, my uncle was back in the hospital with pneumonia.
I went to visit him with my mom and my sister that night. When they left the room in search of snacks, I finally had a chance to be alone with him. That's when my uncle, Gerard, the one person who had never shown weakness, began to cry and tell me how he wished he would be there to watch me grow up. I suddenly became frightened and couldn't bring myself to ask him the question now plaguing my mind. I was too scared of the answer. Just then, my mother and sister came back and the moment was gone.