5 - CHRISTMAS GIFT
Strangely enough, in the first few days after I found out I was HIV-positive, I couldn't imagine telling my parents at all. One of the hardest things for me to do was to inform the people around me. I was already having a hard time dealing with myself, so dealing with other people's feelings was not a priority.
I think one day my sister said to me, "Remi, I can't keep this to myself.".
We decided to tell them in person at the next family meeting. We prepared very carefully to reassure them as much as possible. M, my sister, asked the AIDES association for information and was able to ask all the questions she had. She wrote a very pragmatic text on what it was like to be HIV positive in 2008.
For my part, afterwards, what bothered me was that I had waited a long month before telling them. I more or less felt that I had pushed them aside, and even though I didn't feel guilty at all, I wanted them to know what happened that day I found out I was HIV-positive and to feel that they had been there. So I wrote a letter about that day on 26 November 2008.
We arrived on 24 December, at my other sister's house, with determination and fear, at least for me. At first we said that we would talk about it after the 26th, once the presents had been given and the meal finished. In the end, the 25th was a horror. My sister and I were waiting to free ourselves from this announcement. I remember we passed each other in a corridor in the house and looked at each other as if to say "this is it". It must have been 11pm that night when M asked my parents and I (my other sister) to get together. I think M's husband had gone a bit out of the way. I couldn't open my mouth. It was M who spoke.
I remember that I and my mother were in front of me, I remember their screams, their tears.
I remember everything.
I remember the shame I felt (a shame I don't justify but it was there).
I felt like I was breaking up my whole family that night, and obviously that would be our worst Christmas ever. M continued to lead the conversation, tried to be reassuring and did everything she could to absorb the dread that was hovering just above us.
I realise something and I couldn't explain it at all. I don't see my father in my memory, I don't remember his reaction, or if he had any words for me. Perhaps I should ask him?
We gave our respective letters to the family: M his manifesto about being HIV positive and me about that famous day when I found out. They read. We talked a lot. There was inevitably a question: how?
I never really answered that question because in the end what would it add to all this? Would the verdict change depending on my answer to that question? No.
We went to bed. I think I slept well. I woke up on 26 December worrying about one thing: Will they change? Are they going to be there for me? I remember going downstairs for breakfast on Boxing Day, and finally all my worries disappeared immediately. The hugs and kisses from my mother, the smiles from my sisters and my father.
Nothing had changed, except for one thing: I felt them much closer to me. We were closer. It may not have been the Christmas we wanted, or the best time to announce it, but is there a good time anyway?
I am very lucky and I know it. I have the unconditional love of my family and that is truly a gift that I fully appreciate. I've met people whose parents can't stand it when their children stray from the path they had planned for them. It pains me when I hear this kind of story because even though these people say they don't care that their family has abandoned them, I know how much stronger they can be with them.