I met a young gay man on the AIDS Unit at San Francisco General hospital when I worked there in the 1980s. He had just been diagnosed with Kaposi’s sarcoma lesions in his lungs and was told he had a short time to live. The medical team contacted his parents, who lived far away, and they came immediately.
During a five-minute meeting with the doctor, they found out their son was dying and also that he was gay. When I met the father, he told me it was harder for him to find out his son was a “faggot” than to hear that he would be dead soon.
It took almost three weeks for their son to die. Every day, his parents watched as the nurses — primarily lesbians and gay men, some with AIDS themselves — continued to care for him, clean him and lessen his pain as much as possible.
I was there the morning he died. When the father stepped out of the room and saw me, he hugged me and cried and cried and cried. He was as tall as me and his grief was so vast. I remember thinking we were both going to fall down.
He kept saying his boy was gone.
The next day, the parents returned to say good-bye. They thanked everyone for their love and care of their son. The mom took me aside and said she was going to miss me. She said, smiling, that she and her husband had talked and wished they could adopt me and bring me home with them.
I kept in touch with them for a while. They started a support group for Parents of People with AIDS in their community.