My father, Roger Bessey and my mother, Christine, lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My dad was in the hospital on the brink of death when, on January 7, 1988, we discovered he’d been living a double life for 27 of the 37 years he’d been married to my mom and that he was infected with AIDS.
Three weeks later, we found out he’d infected my mother. He told me later, he had a strong suspicion he was infected with AIDS and was hoping he’d die without anyone finding out.
My world came crashing down. Not only did my five other siblings and I have to deal with my father’s double life, but we also had to get our minds around the fact that both of my parents were dying of AIDS during a time period where there was so much fear and misinformation about how it was spread and how you got it.
The rumors, the threats of blackmailing were so overwhelming, we had to move my dad out of town and change his name. We quickly sold the home they had lived in for 25 years and moved my mother to other side of town. My parents never spoke again.
Friends would come into my home and not eat or drink anything; many were afraid to touch me, afraid that they could get it from me. One friend even told me she couldn’t be my friend anymore because I “didn’t come from a nice family.”
My parents’ lives and deaths still make me so sad sometimes. My dad could never be who he truly was, afraid of what others would think.